Thursday, February 07, 2008

McCain-Lieberman - A Center Left Republican Ticket?

“We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a piece written for the National Review this morning, Bill Bennett, without making an endorsement, mounted a spirited defense for John McCain’s conservative credentials. While conceding the fact that conservative Republicans do have legitimate concerns about a McCain presidency,

“We know the conservative indictment against Senator McCain — we hear it every day, and even recite some of it ourselves some days. We concede much of it. There is a great deal on which the senator and we do not agree.”

Bennett went on to say:
“There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Obama), and those records become important as we recognize a few simple facts.”

The facts Bennett cited are:

McCain’s vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood
McCain’s vote to ban partial birth abortion
McCain’s vote for Justices Roberts and Alito
McCain’s votes against tax increases
McCain’s votes against pork barrel spending
McCain’s support for the surge in Iraq

If John McCain is as conservative as Bill Bennett would have us believe, why is it that he hasn’t been fully embraced by the majority of social conservatives, Reagan Democrats, and values voters?

I think it all comes down to one thing – many of us have a great deal of concern about which direction John McCain would pull the Republican Party. He says he’s a conservative and touts his 83% conservative rating.

But many of us remain unconvinced. We want to know which direction would John McCain take the Republican Party?

In early January, Tom Curry, a national affairs writer for MSNBC, asked an intriguing question“Does a McCain-Lieberman ticket make sense?” Hearkening back to the 2004 election, Curry made the following observation:

“In the spring of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry made overtures to Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, to be his running mate.”

“A Kerry-McCain ticket had a compelling logic: it would have given Kerry a chance to outflank President Bush, to win some Republican voters, and to carry McCain’s state of Arizona and its ten electoral votes.”

“Will McCain, now a leading contender for the 2008 GOP nomination, borrow Kerry’s idea and offer the vice presidency to Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut’s self-styled “independent Democrat”?”

In addition to the close personal friendship of the two men, Curry cited some of the ways McCain and Lieberman have worked together on legislative issues:

“In 2003, they co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act to limit emissions of global warming gases by electric utilities, industrial firms, and refineries. They were leading members of the “Gang of 14,” the bipartisan group of senators who devised a way to avert a fight over judicial filibusters that would have shut down the Senate in 2005. They have been two of the prime movers in Senate efforts to restrict donations to political campaigns. The duo led the push for military intervention by the United State in Kosovo in 1998.”

I don’t know whether or not John McCain would take the Republican Party on a wild ride to the far left, but I am concerned that he will move it from the right to center-left. Bill Bennett and others can cite his conservative credentials all they want, but there are more than a few things in McCain’s record that demonstrate he’s not the friend of conservatives he’d lead us to believe he is.

In 2007, John McCain was given an opportunity to address the annual C.P.A.C (Conservative Political Action Conference). He declined the offer. Mike Huckabee, the candidate I support, was invited and did address the convention. Among the things he had to say, I believe this was one of the most important:

“That's why I love this country, and it's why I believe that the conservative movement must stand clear, firm, consistent and authentic in making sure that we preserve—not just winning an election, but keeping a country.”

C.P.A.C. is holding its convention in a day or so. John McCain has decided to come this year. What has changed in the course of a year? Could be that John McCain realizes that he needs the conservative movement a whole lot more this year than last? Could it be that McCain’s decision has as much to do with politics as it has to do with principle?

In his address Mike Huckabee noted that we’re living in a political time where Damascus Road conversions to conservative principles are becoming more and more common. That, as I see it, is the crux of John McCain’s problem. While many of us conservatives, Reagan Democrats, and values voters are willing to find legitimate avenues of common ground in politics, we’re not inclined to throw our principles into the fiery furnace.

Only time will tell about where the Republican Party will go if John McCain is nominated, and that in itself is a problem. How far would he be willing to go in order to move the Republican base in a new direction? His record to this point is mixed. Would gaining the Republican nomination bring on a “ let's now hold firm” Damascus Road experience or would it move the Party from compromise to compromise, then to the center-left? That’s the question.


Douglas said...

Hmm...Lieberman was standing behind McCain at his Super Tuesday victory speech...maybe the fix is already in...

While Lieberman has been a voice of reason amidst a cacophany of Democrat defeatism and appeasement, he disagrees with most Republicans on most of everything else. Lieberman has a lifetime ACU rating of 16 out of 100, while McCain's rating is 82.

It would not be a good way of courting the conservatives he's gone a mile and a half out of his way to snub. McCain seems to be counting on the fact that we have nowhere else to go. And that stinks.

TC said...

I agree that McCain appears at times to be pulling towards the center or even center-left of the political spectrum. I genuinely hope it doesn't happen, and from his CPAC speech today it doesn't seem to be likely, but who knows.

Huckabee still has a shot and I'm not giving up on him yet. Speedzzter has a great post up about Huckabee, and I recently blogged about the significance of the fact that Romney only suspended his campaign today. He didn't surrender his delegates. So he still has a mind to be a player in this race regardless of whether or not he's campaigning.

Keep the faith! Huckabee '08