The wretched state of the Iraq war is likely to make 2008 a difficult election year for any Republican. To win, the GOP candidate will need to represent the so-called “fusion” of traditionalists and libertarians. At the very core should be a commitment to limited government and individual liberty.
On this score John McCain fails. He’s a courageous man, who endured much while a POW in Vietnam. But the presidency requires good judgment as well as good character. And that McCain lacks.
Columnist Dean Barnett complains that “McCain has seemed determined to remind conservatives of every thumb in the eye he has delivered to the conservative community,” most recently his decision to skip the annual Conservative Political Action Committee conference. But the CPAC snub is merely symbolic. McCain has dissed conservatives most dramatically with his statist, authoritarian positions.
Indeed, McCain cheerfully tells listeners that in 2004 he was considered a potential vice presidential nominee by both parties — not a positive for anyone who actually believes in ideas. Alas, McCain represents the worst values of both parties.
PERHAPS THE KEYSTONE OF MODERN conservative politics is tax reduction. In principle, the most important single objective should be to shrink government spending. Do that, and taxes will follow. In contrast, “starving the beast” by slashing levies, so to speak, doesn’t seem to work: George W. Bush combined tax cuts with mind-numbing outlay increases. Yet constantly raising revenue seems even more likely to inflate government expenditures.
On the tax score McCain is a bust, even though he has voted for some reductions. “John McCain’s overall record on taxes… is profoundly disturbing and anti-growth,” concludes a new report by the Club for Growth.
McCain was one of only two Republican senators to oppose the 2001 Bush tax reduction, and one of just three to vote against the 2003 cut. He was also a fervent opponent. Notes the Club: “The depth of this opposition goes a long way towards tarnishing the Senator’s fiscal credentials.”
Indeed, McCain justified his position with the sort of class warfare rhetoric normally employed by left-wing Democrats. Although any fair income tax cut will deliver more benefits to the wealthy since they pay so much more in taxes, McCain demagogued the issue. He explained: “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief.” McCain denounced “the wealth gap in this country.” The usual suspects on the left couldn’t have said it better.
McCain has been better on spending, opposing the worst pork barrel projects, and more important, voting against such budget-busters as the Medicare drug benefit, 2002 farm legislation, and 2005 Highway Bill. But McCain’s record on entitlement reform, reports the Club, “is marred by his willingness to raise Social Security taxes as part of a package that would include personal accounts.”
Equally disappointing is McCain’s support for various regulatory measures. The Club cites “the Patients’ Bill of Rights, which he sponsored with Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and former trial lawyer John Edwards (D-NC),” which would have “allowed the government to impose a set of onerous mandates on insurance coverage instead of allowing individuals to make their own decisions about healthcare plans in the marketplace.”
Along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, McCain has pushed expensive regulatory mandates in the name of combating global warming. Worse was McCain’s backing for Sarbanes-Oxley, which was passed in response to the Enron scandal; even many Democrats now acknowledge that the legislation has generated far more costs than benefits.
McCain also has pushed federal price controls for pharmaceuticals through Medicare and opposed even limited development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Moreover, McCain has backed the misguided Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE), which increase accident deaths by pushing people into smaller cars in the name of saving energy.
ON ECONOMICS, THEN, THE MCCAIN RECORD is disappointing. Perhaps even more disturbing, however, is McCain’s broad assault on fundamental liberties in other areas. Indeed, McCain’s most notable public crusade may be that against free speech.
Of course, McCain has undertaken this assault in the name of cleaning up politics. But the result is a full-scale war on political speech.
The McCain-Feingold legislation not only limited private contributions to campaigns, but banned independent political ads before elections. It is a direct assault on the core values of the First Amendment. So what, he asks? “I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected,” he explained last year.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?