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More On Mccain's Policy Apathy

Politico's Avi Zenilman has an interesting piece digging deeper into the perpetual question of why John McCain doesn't see a need to put together actual policy proposals. I tend to think it's pretty clear, as Avi suggests, that the reason for this is that almost nobody votes Republican because they prefer the GOP's brand of the welfare state--the only people whose support for the party depends on size-of-government issues simply want the government to do less, full stop. Even a Grand New Party–type agenda, for the most part, seems less designed to attract new voters to the GOP than to prevent defections by making the party's social-safety-net platform minimally acceptable to those whose affinity for the GOP is primarily cultural. There's just no huge upside to being a policy wonk, if you're a Republican presidential candidate.

But of course McCain isn't going to come out and say that, so instead we get nonsense about how his refusal to be specific is some kind of principled stand:

Consider McCain campaign senior adviser Taylor Griffin’s description of his candidate's plan for fixing Social Security:

"The history of the Social Security debate has taught that too many specifics, especially during a presidential campaign, has polarized the debate," he said of the program that McCain called "an absolute disgrace [that's] got to be fixed."

Will he contrast his plan to that of his opponent? "Sen. McCain believes this is so important that we do not politicize this debate during an election season."

So, just to make sure I have this straight: A huge entitlement program that takes up more than a fifth of the federal budget--can't have any discussion about that. Tax-cut largesse that would increase the national debt by $5 trillion over ten years at a time when there's already a gaping fiscal hole--not really a major concern. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and a made-up story about a canceled visit to an army hospital, on the other hand--well, that's exactly what we have elections for.

--Josh Patashnik