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More Republican veepstakes musings
By Bruce Walker
President George W. Bush must be reelected, if America is going to win the war on terror. Is there anything which President Bush could do to insure his reelection in 2004? The venom of the Left, including the increasingly bizarre toadying of Ralph Nader, has relieved the President of any need to nail down his conservative supporters. They will be out en masse this November. The battle will instead be one of credibility on the war, and there is one Republican who could provide instant and absolute credibility on this issue: Senator John McCain.
Republicans are united today far greater than are Democrats. Conservatives greatly outnumber liberals. The battle will be fought exclusively over those voters who consider themselves independent by party and by ideology. Those voters are genuinely ambivalent now. There are only two public figures that rise, in their eyes, above the squalor of political rancor.
One of those men, Colin Powell, has served with distinction in the last three presidential administrations. Democrats simply cannot demonize Powell. The other man is John McCain, who has been outspoken in his opposition to President Bush in many areas and has been willing to support Democrat positions in many of these areas.
Republicans have been united, however, in supporting President Bush on the war. Democrats have had major fissures in their party. Whatever Democrat nabobs wish to say, Zell Miller is simply not some very conservative politician. Zell strongly supported Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Zell Miller supported Democrat takeover of the Senate after Jeffords defection. Most importantly, his voting record is squarely in the center of American politics. Only five out of fifty one Senate Republicans are as liberal as Zell Miller.
Ed Koch is a very liberal Democrat, whose voting record in Congress was strongly to the Left as almost anyone in Congress. His success as mayor of New York was based upon support liberal support in that very liberal city.
This fracture can be turned into a major fault line, but only if President Bush can show conspicuously that his party is not so divided. This can only be demonstrated by an outspoken, even irritating, critic. McCain fits the mold perfectly. Democrats have spent years telling the American people McCain is honest and noble. They have elevated him to a status which cannot be de-constructed before November.
Public opinion polls indicate that John McCain is perhaps the most trusted politician in America. Polling data on McCain shows fairly high favorability ratings, but the genuinely striking aspect of these polls is the very low unfavorability ratings of McCain. USA Today/Gallup has his unfavorability at 21% and the highly respected Hart/Teeter poll in July 2002 showed his unfavorability at a very low 15%.
These numbers are rock hard: Americans know Senator McCain very well. He has been the second most prominent Republican for years. Moreover, at least some of those unfavorable ratings come from conservatives, frustrated that a Republican from Arizona would be as critical of President Bush and as wrong on several important issues.
The reality, however, is that Senator McCain's distancing himself from the Administration makes it impossible for Democrats to question his integrity and independence. If President Bush tapped him for Vice President, Democrat spinners would look ridiculous if they tried to portray John McCain and Colin Powell both as toadies of some fiendish Bush conspiracy. Those genuinely troubled by the war on terrorism would be genuinely comforted by the selection of John McCain as Vice President.
Is McCain too liberal for a Republican administration? No, not really at all. Democrats in their zeal to destroy President Bush and hobble the Republican Party have created several myths. One, as noted earlier, is that Zell Miller is some very conservative Dixiecrat politician. Another is that John McCain is a liberal.
McCain has an ACU lifetime voting record of 84% which makes him more conservative than any Democrat in the Senate. He supported tax cuts, supported a ban on partial birth abortion and supported the appointment of judicial nominees by President Bush.
There is a reason why conservatives like Lindsey Graham and Bill Kristol were strong supporters of John McCain in the Republican nomination campaign of 2000. They knew McCain was honestly conservative on most issues.
McCain also would bring something that no other Republican could bring to the ticket: instant sympathy on issues of national security. Consider how McCain could hammer any Democrat who started talking about Iraq as "another Vietnam." This former POW endured years of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese. He knows about the sacrifices freedom requires.
John McCain on the ticket would also allow President Bush to hammer unrelentingly the flagrant abuses of the new campaign finance laws intended to limit the power of money in politics. The various odious creatures intended to act as straw men for the Democrat National Committee could be exposed to withering and genuine outrage by the person most responsible, and most recognized as responsible, for campaign finance reform.
Indeed, given the fact that Wisconsin is a swing state and that Senator Feingold, McCain's Democrat partner on this issue is up for reelection, McCain could create enormous problems for Democrats by challenging Russ Feingold to walk the walk and not endorse Kerry.
McCain would also help insure that Arizona stayed Republican and helping Republicans in the presidential and senatorial races in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and California. Senator McCain, like Senator Santorum and Senator Coleman, sit astride a cluster of pivotal states which may well swing the November presidential election.
Would McCain accept? He might. After serving four years as Vice President, McCain would be a prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination in 2008. Without being morbid, any president could also die or become incapacitated in office. If that happened, McCain could end up as president for nine years or more.
Aside from personal ambition, McCain surely has great sympathy for our troops in Iraq. He has been there before. He knows what it is like to fight a war with withering opposition by Leftists in America. McCain also understands the high stakes of this war. He also knows just how important he could be to America.
Conservatives may gag, but they should not gag, if John McCain is selected by President Bush to be his running mate. The Senator is a moderate conservative who is also trusted by the American people. We ask Americans to put their misgivings aside during the current war, and if we ask that we too should be prepared to put our misgivings aside. America should also see us putting politics aside. Tapping John McCain to be Vice President would do that stunningly well.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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