John McCain offered useful insights into his (dangerous) political mind at the Naval Academy on Wednesday. For example:
I’m a conservative, and I believe it is a very healthy thing for Americans to be skeptical about the purposes and practices of public officials. We shouldn’t expect too much from government — nor should it expect too much from us. Self-reliance — not foisting our responsibilities off on others — is the ethic that made America great.
But when healthy skepticism sours into corrosive cynicism our expectations of our government become reduced to the delivery of services. And to some people the expectations of liberty are reduced to the right to choose among competing brands of designer coffee.
Actually, my healthy skepticism is still healthy. I expect government to ineffectively deliver services it shouldn’t be attempting, even though it tries and tries and tries. And when it fails, my healthy skepticism knows that it will try harder, but with more money.
My definition of corrosive cynicism looks something like the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold. This is the belief that individuals can’t be trusted, so someone smarter must look after their interests for them. That brand of corrosive cynicism believes expectations of liberty should be reduced to the right to choose among competing brands of designer coffee. My healthy skepticism understands that competing brands of political speech are a form of liberty thankfully enshrined in the First Amendment. The corroded cynic speaks of quote First Amendment rights.
Should we claim our rights and leave to others the duty to the ideals that protect them, whatever we gain for ourselves will be of little lasting value. It will build no monuments to virtue, claim no honored place in the memory of posterity, offer no worthy summons to the world. Success, wealth and celebrity gained and kept for private interest is a small thing. It makes us comfortable, eases the material hardships our children will bear, purchases a fleeting regard for our lives, yet not the self-respect that, in the end, matters most. But sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause, your self-respect assured.
Senator McCain and I have different opinions on how our rights are protected. As noted above, we don’t share the same opinion on our rights. But the problem here is his idea of a “cause greater than yourself”. Who decides what cause is greater than me? Who decides whether or not my actions constitute sacrifice? And I’m not thrilled by the idea that “success, wealth, and celebrity gained and kept for private interest” is allegedly a “small thing”.
I’ve long believed that we are a citizenry who behave as though we are rightfully subjects of the government. Among his many faults, Senator McCain is too friendly to perpetuating that mistaken belief. We are electing the president of a government (previously?) limited by a constitution, not a king limited only by his mandate by his higher calling.
Link via Hit & Run.