With the South Carolina Republican primary being this Saturday, we find that John McCain is still holding on to the lead. If he wins South Carolina, he regains his momentum going into super Tuesday, when a number of States and delegates will be available to the candidates on a single day of voting, potentially deciding who will receive the Republican party nomination.
While John McCain is not the least palatable candidate for me, his working against conservative ideals in the Senate certainly does not make him my first choice. The following list by Mark Levin of John McCain's actions in the Senate sums this up very well. He begins thusly:
There’s a reason some of John McCain's conservative supporters avoid discussing his record. They want to talk about his personal story, his position on the surge, his supposed electability. But whenever the rest of his career comes up, the knee-jerk reply is to characterize the inquiries as attacks.
The McCain domestic record is a disaster. To say he fought spending, most particularly earmarks, is to nibble around the edges and miss the heart of the matter.
One of Levin's colleagues at NRO, Rich Lowry, responds to part of the critique with this:
I should add, though, that I think Brother Mark is off on one point on McCain. He wrote this the other day, "His supporters point to essentially one policy strength, McCain’s early support for a surge and counterinsurgency. It has now evolved into McCain taking credit for forcing the president to adopt General David Petreaus’s strategy. Where’s the evidence to support such a claim?" The fact is that McCain was calling early and often not just for more troops but the adoption of counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq. He participated in the AEI event last January releasing the Kagan/Keane plan. He did much behind-the-scenes work lobbying the administration on the surge that hasn't yet been written about. And when congressional Republicans went wobbly on the war last year, McCain stood in the breach and bucked up his colleagues, even as he was getting slammed by the mainstream media. If he had gone south, it would have been game over. On the surge, McCain was prescient, dogged, and brave. It is difficult to exaggerate his contribution and he deserves whatever credit he's taking for it. (source)
Mark Levin responds in detail here, concluding with this:
So, yes, credit given on the surge. But there are caveats.
Levin has also interviewed Rick Santorum who offered his view of McCain, having worked with him in the Senate for some years. Kathryn Jean Lopez covers that interview here.
But Santorum’s criticisms cut to the heart of conservative concerns about McCain: that he’s not a conservative, that he’s been damaging to conservative causes while in the Senate, and that he would be no friend to conservatives — never mind being one himself — in the White House.
In an interview with Mark Levin on Levin’s radio show Thursday night, Santorum went so far as to call McCain “very, very dangerous for Republicans” on domestic policy. Santorum said: “I just have to tell you, as a leader, as someone who had to put these coalitions together, it was always hard and we very rarely on domestic policy had any help from the Senator from Arizona.”
Santorum told Levin: “The bottom line is that I served 12 years with him, 6 years in the United States Senate as leader, one of the leaders of the Senate — the number-3 leader — who had the responsibility of trying to put together the conservative agenda, and almost at every turn on domestic policy, John McCain was not only against us, but leading the charge on the other side.”
Although McCain has a largely pro-life voting record, Santorum — who led on pro-life and marriage issues in the Senate — cautioned against misunderstanding McCain’s public stance: “Not only was he wrong on embryonic-stem-cell research, but on a whole host of conservative issues, where he may have voted with us.” Santorum took radio listeners into the back-room workings of the Senate, emphasizing how the first step toward legislative success is finding time on the floor to discuss and vote on the issues: “That discussion is held in private, where you’re jostling and jockeying to get your legislation into the queue so that you can have your time on the floor to get something done. And I can tell you, when social-conservative issues were ever raised — whether it was marriage or abortion or a whole host of other issues — there were always the moderates who said ‘no, no, no, we can’t: they’re divisive, divisive, divisive.’ And more often than not, John McCain was . . . with them,” agreeing that these were divisive issues that the Senate should not bring to a vote.
Much has been made of McCain's conservative scoring being very close to Fred Thompson's. I think the mention of the backroom antics by McCain explains how that can be possible and yet many of us still don't see him as a conservative. That behind the scenes work has undermined conservative ideals in other ways as well:
But the roll calls don’t tell the full story, Santorum argues. He tells NRO: “just as importantly we didn’t have cloture votes on better policy because we knew we would lose.”
A McCain supporter on talk radio recently has touted McCain's voting against the Bush tax cuts as avoiding the problem that Reagan had when tax cuts were not followed up with promised spending cuts by Congress. They characterized this as a conservative position by McCain. But if John McCain had prevailed, we still would not have those tax cuts as Washington has yet to succeed at cutting overall spending and thereby would have lost the economic stimulus that resulted from tax payers having less of a tax burden. Furthermore, McCain used class warfare rhetoric to fight against the tax cuts, just like a good liberal democrat would. You can see 10 examples of such here.
While I could tolerate McCain being on the ticket, if forced to do so, he is not my first choice for obvious reasons. It matters not to me that Michael Medved considers John McCain to be a conservative, after all, Medved also says Mike Huckabee is a strong conservative, which indicates his judgement is a bit off on the matter. McCain has recently received a staunchly conservative Senator's endorsement, with that Senator mentioning McCain's fight against corruption and money influencing politics. Sorry, but there are more things than that to being a conservative, and in my view John McCain falls very short. I could still vote for him if he's on the ticket, if I must, however he may ruin that if he includes Mike Huckabee as well.
I've yet to see McCain take on the Huckster directly and the same with Huckabee taking on McCain in a direct and public fashion. Ed Rollins, Huckabee's campaign manager, had this to say about McCain:
"McCain hasn't attacked us," said Ed Rollins, Huckabee's campaign chair. "We like McCain." (source)
I really hope that isn't a sign that the worst possible GOP ticket I can imagine this year is moving closer to actuality.
Filed under: Politics
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