Plus c’est la même chose

John McCain in Rochester NH, July 22, 2008:

This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.

(h/t Joe Klein at Time/Swampland)

Update 1: I took the quote directly from Joe Klein, but now I’ve watched video here. Klein had ‘judgment to say I would rather,’ when Senator McCain used the complementizer ‘that,’ as in ‘judgment  to say that I would rather.’ Pretty minor stuff, maybe, but I’d rather be accurate. Somewhat more important, I think, is that Klein had Senator McCain referring to simply Obama, when he actually said Senator Obama.

And what do I think of the gentleman from Arizona after hearing him say all this? Eh, I’m not too impressed, but neither am I particularly riled. It’s pretty tacky, sure, but much more venial than mortal.

I’m first reminded of Josh Marshall’s bitch-slap theory of politics, whereby some Republican says some mean thing and Democrats demonstrate their usual outrage, in the process not especially rebutting effectively the mean thing in the first place, but also looking like utter ponces with such delicate sensibilites. Losing it both ways, really. So let’s not get too worked up about this, people. John McCain’s being an asshole, but he knows it. Don’t let him get to you. Remember Lloyd Bentsen giving it to Dan Quayle, whose only response was, ‘That was uncalled for, Senator.’ Weak.

Secondly, these kinds of scurrilous attacks are as old as the hills. (As old as John McCain, say?) And they’re very much party-neutral, political spectrum-neutral. See, for instance, the immediately preceding More Things Change blog entry with the report of the attack from Democratic vice-presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace in 1940. Big asshole behavior there.

Now, true, we weren’t actually at war with Germany at that point, but it’s not like we’re working much now with anything resembling an actual declaration of war, pace AUMF. And President Bush used to like to say that victory won’t look anything like it used to. No signing of surrenders on the deck of the Missouri. Nothing like that. But I wonder, doesn’t that apply to losing as well? If we were to lose this war, how would we know? Absent the ceremony on the battleship and all?

But you know what bugs me most about the John McCain quote? It’s the breakdown of his parallel construction. He says, I would rather x than y. So when he says that Senator Obama would rather something, we’re expecting another rather/than, rather x than z, or rather w than y, or maybe even rather b than c. But instead we get rather b in order to c. He baits and switches us! That’s not really a clear choice at all, dude.

Update 2: WordPress lists this as my 500th post. Wow.