Saturday, March 08, 2008

The McCain factor

OK. A while back I promised that I would take a look at John McCain as a Presidential candidate. I've been paying some attention, and it's truly been entertaining to watch him work while the two Democratic candidates go at each other, but other things have been bothering me.

It's not his age, like some people are complaining about (and I mean serious pundits are freaking out about the guy's age). Seriously, he is up there in years, but he seems very vibrant for a man who would be the oldest President in US history. There's been nothing to indicate that mentally he's not on his game, and as long as he picks a really good VP running mate (just in case) I don't see a downside there. He will certainly use it to his advantage in the general election. With all the silly "My opponent isn't ready to face the big crisis" tennis match between Hillary and Barack, McCain makes them look like 2nd graders talking about their first home mortgage. Really, it's pathetic.

It's not his social issues. Some friends of mine, who's integrity I don't challenge, vote pretty healthily along a morality/family values line. Usually things like abortion are at the top of the list of items to gage a candidate by, and they don't like McCain at all. Which doesn't make sense if you go by what he's been saying while on the campaign trail. And it appears like, with a few minor exceptions (historically he's made noises that while he's against abortion in general, he's not necessarily against using fetal tissue experimentally. Unravel that pretzel), that he's been pretty much on the anti-abortion side of the debate.
This is not to say that I agree entirely with where he's at. It's hard, especially when someone's running for office, to really know where they stand on an issue. Reading a list of quotes on the subject over the years is to overdose on sound bite madness. Politician sound bites are designed to inform, but also to pander. Of all the candidates, do you think he panders more or less than the other two? I would guess less, but who's to know where he stands. As of 9 years ago he stated that he wouldn't overturn Roe, and now he's all over eradicating that decision from the books.
Which in both cases really isn't for him to decide. He would have the power to appoint judges to the SCOTUS who see eye to eye with him, but I'll get into that later.

Really that's mostly rhetoric. For the most part, and you all know what I think, candidates will be held to, and often act in accordance with, their campaign slogans and promises. So in this case I would guess that McCain would be a generally anti-abortion President. Can he do anything about abortion anyway? Hard to say. Bush hasn't really been able to make a scratch, so why would we think McCain would be different. Thankfully he hasn't made any talk about amending the Constitution or anything.
Nor on gay marriage. On many issues you'll find that McCain would extend policies that Bush has been carrying along, but I noted in that section of his website, he talks eloquently regarding the benefits of a society built around the family unit consisting of male-female relationships, but he doesn't really call for any action either way.
In the past he's even taken a state's rights view, and opposed the Bush maneuver for a Constitutional amendment. But even for a conservative that should be a feature, not a bug. He has voted in the past for prohibiting same sex marriage (recall that during the Clinton administration, the somewhat lame Defense of Marriage act was passed with Clinton's blessing), and has voted against adding gays to hate crime legislation.

It's certainly not his positions on the war or on the economy. I'll get to them later, but I've been OK with what I've seen. So what's bugging me? Well, you mean besides that he's a career Senator?
Immigration is one issue. Of all the complaints that the conservatives have been throwing at McCain over the last few months, this is the one that I think has some teeth. However, they're more like molars, not canines. McCain has a record of treading lightly on the "amnesty" issue, but he's been pretty solidly pro-security in others. Many of his speeches include rhetoric about needing to secure the borders first before dealing with the problem of illegals running around. And even then I don't hear anything that suggests that he's going to go after them after the border is secure (will it every really be, oh save us from the government that wouldn't do anything). No, really. I don't like many of his votes on this issue, and the kinds of things he votes to give undocumented workers that only citizens/tax payers are supposed to get. However, he also understands that part of the reason we have to deal with all this is because the economies and governments of neighboring countries aren't doing their job allowing their own people to prosper (quite the opposite in fact). So there's some plus there.

The other thing I worry about is the usual. Size of government. There are some things that McCain has been pretty good at lately. One is not getting caught up in any scandals (nothing paramount anyway) and the other is being a vocal and voting opponent of earmarks and wasteful spending. Now while no candidate is going to be all perfect on this point, McCain doesn't have an earmark to his name in the near past. And by near I'm referring to years.
He's in favor of a balanced budget amendment and in his speeches insists that he would stop the uncontrolled spending (even criticizes Republicans for being complicit in the over-spending, which is speaking truth).
However, he's been in the Senate too long, and while he's good on earmarks, I worry that he'll be just one more in the long line of Presidents presiding over an increase in government power. Whether by large government programs, or reform that is promised to make life easier and less expensive, but in actuality will place more controls on industry and local government. Check out his page on Health Care system reforms.
  • -Controlling health care costs will take fundamental change - nothing short of a complete reform of the culture of our health system and the way we pay for it will suffice. Reforms to federal policy and programs should focus on enhancing quality while controlling costs
  • - Facilitate the development of national standards for measuring and recording treatments and outcomes.
There are more, but color me raising my left eyebrow at all this. Now his plan isn't nearly as obtrusive, controlling and tax burdeny as the two Democrat's plans, but the march of federal government control over your life and mine just slows down with Republican leadership. It doesn't stop, and in Bush's case it surged forward pretty regularly.

So what is it about McCain that conservatives don't like? Please if you know, comment. Down below, you know. There's a link. Use it. Tell me what you don't like about this guy, because after sifting through the rubble of conscious though leveled by the bickering of conservative talk show hosts, I don't see why they really should have a problem with this guy. He's not Ron Paul or Huckabee, who had their own problems.
And he's certainly the polar opposite of what's being offered on the Democrat side.

And there are some other issues that they have with him, such as his campaign finance bill and irregular votes against Bush-sponsored tax cuts. I'm a little worried about that, but I'll have to get to it later.


kat said...

It’s been so long since I talked politics with any of the people who populate my world that I have no clue what any of them think about John McCain. I do read a lot, though, and have the same sense you do of the common conservative complaints. I personally think he is a mixed bag. He does like to hold to the center a lot, which means he’s going to irritate pretty much everyone on some point or other, and he forms alliances with other non-ideological purists, which makes a lot of conservatives very nervous. The Gang of 14 business, where a centrist group determined the direction in which votes on President Bush’s judiciary picks would go, upset a lot of conservatives who wanted to see the Republicans in the Senate push their (at that time) advantage in numbers down the Democrats’ throats. They felt betrayed by a compromise that they believed was unnecessary, and even harmful. McCain, for good or ill, seemed to believe that would have been a bad choice in the long term. I can see his point. As history proved rather decidedly in the last election, no party will hold that kind of dominant power forever, and if you don’t want something coming back at you when you are the minority, you had better not set the precedent when you are the majority. Some conservatives, however, believe that the Gang of 14 episode proves that McCain cannot be trusted as president to nominate conservative judges, or, more importantly, Supreme Court justices. The “one issue” pro-life voters are pretty riled up about this one. (Why they think a risk with McCain would be worse than a sure-fire catastrophe with Clinton or Obama is beyond my understanding.)

As you know, other hot button issues include illegal immigration/border security/amnesty, the Bush tax cuts, and every blogger’s favorite legislation-to-loathe, McCain-Feingold. I diverge pretty far from McCain’s path on these issues myself. However, It’s a given to me that, if we can’t have Fred Thompson, McCain is still hugely preferable to the alternative options still slugging it out for the top spot on the Democratic ticket. I find it interesting how many conservative pundits and their commenters would actually rather see the Democratic candidate win in November, for “the long term good of the Republican party.” They believe, somehow, that if McCain loses, it will serve as a wake-up call to the powers that be to start offering up more truly conservative choices. They also believe that the country will sink so far in the next four years that voters will come running back to the conservative bosom for comfort and wisdom. Perhaps they are right, but personally, I’m not so willing to play fast and loose with Iraq that I would vote for the pulling-defeat-out-of-the-jaws-of-victory candidate over someone who has been rock-solidly consistent on the importance of winning the war.

Well, that’s way more than my two sense worth, and I don’t think there’s anyone who would actually pay even that much to hear my paltry opinion. What do they do with those products that sit on the shelf that no one wants? Oh yeah, they toss them in for free when shoppers make another purchase! I’ll just toss my opinion here in the bag. People can always throw it away when they get home. :-)

kat said...

Oops. Make that "two cents."

Anonymous said...

Ummm - why conservatives don't like McCain... He's annoying first off- just his personality. And, as you say, he doesn't really believe in less government - he believes in more government. Further, he isn't a great communicator of conservative ideas.

However, since he is THE alternative to a socialist type government involving more and more government intervention and taxes, since he will be strong when it comes to the national defense, since I can rest at ease that he won't try to make backwards progress on traditional family rights and values (I think that's what most of "US" are concerned about here - is the slippery slope that has already happended with our culture), and since Huckabee didn't make it this time, because of these things I fully support him.

I'm with the writer above in that "I’m not so willing to play fast and loose with Iraq that I would vote for the pulling-defeat-out-of-the-jaws-of-victory candidate over someone who has been rock-solidly consistent on the importance of winning the war".