Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Strange love for McCain

I provided an all-too-thorough analysis of the presidential primary elections back in January. Now that the Republican Party has essentially selected John McCain, it seems time for an update. Instead of more of my bloviating, here is the quality analysis of a lawyer-friend of mine:
To quote the subtitle to Dr. Strangelove: "How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"

McCain, in this case, being the bomb.

Well, before Super Tuesday, I put McCain's odds for winning the GOP nomination at 95%. Safe to say that number increased (I had McCain winning 620 delegates, I think he'll end up with 720ish).

So, as a matter of political reality, I've spent some time contemplating McCain. I think he's obviously better than the Dems on foreign policy. On judges (which I care about more, or view to be a more decisive issue), McCain is likely to support good Justices, even though I don't trust him.

I wrote quite passionately before with reasons not to trust McCain - Gang of 14 chief among them.

However, in a two-party race, James Dobson is wrong; it would be foolish to allow Clinton or Obama to appoint 5-6 Justices. Their picks definitely will set the clock back even further on Roe - not to mention the rest of Constitutional law.

I'd much rather trust Mitt or Huck to make those picks, but that's not my choice anymore. So, I've decided to start defending McCain on this regard. Even though I don't totally trust him, and will issue a big fat "I told you so" if he appoints Justice Souter type picks, I think our chances are way, way better with him in the Oval Office. We may not get a picks like Michael Luttig or Janice Rogers Brown, but maybe we'll get someone like Senator Cornyn. For more on the judiciary aspect, I agree much of what Calabresi and McGinnis said in the WSJ (sans their spin on Gang of 14 and distrust of Mitt).

On the Gang of 14, the NRO editors said it better:

We believe that a President McCain would prefer to appoint conservative judges, for example. But would he fight for them or cut a deal with Pat Leahy? That is the fear that underlies the complaints about McCain's membership in the Gang of 14.

That's exactly my concern. But even with that concern, can I really say I'd rather risk Obama/Hillary picks? No. Not even close.

About all the domestic issues, McCain is very similar to Bush, and we I think we all agree that Bush was a less-than-ideal-but-better-than-the-alternative president. I'll take that choice again, any day. On immigration and campaign finance reform, Bush knifed us just as much, if not more so (expressly promising not to sign campaign finance reform before taking office).

On taxes, McCain is not totally committed, but again, marginally much better than the Dems who are constantly invoking class warfare rhetoric and basically calling for massive theft from the rich to give to the poor. McCain's theft is much less, and all moral normative claims aside, less theft is better than more theft.

Certainly McCain, the "Maverick," has enjoyed sticking his thumb in the eye of conservatives. But his electability is an asset, and the alternatives are grim.

Finally, I'll add that I think we may have over-estimated Mitt's electability. Despite my trying, I've been unable to move may of my strong conservative, Evangelical-type friends to support Mitt. He's never surged in the national polls, and despite spending vast sums of money, people just don't like the guy. I think I know why; it's because he's too slick. As a lawyer, this never really bothered me, but it appears to bother tons of people. (Not to mention the vast hoards of evangelicals who simply won't vote for a Mormon, and will make up any reason to justify that end result).

So, in the end, maybe the primary process has worked well, and we avoided picking a marginally better (Mitt used to be liberal after all) but less electable candidate. We did avoid picking a pro-choice candidate. Sometimes I think we forgot that Giuliani would be far worse for the pro-life cause than McCain, even on McCain's worst day. Beggars can't be choosers. Griping about McCain at this point is simply begging.

As for Huckabee, I think he strongly evidences how Evangelicals are important to the GOP. Everyone but John McCain got that message. Huckabee was not strong enough, in the end, to capitalize on his Iowa victory. He changed too many positions and said too many stupid things. I really tried to love Huckabee, and still think he's a more natural, brilliant speaker than anyone else in the field. But, you just can't change positions, as he has, and fail to raise money, as he has, and be viable. Huckabee as Veep, or maybe a future GOP nominee is exciting to me. He's still really young.

So, I expect McCain to win, to pick someone other than Mitt or Huckabee as Veep (someone like Sarah Palin, the Gov. of Alaska), and for all of us Christian conservatives to fight hard for McCain. I even hope, cleared away from the emotion of the primary process, Dobson will support voting for McCain. If you really care about Roe and protecting the unborn, how could you not support McCain in the general?

That's politics; you never get what you really want. Prudence dictates that we take incremental steps.

It's time to start loving the bomb.


Hayler said...

Thanks for this post. Very helpful and encouraging.

Simple Joys said...

And an added benefit to "the Bomb"is that Arizona will get its first president.

Ornery's Wife said...

Thanks for the post. I don't feel quite so bad about electing him as I did--not just because of what you wrote, but I have done a bit more research now, and feel as you do, that he is way better than a democratic choice. Whew. The alternative is just downright scary!

Susanna Rose said...

Good thoughts and very thorough! I could stand to know more about McCain so thanks!:)

Anonymous said...


Appreciate your comments. This is very helpful for the politically "challenged" like me.

Kevin Simon (Kaley's dad)

glassy said...

I have been reading this blog occasionally with interest- seeing how Christians can differ so much on politics (and catching up on Bethany- after so many years! =) I guess it's the whole Jim Wallis/James Dobson divide.
Just curious- what would you have done if Gulianni were the GOP candidate? Find a way to justify supporting him, or just not vote?
Laura Glass-Hess

Anonymous said...

glassy, knowing Keith like I do, he'd have gone for a third-party candidate.

Mr. Miller said...


It honors me that you've been "lurking" on our blog. Please continue to do so!

Your question is a tremendous one; even now I'm not sure I can answer it with full confidence.

As you know, Rudy was running as a pro-choice candidate. If he had won the nomination, I think there would have been two entirely responsible pro-life positions (I'm drawing from Justin Taylor's post on this topic):

A) Pro-life Purity
A pro-life voter who had made abortion their primary voting issue (properly, I would say), would be entirely justified in rejecting Rudy for espousing the contrary position. Furthermore, if pro-choice Rudy had won the Presidency for the GOP, it would have likely set a precedent that would prevent pro-life candidates from winning the Republican nomination in the future. Taking these two considerations together staying home or voting third-party would be entirely justified.

B) Pro-life Pragmatism
Compared to the pro-choice Democrat he would have faced, at least there would have been a chance that Rudy would appoint a Supreme Court justice who would favor overturning Roe v. Wade.

Forced to chose between these two positions I cannot say for certain which way I would have come down. But I am sure that I could not have condemned any honest pro-lifer from choosing the other option.

-Mr. Miller

Michael said...

I appreciate Mr. Miller's answer to the vote third party sentiment.

I would offer one amendment. It's entirely plausible to be in the "pro life purity" camp, and view the long-term pragmatic implications of a pro-choice GOP candidate as outweighing the short-term cost of voting third party.

Thus, you could be a very pragmatic voter, and still view the pro-choice GOP as such a problem that you can't support the candidate (even though that means contributing to the immediate election of a democrat).

Thankfully, all this debate has been set aside with the nomination of McCain. The pragmatic pro-life issues would have required extensive thought, debate, prayer, and in the end heartache either way.