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A 'Teachable' John McCain Is One Laughable Idea

Author: Amity Shlaes, Former Hayek Senior Fellow for Political Economy
February 7, 2008


That’s the adjective you hear from John McCain’s advisers. The economy may not be the Republican front-runner’s favorite topic. But the man is “open” and “capable of learning.” With the right teaching, McCain could be another Ronald Reagan.

This argument is laughable. On economics, McCain is about as impressionable as the statue of General Ulysses Grant on the National Mall.

To McCain, tax proposals aren’t teachables. They are tradeables, something you give up in exchange for concessions from colleagues in other areas that matter more to McCain. No wonder talk-radio dragons have so much fun scorching the senator.

But McCain doesn’t have to be teachable to be worthy of endorsement. Even endorsements by Reaganauts.

The best way to explain why McCain won’t be Reagan is to consider the nature of the presidency. Within hours of their inauguration, presidents find that the pressure of events gets to them. The mammal brain—the glad-handing part—and the lizard brain—the part that will do anything to survive—take over.

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