What could be wrong with a presidential candidate who is a longtime Republican senator from a conservative state, a certified war hero with a great smile and a wisecracking sense of humor? Nothing at all, except the last time one ran against a Clinton, he ended up filming Viagra commercials while Bill was rehearsing his inaugural address.
The media have created the fiction that Sen. John McCain, alone among the Republican candidates, can beat Hillary or Obama this fall. This is a fiction because only a conservative can unite the Republican Party this year and win. Call him “maverick”, call him “independent,” but please don’t call McCain “conservative.”
In nuclear physics, every subatomic particle has an opposite. When they collide, they combine to produce another particle that resembles neither. McCain is the political antimatter that collides with conservatism and produces “liberal republicanism.” If John McCain is the Republican nominee, conservatism will be where we were in 1965: having to feed the conservative phoenix rising out of the ashes.
In his Florida victory speech, Sen. McCain said, “Our party has always been successful when we have, like Ronald Reagan, stood fast by our convictions.” But McCain’s Senate record proves he is not a conservative, far less a principled Reagan conservative. As Charles Krauthammer said recently, “McCain’s apostasies are too numerous to actually count.” And what McCain says about his record is astonishingly misleading.
In recent debates McCain has said he voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts because they weren’t accompanied by sufficient spending cuts. But in a Senate floor speech in 2001 his reasons were pulled from the Democrats’ playbook. He said, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.” In 2004 he said he was against making the tax cuts permanent. Now he says he favors permanence.
In speeches and debates this year McCain has said – again and again – that he has “learned the lesson” of the failed McCain-Kennedy-Bush illegal immigration “reform” bill he fought so hard for last year. (That failed bill is one of the major points in the New York Times’ endorsement of McCain over his Republican competitors, saying he, “…risked his presidential bid to uphold fundamental American values in the immigration debate.”) Fundamental American values are conservative values. Granting permanent resident “Z visas” and citizenship to illegal immigrants contradicts those values.
The hyperliberal editors of the New York Times liked McCain’s illegal immigration bill so much, they mentioned it twice in the endorsement, praising him for being, “…a staunch advocate of campaign reform working with Senator Russ Feingold, among the most liberal of Democrats, on groundbreaking legislation just as he worked with Senator Edward Kennedy on immigration reform.”
McCain says he understands that the borders must be secured before anything else is done. But last Sunday, when Tim Russert asked him if he’d sign the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, he said, “Yeah,” and then caught himself and went on to avoid a straight answer because the bill wasn’t going to pass. He ducked the question again in the Wednesday California debate. Who believes a President McCain would veto an amnesty bill that Congress passed?
McCain has swallowed the global warming baloney and has introduced legislation to create a “cap and trade” system for American industry. Also in its endorsement of him the New York Times praised his, “…recognizing the threat of global warming early.” In the Wednesday debate, he said that if he was wrong, all that would happen would be that we’d leave our children a cleaner planet. No, senator. You’d also leave the American economy in tatters.
When would a conservative be endorsed by the New York Times over other Republican candidates? To borrow a phrase from Mr. McCain, “when pigs fly.”
Because his politics is based on collaboration with liberals McCain is a divider of Republicans, not a unifier. This is the gentleman who on February 20, 2005 told Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” that, “I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would make a good president.” He is the same gentleman who — defending his McCain-Kennedy-Bush “comprehensive immigration reform” — screamed “f*#@% you” at Texas Republican John Cornyn, one of the bill’s leading opponents. He’s also told Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter that he was a colorful anatomical term and referred to Sen. Charles Grassley a “#$%^#*^ jerk.” It is difficult to even deal with people you abuse. Unifying them is impossible.
One Senate source I spoke with said that there was probably more than one Republican senator who was supporting McCain’s presidential bid just to get rid of him.
Unifying senators and voters is, for a presidential candidate, a fundamental leadership skill. Most military people understand the difference between leadership and management. Mr. McCain makes a big deal of the difference in describing why he believes he’s a better candidate than Mr. Romney. But there is a great difference between commanding — as McCain commanded a Navy aircraft squadron — and leading.
McCain says that leaders have to inspire, which is partly right. But leaders also have to earn the trust and confidence of those he would lead. McCain has not done so, either among conservatives or among his fellow senators.
That deficiency in McCain’s definition of leadership is best illustrated by the infamous MoveOn.org “Petraeus-Betray Us” ad that ran in the New York Times last September. It was a transparent libel of a great soldier by some liberal slime and published in a toxically-liberal newspaper that has profited from publishing our nation’s most closely held secrets.
The libel impugned Gen. Petraeus’ honesty. It was important because troops follow military leaders who are trustworthy and truthful. If the grunts don’t trust you, they won’t follow you. And the same is true of voters.
If McCain is our next president, what will we get? We won’t get conservative Supreme Court nominees. As John Fund reported and Robert Novak confirmed, McCain has said Sam Alito is too conservative. We’ll get Souters and Kennedys, but not Alitos from President McCain. We’ll get immigration amnesty, global warming measures to strangle our economy and pretty much everything else you’d expect from a liberal masquerading as a conservative.
When voters are alone in the voting booths — on Tuesday and again on November 4 — they make a choice that’s as personal as choosing a mate. Trust weighs heavily in their decision. The successful candidate will have inspired trust. John McCain cannot do that because he is not truthful with voters. They will not trust him, nor should they.