In the Arena

The Truth Will Out

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Let it be recorded, as Paul Krugman and Josh Marshall have noted, that John McCain’s various camouflages, smokescreens and flummeries regarding the subject of government regulation have been exposed in Contingencies, the magazine of the American Association Academy of Actuaries. Following the lead of his buddy, and probable Secretary of the Treasury, Phil Gramm, McCain has been a vehement deregulator. Here is the deathless quote:

“Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

Now, I believe politicians–and journalists, for that matter–should be allowed to change their positions, given new circumstances. Everyone gets it wrong sometimes. But when a politician does change his or her position, the statement should be accompanied by an acknowledgment of a previous mistake: “I used to believe in the deregulation of banking and health care, but I was wrong about that.” (This applies to Barack Obama on Iraq: “I was right to oppose the war and to favor a timetable for withdrawal of our troops, but I was wrong about the effect that counterinsurgency tactics would have on violence in Baghdad.”)

One of the big differences between the old John McCain and the current edition is that the old one (1) would admit error and (2) would admit there were things he didn’t know. That was a good part of his charm. The current edition–a parody of the worst sort of political flim-flam artist–not only lies about his own positions, but attempts to camouflage those lies by mischaracterizing his opponent’s positions. It is appropriate, then, that the American Association Academy of Actuaries–a group devoted to the precise calculation of death rates–has exposed McCain’s extravagant fraudulence of the past week for what it was.