What a pleasant surprise this is — John McCain shocks us all by choosing the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. The McCain campaign did an outstanding job keeping us in suspense until the last 2-3 hours before her official introduction. This is one heck of a risk, as we are presently seeing with the current Democrat attacks on her, but the payoff could be huge. If Friday was the country’s first introduction to Governor Palin, it was an impressive debut for her. She came across as very personable and as someone who can sell the conservative message in a way that McCain cannot. Her appeal is more than just gender-based. She has working class credibility. She’s a mom as well as a lifetime member of the NRA. She’s not only pro-life, but she has practiced what she preaches by deciding to have a baby that she knew would have Down’s Syndrome. Then there’s her record of fighting corruption in Alaska even against fellow Republicans. What’s not to like?
Conservatives dodged a bullet with this pick, because apparently McCain was very close to picking Joe Lieberman. He was still considering it as late as this past Monday. When I first heard about McCain’s choice, my initial reaction was that the base may have sabotaged McCain by suggesting Governor Palin. I love her story, and I think she’s a great representative for women and for Republicans, but I’m not sure she’s ready to be Vice President. It’s entirely possible that she’s more ready to be VP than Barack Obama is to be President, but this isn’t the best argument for her. The following weeks before the election will give us an indication of how ready she is to handle the demands of the national spotlight, and I will be watching her and cheering her on, because conservatism needs representatives like Governor Palin in Washington, D.C.
John McCain sure likes yanking the conservatives’ chain doesn’t he? The popular names we are hearing for McCain’s VP choice are Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge. Dick Morris continues to push the choice of Lieberman, who has an undeserved reputation as a possible game-changer for McCain. What does Joe Lieberman bring to the table? Well…he agrees with McCain on the war in Iraq. And…he’s a Democrat — which may not be as big of an advantage as Morris and his ilk seem to believe. For one thing, he wouldn’t necessarily bring in Democrats and independents to the McCain column. He’s not exactly the most popular Democrat right now for supporting Bush and McCain on the war, and for ticking off local Connecticut Dems to the point that they almost turned to Ned Lamont. Even if Lieberman does manage to pick off a few Dems and independents, they won’t be enough to prevent the mass exodus of conservatives who might just find this pander to the other side of the aisle one step too far. And addition to that, Dick Morris doesn’t want us to pick another boring white guy, which theoretically rules out Lieberman.
It would also pick off another flavor of the month, Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge. Frankly, I don’t see the appeal here. He is pro-choice, and social conservatives would have a serious objection to that. He has a nice resume of accomplishments, but that’s it. McCain’s advisors may believe that conservatives have already made their peace with McCain as the Republican nominee and as our possible next President. But how far does McCain want to push us before we say “enough is enough”? How far can he go before conservatives decide to sit this election out, regardless of the consequences of electing Barack Obama by default? If he doesn’t pick someone who is much more conservative than these two, there will be a rather loud protest by conservatives. I would have a tough decision to make — because I can’t sit this out and let Obama become President. That’s how strongly I feel about this election. But McCain should know how conservatives feel about this and we should hold him accountable here while we still have the influence to do it.
Here’s Dan Balz from the Washington Post’s “The Trail” blog:
The competitiveness of the Obama-McCain contest now argues for safe vice presidential choices. Neither is in a position to risk — nor does either need — a running mate whose selection dramatically changes perceptions of their candidacies.
The “first, do no harm” rule is especially important for Obama, given the question marks he is still dealing with. But it is similarly significant for McCain, whose still-tenuous relationship with his party’s conservative base may check his instincts to use his pick to send a message to swing voters that he is not a George W. Bush Republican. Some Republicans believe he will send that message with his acceptance speech, rather than his vice presidential pick.
As if to test how much leeway he has in picking a running mate, McCain gave an interview to the Weekly Standard in which he floated out the idea of choosing someone who favors abortion rights, someone like former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. The reaction from social conservatives has been highly negative.
That should be the expected reaction to this suggestion. McCain needs to remember that he can’t win a general election if conservatives sit this race out…and the vice presidential pick can send a strong message to us that conservatives will have a seat at the table in a McCain administration.
So if 1.3 million dollars in contributions from big oil means that John McCain is “in the pocket of big oil”, then what does Barack’s $400,000 from big oil mean? Apparently nothing if you’re the DNC or the average Democrat. Jake Tapper also mentions that employees of big oil individually have given slightly more money to Obama than to McCain. But that doesn’t matter either because big oil money is only bad if the recipient is a Republican. I challenge the Democrats to provide examples of McCain writing policy to support the interests of big oil. I don’t think they have any. McCain even voted against President Bush’s big energy bill, because he said that it provided too much in the way of corporate tax breaks for the oil/gas industry. It’s much easier to connect Bush/Cheney to big oil than it is to make the same claim about John McCain.
And if Barack Obama is so concerned about taking money from big oil, then maybe he should return all the contributions that he has received from them. He also might want to explain why he voted for Bush’s energy bill if it’s not just because of its support for alternative energy sources.
Senator McCain has responded to this criticism by Senator Obama by saying this:
I think Senator Obama might be a little bit confused. Yesterday, he accused me of having President Bush’s policies on energy. That’s odd because he voted for the President’s energy bill and I voted against it. I voted against it, had $2.8 billion in corporate welfare to Big Oil companies, and they’re already making record profits, as you know. Senator Obama voted for that bill and its Big Oil giveaways. I know he hasn’t been in the Senate that long, but even in the real world, voting for something means you support it and voting against something means you oppose it.
Exactly right. The Senate vote on the energy bill wasn’t even close. Obama could have voted against it without much political fallout, because it would have passed without his vote. Does the DNC really want to go through the list of Dems who have received fat corporate contributions from big oil (or from big ethanol)? Fair is fair. They can list all the Republicans “in the pocket” of big oil, and we can make our own list of Dems, and then let the American people decide whose hands are clean here. The answer is neither party. But this is a very shallow case to make against McCain. The only reason this would matter is if he were like Ted Stevens and he had designated earmarks or wrote legislation for his own financial benefit. He’s not and he hasn’t. So let’s move on to the next contrived grievance, ok?
Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist and self-appointed expert on human behavior, says that’s the reason McCain has been acting so mean toward poor Barack Obama and hitting him with those frivolous ads.
Now John McCain is pea-green with envy. Thats the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor, a man who vowed not to take the low road in the campaign, having been mugged by W. and Rove in South Carolina in 2000, is engaging in a festival of juvenilia.
The Arizona senator who built his reputation on being a brave proponent of big solutions is running a schoolyard campaign about tire gauges and Paris Hilton, childishly accusing his opponent of being too serious, too popular and not patriotic enough.
Sure. That’s it. McCain is jealous of Barack Obama, and wishes he were as popular as the Senator from Illinois. That’s not quite it…but she’s in the neighborhood. McCain is resentful of Obama, just the way he was of Mitt Romney during the Republican primary. McCain thinks that he is entitled to the presidency because he has earned it, and he doesn’t view Obama as worthy of the job. He seems to believe that Senator Obama doesn’t deserve to be that close to becoming President of the United States without a long record of public service or a military record. Senator McCain has struggled through a few fierce political battles in addition to his well-publicized captivity in Vietnam. The press has now turned their backs on him in favor of Senator Obama. Conservatives are agnostic about his candidacy, even though they are aware of the risks of embracing any other alternative choice.
It’s hard being John McCain. He has lost the media love. His opponent is popular and has drawn quite a few large crowds. In addition to that, the Republican brand has been badly damaged by scandal and mismanagement in Congress, and he must run against them and the sitting Republican president. Tough environment. No wonder McCain is a little frustrated with Barack Obama and the media circus surrounding him.
Some of his ads were better than others. I wasn’t thrilled with the ‘celeb’ ad, but it asked the right question: Is Barack Obama ready to lead? That’s the area of the sharpest contrast with McCain, and even with the flawed execution of that message, people are starting to understand Barack’s limitations as a candidate. Why else would this race be too close to call in early August?
Sometimes Barack unknowingly descends into self-parody, and all John McCain and my fellow Republicans are trying to do is to help him set more realistic expectations for himself. The reason many of McCain’s ads are about Barack is because that’s the decision the voters are making here — whether Senator Obama is ready to lead and whether he has the best solutions for the country. That’s the question McCain is asking in this ad, and in the ‘celeb’ ad. John McCain has gone out of his way to avoid anything that could even remotely be considered racist or anything playing into the stereotype of folks who still believe that Obama is a Muslim. If Senator Obama really wants us to stop talking about his race, then he should stop bringing it up.
I know there are some random people who want our main objection to Barack to be about that, or about the rumor that he is secretly a scary Muslim, but this has never been the position of the McCain campaign. McCain has thrown people under his bus for just using Barack’s middle name. How can Senator Obama honestly say that all this talk is McCain’s fault? I think the senator needs to get a thicker skin, or he will never survive 4-8 years in the White House.
Republicans would be wise to ignore the advice of Dick Morris, who sometimes appears to be a sleeper agent for the opposition. When he’s wrong about something — such as the Condi-Hillary matchup he wrote a book about — he is SPECTACULARLY wrong. He tries to make the case against Mitt Romney as a VP choice, and this part makes some degree of sense to me. But the alternatives he presents are completely unacceptable to conservatives — including Mike Huckabee. Morris thinks that he understands what conservatives want, when in fact he is absolutely clueless about that. He continues to hype Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and Joe Lieberman as VP choices, presumably because this demonstrates McCain’s bipartisanship or something. This would only serve to remind conservatives of something we see as a McCain weakness. Yeah…that’s a winner of an idea.
All of these options would be more of a mistake than choosing Mitt Romney. He says that choosing Powell or Rice would give the choice a “WOW” factor. “WOW” factors are just as overrated as most of Morris’ advice. If McCain really cares about what conservatives want (and there isn’t much indication that he does), then he needs to look outside of Morris’ preferred circle of VP options, and disregard most of the media’s shortlist as well.
Who’s my pick? If we rule out Palin and Jindal (and we have to, since they aren’t credible as the next in line to the Presidency just yet), I have to echo the suggestion of some other conservative blogs and throw former Congresscritter and FNC guest host John Kasich into the mix. If we must pick someone from Ohio, why not someone most conservatives already know from TV? He’s a solid fiscal conservative and an effective defender of our worldview, and I would love to see him mix it up with Obama’s VP pick. That debate would be very watchable. Picking a relative unknown like Rob Portman doesn’t deliver Ohio for McCain. Not that picking Kasich would necessarily accomplish that, but it certainly would have more of Morris’ famed “WOW” factor for conservatives than a Portman pick would.
I’m pessimistic about McCain’s inclination to pick someone who thrills conservatives, but I can settle for his choice — as long as he ignores Dick Morris’ picks and doesn’t pick his BFF Lindsey Graham. Nobody really knows what McCain will do with his VP pick, so the best approach right now is to ignore most of the speculation, and wait to see what happens.
I’ve said from the very beginning that I don’t believe that John McCain ever changed his mind about comprehensive immigration reform, so Byron York’s column in The Hill doesn’t surprise me. McCain is quoted as saying that he learned his lesson from the immigration fight. On the other hand, he still says that he’s glad he proposed the reform and would do it again. We should be perfectly clear where McCain stands on this because he still believes that he was right on this issue. Don’t be fooled.
That said, Barack Obama might want to reconsider attacking McCain on this issue. There’s no way Barack can say he’s to the right of McCain on illegal immigration — although he might be able to claim credit for not writing any comprehensive immigration reform bills. He hasn’t demonstrated any ability to improve upon McCain’s sad record, and at one point even supported driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. In addition to that, he voted for McCain-Kennedy before he supported some “poison pill” amendments to kill it. Any discussion of McCain’s record on immigration would bring counter-attacks from the McCain camp about Barack’s record — and he might not want to go there. John McCain and Barack Obama sometimes say the right things about securing the borders first, but I don’t believe either one of them, and there’s no reason to, based on their record in the Senate.
This weekend there were several articles about new and potential additions to the McCain campaign team that could help McCain stem the pro-Obama tide and keep him from suffering a painful loss to Obama in the fall. If only this simple thing would completely solve McCain’s problems, then I would feel a whole lot better about his chances in November. It won’t. There are a few things that the best strategists in the world can’t fix for McCain — although I’m sure that we will see significant improvement over the status quo.
The McCain campaign has blown the head start they had back when McCain first clinched the Republican nomination. They had the opportunity to define Barack Obama and to explain the glaring differences between McCain and Obama. Consider this a missed opportunity. They allowed the narrative about Obama to be more about his questionable associations than about his policy positions, and this was a mistake. The Jeremiah Wright association raised some questions about Barack, no question, but this by itself isn’t enough to keep voters from voting for Barack Obama. Much of this lack of contrast should be blamed on McCains staff.
It would take some kind of miracle worker to transform McCain into the polished product Obama has become (at least when hes on script). McCain can hire all of the brilliant strategists he can afford and keep reshuffling the deck chairs on the campaign team, and maybe he can improve enough so hes not as painful to watch. One thing all these strategists cannot fix is that after all the tweaks and suggestions they offer — McCain is still McCain. He will always be a drastic contrast to Barack Obama. He is older, less personable, way too familiar with the Washington crowd, and he doesnt really enjoy talking to people. Even many Republicans find Barack appealing, although they may find some of his policy proposals alarming.
McCain doesnt fare quite so well in the popularity department. He is a bona-fide expert at losing friends and alienating people in his own party. Some Republicans cant stand him and they would rather roll the dice with Obama than reward McCain with the presidency. Deep down they know what the smart decision is (at least in my view) but it will be difficult for them to follow through when their nominee disagrees with them on more than one key issue — not only that, but he actively disparages their views while pandering to the moderates/ independents. One thing that could save McCain is if my fellow Republicans swallow their dislike of McCain at least until after the election and vote for him in order to keep Barack Obama from being our next president. Even then, it might not be enough to put McCain over the top in November. Good luck to the present and future strategists tasked with saving McCain. It won’t be easy.
In case we have forgotten about the severe left-ward bent of the New York Times, a new editorial puts in all back into focus. In “A Supreme Court on the Brink” they worry about the future direction of the Supreme Court, specifically that a McCain administration could undo all the liberal decisions the Supremes have made over the years, including Roe V. Wade. This is a needless fear. Not even Reagan managed to accomplish that goal, and McCain can hardly be accused of such extreme conservatism. McCain will keep his word on this, if not on anything else, but conservatives shouldn’t get their hopes up that McCain could get a Samuel Alito or John Roberts through the expected Democratic majority in Congress. Unless the Democrats inexplicably cave in, there’s no way this will happen. A more plausible scenario is that McCain attempts to put through judges the base approves of, and he is brutally rebuffed by the Democrats. Then he gives in and nominates someone like Harriet Miers. Yikes. Of course this all assumes McCain beats Barack Obama. Is the New York Times worried about their golden boy’s chances in November? Say it ain’t so guys.
Some of the Court’s rulings were questionable, and the assessment of their overall record this year as “muddled” is a fair way of describing it. Even so, I shouldn’t be surprised that the New York Times wants to be on the record supporting the Court’s decision denying the death penalty to the child rapist. The ruling was misguided to say the least. If we are going to have the death penalty as a punishment for crime, not too many crimes are worse than child rape. The child will be scarred for life. I’m not sure that life in prison is a sufficient punishment for what the child went through at the hands of this monster. Then there’s the more well-known decision to give habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees who — may I remind everyone — are not American citizens. It’s a bad idea to give foreigners access to American courts, and I still haven’t heard a great explanation of why Constitutional rights and protections can be given to non-citizens. At least the New York Times is consistent in their worldview and we know what to expect from the majority of their columnists and their op-eds.
Those of us on the right always point to stuff like this as a example of how out of touch the mainstream media is (and the New York Times usually provides most of the ammunition for these critiques). If we spent half as much time focusing on what we can do to fix what the Republican politicians have broken, we might have more of a reason for confidence going into November. As it stands now, we have an uphill climb ahead of us.
Dick Morris gets too much attention for his views on politics in general and the ’08 race in particular. He occasionally gets the analysis right, but this time I think he’s giving McCain bad advice on VP choices. His whole premise is that McCain needs a WOW choice, someone who will excite voters into giving his candidacy a second look. So far he’s making sense. Then he suggests three choices: Condi Rice, Colin Powell, and Joe Lieberman. Sorry, I’m not feeling the excitement here. Condi Rice and Colin Powell would be minority candidates with long resumes, and would add diversity to the ticket, but they are also tied to previous administrations and the war in Iraq. McCain needs to make a clean break from the Bush administration, and picking Condi Rice or Colin Powell would not accomplish this objective.
Then there’s the Democrats’ favorite non-Democrat Joe Lieberman. Does Morris really think that independents and moderates will flock to McCain’s side because he picks Joe Lieberman? Joe Lieberman is not even all that popular in his own party. I can’t see him adding much of value to a McCain ticket. Even though Lieberman is reasonably popular with conservatives solely because of his support of the war in Iraq, he is even more moderate than McCain on social issues, and this pick wouldn’t help McCain hold on to the conservatives who have resigned themselves to our Republican nominee.
McCain should keep looking and expand his Republican prospects beyond Pawlenty, Crist, Ridge, Portman and some of the other no-names on his list. Romney’s not the guy, and I can’t see how McCain picks him after their heated primary battle and Romney’s lack of credibility with voters. (Before I get too much flack over this comment, let me just say that this is the way I think the public in general sees Romney. It’s not my personal view of the man, and I would be perfectly happy with him as the Republican nominee for President or VP. Just not in 2008.)