UK Political Observers View the Republican Dilemma

Sometimes a headline is worth 1000 words.  Over a January 17 report out of South Carolina, the London Times nailed it. “The Republican Caravan Rolls on — But Who Knows Where It’s Going?”  The article’s author, Tom Baldwin, did not pull any punches.  He characterized the Republican Party as being on a zigzag course, “fractured and disoriented.” 

The rest of the story was an apologetic tract in defense of John McCain. Baldwin talked about McCain’s Truth Squad which was formed to prevent a recurrence of the negative attacks on the Senator in the run-up to the 2000 primary in the Palmetto State.  Back then McCain was smeared with an unproven set of rumors that he (1) had fathered a child with a black woman and (2) had committed treason by collaborating with the enemy back in Vietnam.  The Truth Squad was deployed to South Carolina to counter a fresh attempt to “swift boat” the Arizona Senator by a group called Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain. 

Another Times commentator, Daniel Finkelstein, is betting on McCain to win the Republican Party’s nomination after the equivalent of coming back from a political near death experience.  Rudy is also on his short list, but McCain has momentum and Giuliani’s star is fading.  According to Finkelstein, Huckabee’s best hope to get on the ticket is tied to Giuliani who might want to appease evangelicals by tapping the Arkansas preacher and former Governor as his VP.  It must be said that secularist British reporters, sent to cover the campaign in the US, are hard put to write about the religious appeal of Huckabee.   They have, however, duly noted that he has had to ground his press plane for lack of funds.

According to Tim Shipman, one of the Telegraph’s US election observers, John McCain won South Carolina because he had the support of the Republican establishment, which will surely  be news to them.  Shipman gives the glory for McCain’s SC win to his old pal, Fred Thompson, because Fred siphoned off a 20% share of conservative Christians which otherwise would have accrued to Mike Huckabee.  Blog chatter has suggested that Fred could turn the candidacy tide by throwing his support behind McCain, a notion that horrifies those who saw Thompson as the only real conservative in the field.

But not all UK writers are happy about McCain landing on the top of the Republican ticket.  The left leaning Independent’s Johann Hart warned his readers not to be fooled by the myth of John McCain as a hero.  Hart labels McCain as third generation “navy royalty, “ raised like a prince by his father and grandfather.  This monarchical messianic mindset, Hart asserts, makes McCain the candidate that the left should fear the most.  Demonstrating a complete misreading of the facts, Hart say that McCain is an “uber hawk” who is “to the right of Bush on a whole range of subjects.”   Would that this were true.  Sounds like another job for the Truth Squad.

Hart also reprises the details surrounding the Keating Five campaign contribution scandal, in which McCain was implicated, explaining that the Senator made a virtue of this career blot by becoming the champion of campaign finance reform.  Again, the rejection of McCain-Feingold by the core of the conservative movement seems to have escaped Mr. Hart’s attention, but who says that being right for all the wrong reasons isn’t a good thing.

A comment posted to one of these articles brought up another past transgression which Senator McCain undoubtedly wishes had been lost in the mists of history.  This involved an occasion when McCain was reprimanded and forced to apologize for saying that Chelsea Clinton was so ugly because her Father was actually Janet Reno. You can be sure this slight will be recalled at the most effective critical moment by Chelsea’s Mother who will ask voters to contemplate McCain’s skill as a diplomat on the world stage.

In a move that boggles the mind, the Conservative (Tory) Party leader, David Cameron has come out in favor of McCain.  In a speech delivered at the international economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, Cameron singled out John McCain for taking a firm stand against protectionism. Specifically Cameron said: “In years to come, the world will look back at this period, and there will be heroes and there will be villains. The heroes will be those who held their nerve and stood up for free trade.”  Rosa Prince, a Daily Mirror journalist, jumped on Cameron’s statement pointing out that overtly backing a candidate for the US Presidency broke with accepted diplomatic convention.  But there is more.  Writing for The Independent, Pandora — by now, a clichéd nom de plume – asserted that junior  (Tory) aides have already been told that a few of them will be heading across the Atlantic to work on the McCain campaign if he gets the nomination.

There are, of course, other odd observations embedded in the numerous British political  articles and election blogs.  One pundit believes that Mitt Romney will prevail because he can keep writing checks when the other candidates are running their campaigns on monetary fumes.  On, Tim Montgomerie opines that the British media “could swing the next US election” because there is a growing US readership of London-sourced news, in particular (the left leaning) Guardian which provides “more feisty scrutiny of politicians.”  

And then there is this delicious fashion item posted on the UK Telegraph’s “Trail Mix 2008” blog. It advises Barack Obama to put on a tie, especially when he wears white shirts, because going without one makes him look “forgetful.”