Thursday, May 22, 2008

John McCain talks to Ellen

John McCain went on the "Ellen" show. Naturally, the topic of gay marriage came up. Click here for the clip.

First of all, good for John McCain for being willing to go on the Ellen show. At the very least, he grants her a degree of legitimacy just by showing up. I think John McCain is one of those people who really does not have a problem with homosexaulity per se, but he's old-fashioned enough to believe in the "sanctity of marriage." I don't think he's going to change his mind at this point, and, while I hope he does, I think it's unrealistic to believe that he will. But he's enough of a honorable man that he respects someone like Ellen.

But what's interesting for me about this clip is that, while Ellen makes an argument for her own right to love who she wishes, and her desire for recognition of that by society, McCain does not really have an argument in response. He just keeps repeating that they have a disagreement.

That's not an argument; that's a copout. That means that he can't come up with an argument challenging Ellen's desire for dignity besides "I just disagree with you." He's caught on the horns of a dilemma of his own making; he wants to respect Ellen, which is good. She appreciates his respect, which is one reason she asked him to be on the show. So far, so good.

But she wants to take it to the next step; if you really respect me, and you want me to be happy, then you should respect my most fervent desire, which is to allow me to be married, because that would grant me the ultimate stamp of approval by society. Ellen's message is: I appreciate the respect for my personal dignity, but it's not complete without the stamp of approval that marriage implies. So she's telling McCain that he is not as honorable as he could be. She's challenging him on his terms.

Which is why she is able to ask him if he'll walk her down the aisle, and why he laughs and says "Touche." She's won the argument, but lets him off gracefully. Which is the honorable thing for her to do. He is her guest; he has agreed to come on her show, which is a minor act of courage on his part, since he will be criticized for it by his political allies. So she's gotten him about as far as he can go. But she also makes it clear that she knows she's won, but she knows just exactly how far she can go. She makes exactly as much progress as she can in the few minutes that she has. And she also knows that she has her audience backing her up. Politically, it's an extraordinarily adept move.

Which is why she has her own TV show. Good job, Ellen.


Senor Benedict said...

Which I think is why they are both likeable people, and that whoever wins, Democrat or Republican, Nov 2008 will be a mercy, an improvement in the leadership of America.

Adam J said...

Came here from Sullivan and decided to read a few posts. I really liked this one. I cannot stand people who simply rip McCain apart on any issue presented to them. McCain is more or less an honorable man. I disagree with him on way too many issue to even think about voting for him and I am not impressed with his shameless pandering to his party's base now that he has secured the nomination - his 180 on torture and taxes are two things I don't know if I can ever really let go of. But at the same time he has worked hard on immigration reform and although I disagree with him I understand his stance on gay marriage.

The point of all of this is merely that I appreciate your handling of the topic. Call him on it when its due and recognize that he is not a hate-monger. Thanks for blogging.