The Real John McCain, Part 1posted by Christopher
If John McCain is the new face of the Grand Ol' Party, then conservatives need to give the party a serious makeover.
With his skyrocketing popularity peaking at just the right time, John McCain looks poised to become the next Republican candidate for President. This naturally begs to question: "Where have all the conservatives gone?"
Don't be fooled by McCain's conservative veneer. It's calculated. Much has been made of McCain's purported difficulty in winning over the conservative base, and the Senator understands that conservatives don't like him. It's because he's not one of them. He never has been, and even now, despite his relatively recent change of heart on certain issues, he's not a conservative.
This isn't a Romney-esque conversion for the Senator from Arizona. Romney -- in my opinion -- is a political opportunist who wants to be elected. He wants power. He saw his best shot at running against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts was to run as a liberal. He saw his best shot at the Presidency for the Republican party was to run as a conservative. He recognized that in this race there isn't a real conservative, and thus he neatly and tidily championed each issue in each way that a "real" conservative would. He's not real: he's the aspartame to the conservative's sugar, the Astroturf to our grass, the tofu to our ... every kind of meat.
McCain is also seeking power, but there's a difference: whereas Romney was so liberal and "became" so conservative that it's unbelievable, McCain is still liberal but is packaging himself as a conservative to win over a very specific set of the Republican party. If McCain didn't change a single part of his agenda, his stump speech, or his attitude to mollify conservatives, he would still win liberal Republicans, moderates, independents, and swing voters. Those aren't his problem. As I referred to in the last article on polling, it takes two out of the three segments of the voting bloc to win an election: liberals, moderates, and conservatives. No one is ever going to win over liberals and conservatives while not winning moderates, it's impossible. So if you're a moderate candidate you have to win your base; if you're a liberal or conservative candidate, you have to win the moderates. McCain is the former.
He's going about it the right way, and doing a great job of it, too. Friends of mine whom I would consider dedicated and passionate conservatives have become McCain supporters. His mounting wins indicate that he is slowly accomplishing his goal. And if he were paired with a conservative running mate (say, Huckabee), he would undoubtedly prove a force to be reckoned with.
I'll say this now, and this stands for the rest of this election: I will not vote for John McCain. I won't vote for McCain-Anybody, even McCain-Huckabee. (Against my better judgment, I can't help liking Huckabee. I wouldn't vote for him for President, understand, but I like the guy.)
Social, Moral, and Societal Issues
According to JohnMcCain.com, the Senator's official 2008 election website: "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned ... [h]owever, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion." This would seem to indicate John McCain's blanket support for ending abortion and explicitly overturning Roe.
However, his record does not merit such a statement.
In 1999, while running for President against George W. Bush, McCain made the following statement to the San Francisco Chronicle: "I'd love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."
This seems to indicate that his support for repealing abortion is predicated on its declining necessity, which has yet to be proven.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has given him a 75% rating, indicating "mixed" support for the pro-life cause. They also provide an excellent dissection of remarks he made during his first Presidential campaign -- where he ran as the "liberal" choice for Republicans against the "conservative" Bush (who had a 100% pro-life rating). For example, McCain discussed nominating his friend Warren Rudman, a former Senator from New Hampshire, to be Attorney General; Sen. Rudman has been a vocal supporter of abortion, and while in Congress voted for pro-abortion initiatives. Rudman was also critical of the Christian Right: "Politically speaking, the Republican Party is making a terrible mistake if it appears to ally itself with the Christian right" — a group that he identified as rife with "antiabortion zealots" and "bigots," among other undesirables. When Senator McCain was given the opportunity to repudiate Rudman's words, he simply said that Rudman was "entitled to his own opinion." Rudman also said: "If someone had told me in the 1960s that one day I would serve in a Republican Party that opposed abortion rights — which the Supreme Court had endorsed — advocated prayer in the schools, and talked about government-inspired 'family values,' I would have thought he was crazy."
In perhaps the most egregious example of McCain's support for abortion, he voted to allow federal funding for experimentation using body parts of aborted infants.
The NRLC has the complete history of this issue, but the highlights are:
In 1992 and again in '97 the Senate considered whether body parts from aborted fetuses could be used in medical experimentation that was federally funded. McCain initially was against the procedure, but quickly changed positions and re-affirmed his support for such funding in '97. The NRLC explains: "[O]n May 8, 1992, McCain authored a letter discussing his change of position. Noting that abortion is 'a practice which is currently legal in this country,' McCain said he had concluded, 'I support lifting the ban on the use of fetal tissue for research by the National Institutes of Health.'"
Lastly, Andrew McCarthy at The National Review discusses how the Arizona Senator has thrown the pro-life movement under the bus in order to help his friend and campaign finance reform pal across the aisle Russ Feingold (D-WI):
"Senator McCain has engaged in a years-long campaign against Wisconsin Right to Life, an organization dedicated to advancing the pro-life agenda. Conservatives, one might have thought, would be stunned by a grand-slam only the modern Left could love: McCain has (a) urged the courts to judicially legislate a (b) suppression of free-speech rights (c) against an anti-abortion group which was (d) trying to urge the confirmation of conservative Bush judicial nominees.
"And the cherry on top? McCain’s exertions were singularly designed to protect one of the Senate’s most liberal incumbents: Russ Feingold (D., Wis.), McCain’s soul-mate in the evisceration of First Amendment rights (also known as the McCain/Feingold “campaign finance reform” law). A pro-abortion stalwart who scores a whopping 93 percent on NARAL’s pro-choice report card, Feingold has also opposed ... every sensible national security measure taken after 9/11."
Thankfully, this past June the Supreme Court struck down the clause in McCain-Feingold that allows such attacks on the WRLC.
In short, John McCain's record on abortion and tangential issues precludes him being able to claim the mantle of the pro-life movement.
Stem Cell Research
Last April, John McCain voted to expand stem cell research on more embryonic stem cell lines, and provide federal funding for that research. On this bill he voted "Yes" along with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. President Bush vetoed the legislation.
Prior to that, he also signed a letter sent to President Bush urging him to change federal policy to allow more funding of stem cell research. He was one of only a handful of Republicans to cross party lines and criticize Bush's stem cell policy. Hillary Clinton also signed the letter (Obama had not yet been elected to Congress in 2004.)
"I believe that we need to fund this. This is a tough issue for those of us [sic] in the pro-life community. I would remind you that these stem cells are either going to be discarded or perpetually frozen. We need to do what we can to relieve human suffering. It's a tough issue. I support federal funding."
-John McCain, GOP Primary Debate, May 3, 2007
John McCain 2008 does not give an answer to the Senator's views on marriage in the section entitled "Protecting Marriage."
In 1996, he voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This was a nonbinding resolution which stated that marriage was between one man and one woman. It has no legal authority.
In 1999, John McCain told Reuters in an interview that he would be "comfortable with a homosexual as President of the United States."
In 2006, John McCain voted against the amendment to ban gay marriage. However, he voted against this amendment on the grounds that an amendment to the Constitution would be un-Republican: marriage should be defined at the state level. The merits of this argument notwithstanding, it would be justification enough for his vote against the amendment.
However, the strongest evidence for his support of gay rights comes from this interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball in 2006.
MATTHEWS: "Should gay marriage be allowed?"
MCCAIN: "I think gay marriage should be allowed, if there's a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that, I don't have any problem with that."
John McCain's co-authored campaign finance legislation (The McCain-Feingold bill) is the greatest assault on political free speech since the Fairness Doctrine. McCain-Feingold bans all broadcast political advocacy advertising that mentions candidates by name, beginning 30 days before a primary and 60 days before an election, if such ads are paid for corporations, nonprofit organizations, political action committees (PACs), or unincorporated entities using any corporate or union funds. Of course, because of the immense cost of creating, distributing, and placing advertisements during election cycles, there are very few individuals who would be able to place such ads singularly. This, in effect, has abolished specific candidate issue advocacy -- apart from those run by the candidates themselves -- in the entire time period where such advertising may have proven relevant.
McCain-Feingold also banned "soft money" -- those funds raised by national political parties not subject to federal limits. No individual may contribute more than $2,000 to a specific candidate (corporations are banned from donating directly to candidates). Previously, the DNC or RNC could raise unlimited cash from individuals or corporations because they didn't raise it for a specific candidate. McCain-Feingold made that illegal. Now the so-called 527s (so named because of their place in section 527(c) of the tax code) have taken over that fundraising -- these are organizations that advocate issues. But as we've discussed, McCain-Feingold already banned them from advertising 30 to 60 days out from election, which severely curtails their effect.
The issue is not whether 527 organizations should or shouldn't be allowed to raise unlimited money, or when their ads are shown on television. The issue is that McCain-Feingold is an express and direct violation of the First Amendment. The law McCain created expressly bans certain speech -- political speech at that, arguably the most important kind. It does so not from concern for the immediate safety of others (e.g., you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded public place just for fun because people may get hurt trying to escape); nor does it make any exception for the truth or validity of said statements (e.g., slander and libel are illegal). Rather, it bans speech for the "explicit" reason that there's too much money in politics -- pardon me, but I hardly remember reading that Federalist paper. I'm also assuming, based on McCain's voracious defense of Feingold from the Wisconsin Right to Life Committee that we discussed earlier, the implicit reason is to help politicians protect their own. I mean, with organizations advertising about issues, people might learn the truth, they might even be informed when they vote! That could be very bad for some politicians.
John McCain voted in favor of a Constitution amendment banning flag burning. This is why I don't buy his earlier rhetoric on gay marriage; if he votes against a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on strict constructionist principles (i.e., that the issue is not a federal matter and should best be left to the states to decide), how can he reasonably vote for a flag-burning ban? In that instance he is taking the power out of the hands of the states and making a federal determination. You're either strict constructionist or you're not, but you can't claim both sides to suit your whims.
The Real John McCain: Part 2 will cover his policies on economics and taxation, foreign policy, social security and domestic issues, and conclude with his views on the war on Terror and the War in Iraq.