A Double Edged Warning For The Conservative Media About John McCain

John McCain is not the GOP nominee yet, but after his victory in South Carolina, he certainly has to be considered the front runner. With that in mind, let me give everybody in the conservative media two pieces of food for thought.

#1) First of all, if McCain’s the nominee, there is going to be a strong “rally-round the-flag” effect in the conservative media. That is natural and healthy. You don’t always get what you want in politics and because the GOP and Democrats have gotten so far apart, moderate Republicans are going to be far to the right of the average Democrat. That’s in general. Specifically, all the Republican candidates, including John McCain, are far, far, to the right of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Because McCain is hawkish, because he is fiscally conservative, and because he will probably appoint originalist judges (He claims he definitely will, but I’m not sure he can be trusted 100%), conservative interests would be much better served with him in the White House than his Democratic counterparts even if they had identical positions on every other issue.

The size of the deficit has already been trimmed considerably and I do think that President John McCain would balance the budget. I also believe that if Obama or Clinton got in, America’s enemies would essentially get a 4 year rest break to take free shots at us and rebuild. That wouldn’t happen under President John McCain.

Additionally, the next President will probably decide, once and for all, the fate of Roe v. Wade. At the moment, there are probably 5 judges who would vote to uphold Roe v. Wade and 4 who would vote to overturn it. Additionally, all the judges other than Alito, Thomas, and Roberts (all conservatives) are 68 or older. Two key liberal justices, John Paul Stevens (87) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (74), are thought by many court watchers to be teetering on the brink of retirement. If and when they do step down, we desperately need to have a Republican President choosing their successors.

With all that in mind, I would think very hard about declaring that you won’t support John McCain (the same could be said for Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, etc). I understand the impulse to go down that emotionally satisfying path and I understand the frustration people feel when they’re being told, once again, to support a lesser-of-two-evils candidate if it comes to that, but ultimately conservative principles are best served by putting the most conservative nominee in office when you can and where you can.

A perfect example of that would be Republicans, in 2006, choosing to support Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont when the Republican candidate turned out not to be viable. Does Joe Lieberman side with us on everything? No. As a matter of fact, he sides with the Democrats on most things. But, conservatism has been well served by having Joe Lieberman standing tall on American foreign policy, which is something Ned Lamont wouldn’t have done.

If it does turn out to be a McCain vs. Hillary or McCain vs. Barack showdown, yes, it will essentially be a contest between a Scoop Jackson Democrat and a liberal Democrat. But, if your choice is between two Democrats and one of them is a liberal while the other one is liberal on a lot of issues, but is also fiscally conservative, a hawk, and is pledging to appoint originalist judges, it seems obvious to me that you’re better off with the second choice.

#2) The flip side of this message is for people who will become caught up in the “rally-round the-flag” effect that I mentioned earlier and will falsely claim that John McCain is not just a conservative, but that he is a candidate that conservatives should be happy with.

Please, don’t insult people’s intelligence with that sort of argument. Not only is John McCain not a conservative, he’s considerably more hostile to movement conservatives than he is to liberals — that’s his whole shtick. He picks some issue that the right cares about deeply, like illegal immigration, judges, or tax cuts, and he makes a big public show out of opposing the conservative position. Then, the mainstream media slobbers over him, calls him a “maverick,” praises his integrity, yada, yada, yada. It is a pattern that has been repeated over and over again and one that would likely continue to be repeated if he becomes the President.

Now, some people point to his lifetime American Conservative Union record of 82 out of 100 and say that proves he’s a conservative. However, it’s worth noting that his score in 2006 (They haven’t updated the rankings for 2007) was only 65, which is extremely unimpressive for a Republican senator. Just as a point of comparison, Democrat Ben Nelson from Nebraska only scored 1 point lower than McCain. McCain’s fellow Arizona senator, Jon Kyl? He scored a 92 in that same year. You want the names of the Republican Senators who ranked as less conservative than McCain in 2006? There were only 8 of them out of 55 Senators,

Lincoln Chafee
Susan Collins
Richard Lugar
Olympia Snowe
Arlen Specter
Ted Stevens
George Voinovich
John Warner

Is there one person on that list that could fairly be called a conservative? Is the new standard for conservatism now supposed to be being marginally to the right of Arlen Specter? Give me a break.

Here’s the honest truth: John McCain is not a conservative and he’s not a candidate who is going to make conservatives particularly happy if he gets in the White House. Does that mean he’s worse than Obama or Hillary? No, but it does mean he will disappoint and infuriate conservatives over and over again if he gets in the White House on a wide variety of issues — and conservatives in the media should be honest enough to admit that.

If you sell people a bill of goods about McCain being a conservative, what are you going to do if he gets into office and people find out that you weren’t honest with them? Where is your credibility going to be then? Think about it, tell the truth about McCain’s record, and if GOP voters choose him, let them understand exactly what they’re really getting.

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