A Conservative Case against McCain
A former Senate colleague cautions the Right.


Kathryn Jean Lopez

Rick Santorum doesn’t know who he’s voting for in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, but he knows who he’s not voting for. The former Pennsylvania senator will not pull the lever for his former colleague, John McCain.

Since losing his seat to Democrat Bob Casey in the devastating-for-Republicans 2006 elections, Rick Santorum has focused much of his energy on the war on terror. As a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Santorum is building a project there focused on researching and warning Americans about “The Gathering Storm” and the nature of our enemy. The focus of his work over the last year makes it all the more significant that Santorum has taken to opposing McCain — whose attraction to conservative hawks is his stalwart defense of the surge in Iraq and his personal biography: his military service in Vietnam.

But Santorum’s criticisms cut to the heart of conservative concerns about McCain: that he’s not a conservative, that he’s been damaging to conservative causes while in the Senate, and that he would be no friend to conservatives — never mind being one himself — in the White House.

In an interview with Mark Levin on Levin’s radio show Thursday night, Santorum went so far as to call McCain “very, very dangerous for Republicans” on domestic policy. Santorum said: “I just have to tell you, as a leader, as someone who had to put these coalitions together, it was always hard and we very rarely on domestic policy had any help from the Senator from Arizona.”

Santorum told Levin: “The bottom line is that I served 12 years with him, 6 years in the United States Senate as leader, one of the leaders of the Senate — the number-3 leader — who had the responsibility of trying to put together the conservative agenda, and almost at every turn on domestic policy, John McCain was not only against us, but leading the charge on the other side.”

Santorum went first for the issue that most galvanized talk-radio audiences in 2007: immigration, calling it “just the latest example” of McCain’s leadership in opposition to conservatives. Santorum told Hugh Hewitt the day before, “John McCain was the guy who was working with Ted Kennedy to drive it down our throats, and lectured us repeatedly about how xenophobic we were, lectured us — us being the Republican conference — about how wrong we were on this, how we were on the wrong side of history.”

And there was, of course, McCain-Feingold, “an affront to personal freedoms and liberty”; on Levin’s show, Santorum called the campaign-finance-reform legislation a “misguided attempt to placate the New York Times and to help his stature within that community.”

Santorum noted: “We would have had a much bigger tax cut if it was not for John McCain.” He added: “On economic policy, he has come down not only against reductions in taxes, but he has come down on the side of government intervention into a whole variety of different industries — when it seems to be a popular thing to be on that side — and I think that makes us a lot less competitive in a world that is becoming more competitive.”

With the voters of Michigan specifically in mind, Santorum called McCain “absolutely lethal” to the auto industry. “On the environment [McCain] has sided with the radicals in the Congress.” Santorum reminded Levin’s listeners that John McCain was against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which would have provided an important step toward energy independence.

Responding to McCain positioning himself “against Big Pharma” in a debate last week, Santorum, recalling McCain’s position on drug re-importation when they were both in the Senate, shot back: “Well, ‘Big Pharma’ happens to cure millions of people in this world. ‘Big Pharma’ happens to create a great quality of life for a lot of people and demagoguing like John Edwards against ‘Big Pharma’ doesn’t make me feel very good.”