In his more than two decades in Congress, the most consistent characteristic of John McCain’s political philosophy is incoherence. Much like the old country club sages of the Rockefeller era or in the modern epoch, men like George W. Bush, the senior senator from Arizona has chronically wandered all over the political map. For example, both Bush and McCain have been steadfastly hawkish in their stances and actions against the global terror masters of radical Islam; and both have been staunch in support of the pro-life stance. But then they have the same bad habit of wandering off into the liberal giggle weeds. Bush has a nasty proclivity toward spending huge sums of other people’s money on unconstitutional boondoggles like federal education mandates and prescription drug benefits, while McCain finds so many opportunities to run amok that columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that McCain’s apostasies were too numerous to actually count.
Compare McCain’s hard-nosed attitude on the defense of the country with his nonsensical positions, turned into hard-fought legislation in alliance with swim team coach Ted Kennedy, on the subject of amnesty for 15 million illegals; or compare his patriotic and sacrificial contributions through a five-year stint in the Hanoi Hilton with his craven decimation of the First Amendment in campaign finance reform. There is also that big jug of green global-warming Kool Ade in his office — “McCain/Leiberman Climate Stewardship” legislation. And it is such silliness that so clearly defines the McCain political incoherence.
The populism so — I shouldn’t do this — popular in recent national elections is at the root of this mix and mismatch in political platforms; and that populism is rooted in an undignified hunger to promise the electorate whatever it seems to want at the moment, all just to get that ever-so coveted big boy seat at 1600. Nobody thinks twice when Democrats reduce themselves to this sort of pandering. At least since FDR they have been offering their ever-lengthening litany of financial panaceas intended more to buy votes than to address real societal problems. But Republicans should know better.
Not since Reagan has there been a candidate whose internal intellectual and moral compass set the tone of his campaign and the content of his administration on every level and with regard to every issue. Pro-life and strong on law and order, opposed to high taxes and the social engineering that liberals love to accomplish through tax policy; and the champion of independence, individual liberty and individual responsibility, that crucial and usually ignored but fundamental binary equation of lasting freedom, all were his unique qualities.
For all of Senator McCain’s efforts to invoke the Gipper, his radical and incessant inconsistency on matters of political philosophy make him a far cry from that kind of clarity and, sadly, that kind of greatness.
A conservative simply cannot court the salacious favor of the agents of statism who occupy the media. Lying down with the global green dogs is a formula for nothing but the fleas that infest them, so obviously fallacious are their claims. Likewise currying favor with millions of people whose first act on our soil is to break our laws is at least evidence of mushy, wrong-headed thinking driven by some kind of misplaced sense of pity, if not proof that he just wants to buy their votes. And Mr. McCain’s eager willingness to sacrifice the sacred and always-vulnerable tenets of the First Amendment in favor of some ill-conceived notion of “fairness” in the business of political speech is the antithesis of constitutional coherency, an absolute bar to anyone’s claimed embrace of conservative principles.
With the passing of William Buckley, many lament the absence of his example and his conservative leadership. But to so speak belittles WFB’s legacy. He spawned two generations of men and women who bear his mark and carry his clear vision of limited government and constitutional consistency, individual responsibility and the rule of law. Fine publications like this one, the airwaves and cyber-literature are living and perpetual proof. But what we got from Buckley is what Senator McCain cannot see — or be. Being a “maverick,” whatever that is supposed to mean, really just betrays a flaw of reason and a weakness in philosophy. It is simply and finally incoherent.