I confess to a significant degree of puzzlement over (some) conservative attitudes toward John McCain. Who would ever have thought that a staunch pro-lifer who understands the need for unequivocal victory over our enemies in war and who strongly supports Second Amendment rights would ever secure the blessing of The New York Times and the enmity of so many conservative commentators? Alice, please call your office; it’s through the looking glass time.
As I write this, I support the candidacy of Governor Mitt Romney. Executive experience – whether as Vice President, Governor (even of a backwater state such as Arkansas), Mayor of a big city, or a high ranking general – constitutes an important factor in a successful presidency, especially early on. Romney ran a fairly substantial state and, with obvious caveats, ran it well. I believe Romney to be the best qualified candidate.
But I would not be overly unhappy with McCain. As noted above, he’s been a long-time champion of the unborn. He paid a huge personal price to defend freedom and appreciates the dreadful consequences resulting from the weak-kneed defeatism of the Left. He supports the Second Amendment. And, if his present assertions of policy are to be accepted as heartfelt, he seems fairly conservative on most items.
Some commentators – quite properly – hold McCain’s profoundly anti-freedom views on political speech against him. Some – reasonably – question his temperament. Many strenuously object to his unsettling tendency to reach across the aisle seeking accord with the likes of Ted Kennedy, which – as with any Kennedy-influenced proposal – tends to produce bad results. They question his devotion to conservative principles, especially on economic matters, given that he repeatedly demonstrated ignorance of the seemingly self-evident benefits of a low taxes and economic freedom. And they react nervously when he spouts off with rhetoric which sounds just a tad too populist for comfort, especially when the “us” he purports to support includes many conservatives among the “them” he seems to oppose.
But why are conservatives will to forgive Romney his trespasses, but not McCain? If we take Romney at his word – that he now understands the fundamental value of innocent, unborn life and abjures things like forcing folks to purchase health insurance – why should we not take McCain’s campaign conversion seriously as well?
Consider: McCain once joined with Ted Kennedy to propose something akin to amnesty for illegal aliens. Now, stating that he “got the message”, he proposes to secure the border and require a tamper-roof biometric identification system for employment. That’s essentially perfect: if people can’t work, they’ll go home.
McCain caught grief for his decision to join the “Gang of 14” which attempted to resolve the judicial nomination logjam by preventing filibusters absent compelling circumstances. But that got several top-flight Bush nominees confirmed and essentially precluded a Democratic filibuster of Alito, a seemingly sterling nominee. At the same time, it preserved the ability of Republicans – not bound by that rule – to oppose “living constitution” types appointed by (shudder) Hillary or Barack.
Once an apostate on tax cuts, McCain now promises to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, supports a proposal to require a 60% super-majority to increase taxes, and to repeal – entirely – the execrable Alternative Minimum Tax. McCain supports some measure of parental choice in education. As noted above, he’s a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. He proposes to essentially wipe out earmarks.
And – appealing to this trekkie – McCain supports a vibrant space program.
In other words, what’s not to like?
Well, he’s wrong about drilling in ANWR – a misbegotten nowhere suitable only for oil drilling and blood-sucking insects – and about a profoundly silly “cap and trade” system of carbon emissions control. But no candidate’s ever perfect.
But, it seems to me, that much of conservative animosity to McCain rests on his belligerent style. He seems to enjoy being a curmudgeon and, alas, seems, on occasion, to actually care what The New York Times thinks about him. He’s possessed of something of an acid tongue, which might better be kept in check. He’s employed some very unfortunate rhetoric in the past, when “plain speaking” and “foolish speaking” went hand in hand.
THIS conservative is certainly willing to take McCain at his present word. When I consider his record and his present policy positions, I find much more to like than to opposes.
Make no mistake: I’m about to cast a ballot for Mitt Romney and believe that, of the candidates running, he offers the best chance for a great presidency. But if McCain wins the nomination, I will enthusiastically support him, and not merely because any Republican who stands between Hillary or Barack and the White House deserves unreserved support. But because, although not without flaws – who amongst us will cast THAT stone? – McCain presents, on balance, a good, solid, conservative vision for America.