Late Super Tuesday On



Note on Feb. 6: As the smoke clears, it now is evident that Senator McCain has accumulated about 60% of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination. He will very likely be the Republican Party’s nominee.




This was written just before the California polls closed. Even if Governor Romney pulls ahead of Senator McCain here, the Arizona senator has become “Target-in-Chief”. I think we’re entitled to ask WHY?

A preamble & a disclaimer: I write this from the perspective of a self styled “Truman democrat” with both conservative and liberal positions on domestic matters, but for whom – in the current environment – national security questions are absolutely paramount. Regrettably, on national security, the current leadership of my party is MIA. Worse still, I have heard little to nothing from either of the leading democratic candidates to reassure me that they even “get it”, much less that either might rise to the occasion.

As to the republican candidates, I may agree or disagree on this or that issue, but all these things are trivial against the backdrop of a world war that many members of the Democratic Party haven’t yet fully noticed. As I write this, the republican race has boiled down to the warrior senator from Arizona and the former Massachusetts governor, the former having acknowledged strengths in national security matters and the latter with a deep understanding of the business sector. Their resumes differ, but from my peculiar perspective, these two candidates’ formal policy utterances (domestic and foreign) differ at the margins only. So, like any executive placement decision, it comes down to intangibles like priorities, character and performance under pressure.

In this setting you have to wonder….. Why the vitriolic antipathy to John McCain among the media partisans of the right — notably from Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter?

We tend to hear kvetching most from the anti-McCain crowd about the five issues: (1) The failed grand immigration compromise; (2) the botched campaign finance reform (McCain Feingold); (3) McCain’s votes against the Bush tax cuts (on the grounds there were no corresponding spending cuts); (4) McCain’s opposition to sanctioning torture as an interrogation technique; and (5) the filibuster compromise with the democrats (even though it arguably enabled the confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court).

Surely, I think, there is something else going on here, especially when I hear Mr. Limbaugh actually suggesting that he might not vote at all if McCain is the nominee.

While one can argue about using statistics to describe a politician’s political philosophy, the American Conservative Union has rated all US Senators based on whether individual votes were or were not conservative, using the prevailing definitions. Minor differences in numbers are insignificant, but large differences are very revealing.

Senators Obama and Clinton, for example, are rated only 8 and 9% conservative respectively, while McCain – over a much longer time – is rated over 80%. From 2001 through 2006 the Arizona Senator was “only” 72% conservative. To get hung up on this sort of thing in a time of war is silly beyond measure. Think of an interruption in a policy argument: “But that position will cost you 2% in your ACU rating!” No wonder the general public is disgusted with Beltway behavior.

Let’s not forget or dismiss the “regular” people. When the nomination process is over, these non-partisan types, these members of the great non-activist middle, will decide the election.

And it is not a trivial matter – who leads us in a time of war.

I find it telling that not one of these strident McCain critics seems to have recently taken fully into account that our nation is engaged in a protracted war (and I don’t mean that pacification operation in Iraq). This is a world war, potentially lethal on an unimaginably large scale. The outcome will affect the fate of western Civilization for generations.

Given the stakes, these critics are strangely uncurious about Mr. Romney’s lack of any concrete record of performance in the national security field. Are the governor’s policy pronouncements and sound bites enough? Mr. Romney is an honorable man and I grant that the former Massachusetts Governor’s national security policy positions are facially reasonable. But so were those of Mr. Carter and Mr. Clinton.

Therefore, regarding this disproportionate outpouring of McCain antipathy, I must ask: Will no one recall the imperatives of a bipartisan foreign policy during wartime? I have the impression that this subset of self styled ‘true” conservatives are actually willing to put the national security at risk over intra-party domestic policy issues about which reasonable minds can differ.

Surely deeper things are operating here. At least two of them seem obvious to me:

(1) All of the vocal anti-McCain critics from within the senator’s own party are Boomers. Boomers, among other generational failings, tend to have an amazing tendency to self-centered myopia.

(2) John McCain is no boomer. And he is a Teddy Roosevelt republican. For reasons rooted deeply in history (and perhaps human pathology), there has always been a subset of conservatives who for whom deviations like that of our roughrider ex-president amount to apostasy. I have written elsewhere that there exists a powerful subset of liberals for whom liberalism is a secular religion with its own catechism. The sheer quantity of anti-McCain bile tends currently filling the media-air suggests that a mirror image of this politics-as-religion mindset has captured far too many conservative minds.

Let’s talk about Teddy Roosevelt for a moment, recalling that his sunny visage still looks down from Mount Rushmore. Like Harry Truman, TR was an accidental president, a stalwart former military officer who succeeded to the presidency on the death of the incumbent. President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, only months his inauguration; TR was just 42.

Teddy was a monopoly buster, an ardent conservationist and a pro-capitalist who wasn’t afraid to take on corporate corruption. He was, above all, a consummate warrior.

TR was detested by the arch conservative republican establishment; he lost the nomination of his own party while still an incumbent president. He lost to the nomination to Howard Taft, a classic “pure” conservative (and a bit of a pacifist). As a result of this long running internal party spat (recall that TR ran on the Bull Moose ticket) and Taft’s brief succession, Woodrow Wilson democrats slipped into the White House from 1912 through 1921 without getting a majority vote. [Notably Wilson was the only president who was elected and reelected with less than 50% of the popular vote – the only president except for Bill Clinton. Then it was single term republicans –Harding (who died in office), Coolidge (one term), then Hoover (one term) who were followed by the FDR and the New Deal era.]

What if history is allowed to recapitulate the key part of that story? Let’s assume that McCain is nominated. Let’s then assume that the disgruntled conservatives who don’t get their favorite choice decide to sabotage the McCain general election campaign. There could follow an eight year (or longer) return to liberal, anti-military, European-style “soft power” governance.

This is such a bad time for that.

Would that Joe Lieberman were the democratic nominee (or even Joe Biden); I could sleep better at night after a McCain defeat engineered by a cabal of Republican Party “purists”.

The bottom line is as simple as avoiding a train wreck at the crossing: The goal of securing this nation from all enemies domestic or foreign is not a trivial matter; it is an overriding imperative. Because the world wide ‘jihad” is no minor war, we may well need a warrior at the helm.

The talking bile-heads who are trashing the presumptive republican nominee have created a hostage situation. To save the country, the republicans are being asked to slap down a war hero in time of war. I think another kind of slap-down is in order. But I’m just an interested outsider – rooting for the fate of my beloved country….


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