Rockefeller Center, N.Y.C. — Beneath steel-gray skies and between limestone-beige skyscrapers, Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) predicted this morning that he would capture the state of New York tonight — and not for the last time in 2008.
“We’re going to win New York today, and we’re going to win New York in the general election,” he told cheering supporters. “We’re going to campaign all over this magnificent state. We’re not going to give it up to anybody. I guarantee you, as the nominee of my party, I can and will carry the City of New York, as well as the State of New York, because we know how to appeal to independents. We can do it!”
McCain appeared at a 7:30 A.M. rally at Rockefeller Plaza. Standing beside a huge American flag, with dozens of Old Glories fluttering around the inner-city landmark’s nearby ice rink, McCain addressed about 300 fans and curious commuters. McCainiacs waved campaign-issued placards as well as a few hand-painted signs, including one that read: “The Talk Is Straight in ’08.”
Calling it the “transcendent challenge of the 21st century” McCain pledged to “struggle against radical Islamic extremism.”
“Have no doubt of the evil and implacable dedication of this enemy,” McCain said. He cited al-Qaeda in Iraq’s attack in Baghdad last week. It was perpetrated, McCain explained, by “the quintessentially evil people who take women who are mentally disabled, put explosive devices on them, send them into a marketplace, and remotely detonate and kill innocent people…What kind of an evil is that, my friends? That is a terrible evil. We will never surrender to them. They will surrender!”
On the economy, McCain offered several specific proposals that should please tax-fighters:
“Pass the stimulus package. Get it through the Congress without a bunch of pork barrel projects in it.”
“Make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Let’s not have people face an increase in their taxes.”
“Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is going to attack 25 million families.”
“Let new products and new equipment be written off by business people” on an accelerated basis.
“Cut the corporate tax, which is the second highest in the world, from 35 to 25 percent.”
“I will cut your taxes, but I will also make sure that we get out-of-control spending — the earmark, pork-barrel spending — under control. I am proud to stand before you: 24 years in the United States Congress, and I have never asked for, nor received, a single pork-barrel project. And my state’s doing pretty well, my friends.”
On a lighter note, McCain pointed to a white-haired lady on the rostrum.
“If anyone has any doubts about my age,” he continued, “meet my 95-year-old mother, Roberta McCain.” Mrs. McCain’s 71-year-old son added: “Last year, she wanted to drive around France. She landed in Paris, tried to rent a car, and they wouldn’t rent her a car because they said she was too old. So she bought one and drove around Paris. That a girl, mother!”
McCain shared the stage with his state chairman, Ed Cox, Esq., Cox’s wife of 36 years, Patricia Nixon Cox (daughter of President Richard Milhous Nixon), former Gotham Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Republican Representatives Vito Fossella, and Peter King of New York, and other luminaries.
“The one with the tan there is the governor of the state of Florida, Charlie Crist,” McCain said. Resembling a latter-day George Hamilton in a blue blazer and khaki trousers, Crist seemed to have stepped off a yacht.
After promising that “We will be, as Ronald Reagan said, a Shining City on a Hill,” McCain thanked the audience and shook hands to the sounds of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Asked if he had any message for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who lately has criticized McCain, the Arizonan smiled and told me, “Uh…nah.”
Inside the adjacent lobby of the AP’s former headquarters, now a Bank of America facility, top McCain supporters gathered and regrouped. Asked if his presence underscored the concerns of some on the Right that Senator McCain is insufficiently conservative to be the Republican standard-bearer, Senator Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) told me: “No. I think it says that John McCain is a conservative Republican who never hesitates to work across party lines to get things done. That’s why I’m supporting him.”
McCain’s close ally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), also tried to soothe such worries on the Right.
“He’s the only conservative who has a prayer of winning,” Graham said, as he emerged from a revolving door and headed towards McCain’s campaign bus, “The Straight Talk Express.” “His 24-year pro-life record didn’t change in his 40s or 50s…He’s reliable. He’s conservative. He’s electable. Social, fiscal conservatism, and electability, commander-in-chief qualities beyond any. If a conservative is worried about the next generation of Supreme Court nominees, like I am, if they are worried about Clinton or Obama becoming president, withdrawing from Iraq, raising your taxes, increasing federal spending, and changing the course of the country, then they ought to get behind John McCain, because this is not an academic debate. This is serious business.”
Graham, who spoke of his 91-percent lifetime American Conservative Union rating, (versus McCain’s 82) said this when asked if he believes there is a philosophical core within former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: “I think Governor Romney is a fine man who is ambitious to a fault. He changes positions based on audiences” he faces. “In 1994, when Ted Kennedy pushed him in the debate for the U.S. Senate that ‘You would take us back to the Reagan-Bush years,” Romney said, ‘I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.’ I can’t imagine someone saying that in 1994 and in the year 2008 being ‘the son of Ronald Reagan.’ The immigration bill in 2005, he said it looked reasonable and not amnesty. McCain-Lieberman, cap and trade [for CO2 reduction], he said it was a good solution. On campaign finance reform, he wanted public financing.”
“He’s a fine fella,” Graham added, “but he has come to conservatism late, and his manufactured candidacy — being everything to everybody — has caught up with him, and that’s why we’re going to win.”
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.