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Monday, January 28, 2008

McCain most capable of this batch of hopefuls

Politics is the art of the possible

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Nothing seems to anger die-hard Republicans more than Cafeteria Conservatives -- folks who pick and choose which right-wing diktat they will believe or reject.

Chief among the die-hards is Rush Limbaugh, the conservative equivalent of the Roman Catholic Church's Curia, who deigns to define what constitutes conservative purity. No one better in the church wields the nihil obstat (nothing hinders) stamp better than his lugness. Not even medieval church censors were better at defining what is free or not free of doctrinal error.

The case in point is presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). For Limbaugh, McCain's apostasies on global warming, campaign-finance reform and who knows what else (listening to Limbaugh for more than five minute is a danger to one's mental health, so I don't) draw almost as much passionate wrath as do his twangings on Hillary Clinton.

I disagree somewhat with McCain on such topics, but he doesn't deserve such hostility. Neither do other Republican candidates for their sundry and alleged conservative shortcomings. Limbaugh-minded commentators would explain that so many Republicans are wandering about undecided with eyes vacant because none of the candidates is without doctrinal sin.

Myself being something of a conservative (usually pronounced through pursed lips as if the speaker has tasted something vile), I wish they'd all stop "waiting for Reagan," as William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, put it. Republicans have canonized President Ronald Reagan -- they shouldn't -- and anyone who doesn't fit his mold is labeled a "defective product." This nonsense is guaranteed to increase the number and severity of party inquisitions. And it threatens to hand the White House to the Democrats.

For all of McCain's alleged faults, he holds an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 82.3. True, that's the lowest among the leading GOP candidates. But,'s consolidated polls of various head-to-head races show that McCain is the only Republican candidate who is, at this moment, ahead of the Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois. Are die-hard conservatives so dead set against a slightly less than pure conservative president that they would prefer either Clinton or Obama (with American Conservative Union ratings of 9 and 8, respectively) in the White House?

McCain's conservative credentials can be verified by a close examination of Project Vote Smart's Web site (, where the voting records, issue positions and interest group ratings of the candidates are detailed. Spend time there, and you'll find that McCain isn't the ogre that custodians of the conservative flame would have us believe.

For me, the two most important issues in the election are national security (i.e. the war on terror, the war in Iraq and the nuclear threat posed by lunatic tyrants) and the quality and philosophical grounding of the new president's appointments to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. (The latter should be most critical to pro-lifers. Whether the high court will return the question of abortion to voters depends on the quality of those appointments.) McCain is on the right side of both issues, and that's what counts for me. Everything else -- the economy, free trade, balanced budget and so forth -- comes in second. McCain's remarkable comeback in the polls means something. Perhaps its significance coincides with the success of the Iraq "surge" -- something he courageously had urged for years while former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was still carrying out his lame war strategy.

Or perhaps voters are getting tired of the mind-clanging, headache-inducing demands for "outsiders" who are the "agents of change." Right. Tossing a puppy into a ring of snarling pit bulls also will bring about change. Reformers often fail because they don't know the territory. For all the glory heaped on Obama, I'd put my money on the less illustrious and consummate insider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to be an effective agent of change. Not that he is, or that his change is the kind I'd like.

This election, any election, comes down to a single question: Who can govern the best? Not who can orate the best. Or which candidate is the correct race or color. Who can govern the best ... it's not a conversation you often, if ever, hear in the endless jabber about the presidential elections. I suspect voters are getting tired of all the strategizing by creepy political advisers and just want someone to govern, someone who, as one shoe commercial says, can "just do it." If so, that's why McCain will get the Republican nomination.


ArtGayEI2 said...

Good morning Dennis,
Brilliant...because I agree.
Limbaugh and other conserv talkers are neat in many ways. I find them mostly wrong on the poor, homeless, women and any possibility of bipartisanism. But I listen because they get me to articilate my Reagan intentions plus the poor, equality and need for racial recon.
Int'l affairs is the issue of this election. The econ is always with us, but int'l radical Islam mitigates that we have a leader who gets it. McCain (and Lieberman) understand. His 83% CU rating is impressive...glad it's high, but glad it's not 100%. That would be too doctrinaire for our good. Will check out "votesmart."
FYI, it was 25 years ago March that I introed RReagan to the NAE when he delivered his "Evil Empire" speech. If you want personal reflections on this hhumble leader, will be happy to comply.
Art Gay, Minister at Large, Evangelical Initiatives Int'l McHenry, Il

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with your assessment of Sen. McCain. As a republilcan, if he ends up being the candidate of the party, I will vote for him b/c there is no way I could vote for Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton. But, McCain is no conservative. He has gotten it right on the war in Iraq, but since the 2000 primaries and his running against Pres. Bush, he has been on a personal mission to block just about anything that Bush wanted to do. He was especially vindictive when it came to supporting the nominees for the Supreme Court. If you don't remember, he was a member of the Gang of 14, the bipartisan group who worked to block nominees. He worked with Sen. Kennedy to take away our freedom of speech in the election process when he worked with Sen. Feingold. He is too liberal for me. And, I am never sure if he will keep his word. He was willing to give illegal aliens amnesty. About the only thing he has been right on is the issue of abortion. And, even there, he fought with the state of Wisconsin in anti-life legislation. So, if he is the last guy standing, I will vote for him; but we are in the primary process when issues are to be argued. McCain should not expect the nomination on a silver platter. If we can get him to return to the right, that would be good. Penny G.

Anonymous said...

I think Rush Limbaugh has a very valid point that McCain would have all the bad instincts of Bush, without all of Bush’s good instincts. Republican congressmen are not comfortable fighting their own president, even when he strays from conservative principles (as stated in the Republican platform). It’s easier to muster a fight against a Democrat than one of your own. So if McCain, a RINO in too many respects to command my vote, were to win, the GOP would again be hamstrung.

Look what has happened to the GOP in Illinois — it’s a pitiful echo of the Leftist Democrats because it has been led by RINOS.


lake county democrat said...

It's interesting how many people thought Hillary Clinton could never become president. She may well botch the primaries, but if she survives and gets the Dem nomination, and ends up running against Mitt Romney, wouldn't you call her the favorite? Amazing that pro-lifers, now thisclose to overturning Roe v. Wade, would sabotage themselves this way.

Christopher Harrop said...

If there's anything America can't stand, it's a flip-flopper, and McCain 2000 vs. McCain 2008 is a case study, almost as bad as Mitt Romney.

If the far-right is forced to vote for McCain, they will -- they vote for whoever they're told to.

But if Obama gets the nomination (which looks likely if he gets the majority of the Edwards supporters on Super Tuesday), I see Obama getting the independents that McCain 2000 enjoyed who are disenchanted with McCain 2008 singing "Bomb Iran" and seeming to support an endless war in Iraq.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Well-written article. Thank you.

Valerie said...

Well-written article. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

McCain's strengths are his pro-military, pro-War, anti-tax, pro-life instincts. Unfortunately, he gets sucked into the worst liberal ideas that undermine his strengths: no "torture" for enemy non-combatants, open borders (thus raising our taxes for illegals' benefits), etc.

His unstable temper is not an asset for CIC and President, both of whom have to be unflappable.

Romney is a cool executive, and one who is still married to his first wife!