American politics is rough business and affects billions.
The actors, suffering the human condition, are inherently selfish. And their behavior is distorted away from the public interest by big money and occasionally by the craven public itself.
One restraint against bad acting is concern for reputation. Presumably, many politicians have their sights raised by a desire to have history treat them well. At the moment of a big vote, that concern just might tip them over into doing the right thing, despite the short run political pressures.
Let’s not wreck the mechanism by refusing to speak ill of the dead or of the terminally ill. The dead can’t hear us to be bothered by our judgments. And the terminally ill won’t have to endure our criticism long. But anticipation of judgment can exert a favorable influence on politicians while they are alive and kicking.
So I would suggest, don’t be shy about offering an honest assessment. Just be careful to get it right, because the object of your judgment might not be able to defend him or herself.
We will see how John McCain acts today. But his defining moment as a politician was putting Sarah Palin and The Stupid right into the heart of American politics.
Not sorry if that seems mean.