James Gilmore is the real deal.
Earlier today I attended a weekly conservative blogger’s briefing, and today’s guest was former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, now running for president. It was the second small gathering (the first was off the record) with Gilmore that I have attended in the past two months. I wanted to see if my first impressions (or, rather, second impressions; Gilmore and I lived in the same apartment building for a while last year) would be confirmed during the on-the-record meeting. They were indeed confirmed. And they were largely positive. Gilmore is clearly a true, solid, mainstream, unreconstructed conservative. He accurately claims to have the best resume in the Republican race. “I am what I am,” he said. “I’m the real McCoy.” Cliches aside, it seems a true and thus a telling claim.
His style may or may not be a handicap. It’s sort of a cross between Bob Dole and Dick Cheney. Flat tones, matter-of-fact delivery. Like Dole (which is bad), he has a habit of saying “It’s about….” with regard to almost every topic. It’s about taxes. It’s about security. It’s about being a real conservative. It’s about freedom. Whatever “it” is, it is “about” something. It’s a verbal tic, made a bit more interesting by a strange pronunciation of “about” that is common both in Richmond and in Canada, more like “aboot.” Like Cheney, though, Gilmore comes across as firm, believable, reassuring. People forget that Cheney actually comes across quite well in debates and in front of the press. The straightforward, non-nonsense approach doesn’t excite people, but it inspires confidence. Gilmore has a bit of that. In short, he has credibility.
Despite what the Washington Post might say, Gilmore was a good governor. He’s also a good campaigner. He wins races.
Meanwhile, on the war in Iraq, Gilmore doesn’t bother with finger-pointing or intra-party blame-games (although he does offer firm but telling critiques of how the war lost the support of the American people). Instead, he turns the question around and goes right at the Left: “The Democrats are wrong, and this will create a chaotic situation. The Democrats have a recipe for catastrophe on this, in my view.”
The man is pro-life, against high taxes, pro-Second Amendment, pro-economic freedom, anti-big government, pro-law-and-order, pro-national interest (on foreign policy). And, in a much-needed assertion that he repeated several times, the United States occupies the “moral high ground” in international affairs but does not do a good job getting that message out.
Thus ends a rather impressionistic blog entry. I know this is telegraphing my punches, but I intend to write a full column on Gilmore’s candidacy in the near future. Look for it here at the American Spectator web site. I also intend to write a separate column on presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, a solidly conservative U.S. Representative from California. Neither column, nor this blog entry, is meant as an endorsement. I am a long way from choosing a candidate in the race for the GOP nomination. But good conservatives, and good men, like Gilmore and Hunter deserve a respectful audience from fellow conservatives. Herewith, then, is one attempt to provide it.