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John McCain vs. the Right: No easy peace; Update:McCain at CPAC

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 30, 2008 12:30 AM

Update 11:11pm Eastern. The Club for Growth joins what McCain’s defenders derisively and speciously label the “McCain Derangement Syndrome” crowd. Here’s the CFG’s statement tonight. You can dismiss it as “hate” and accuse them of “acting like a liberal,” or you can deal with the facts:

When Janet Hook asked John McCain in tonight’s CNN Republican debate “What makes you more qualified than Mitt Romney, a successful CEO and businessman, to manage our economy?” Senator McCain offered a simple answer: “Because I know how to lead.”

Well, John McCain is certainly right about one thing. He knows how to lead, but he is often leading in the wrong direction, and often found with his liberal Democratic friends at his side. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are a case in point. John McCain was certainly a leader on the tax cuts: He led by being 1 of 2 Republicans in 2001 and 1 of 3 Republicans in 2003 to oppose the most pro-growth legislation in a generation.

John McCain joined with his Democratic friends in leading the opposition against the tax cuts. Like Ted Kennedy—who said “Now, they are proposing more of the same, more tax breaks benefiting only the wealthiest among us”—John McCain stood on the Senate floor and declared: “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.” John McCain also proved his leadership skills by teaming up with Senator Tom Daschle in sponsoring an amendment designed to reduce the tax cuts and undermine their efficacy.

John McCain has also been a leader on several other key Democratic issues:

·He led by crusading, along with Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, against the First Amendment, pushing for legislation designed to wipe out free speech from the political realm

·He led by teaming up with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards in sponsoring the Patients’ Bill of Rights, a bill that imposed onerous mandates on insurance coverage and encouraged an increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed against healthcare providers

“Having leadership is an important quality, but it is important to consider the political philosophy underlying John McCain’s leadership,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Hillary Clinton is also a leader, but Republicans don’t want Hillary Clinton to be their nominee. While John McCain has demonstrated his leadership skills, too often, on economic issues, he is leading the country in the wrong direction.”

Update 10:53pm Eastern. What Karl at Protein Wisdom said: “On one level, I cannot help but respect McCain for not wanting to change his positions to align himself with the conservative base. It is undoubtedly the same defiant streak that got him through the hell of the Hanoi Hilton. On the other hand, many people wish that he would at least reserve his most harsh, sneering, morally arrogant and childish rhetoric for liberals, Democrats and their subset in the media, rather than for those with whom he purports to agree with most of the time. Unlike Romney, McCain has built his political fortune on kicking people right of center in the teeth.”

Update 10:48pm Eastern. From commenter RationalThought: “OK, I was softening toward McCain. I really, really do not want a Shrillery presidency. I think her Supreme Court appointments will be a disaster for decades. But the class warfare BS he’s throwing around — and the anti-business crap — man I HATE that stuff. It’s red meat for ignorant, spiteful, envious voters (the Jerry Springer/Oprah crowd), which means the candidate who uses it doesn’t actually believe he has a damn thing to offer except, “Hey, I really want to be President of the United States.” I don’t know if I can pull the lever for him. And I agree with others here tonight: that nasty little smirk. It was positively…Hillaryesque. I’m back to thinking McCain or Hillary — What’s the difference? I don’t really see it, and for the first time in my nearly 50-year life, I may not vote at all. Why bother?”

Update 8:02pm Eastern. Wisdom from The Other McCain – “If you offer to be a doormat, don’t be surprised when people wipe mud all over you.”

I’m liveblogging the GOP debate here.

Update 6:30pm Eastern. Go here for my chat with Glenn Beck about McCain, Juan Hernandez, Jerrold Perenchio, and the conservative base.

Update: 4:50pm Eastern. Something to make you smile: Makaniak.

Update 2:20pm Eastern. Mark Hemingway reports that John McCain himself is coming to CPAC, in addition to reserving the campaign staff booth reported previously. So he can dismiss conservatives’ “foolishness” to their faces? Should be quite a show. Not to be missed.

Update 2:14pm Eastern. Must-read from Jeff Goldstein, who gets the heart of the Constitutional disaster that a McCain presidency portends: “The McCain Mutiny.” (hat tip – HAheadlines) But I guess we’re all just suffering from “McCain Derangement Syndrome.”

Update 11:25am Eastern. McCain to conservatives: You’re fools!

***
Despite his longtime alienation of the Right on countless issues, John McCain secured a solid win in a closed Florida Republican primary and is assuming the air of inevitability. Many pundits have been urging John McCain to reach out to conservatives (how novel that would be). In response, he made a small point tonight in his victory speech of emphasizing judges–an olive branch, apparently, in the aftermath of the Alito/Fund kerfuffle.

Well. We hear what he says now. But we know what he has done for years:

Insult the base, trash the base, and pay lip service to the base only when it suits his needs.

The declaration that he is the “conservative leader who can unite the party” is yet another smack in the face to those who have watched him reach out and slap conservatives time and again–and then run to the warm, gooey embrace of the liberal media. Is it too much to ask to nominate a Republican candidate who is not as openly and historically hostile to the Republican base as CNN and (McCain’s endorsers at) the New York Times are?

McCain’s open-borders supporters will declare that immigration is no longer a factor in this campaign. They so wish it to be so. (Right on cue, here’s Kennedy-fawning NYT columnist David Brooks dismissing immigration sniffily as “not a good issue for Republicans.”)

But the fact is that McCain was driven to play up his border security promises (however hollow they may be) and to start talking up attrition through enforcement.

That’s a small victory. But questions like this remain: How can McCain honestly reach out to conservatives when he defends his extremist campaign Hispanic outreach director who doesn’t believe in borders and when he boasts a national campaign finance chair and soft-money mogul who poured millions of dollars into the fight against English-language instruction in California, Planned Parenthood, and radical environmental fear-mongering groups?

We know that Juan Hernandez is McCain’s Hispanic outreach director.

Who is McCain’s conservative outreach director?

Hillary Clinton likes to say that whatever differences she and her Democrat opponents may have, “they pale in comparison” with the differences she and her Dem rivals have with the Republicans.

Can the Republican front-runner say that the differences between him and his GOP opponents pale in comparison with the differences between him and the Democrats?

The McCain=Hillary ad from the grass-roots conservative group Citizens United provides the disturbing answer.

Conservatives have core concerns about McCain’s trustworthiness, adherence to conservative ideology, and commitment to sovereignty that can’t easily be brushed off with glib answers about being the “straight talk” candidate. The problem is that the media chuckleheads who get to question the GOP candidates are as hostile and out of touch with the conservative base as McCain is. This monumental deficiency has been exposed repeatedly during the election-year “debates.”

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have at least one bona fide conservative questioner on the CNN debate panel tomorrow night when the GOP candidates meet at the Reagan Library? They made room for minority journalists when they broadcast minority interest group-sponsored debates. They made room for local journalists when they broadcast the Iowa caucus and NH primary debates. Why not someone at the GOP debate who actually knows and cares about what conservatives care about?

Too much to ask, apparently.

***

Last month, I asked readers: “Would you, could you, vote McCain?” How about now? At the moment, I’m with Rush: “I can see possibly not supporting a Republican nominee.”

Yes, the possibility is real. But we also have a long, long way to go.

With that in mind, I’m running a closed poll for registered MichelleMalkin.com commenters. (For those who can’t access the poll, I’m asking: Where do you stand with nine months to go until Election Day? If it’s McCain vs. Hillary in November, will you 1) Vote McCain; 2) Vote Hillary; 3) Stay home; or 4) Don’t Know.) I’ll post the results at the end of the day.


This poll is for registered MichelleMalkin.com users only:

If it’s McCain vs. Hillary in November:
I will vote for McCain.
I will vote for Hillary.
I will stay home.
I don’t know.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


***

Meantime, let me share some of the reader e-mail that’s pouring in. At the moment, the depression and disgust are palpable. John McCain may have declared that he is the conservative uniter. But judging from my mailbox, his fight with the Right is far from over. On to Super Tuesday:

Carol…

I cannot in good conscience vote for John McCain.. If the country is going to hell, I’d rather Hillary, Barack, or the Dems can take credit for the destruction of the country than the Republicans.

Eric…

As a lifelong, politically active Conservative I’ve decided to vote Dem if McCain is the nominee. Why? Because I think that McCain will perform almost exactly like a Democrat and it is better to have the real thing in office rather than a Dem in GOP clothing. If McCain is elected and then performs poorly, because he acts like a Dem, he virtually guarantees a Dem win in 2012. However, if a Dem wins and runs things as they are dying to do then the GOP has a strong shot at 2012 and beyond.
I’d like to see someone start a very public campaign to keep Conservatives home on election day to make sure the Dems win, but win with a large segment voters sitting out so they can’t falsely claim a mandate.

If McCain wins it will be harder for GOP House and Senate members to oppose him on Liberal initiatives, initiatives they would oppose if a Dem were to propose them.

Rick…

I’m a member of the conservative base and I just can’t see myself voting for John McCain EVEN if Hillary is the opposition. I am voting for Mitt Romney knowing that he panders. But at least he will promote conservative principles through the course of the election. Bottomline, I would be willing to lose with Romney over winning with McCain. McCain would ruin our movement by redefining what it means to be conservative, furthermore there is absolutely no way of knowing how that guy will govern.

I will never vote Democrat, but I will stay home!!

About me:
49 years old
Married and father of 3 (married once)
Business owner/operator for 21 years
College Educated
Christian faith
Extremely anti-abortion
Extremely pro-gun ownership
Support: strong national defense; small government; lower taxes; free trade; strong borders; personal responsibility

Harvey…

I think the Republican establishment needs to know just how many of us voters will never vote for McCain. I certainly won’t. I’ll just pass if he’s the nominee. I like the country’s chances with 4 years of Hillary better than 8 years of McCain (as much as it pains me to say that about a Republican)…

The electorate needs to know that McCain cannot win in November… and if I’m wrong about that and he does win in November, I think American voters will get the wrong impression of what it means to be a conservative. I have issues with all the Republican candidates and feel that no true conservative is still in the race… but if McCain becomes the nominee, I won’t vote for him.

Gerry…

If McCain becomes the republican nominee, Rush will be proven right. The “republican” persuasion will cease to exist. It might as well merge with the democrats to become its true self. Good riddance.

Staunch conservatives for life, my wife and I will vote for the democrat nominee (Billary or Obama) since they are scarcely different from McCain except on Iraq. Better to have a democrat pres kill the country than a faux-conservative republican like McCain kill it.

Then maybe another Jimmy Carter in 2008 will bring forth another Reagan for 2012.

Dave….

I’ve not voted for a Democrat in 25 years. I wont’ this year either. But if “my” party’s choice is McCain, I’m sitting on my hands. We’ll walk in the wilderness for the next 8 years together.

William…

Read my lips: I will NEVER vote for McCain.

Rod…

It seems to me that John McCain’s straight talk express is running on four flat tires. As a veteran I have always respected the man if not his policies. As the nation watched the Republican race in Florida it soon became apparent that the race to the finish line was a two man race, it also showed how sleazy and nasty McCain’s will stoop to gain a few votes. As he attacked Mitt Romney with underhanded tactics and outright lies he not only lost my vote he also lost my respect.

David…

Dear RNC:

I am very concerned about the direction toward which it appears that the Republican Party is going. In the words of Presidential hopeful John McCain, “they voted us in to change government, and the government changed us.”

John McCain’s own admission of how he failed in his duty as Senator, along with the rest of our fellow Republicans who were voted out of office in 2006, to make the changes that he promised is very telling. First, it raises suspicion as to his promises that he is now currently making. Additionally, it provides us with real insight into exactly who John McCain is, and why he should not be the Republican nominee.

John McCain, the “Maverick” has proven that he is indeed more of a liberal than a conservative or a Republican. What makes McCain a moderate is his staunch support for the war in Iraq. However, all of the Republican candidates, save Mike Huckabee would provide the same strong backing for the war. Which brings me to my next point demonstrating why John McCain would be more appropriate running for the Democratic nomination than a Republican one, McCain’s biggest successes in the Senate are renowned as the liberal’s biggest legislative accomplishments in the last quarter of a century. McCain-Feingold, a big blow to free speech and capitalism, McCain-Kennedy, was not only a smack-in-the-face to conservative Republicans, but also to more than 80% of the American people, who believe that there should be no amnesty, whether technical or not, and finally his global warming initiative McCain-Lieberman is a monstrosity that demonstrates his self-acknowledged lack of understanding of how economies work, particularly the economy of the nation for which he is running to lead.

Most remarkably telling of McCain’s liberal nature is his Clintonesque political maneuvers whereby he lied about and twisted Mitt Romney’s record by saying that Romney stood for something that even the most generous assumptions would not support, then attacked Romney for being dishonest, and repeated it consistently with the hopes that the public would believe it. This effective Clinton tactic is deceitful and it is not the sort of tactics that Republicans should use in a race against each other, simply for the reason that if for some reason a Republican were to lose, despite these terrible tactics, the Democrats would have plenty of ammunition to use fellow Republican’s own words against other Republicans.

I cannot support a candidate who claims that the American people have lost their faith in government and claims that he can restore faith in government, yet at the same time cannot even refrain from being dishonest in a campaign. John McCain is one of the biggest reasons people have lost faith in government, especially over the McCain-Kennedy bill where secret meetings were conducted with the hopes of ramming amnesty down the nation’s throat, despite overwhelming opposition direct from the American people.

If John McCain is selected as the nominee, I will not sit out of the election, but I will vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is. Rush Limbaugh and others have pointed out that if the choice comes down to between a Democrat on one side and a liberal Republican on the other, it’s much better to have the Democrat because at least all the problems that will arise from such an administration can be blamed on their party not ours. It is absurd to suggest that we should vote for a liberal because he is the only one who can beat a fellow liberal. I give much more respect to the liberal who announces his or her intentions and sticks to them rather than the liberal who pretends to be the most conservative Republican only to change positions in office and hide behind the shield that it was important to “reach across the isle” to get something done. Furthermore, we have all seen the damage that George Bush’s compassionate conservatism has done and how he has refused to serve the will of both the party that elected him and the American people as a whole, who believe that the borders should be closed and all the illegal aliens here asked to leave, go home, and wait at the end of the line like the rest of the millions who are trying to come here legally.

I pray that better judgment befalls you, as a party, and you do the right thing and select anybody but John McCain. It will truly tear the party apart in a way that I don’t think that you would like. I am prepared to donate the maximum contribution to the Republican party if the nominee is anybody but McCain, however if the nominee is McCain, I will keep my hard earned cash and vote for whomever the Democratic candidate is.

The sentiment expressed here is not isolated to my own personal beliefs, but it is felt among many of the conservatives in our party. We have been betrayed by John McCain enough. For us, a victory this Fall is not nearly as important as adhering to the principles that once made the republican party great.

Newt Gingrich has set forth a plan to win the majority back by following some simple conservative principles. To the Republican moderates some of these ideas may sound radical, but they are all winning solutions backed by a majority of Americans and transcend party lines. His ideas represent what real Americans believe and a majority of the nation support, like make English the official language, close the border and put an end to illegal immigration, and there are many others, all of which John McCain does not embody.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I hope you do indeed consider the ramifications of seeking power over principle. In the end, if you only go for the power and forget the principles for which we represent, you will have no power.

One more from Vietnam veteran Russ Vaughn:

Up front, as a Vietnam veteran, I will readily concede that I respect John McCain for his service to his country, first as a naval aviator and POW in Vietnam, then for his long years in our national Congress. I even will admit to the fact that I somewhat admire McCain’s desire to effect some sort of political reconciliation with the Democrat party. That being said, I must also make it very clear that I do not support certain decisions McCain has chosen on his pathways to political advancement.

Now that the Senator has won primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina and the network pundits are proclaiming he may well be the Republican “Comeback Kid,” I am reminded of an old Army joke about a platoon sergeant faced with the prospect of breaking the terrible news to one of his young charges, Private Jones, that the soldier’s mother has just passed away. The sergeant calls his platoon into formation and barks out the order, “All of you with living mothers take one step forward.” Then after a momentary pause, he mutters, “Not so fast there, Jones.” That’s my take as a veteran and a conservative Republican on this new political development: “Not so fast there, McCain.”

My first and biggest beef with John McCain is that when a very brave group of Vietnam veterans who had served with John Kerry stood up to say that Kerry’s self-serving portrayal of his war record was patently false, that his blanket charges of war crimes against them were absurd, and that his testimony in Congress was used by the North Vietnamese to further torture McCain’s fellow POW’s, Senator McCain airily dismissed these courageous men and sided with his Senate pal. Playing conciliator in the national media, McCain despicably denounced the Swift boat veterans’ ad as dishonest and dishonorable, hinting that they were pawns of George Bush and the Republican right.

Like all the leftists in the MSM, John McCain never gave these true American heroes even the least opportunity to defend their claims. As a veteran who had suffered more than most to defend our constitutional right of free speech, McCain inexplicably used his powerful office and national presence to ally himself with the repressive forces of mainstream media to suppress that right to men who had risked their lives in combat to preserve it. It was one of the bitterest betrayals the Swift boat vets and the millions of us Vietnam veterans supporting them would have to endure. We expected treachery from the MSM and Kerry’s campaign, but not from John McCain.

What I can never reconcile in my mind, my heart or my soul, is how this naval aviator, POW and true war hero, could so easily turn his back on his fellow sailors, combat veterans all. In the name of political expediency, and a sorely misguided attempt to lay to rest all the troubled ghosts of Vietnam that his treasonous Senate colleague was primarily responsible for creating, John McCain turned his back on the true heroes and sided with a phony vet with phony medals and a suspect discharge.

Never mind that I disagree with McCain on immigration, taxes and his unconstitutional McCain-Feingold bill; that’s all merely politics and has nothing to do with honor and loyalty to those who served bravely alongside you in combat. Nope, that’s not the issue. But I’m putting the Senator on notice right now; if you should somehow get the Republican nomination, you are gambling with the votes of millions of veterans like me unless you repudiate your reprehensible siding with the traitorous, treasonous John Kerry. I have never stayed home on Election Day in protest of a distasteful candidate, but this could be the first time for me and many Vietnam vets, again turning our backs on a fellow vet who turned his first.

The Senator should read the excellent recounting of how a determined few veterans, whom he disgracefully defamed, defeated his old buddy, John Kerry, in the 2004 campaign. In ‘To Set the Record Straight,” authors Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler, lay it out, page by page, what the concerted efforts of a few honorable patriots with an unrelenting resolve can accomplish in the arena of national politics.

Like the old platoon sergeant, I would caution, “Not so fast there, McCain!”

Russ Vaughn
Vietnam 65-66

Bryan Preston has some good suggestions for both McCain and the Right:

The GOP could do worse than nominate a bona fide war hero for the presidency, even while he presents serious problems on many issues. Our party at least takes national security very seriously and votes on it as a priority, something that can’t be honestly said of the Democrats. And for all his maverickness, McCain does vote conservative about 80% of the time. That fact gets lost in his high-profile betrayals of conservatives and conservative principles, and the existence of legislation called “McCain-Feingold” and “McCain-Kennedy.” He needs to work on something called “McCain-DeMint” or “McCain-Hunter.” Some sort of earmark-slashing tax cut package would be nice…

…Hope and courage are two things in short supply these days. If you have either one, and especially if you have any amount of both, use them.

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