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Candidate McCain
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 2/13/08

If a single adjective could be applied to the major Republican candidates who have struggled, most of them in vain, to gain their party’s presidential nomination, that adjective would be “flexible”. It’s not a bad trait, except when applied to a candidate. Flexibility in an executive or other leader is usually seen as a virtue. Intelligent leaders are open to changing their minds when confronted with new circumstances or information. But in a candidate, flexibility is often viewed as a sign of indecisiveness or a tendency to “flip-flop” on issues. This was the rap on John Kerry and it helped doom his candidacy.

The conservative right, stirred to new heights of hysteria by the perpetually angry radio talk show hosts, is in a major snit over the emergence of Sen. John McCain as the party’s front runner. They need to get over it. As of this writing, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee remains in the race but not for long. McCain, say the far-right wingers, is no conservative, having betrayed the cause by having the audacity to stray from the prescribed conservative positions on immigration reform vs. enforcement, campaign finance reform, stem cell research, harsh interrogation techniques and the incarceration of terrorists in Guantanamo.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

So Mr. McCain is not a poster boy for all conservative causes. But neither were the other major contenders. Governors Huckabee and Romney were both big-spending liberal governors until they became born-again conservatives in quest of the nomination. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani had a similar epiphany. Most candidates will adjust their positions generously to appeal to the broadest spectrum of voters. Sen. Hillary Clinton is exceptionally good at this, having learned from a real master, who famously once said, “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

But McCain was supposed to be different; a “straight talker”. He scored highest on integrity and authenticity. Here was a man who spoke his mind and was not afraid to differ with his own party and even (gasp!) collaborate with liberal icons like Ted Kennedy on a plan for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegals already here. Yet, in the hectic campaigning leading up to Super Tuesday, voters were inundated with recorded messages from Mr. McCain saying, “I’ve listened and learned.” He’d seen the light. He’d now secure the border first, build fences and ensure that illegals go to the back of the line and learn English. It was a very different John McCain, but hey, you gotta say what you gotta say. The question is: Does he mean it?

He won by big numbers on Super Tuesday and subsequent primaries but not among arch- conservatives. Some of them vowed that they would never vote for John McCain. They would rather sit out the election or vote for whoever emerges victorious from the Democratic catfight. They would prefer, some said, to see a Democrat in the White House who they could do battle with for the next four years while they regrouped for a 2012 election bid behind a “real” conservative.

How stupid is that? What this country doesn’t need is four years of a Democratic administration that is inexperienced and clueless on the economy and defense, while conservatives sulk and say, “I told you so!” It is time for all Republicans,  Independents (and friendly Democrats) to unite behind Mr. McCain, who will hopefully choose a conservative, economy-wise VP running mate like Forbes CEO Steve Forbes or former Texas senator Phil Gramm, either one of whom would also make a fine Treasury Secretary. Such a ticket will offer voters a choice between an administration that is at least moderately conservative and a liberal, tax-and-spend Democratic administration working hand in hand with a tax-and-spend Democratic Congress to raise taxes, appoint and confirm constructionist judges to “update” the Constitution, leave a mess behind in Iraq and initiate a world-wide retreat in the war on terrorism. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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