Human Events Editorial

Arizona Sen. John McCain wrapped up the Republican nomination for President last week. His appearance with George Bush at the White House brought down the curtain on this year’s Republican nomination fight.

Must Motivate the Base

Now, McCain must work to unite a divided Republican Party, just as Senators Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) are poised to go the distance in what is sure to be a drawn-out and increasingly vicious battle for the Democratic nomination, a battle that will increase the possibility of a Republican victory. Human Events believes that the best way for McCain to energize the apathetic GOP grass-roots conservatives that he desperately needs for November is to name a solidly conservative running mate and to do so soon.

McCain’s lifetime voting record stretching back to his House service is fairly conservative (American Conservative Union rating: 82%), but it is no secret that, especially in recent years, the Arizona senator on many occasions has disappointed or angered conservatives over issues ranging from the first two Bush tax cuts to amnesty for illegal immigrants to drilling in ANWR to repealing the estate tax. Put another way, it is somewhat strange to find as the nominee of an increasingly conservative Republican Party someone whose best-known legislative proposals have resulted from partnerships with liberal Democratic senators: McCain-Feingold (campaign finance reform), McCain-Kennedy (immigration) and McCain-Lieberman (climate control).

Sen. McCain has said repeatedly that “comprehensive” immigration reform cannot occur before the borders are secured, somewhat mollifying conservatives on one of their biggest issues. Beyond that, conservatives are not asking John McCain to repudiate or change his unfortunate past positions. To do so would make the GOP hopeful appear weak, vacillating and not the straight talker he styles himself.

Show Respect for Conservatives

But for McCain to turn to a proven conservative as his running mate would demonstrate that he understands and respects the conservatives in his party and the increasingly strong role they have played in running campaigns ever since they nominated for President his friend and predecessor in the Senate, Barry Goldwater, back in 1964.

In Human Events last week (page 3), Political Editor John Gizzi listed a number of publicly discussed Republican vice presidential possibilities, including many solid conservatives, such South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Alaska Gov. Sarah Pallin, Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Chris Cox, a former California congressman. For McCain to choose someone such as those four would be a sure sign he recognizes the critical importance of conservatives and having them behind him.

Future Leaders

There is also the generational factor for the 71-year-old McCain. Sanford and another vice presidential possibility, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, are both 47. Ryan is 38, Cox is 55 and Pallin is 44. Obviously there is no shortage of young, able conservatives with excellent political and philosophical credentials. Choosing any one of them would not only provide conservatives with a fresh national leader, but demonstrate that McCain feels the conservative movement deserves a continuing leading role in national politics during the 21st Century.

McCain should move sooner rather than later on naming a running mate so that he can immediately begin to unify the right with his campaign. To wait until the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis just before Labor Day or even to wait until the summer would only mean McCain would for critical months be leading divided forces in the battle against Obama or Clinton.

The liberals who always want to tell the GOP what to do will say that if McCain names a solidly conservative running mate he will endanger the support from moderates and independents he needs to win in November. Human Events believes he more assuredly needs right now the avid support of the conservatives who are the glue that holds the modern Republican Party together.