I have been asking myself, since the primaries began in earnest with the Iowa caucus, and especially since John McCain won in New Hampshire, "Why does the conservative talk show contingent despise John McCain so profoundly?" Except for Michael Medved, who I think has openly endorsed McCain, the loathing for him as a presidential candidate is almost as pronounced as the conservative media’s loathing of Hillary Clinton. Why?

I have to say I was puzzled until I looked into this more deeply. (Understand, I am not formally endorsing a candidate, though some will insist that I am, but asking a serious question that I think thoughtful people should ponder.)

For the record John McCain’s well-deserved career title is that of a "maverick." But he is a very conservative maverick no less. I went to the Web site of the American Conservative Union, a lobby organization that ranks congressional members each year with a percentage of how consistently conservative they are in their voting record. John McCain got an 82% rating in 2006. Sambrownback
Kansas senator Sam Brownback, a much respected Roman Catholic conservative from Kansas who dropped out of the presidential primary a few weeks ago, got a 94% rating from the ACU. And Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma conservative, got a 98% rating. So, who do you thinkCoburn
these two strongly conservative senators have endorsed for president? You would never guess John McCain if you listen to the conservative talk show media. And my own congressman for decades, the late Henry Hyde, got an 84% rating. Hyde was replaced by another conservative in 2007 who was strongly promoted by Hyde himself, Congressman Peter Roskam. Congressman Roskam, also an evangelical Christian conservative, has now openly endorsed McCain. McCain actually came to our county to work for Roskam’s election in a very tight race in the fall of 2006 without Roskam ever asking him to do so. So what gives here? Why do all these conservatives love John McCain? (And four former secretary-of-states also endorse him.) It seems to all be at complete odds with the conservative talkers. Could it be that these political leaders and statesmen know the man and the conservative media simply reacts to the maverick spirit of the man they cannot control and do not fully understand?

The fact that many moderates and independents, and even some Democrats have endorsed John McCain drives these very same conservative talkers wild.
Their talking points against McCain are always the same: 1. The McCain-Feingold campaign reform was a bad deal. 2. The so-called Gang of Fourteen was a terrible idea and McCain helped make it all happen and led it. 3. McCain’s admitting that we needed to seriously address the environmental issue more aggressively (a view none other than Newt Gingrich has now also embraced) is suspicious to these conservatives who never met an environmental argument they agreed with except that it is a non-issue and only exists in the imagination of liberals. 4. The McCain-Kennedy bill on illegal immigration, that was shot down in 2007, was a terrible approach to the immigration issue. This may have sealed the deal for most of the rabid conservatives who hate McCain so much. (By the way Bush backed this plan too.) 5. Finally, voting against the Bush tax-cut bill, which McCain now says needs to be protected and kept in place when it expires, was a political death warrant with some. He voted against the Bush bill because he insisted that spending must also be cut. (What a novel idea!) I could add more but these are clearly the major talking points that you hear over and over when these conservatives rail against John McCain.

Well, I began to do some personal research about all of this the past three weeks. I was not a big fan of McCain but I wanted to give him further thought than I had to that point. Here are my short responses what I discovered. First, McCain-Feingold may have had good motives behind it but it ended up as bad piece of legislation, at least in my view. It harmed freedom and did not do what it set out to do. I still oppose it.

Second, the gang of fourteen actually helped every one of President Bush’s conservative appointments to the federal courtsRoberts_2
get through the senate, including the two most important ones, Alito
Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts
. This agreement by these fourteen members of Congress proved to be politically productive and helped bring about a much better tone to the Washington impasse. This was change, the magic word these days, and it was for the better in the end. Third, admitting that we have a real environmental issue is not the same as agreeing with the politics of Al Gore and the eco-religion of the far left. Reasonable people can agree that something is happening with regard to harmful emissions into the environment and still disagree about how to tackle the issue without hurting the economy unduly. Saying there is no issue here seems entirely foolish to most of us. Four, the immigration bill that McCain promoted was not the best. It failed for several reasons, however. Remember, Reagan promoted and signed the first amnesty program for illegals in 1987. But McCain now openly says, "We must secure the borders and then talk about what comes next for 12 million illegals." (Huckabee today actually promised to send all 12 million illegals back home in his first 120 days. Just try to figure that out. I can’t think of a more foolish campaign promise than that! Five, John McCain is simply right about linking tax cuts to spending cuts. Duh! His record is that of a fiscal conservative and he has shown that time and time again.

So, why is John McCain hated so profoundly? I think it comes down to the way that he speaks, votes and writes and thus how he refuses to be put into a box. I have bothered to read a great deal of McCain’s thought in his numerous books. He is prolific. No other candidate has written as much as John McCain. (I think there are several very, very bright people on both sides of this election if the truth be known but none is surely any brighter than John McCain. No one can run against him the way they did George W. Bush on this point.) He is a self-effacing, funny, and very charming writer. At times he is so realistic about evil, and the dangers that we really face, that he sounds more like a prophet. This man is an impressive thinker and a truly great American. It is not an accident that the people in military leadership strongly support John McCain. This is even part of how he hopes to win in South Carolina this weekend. (I have asked every former military officer I know and every single one of them is voting for McCain.)

So why is he hated for the way he speaks and writes and votes? Well, he says things the way he sees them and he works with anyone who will work alongside of him for what he believes in. He also seeks to build bridges across party barriers. (This is why the rumors flew wildly today that he "almost" ran for VP with John Kerry in 2004 so he is a liberal in conservative sheep’s clothing, a line you will get from Rush Limbaugh for one. The truth is McCain is said to be personally very friendly with both Senator Clinton and Obama and that each one of them likes him, a rare human characteristic in a man with such decidedly different views than Clinton and Obama, who are quite close in terms of their voting records.) And the Joe Lieberman endorsement, which deeply impresses me looks more like a sell-out to the conservative ideologues who stick to their litmus test as the true measure of a good leader.
Look, George W. Bush used some pretty old political tactics to beat back a serious John McCain challenge in South Carolina eight years ago. In the eight years since then John McCain has supported George W. Bush almost every time that he sought his personal help. There is no, I repeat no, evidence that McCain spent this time attacking Bush over the past eight years. (This would not even be politically smart if you think about it. Further more, since when did not agreeing with George W. Bush, who most conservatives admit blew the budget with reckless spending and never used the veto to stop it, become tantamount to political heresy?)

But these talk show hosts and political writers/bloggers just keep firing away. If John McCain were the actual nominee I wonder what they would do. I say again, these people seem to hate the man for his honest way of not playing the line and holding the rope on every single issue that is on their litmus list. Oddly, many of these same voices support Governor Romney, who has changed his views on a number of points, and openly admits it. He sounds one way in New Hampshire and then another in Michigan, at least as I heard him this last week or so. (I still can’t see why he told autoworkers that he could get their jobs back. If you believe that you are living in a world that has passed you by.) Romney sounded to the left of Ted Kennedy in the early 1990s in a Massachusetts race for the Senate. If you watch this debate with Senator Kennedy on You Tube you will see what I mean. But McCain has held the same pro-life position for twenty-six years in Congress. McCain is conservative fiscally and has never, never taken pork for Arizona projects. He is also a conservative socially, without pandering to the evangelicals. And he is far and away the most conservative candidate on how he would defend the nation and face the world in the years ahead.

I heard Chuck Norris, a really likable guy, talking to Michael Medved a few days ago. He is excited about Huckabee. He began by saying that he was John McCain’s friend. That surprised me frankly. He went so far as to say that he loved him personally. Norris
So why is he supporting Huckabee? Two reasons: 1. McCain is just too old. (Anybody remember Ronald Reagan?) 2. Huckabee has a better tax plan, even though the one he now proposes could never get through Congress in a four-year term. (By the way, Huckabee has no international plan and admits he will have to get one after the primaries. That’s not too exciting to me.) That was it for Chuck Norris, the tireless supporter of Governor Huckabee. The lack of serious political realism here is amazing to me. This is one reason why the endorsement of public personalities who do not know Congress, and how things do get changed, means nothing to me. But who gets the most endorsements from active members of Congress? John McCain. And who said the Bush plan in Iraq was wrong and then helped force the change that is helping us actually change the situation right now? Yes, John McCain again.

So, I repeat my point. The angry, hostile reaction of people like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mccarthygrave_2
Ann Coulter and their ilk tells me much more about them than it does about Senator John McCain, the man and the patriot. It has gotten to the point where I would rather listen to liberal talk radio talk (yes, we get that in Chicago along with conservative talk radio) about Obama and Clinton and their "differences" than to most of the conservatives, Medved excepted. It is the angry conservatives who are so often rude and lacking in basic civility. This coarsens our society and is beneath any thing worthy of being called Christian. (Some of these people, in fact all three I named above, confess to being Christians and may all well be real Christians. I expect they are.) I only listen to "talk" when I am in my car but I have opted for FM classical of late. I can also see why young people hate these campaigns.

Roger Cohen, an op ed columnist for the New York Times, wrote today the following thoughts about John McCain: 

Nobody’s been right all the time on Iraq, but Senator John McCain has been less wrong than most. He knew a bungled war when he saw one and pressed early for increased force levels. He backed the injection last year of some 30,000 troops, a surge that has produced results. Modest results, yes, and violence has blipped upward again this month, and, yes, Iraqi political progress is slow. But progress is always slow when a population terrorized over decades is freed. Violent attacks were down 60 percent in December from their 2007 high and refugees have begun to go home.

A trickle homeward, yes, a speck in the ocean of 2.2 million Iraqis forced into exile, but tens of thousands of people don’t return unless they see hope. That’s why more than 4 million Afghans have gone home since the Taliban’s fall.

McCain was politically dead six months ago, his campaign undone by his backing of President Bush’s Iraq policy. His remarkable resurgence, which has put him in the lead among Republican candidates, according to recent polls, is one measure of the Iraq shift.

That shift has unsettled the political ground. With Iraq looking less hopeless, McCain has scored points for being consistent and forthright on the war—a quality shared only by Barack Obama (in his opposition to it) among leading candidates.

At the same time, an economy getting a subprime pummeling has nudged Iraq from the center of Americans’ concerns. The victory of McCain’s rival Mitt Romney in the Michigan primary came in a state craving quick fixes for 7.4 percent unemployment. McCain didn’t offer that.

So, three states have chosen distinct Republican candidates, with a social conservative, Mike Huckabee, triumphing in Iowa; McCain taking New Hampshire with independent support; and Romney using his C.E.O. image to win Michigan. Bush’s party is split: God, heroic nation and Wall Street are out of sync.

It’s been widely assumed that the Democratic Party’s shoot-itself-in-the-foot capacity, evident in 2004, would have to hit overdrive to wrest defeat from victory this year. These Republican splits comfort the notion of inevitable Democratic triumph.

But, as Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute noted, “There’s no doubt that the one Republican candidate that leaves most Democrats quaking is McCain. They’re uneasy about the breadth of his appeal.”

McCain’s attractiveness to independents, between 10 percent and 30 percent of the vote nationally, involves policy and personality. His readiness to take on global warming, back immigration and demand legal representation for war on terror detainees give him centrist appeal at the price of opposition within his party.

Sounds like an endorsement from a Republican doesn’t it? It is not. read on:

But McCain does not win the wavering as policy wonk; he’s flesh and blood. The straight-talking survivor of more than five years of Vietnamese imprisonment is at home in his own skin in a way Bush will never be. McCain has a temper but no need to be macho to convince. He walks without his arms clenched.

None of this would matter if McCain’s support of the Iraq war had condemned him. But it now appears that is not the case. In New Hampshire, where independents were an important factor, McCain’s support was broad. He tends to defy categorization.

This last statement of Roger Cohen says it better than I can put it. He defies the narrow, divisive and strident categories of the far right and this makes him on the "out" with most of these talking heads. It really is obvious to me. But, adds Cohen :

But he’s categorical in his opposition to tyranny. Saddam Hussein, as Nick Cohen, a British author, observes in his important book on liberal hypocrisy in Iraq called “What’s Left?,” represented “not a tin-pot dictator but real Fascism,” complete with a “messianic one-party state” and “armies that swept out in unprovoked wars” and “secret policemen who organized the gassing of ‘impure’ races.”

This death-and-genocide machine killed about 400,000 Iraqis in internal persecutions and another million or so people in Iran and Kuwait. When you’ve been imprisoned, as McCain has, you know what terror means: death of spirit, soul, life itself.

I have heard recent conservative rant that John McCain can not lead America because his injuries in Vietnam make him unfit to lead physically and mentally. He is too weak, too old and his mind just is not working right. Come on, who are you kidding? The man is alive and well. He is tireless and has a vision. And he seems to be the only Republican many young people actually like, which also galls the conservative far right talkers it seems.

Again listen to Cohen:

Saddam’s nightmare ended in a misbegotten, mishandled, bloody and costly war. Does Bush’s fraudulent, blunder-ridden rush to war matter more than the prizing of 26 million human beings from a sadistic tyrant who modeled himself on Hitler and Stalin?

That core question has seldom, if ever, been dignified by honest debate through all the verbal Iraq wars fought on U.S. soil. I still believe Iraq’s freedom outweighs its terrible price. So does McCain. In the looming battle between the Baptist minister, the corporate whiz and the war hero — and perhaps Mr. 9/11 — to unite the frayed strands of Republicanism, McCain now has a fighting chance.

Again this is not an endorsement by Cohen or by me. It is a reflection of what I see as I dig and dig and then keep listening to all the stuff out there and try to sort it out the best that I can.

I’ll be perfectly honest about this. I do not want an "evangelical" block vote for one candidate. I think it hurts our mission and confuses both church and state seriously. And I do not want a minister as president. I admit it. I do not want a liberal minister or a conservative one. Ministers make for compassionate care-givers and great preachers, if they are gifted and called, but not presidents.

Evangelicals seem so naive when it comes to using their influence in political and cultural wars. We are a collective group of "johnny-come-lately" thinkers, if we think at all. And when it comes to politics it really shows. While Huckabee Huckabee
uses pulpits and ministers to round up support for his campaign, John McCain, a professed Christian who attends an evangelical church in Arizona, doesn’t take the same approach at all. He operates the way candidates did for decades before the Christian Right came on the scene. Maybe he knows that he has no chance to get this block of votes but on the other hand his numbers are not bad among evangelicals either, which says some conservatives are simply not following their pastor’s leadership in this instance.

Cohen then concludes:

If he’s nominated, some lines would be blurred in the White House fight. McCain’s not my choice for president. He’s too conservative across a range of social questions, and his temperament and age raise concerns. But he’s too honorable to dismiss at a moment so critical to U.S. standing in the world.

Note, please I urge you, that Cohen doesn’t support McCain nor endorse him. I am not endorsing him either. I am simply making a case for listening to McCain and for not buying all that the talkers say about him at face value. Read the accounts of his life and his mistakes too. Disagree with him for sure. Listen to what he says about how he failed his first wife more than twenty-five years ago. He is both honest and decent in blaming himself, a far cry from saying something like "Everybody makes mistakes." 

I am not sure if John McCain can get the nomination. And if he does what happens then if Michael Bloomberg jumps into the race? He would, so it seems, hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans but even that is uncharted water. So it does look more and more like this whole thing will come down to the convention itself in the summer, which would be a first time for that to happen since before I was born. That will make for real theater. I can still remember some early black and theater at these conventions that enthralled me as a boy getting my first taste of this whole American political process. The more things have changed the more they stay the same really. Maybe age gives me that perspective but I do believe it is essentially true.

The Democrats are not likely to do the same as either Clinton or Obama will likely break out of the pack after Super Tuesday. If a divided Republican scenario happens then I fully expect that many conservatives will do anything they possibly can to stop John McCain because of their intense hatred for him.

I was browsing some more this evening and found a great John McCain quote. It is vintage McCain and it so obvious that it is really quite profound in a simple and important way. And this is not the stuff you hear from most politicians who want your vote. Mccain03
Said Senator McCain, "Presidents don’t lose wars, political parties don’t lose wars, nations lose wars. And when nations lose wars, nations suffer." This is the truth. Plain talk for sure.

The more I read the more I become convinced that the other party  also fears McCain. They fear him more than anyone else on the Republican side because they see him as weighty and formidable enough to appeal broadly to the electorate. I think they are right to fear him since he can stand up to anyone and he will say whatever he thinks, whether you like him or not. This guy is fearless even if he is not always a good candidate. This is precisely why he was so popular eight years ago, especially among the young. Could it work out this time, even when he is already past 70 years of age? I do not propose to know but it will surely be an interesting few weeks and months to see how this all finally unfolds.


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  1. Adam S January 18, 2008 at 5:26 am

    You forgot one reason that I have heard people complain that I think is more important that you probably think. He openly challenged Bush over torture. He has suggested that a policy of the President is illegal and then worked hard to make sure that everyone knew it was illegal. Increasingly there is a group of conservatives that think that torture is not only legal, but something that any good president and American should use at a time like this.
    Also I think that Reagan is a good example why people are afraid of his age. While Reagan may have been a great president, there has a been a lot of evidence that he was showing signs of Alzheimers while still in office. That really has nothing to do with McCain, but I think that age is a bigger deal than most people will talk about.

  2. Jim January 18, 2008 at 10:14 am

    McCain will clobber Hillary or Obama in the general election for all the reasons you describe. It is refreshing that he did not pander to the voters in Michigan, and he has well-earned his reputation for being a principled man.
    I think Republicans and many of those independents who rallied behind him in 2000 will eventually become excited about him, especially after comparing him to the alternative.
    Yet there are good reasons why many conservatives don’t like him. Remember, he opposed the Bush tax cuts that got the economy rolling in 2001, and his sponsoring of Campaign Finance Reform was seen by many as being self-righteous (look at all the special interest money that has backed him!) and unconstitutional. His record on gun control is also a huge problem for NRA members.
    But, as someone who worked in Washington for five years, and worked with McCain’s staff frequently, I can tell you that he has more enemies than any Republican in the Senate because of his volatile temper. He has long been known as the most profane Senator, legendary for his outbursts and tirades directed toward staff and virtually anyone who gets in his way.
    He goes after people in a particularly personal way, and is not afraid to confront offenders one on one publicly. Not surprisingly, he also has a reputation for holding grudges and being extremely vindictive, despite all appearances that he’s been cordial to Bush.
    Finally, it is not fair to say that Bush, or his campaign had anything to do with the nastiness of the 2000 primary in South Carolina. It’s going on again right now and undoubtedly, without the permission or knowledge of most candidates.

  3. ColtsFan January 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

    John writes:
    “The McCain-Kennedy bill on illegal immigration, that was shot down in 2007, was a terrible approach to the immigration issue. This may have sealed the deal for most of the rabid conservatives who hate McCain so much. (By the way Bush backed this plan too.)”
    George W. Bush is not a conservative. He is a neo-conservative. And neo-conservatives are philosophically closer to liberalism, not conservatism.
    My point concerns philosophy, not semantics.
    The McCain-Feingold assault on Free Speech opened the door to 527s, which the GOP got beat up on last election. This was McCain’s fault, because he surrendered a key conservative principle (“free speech”) in order to earn his “Maverick reputation.”

  4. ColtsFan January 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

    McCain’s support of the Gang of 14 led Bush’s Hispanic conservative Supreme Court justice to withdraw. He would have been a great Supreme Court justice, just in the same way that Alitio and Roberts are great.
    But the point is McCain gave in to the Democrats on yet again another key issue in order to earn media’s label of “maverick.”
    Conservatives have every reason to distrust McCain.
    McCain is a great war hero, who I strongly respect. But he is not a conservative. He left that path a long time ago when he became the media’s darling.

  5. ColtsFan January 18, 2008 at 10:40 am

    “Four, the immigration bill that McCain promoted was not the best. It failed for several reasons, however. Remember, Reagan promoted and signed the first amnesty program for illegals in 1987. But McCain now openly says, “We must secure the borders and then talk about what comes next for 12 million illegals.”
    And Ronald Reagan’s attorney general admitted that Reagan saw that he was later wrong, when his “amnesty” (code word for “path to USA citizenship”) increased the illegal aliens from 3-4 million to 14-16 million we now have.
    When we reward people who break our laws, that provides an “incentive” to further illegal behavior.
    Providing amnesty to law-breakers is unbiblical, and it only increases more illegal immigration. There have been 7 amnesties since 1986.
    The solution to illegal immigration is to look at what the Bible says in Romans 13. We need to enforce the laws, and send these law-breakers home.
    John McCain cannot be trusted on illegal immigration, because he desires the media’s coveted prize of “Maverick.”

  6. Gene Redlin January 18, 2008 at 10:52 am

    My man Huckabee is slipping. I’m sorry to see it. Romney is getting traction. Gulliani is still in play.
    Thompson is toast except for VP.
    McCain to this conservative is goofy scary. Like a crazy uncle who might just do anything at any minute.
    I don’t hate, nor do I even dislike McCain. He’s just plain scary.

  7. ColtsFan January 18, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Look, John, I am no Ann Coulter fan either.
    I am not interested in spewing forth hate about John McCain, who is a decorated POW in Vietnam.
    John McCain is a war HERO. He is a true leader.
    But he is not a conservative.
    Yes, there are some people who are fans of McCain. I respectfully disagree with them.
    Former Senator Rick Sanatorum of PA is not one of them. Here below he provides the conservative case against John McCain.
    Below is a different article explaining why conservatives have such a hard time accepting the John McCain of 2008.
    It is a documented fact that John McCain and Tom Daschle (former Democrat Majority Leader from South Dakota) had active, confidential talks about John McCain switching over to become a Democrat. This bothers many conservatives, and rightly so.
    As a conservative, I kinda wish I knew where McCain will stand in the future on key issues. Maybe he will jump ship?
    McCain is a war hero. But he is not a conservative.

  8. John H. Armstrong January 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I think the point about Santorum is rather interesting. I loved Rick as a Senator and believe he will still become an even greater statesman for the whole country. I also believe in his solid Christian commitment and truly wish he had been re-elected with all my heart.
    Having said this, I think he is wrong. The narrow politics that some conservatives employ, the all or nothing approach, is not always best in a serious two-party context. I think Newt Gingrich is a better model of how things got done.
    We just have here an honest disagreement but to say all of this makes McCain a “liberal” and then to get all the anger of the right is what I oppose. I think he is flawed, but then we have no Reagan running and acting like we do is a problem also.
    I believe in a kind of critical realism about both life and politics.

  9. Lauren January 19, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Thank you for this post. One is hard pressed to find a political commentary that isn’t exceptionally biased towards or against a candidate.
    McCain seems to be (in my very small opinion) the one candidate I can trust to speak what he believes despite public opinion. Would he make a good President? That has, as your post shows, yet to be determined.
    Again, thank you.

  10. Brendt January 19, 2008 at 8:56 am

    — John McCain got an 82% rating in 2006. —
    Uh, no. He has a *lifetime* rating of 82.3%, but his 2006 rating was an abysmal 65%, down from 2005’s rating of 80%.
    (See http://www.acuratings.org/2006all.htm#AZ )
    His rating is dropping, suggesting that he’s softening, willing to make more compromises of late.
    — the gang of fourteen actually helped every one of President Bush’s conservative appointments to the federal courts get through the senate —
    The ends does not justify the means. Insisting that the Dems stop acting like 2-year-olds would’ve been just as effective. The gang of 14 “worked” in the short term, but it’s going to come back and bite the Reps in the tuckus like a rabid chihuahua.
    — He voted against the Bush [tax cut] because he insisted that spending must also be cut. —
    (First of all, let’s dispense with this “Bush” tax cut business — it was a tax cut. The taxpayers gain far more from it the author/architect.)
    So McCain’s solution was to reject the “good” in hopes of getting a “better” than we didn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting out of this administration.
    It also strikes me that the gang of 14 shows that he’s willing to play ball and make compromises with the other party, but when it comes to benefitting the American people, he stands by his principles and tells them where to go.
    — … [the tax cut that] McCain now says needs to be protected and kept in place when it expires … —
    “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
    — The McCain-Kennedy bill on illegal immigration… —
    Bush got into bed with Kennedy for the “Every Child Left Behind” fiasco. He who fails to remember history …
    — In the eight years since then John McCain has supported George W. Bush almost every time that he sought his personal help. —
    Since when is support for Bush a sign of conservatism?
    There are two other things that disturb me about McCain that you did not specifically address.
    1) John McCain: “Americans wouldn’t pick lettuce for even $50/hour.” Watching one episode of “Dirty Jobs” shows how asinine that statement is. McCain showed that he’s even more out of touch with John Doe American than Bush the elder did when he marveled at grocery store scanners.
    2) On the issue of torture, McCain aligns himself with those that want to make it clear to the world that the US *doesn’t* torture. This is so anti-pragmatic, that it’s laughable. Let the next potential terrorist *think* that we’re going to make waterboarding look like a day at the beach if he gets captured, and maybe he’ll be a little slower to strap that bomb around his chest. The fact that McCain was tortured makes him highly UNqualified to pass serious judgment on the issue — it’s too close to home for him.
    One other thought: “maverick” is just another word for “double-minded”.

  11. John H. Armstrong January 19, 2008 at 10:05 am

    It seems quite obvious that you do not like McCain for all the reasons I cited for why I think he is a uniting figure who can navigate the waters of our divided country.
    It seems right now that many, many people are very weary of things as they are. Twenty years of Bush-Clinton-Bush leads many of us to want something that is a little less partisan and more willing to seek to work with those who disagree. Reagan promoted change and did it, even at times with acrimonious opposition as everyone will recall if they were alive then. But he was a happy man and he convinced people to like and trust him. I believe Obama and McCain are reaching people in the same way.
    Consider Obama’s comments about Reagan yesterday. What a fascinating bit of theater that was. The rest of the Democratic Party jumped him as if he were a Reaganite. He said nothing of the kind.
    What intrigues me is how a pretty conservative Republican and a much more liberal Democrat are so close on these kinds of points.
    I have a hunch that if these two ran it would not be such a nasty campaign and it would be one that looked at some issues very honestly since they do differ considerably. (And, so it is said, they actually like one another. What a novel thing—two senators with very different views actually like one another. This is what former-Senator John Danforth so eloquently appeals for his excellent book about how Washington changed for the worst over the last twenty years.) But the left and the right do not want this change to happen. This is why I can’t fit into either box comfortably. I guess, if I had to pick a label, I am a center-right person on some issues (abortion, tax-cuts, ending pork via the line-item veto, a capable and prepared military connected with a strong view of the present international threat to our entire future and way of life) and center-left on others (the environment, immigration, etc.) I simply refuse to be put into one narrowly defined box and then check off the check list of the conservative talk show talkers or the mainstream media elites. Maybe all the conservative and liberal sites and their newspapers and rag sheets do not speak for many Americans after all. We shall see. Some of us have had enough. Change of some sort is in the air, we just do not know how far it will take us. Change is a slogan right now but it represents something deeply felt by many ordinary folks that I talk to—black, white, Asian and Hispanic.

  12. Brendt January 19, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Regarding change: I can’t speak as much about Bush the elder, but if you believe that the main common thread between Clinton and Bush the younger is partisanship, then you have a much higher view of our president’s conservatism than I.
    But let’s say that the majority of people in this country want McCain’s brand of Rodney King-esque “can’t we all get along” politics. That doesn’t make it right. Israel wanted a king. How’d that work out for them?
    Yes, to some degree, I probably dislike McCain for some of the same reasons that you like him. However, this difference in our political philosophies does not address the issues of his flip-flop on the tax cut, his dwindling conservatism in voting, his out-of-touch-ness, and his stance on torture.
    FWIW, I’m probably only a bit right of center on immigration. (See the first half of this for an example: http://csaproductions.com/blog/?p=670 )
    — I simply refuse to be put into one narrowly defined box and then check off the check list of the conservative talk show talkers or the mainstream media elites. —
    As do I. Just because I happen to agree with Limbaugh, et al, on much of this issue, please do not think that I take my marching orders from them. One does not have to be a Limbaugh disciple to agree with him.
    — black, white, Asian and Hispanic —
    Please put the racial strawman back in its box.

  13. David Bahnsen January 19, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    It is completely untrue that the reason McCain voted against Bush’s tax cuts was merely that he also desired bigger spending cuts. He voted for some of the biggest spending bills of Bush’s Presidency!! What he said when he rejected Bush’s tax cuts was the exact same thing Hilary Clinton and Harry Reid said, “they only help the rich”, blah blah blah. I adore Senator McCain in several ways, but to paint his vote here as something heroic to those desiring spending cuts, is simply revionist. The talk radio circuit has every right to distrust much of what he has done. I join them in being concerned.

  14. HT Springer January 21, 2008 at 8:28 am

    McCain will not “clobber” the democratic nominee…he will lose decisively. There will almost certainly be a conservative third party candidate. McCain is too liberal to be the republican nominee. Think of George H.W. Bush. Ross Perot got 19% of the vote because the conservative based deemed Bush as “too moderate”. McCain’s stand on taxes and immigration are intolerable. He’s a grumpy, tired old “go-with-the-flow” Washington beaurocrat.

  15. William January 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    John, you said “And I do not want a minister as president. I admit it. I do not want a liberal minister or a conservative one. Ministers make for compassionate care-givers and great preachers, if they are gifted and called, but not presidents.” What’s your opinion about a minister being a governor, and a good one at that? I understand the difference in how a person gets there–a minister is “called” and elected officials are, well, elected. Huckabee was re-elected as governor, so why don’t you want a minister, more recently a governor, as a president?
    Why are you so sure a minister, who has proven himself to be a good governor, can’t be a good president? The fact is, a majority presidents in recent history were governors before they were presidents. Can the same be said for a senator becoming president?

  16. Chris Criminger January 25, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Hi John,
    You can do this privately or publically but why do you thnk John McCain is prolife? I admit I know little of McCain but it seems what little I know, I am not so sure I would call his views prolife? Is he really prolife or is that a kind of shibboleth?

  17. John H. Armstrong January 25, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    A few brief comments.
    1. Some of the above comments actually prove some of my points about McCain, at least in my estimation. I have nothing else to say and thus do not wish to press these various points beyond this acknowledgment that I have read your many thoughts with appreciation.
    2. John McCain has been consistently pro-life for decades. Romney is the guy who made the big change and even admits it, not John McCain. Fred Thompson has also had a consistent record in the Senate. Huckabee, for all I can tell is also consistent on the pro-life position. Rudy is not but his views should still be weighed fairly since he is committed to appointing judges who do not revise the Constitution.
    3. Yes, you did read me correctly about not wanting a minister in the White House. I do not want a minister as president, or for that matter as an elected leader at any high level of the state. It has been a part of Christian tradition and practice for centuries that bishops/pastors of the Church were not civil servants but rather servants of the Church of God. If a minister wants to run for office he should turn in his ordination, leave the ministry openly and conclusively, and then run for office. The two offices do not mix and when this has been attempted in Church history, even in the 20th century, it has usually been disastrous for the Church more than the state. This is why many Church traditions require their ministers to choose to be one or the other but never will allow both. For a Baptist one could simply submit formal request to be removed from their vows of gospel ordination. This is what I had in mind by my statement. I rather like Huckabee, on one level, but I think he should have given up his title and recognition as a minister freely.
    My deeper concern here with Huckabee, and it is apparent he cannot win the nomination now, is that he is appealing almost totally to “evangelicals.” This will never win a national election any more than a Roman Catholic could win on the “Catholic” vote. I vote as an American, who happens to be a Christian citizen, not as a Christian who wants to elect Christians I like. This is both confusing to the world and I think, in the larger framework, harms our overall witness in the culture. Pastors who openly endorse Huckabee will loose the privilege of speaking to many other people they should care for spiritually without injecting this into their ministries. This is also why I think Rick Warren was very badly mistaken about endorsing Huckabee in 2007. Now the media, and unbelievers, have another reason to not listen to Rick’s message, which might help them find Christ.
    I do not and will not “endorse” anyone. I will suggest ways to think about the political landscape and to evaluate various people and their claims, without the litmus test of “issues” as my sole basis for commenting. In the end I am more concerned about character than even ideology.
    What is a part of my personal mission is helping Christians think about culture but it is not the mission of your local church to endorse candidates at all. See the blog I wrote yesterday, on January 24, for more insight on this very point.

  18. Chris Criminger January 27, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Hi John,
    I have the highest respect for you and so you bringing out some good points about John McCain has forced me to go and do my own study on the man and the issues. I am a better informed voter for this so thank you so much.

  19. Ray Hardiman January 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

    McCain would be a disaster for the country. Anyone who is sft on immigration is not tough on terrorism. Better for the country to suffer four years of Hillary or Obama than this man.

  20. Wiliam January 28, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    I agree on both points (1)it’s not the mission of the local church to endorse political candidates. In fact, they can lose their tax-except status if they do. And (2), I agree that Mike Huckabee should voluntarily request to be excused from his vows as a Baptist minister. I think he’d help his campaign by doing so and surprised to learn that he hasn’t.
    I’m not delusional about Huckabee’s chances at winning the nomination in ’08. I know it’s a long shot, but I think we’ll see him again in 4 years. He’s come a long way when you consider that he was written off by most Republicans and political pundits in 2007 only to prove them wrong.
    Take a look at the op-ed piece by William Kristol, “President Mike Huckabee,” published by the NYT, Jan. 7, 2008. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/07/opinion/07kristol.html
    He shares some good observations about Huckabee. According to Kristol, “In Iowa, Huckabee did something like what Obama did on the Democratic side, albeit on a smaller scale. He drew new voters to the caucuses. And he defeated Mitt Romney by almost two to one, and John McCain by better than four to one, among voters under 45.”
    In the event of an Obama-McCain race, I think McCain loses big time to Obama on the age issue that many people are naturally concerned about when chosing a leader. I think the age issue for McCain becomes a liability in an Obama-McCain race. Obama is currently winning the case for change argument against Hillary and her campaign is desperately trying to steal the message. Second, the last mid-term election showed that lots of Americans have grown weary of the Iraq War both in number of American lives and American dollars spent. The candidate who supports staying the course in Iraq has a hard sell to make to the American people and I don’t believe that McCain has the ability to be more persuasive than President Bush. McCain is not an inspirational speaker when you compare him to Obama. Senator Kennedy said it today when he endorsed Obama, saying, “It is time again for a new generation of leadership.” McCain is a good person, a good leader and has wide support, but he represents, I think, in many Americans minds, both figuratively and literally, “the old generation of leadership.” A terrorist attack in the U.S., though, could change the mode of the country overnight for an untested leader. Sadly, somehow President Bush would be blamed for it.

  21. kristin January 28, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I have so often wondered the same thing and I totally agree with you. He refuses to do something just because republicans or democrats want him to do. He is a man of strong principles and great commitment. Someone who is wise realizes that things aren’t one-sided. There are many angles to consider. He is not a follower, HE is a LEADER!

  22. Kristin January 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    What about seperation of church and state? We can’t pray in school or say Christmas break anymore but we can have a minister as president? Does that make sense? I am a Christian, but I do not want some high and mighty baptist preacher forcing his views on the american people.

  23. catjam July 5, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Please explain John McCains 1st wife and family (the one that first belonged to his USNA classmate) that he left behind after they had waited for him to get out of the POW camp. They should have the medals that he claims.

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