Maverick; Or How I Learned To Stop Worring and Love McCain
Most conservatives detest John McCain. Some absolutely loathe the man, and refuse to vote for him under any circumstances; others will vote for him only to prevent Barack Obama from winning the presidency. Very few actually like McCain.
I do. When I cast my vote for McCain, I will do so cheerfully and contentedly. I don’t agree with McCain on everything—I don’t agree with anybody on everything—but McCain shares nearly all of my most important values. McCain isn’t the best possible candidate, or even the best possible Republican nominee (from a conservative perspective, that would have to be Fred Thompson), but he is good enough. I will feel quite happy about voting for him—certainly better than I would feel voting for George W. Bush.
There are three issues that are central to conservative thought: an aggressive foreign policy, a limited federal government, and a commitment to social issues.
McCain is probably the most qualified candidate in politics to handle the War on Terror. Had the United States implemented the surge in Iraq when McCain first called for it (while facing considerable criticism from many conservatives), the Iraq war effort would have been made much easier. In fact, had McCain’s advice been followed, it is not impossible to imagine a situation in which the United States could have left Iraq before the 2008 elections. McCain understands the threat posed by radical Islam, and will almost certainly deal with it better than either of his two immediate precursors.
McCain is also strong on most social issues. He opposes gay marriage, believes that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and thinks that abortion is immoral. His only social lapse is his support for embryonic stem cell research, and that particular kind of research is rapidly becoming obsolete due to scientific advances. McCain is strong on the issue of abortion, although oddly, he rarely mentions the issue.
That leaves the matter of limited government. McCain’s record in this area can (charitably) be described as “mixed.” In his favor, McCain does now support radical tax cuts, and is implacably opposed to earmarks. He does seem committed to slashing government spending.
On the minus side, McCain supports onerous and completely useless cap-and-trade standards, pushing the dreadful McCain-Feingold Act (which limits political speech) through Congress, and seems to favor punishing oil companies for high gas prices. His support for amnesty for illegal aliens displays poor judgment (although it should be noted that there is no good answer to the illegal alien problem, thanks to years of government incompetence).
McCain would be better than Obama on limited government issues, and would probably be better than Bush was as well. But this issue would certainly be his Achilles heel from a conservative perspective.
Even though McCain is, at worst, an average Republican presidential candidate, many conservatives still attack him every chance they get. It’s not hard to see why—McCain doesn’t seem to care what conservatives think of him, and refuses to do anything to attract him. He is ridiculously proud of his “bipartisan” achievements, which frankly aren’t all that impressive, and seems overly willing to compromise with Democrats while throwing Republicans under the bus.
Conservatives have legitimate grievances, but they should not let McCain’s attitude distract from his considerable strengths. It is not easy to find a candidate who supports low taxes, is pro-life, and is strong on the War on Terror. McCain does, and deserves conservative support.