WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- I'm here at Wait Chapel in Wake Forest University where John McCain just delivered a very strong speech on judges and the U.S. Constitution.
The central challenge of the McCain candidacy is how he can solidify support among conservatives while still appealing to independents as somebody who is non-partisan, and I think he did that quite will today.
After being introduced by Ted Olson, with Fred Thompson sitting behind him, he spoke about the separation of powers, and noted that, "In America, the constitutional restraint on power is as fundamental as the exercise of power, and often more so." Conservatives, of course, wish he had displayed such faith in the constitution, particularly the First Ammendment, eight years ago when he pushed the campaign finance reform.
But there was plenty in his speech to pacify conservatives. He railed against judicial activism, and cited specific cases that have infuriated the right in recent years, including the Supreme Court's Kelo decision on eminent domain, and the Ninth Circuit's ruling against using "under God" in the pledge.
He complained about Senate obstructionism holding up judicial nominations, and noted thte contradiction with the fact that they always seem to find time to place earmarks in spending bills. He also vowed to appoint judges in the mold of John Roberts and Sam Alito.
The savviest part of the speech came when McCain contrasted his approach to judicial nominations with Barack Obama's. I have always felt that this was the one of the strongest arguments McCain can make that he is committed to crossing party lines, and Obama is all talk. Go and read Obama's statement on John Roberts's confirmation, and it's a farce. He said, "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land," but voted against him anyway so he could fall in line with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
This morning, McCain went after Obama for that decision, and contrasted it with his crossing party lines to forge the "Gang of 14" compromise and voting for Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer because they were qualified, even though he disagreed with them.
Whatever conservatives may say about McCain, from a political perspective, it's true that he has a record of bipartisanship, while Obama is simply not credible on this point.
It's final exam time here at Wake Forest, and Obama fever has hit the campus, but the old fella filled up much of the large chapel, and received a warm reception from the crowd.
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