The Corner

About McCain

I appreciate Drew’s response. It’s hard to top Andy’s reply to Drew. However, let me add a few points. I have no criticism of John McCain the man. As I said, he is a bona fide war hero. And if he were more consistently conservative, I would be his number-one advocate. But he’s not. In fact, I think it is difficult to pin down his political philosophy. It seems to be a mix of comity, populism, and conservatism. He is proud of working with Democrats, which is fine as long as it’s consistent, in the end, with a conservative agenda. Many of his efforts in this regard have not been. He strikes a populist pose when talking about limits on free speech in the context of political campaigns and arguing for fairly extreme environmental positions. He speaks eloquently about national security and the threats we face from Islamo-fascists, even while leading the effort to confer — for the first time — international and constitutional rights on terrorists and terrorist suspects. He opposes unbalanced budgets but, at the same time, supports an activist federal government (often an activist Court), so it cannot be said easily that he is for limited government. As for the Gang of 14 and whether filibustering judicial nominees is constitutional or not (I have argued it is unconstitutional, but there’s no need to go down this road yet again), changing the Senate filibuster rule respecting judicial nominees need not be made on constitutional grounds. The Senate Democrats used or threatened to use the filibuster repeatedly against judicial nominees, which was unprecedented. The Senate makes its own rules. And there would have been no damage to the Constitution if the Senate limited its filibuster rule, as it has modified it in the past. And as Andy has noted, in all his years in the Senate, McCain has never led a filibuster against any judicial nominee.

Anyway, for me, there’s not any single issue that speaks against McCain, but a series of positions that I simply cannot square with my view of conservatism.  

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