I do wonder if my ability to accept McCain is fairly easy because I’m a pragmatist, a neocon or a simplistic thinker. The first is the argument I make: McCain’s not perfect, but he’s better than the Democratic candidates. The second argument is that, because I’m a neophyte conservative, I’m more easily able to back away from core conservative matters and contemplate a more liberal conservative (if that last isn’t an oxymoron). Maybe so. And finally, one could argue that I’ve just got a fairly primitive brain that can’t handle too many complex ideas.
For example, in comments to my posts about McCain, Earl has taken a very interesting, thoughtful and nuanced position. As I understand it, he feels that, if Hillary is in the White House, the Republicans in Congress will act as a strong bulwark against her more liberal policies. However, if McCain is in the White House, he’s inevitably going to drag these same Republicans to the Left, because they won’t be able to form a strong opposition — he is, after all, of their party — and there will be an inevitable drift into the Democratic camp. As for me, probably because I’m not a very nuanced thinker, while I can understand what Earl is saying, I just have a hard time envisioning it actually happening. I think that’s more a limitation in my thinking than a practical statement about the realities that we may face in 2009 if McCain is President. Nevertheless, for every person who thinks in the complex, strategic way that Earl does, I suspect that there are at least two blockheads like me who will be voting in the Fall.
Because Earl is looking beyond McCain and examining McCain’s interaction with Congress, I thought that William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn had a very interesting point about Congress’s impact, not on McCain, but on Hillary, who has suddenly become the candidate of choice for conservatives worried about McCain:
There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Obama), and those records become important as we recognize a few simple facts: We are in an existential war against Islamic terrorists throughout the world. This very week, Senator Clinton was asked what her first act in office would be. She stated that first act would be the beginning of the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq within 60 days. Her first act. That is a surrender to the enemy — there is no other way to portray such a withdrawal and there is no other way it will be portrayed by our enemies and other observers around the world.
Some will say, “She can’t mean it, she’s stronger and more sensible than that.” Caution: Recall that Senator Clinton will be our commander-in-chief from a party that also runs the Senate and House — and the leadership in the Senate and House, not to mention the most active members in them, want us out of Iraq. Even on her most “sensible” day do we think she can be relieved of that pressure? The Democrats on the Hill have been chomping at the bit to make good on their 2006 promises; will she really turn on them? Can she?
In other words, if one assumes — as one must — that Congress will continue with a Democratic majority, even a small one, that majority will push the Commander in Chief — that is, Hillary — to exercise her unique prerogative to end the war. No Republican coalition, no matter how vocal and coordinated, can stop that from happening. Since I believe, as do Bennett and Leibsohn, that the War against Islamism is the most serious existential issue of our time, that’s kind of the end of the argument. Hillary = dangerous when it comes to Islamists; McCain = fairly solid when it comes to Islamists. (And maybe that’s the neocon in me speaking again.)
Bennett and Leibsohn are also more sanguine than are my “I’m an ardent conservative but will vote for Hillary” readers when it comes to the Supreme Court:
Second, we come to the realization that at least one Supreme Court justice is about to retire, and several others will be over age 70 come January 2009. Do we really think the nominees Senator McCain or Clinton (or Obama ) would appoint will be no different?
Let’s go to their records, to the very time-period opponents of Senator McCain cite in their indictment of him.
McCain voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year, Clinton didn’t and would likely expand Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding.
McCain voted to ban partial-birth abortion, Clinton didn’t and would likely reverse the partial-birth abortion ban.
McCain voted for Roberts and Alito and made the case for them in the media, Clinton didn’t.
And in recent spending votes, McCain is also distinguishable from the Democratic herd, even though he’s not as much as a hardliner as solid conservatives would wish:
McCain has never voted for a tax increase, Clinton will increase taxes.
McCain will continue the Bush tax cuts, Clinton will end them.
McCain will end pork-barrel spending, Clinton supports the endowment of projects like the Woodstock Museum with taxpayer funding.
Even on free speech, as to which McCain bears the huge black mark of McCain-Feingold, it will still be worse under Hillary: “McCain sponsored legislation to keep the Fairness Doctrine from rearing its head again, Clinton has not and has signaled moves to revive it.”
The differences that Bennett and Leibsohn point out between the two candidates go on and on and on. It’s worthwhile to read these differences because I think McCain has become something of a bogey-man. He’s certainly not a conservative purist, but he’s no liberal.
Also, as you read the comparisons, it’s important to keep in mind that we internet geeks are the ones who care most strongly about politics, so we’re most likely to stake out carefully thought through ideological positions that are probably going to be more . . . extreme? pure? rigid? Pick your word or add one of your own. The same doesn’t hold true for the vast number of voters, people who want someone who is pretty much like them on most issues, and who isn’t planning on walking away from a war or turning our laws over to the sharia courts. As for all the other issues? Well, as far as those voters are concerned, the other issues are for the blogosphere to argue about.
And as I’ve said in other posts, there is a very good chance that people are clustering in the McCain center because they find almost impossible to contemplate another four years (or more) of the intense political hostility that characterized both the Clinton and Bush presidencies.
I’ll give Bennett and Leibsohn the last word, one that looks to the two alternatives of a McCain presidency and that opts for the more optimistic one:
Let’s admit the concern: Some people predict that a President McCain will open the borders, close Guantanamo, and tie our policies to some false premises related to global warming. We hope he doesn’t, but even critics must admit it is just as likely — if not more so — that his legacy will be the following: He pursued al-Qaeda to the ends of the Earth and vanquished them; he cut deficit spending and vetoed pork-barrel spending over and over again; he appointed four good justices to the Supreme Court; and he reinvigorated a sense of thoughtful patriotism, citizenship, and unselfish devotion to the Republic.