Regardless of what you think of John McCain, particularly given the sleaziness to which his campaign has stooped, it is undeniable that he served the United States for decades, often in a manner that demonstrated real integrity, judgment and personal courage.
Now, as earlier posts of mine should have indicated, I feel very strongly that Barack Obama -- and not John McCain -- should be the next president of the United States. Certainly, he doesn't match McCain with respect to McCain's decades of service. Nevertheless, Obama brings many qualities to the office that make him more qualified than McCain: Obama's obvious intelligence, his equanimity under pressure, his creation and management of the largest, most efficient, most democratic (small-"D"!) presidential campaign in history.
Furthermore, aside from questions of mere competence, one must also consider a candidate's agenda: a competent candidate committed to a wrong-headed agenda would not be desirable. I happen to think Obama's approach to the domestic problems that face this country (health care, in particular), his commitment somehow to extricate us from our disastrous experiment in Iraq and to realign the United States with the prevailing international consensus on the rule of law and the threat of global climate change, and his promise to redress the conservative imbalance that currently exists in our nation's federal courts are correct; all stand in stark contrast to McCain's long-held and starkly conservative positions.
It would seem that a majority of Americans now agree with me in preferring Obama to McCain. Why, then, am I depressed?
Here's why. Regardless of what any thinking person thinks of McCain or Obama, there is some sense in which one could recognize that neither of them would be undeserving of the office of the presidency. Sarah Palin, however? I'm not alone in thinking that it would be a travesty if Palin became president.
In particular, then, I would think that it would be a travesty if Sarah Palin had a greater chance of becoming president than John McCain. Given this, I would be depressed to discover that Sarah Palin has a greater chance of becoming president than John McCain. As Alex Tabarrok (over at Marginal Revolution) notes, however, it is in fact very plausible that Sarah Palin has a greater chance of becoming president than John McCain.
Tabarrok, following the betting markets, gives McCain about a 16% chance of winning the presidency. Should McCain win, Palin could become president either by assuming the presidence should McCain die in office or as McCain's successor; let's put that chance at 40%. Since many are already suggesting that Palin will be a Republican standard-bearer in 2012 should McCain lose in '08, we have to figure some chance that Palin could win the presidency as the Republican nominee in '12; Tabarrok puts that chance at a (very conservative) 12%.
Given these probabilities, we have:
Pr(Sarah Palin=President) = (0.16*0.4) + (0.84*0.12) = 16.48 > 16% = Pr(John McCain = President)
Thus, I'm depressed. Q.E.D.