The Corner

On McCain

Mark,

I hold out no hope of persuading you on the merits of a John McCain presidency. No doubt Ramesh, a more eloquent writer than yours truly, would do a far better job. But I’ll try a brief response to your main objections.

The New Hampshire Union Leader editorially opposed Sen. McCain on the issue of harsh interrogation techniques for enemy combatants. We are more in line with your position than Sen. McCain’s. However, the senator does allow for a “ticking time bomb” exception, and he proposes intensive training for interrogators so they might be better equipped to get the necessary information without resorting to roughing suspects up. He wants to get the information, but he thinks harsh techniques don’t work as well as is claimed. (I’ll get back to this topic in a moment.)

On the Gang of 14, I see no point in rehashing the finer constitutional points. Conservatives disagree over the role the Senate should play in approving judicial nominations. George Will thinks the filibuster is fine, so does Sen. McCain, who has said he would filibuster an unacceptable Democratic nominee if he felt he had to. This legitimate disagreement over constitutional authority does not make Sen. McCain (or George Will) any less conservative.

McCain’s positions on Gitmo, torture and illegal immigration are driven by an inherently conservative respect for individual rights. I don’t agree with all of his policies on these issues. (We opposed the immigration bill he championed this year, for example.) But I do think they stem from an instinctive conservatism, just as Bill Buckley’s position on drug legalization does.

We acknowledged in our first editorial endorsing Sen. McCain that we disagree with him on some things. But in our view he is the strongest conservative candidate in the field. We didn’t make this assessment mathematically by sitting down and checking off each candidate’s policy positions and picking the one with the highest score. We kept their positions as a guide, and then we interviewed them. Some more than once.

At the end of those interviews, we concluded that Sen. McCain would not only make the strongest president, but would have the best chance of winning the election this fall and becoming president in the first place. As we have noted, a candidate can say he’s for everything you’re for, but that doesn’t make it so. We remain unconvinced that some of the other candidates in this race are as conservative as they claim. They might be, but we are skeptical. We know exactly where John McCain stands on the important issues of the day, and although we disagree with him on some of them, we agree on most, and we know he won’t surprise us later.

Andrew Cline Andrew Cline is the president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank in New Hampshire.

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