John McCain, Pander Bear

Political junkies will recall the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries, when the late Sen. Paul Tsongas, speaking in that Massachusetts accent he had, called Bill Clinton a “pander bear.” Clinton, of course, was just that: a practiced professional pol trying to be all things to all people, with a penchant for sticking his wet finger into the political wind to determine what his position should be when addressing a crowd.

Well, this year, we have a new pander bear: Sen. John McCain.

Over the years, McCain has said and done so many things to irritate conservatives and engender distrust among the voters who comprise the base of the Republican Party, that he now has very little political capital with the people he needs to win his party’s nomination for president. Therefore, he panders. He panders because he knows conservatives don’t trust him.

In fact, he panders to anyone who will listen.

He panders to pro-lifers by claiming to favor a reversal of Roe v. Wade; yet based on his past positions, many really don’t believe he would appoint the kind of Supreme Court justices who would reverse the unfettered right to abortion on demand that has claimed the lives of one third of an entire generation.

He panders to crowds supporting traditional marriage by claiming to oppose the homosexual assault on the institution; yet when he had the opportunity to support a constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be a union of one man and one woman, he voted against it in the United States Senate.

He panders to frustrated neo-conservatives who back the president’s troop surge; yet in a speech last week took a cheap shot at Donald Rumsfeld, saying “Don Rumsfeld will go in history as the worst secretary of defense America has ever had.”

He panders to environmentalists by attacking the president, using the specious argument of global warming. Says McCain: “I would assess this administration’s record on global warning as terrible, and I have held hearings when I was chairman of the commerce committee for years, and got no cooperation from the administration on this issue.”

Pander, pander, pander.

As the co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, John McCain helped to set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a blatant infringement of free speech becoming the law of the land. It was his baby. It is (or should be) the legislation for which he is best known. He made it a reality.

When McCain ran for president in 2000, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Certainly, in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Row v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to illegal and dangerous operations.” Now, he says Roe should be overturned.

McCain joined with Ted Kennedy in support of a senate bill that would have given Social Security benefits to illegal aliens. Need I say more on that one?

I have solid conservative friends, with whom I have worked in previous campaigns, who are now working in the McCain campaign. They have convinced themselves that the senator is the best the Republican Party has to offer this time around. I simply cannot agree. Having worked in politics over the years, and having maintained contact with those still in the political trenches in Iowa (where the first caucuses are held) and elsewhere, I have seen little excitement for McCain. Conservative Republicans, for the most part, simply do not trust him.

In this time of global terror, moral breakdown and fiscal crisis, the United States of America needs a commander in chief, not a panderer in chief.