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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Are we at war? And what is the political consequence of that for conservatives in this election?

Are we a nation at war?

I ask you to ask yourself that question afresh. Most of my regular and even occasional readers, including some who are life-long Democrats, will be tempted to give a reflexive, automatic, and affirmative answer to that question. Certainly even Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's campaign stump speeches concede that we're "at war." I'm just asking that you think again, and do your best to re-weigh the evidence.

If we were to ask the ghosts of Ulysses S. Grant or Andrew Jackson, each of them might well answer in the negative. No foreign government or even potentate has declared war upon us. The Union is in no peril of being split asunder. No foreign army is likely to burn Washington; no army in the world can credibly challenge ours on the fields of battle. Our own territory is reasonably secure from all but infiltrated and covert attacks, as is that of our most important historic allies. Only criminals and brigands dare oppose us with force, and then they flee and hide.

"War" has always meant casualties, but the casualty rate in our all-volunteer armed forces — while (as always) catastrophic if it's your dad or your sister who's just been killed — is statistically trivial as compared to even to the numbers of military deaths from accident or disease during past wars. General Grant's ghost would gratefully note that our total KIA casualties since 9/11/01 have been smaller than his Army of the Potomac's on a single morning in Cold Harbor, Virginia, in an action that gained the Union not an inch of ground or an ounce of progress (even by attrition). And outside of our soldiers and their families, you will look long and absolutely in vain for even the slightest crimp in the domestic lives of our countrymen that can be directly attributed to the "Global War on Terror" (or its respective conspicuous incarnations in Afghanistan or Iraq).

If they found graves at all, the stockbrokers and firemen and receptionists and Pentagon functionaries and airline passengers who perished on 9/11/01 have rested in them for more than six years. Off American soil, in Europe, civilian casualties from follow-on terrorist attacks have measured in the dozens, not the thousands. To many of us, 9/11 now seems like a horrible anomaly, not the first major battle in a war.

And the two leading Democratic candidates continue to compete with one another over which can declare the war in Iraq "over" (some among their party already say "lost") and bring our troops home from there. They have yet to find some excuse to do the same for Afghanistan, but surely they'll have found one by the time they've disentangled our troops from Iraq. This causes them not a moment of shame.

And if Iran has The Bomb in three or a half dozen or ten years — well, Pakistan has The Bomb too. North Korea probably has a handful. And there's still no radiation in Central Park or on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

So maybe we've won, more or less. Or maybe it was never a "war" to begin with — just a Bush Administration excuse to grab power and trample civil liberties. Whatever.

Day to day, for almost all of use, it feels just like peacetime. It feels that way whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, male or female, young or old, white or black or brown or whatever.

So: Do you think we're at war?


If you're convinced in your bones that your sensations are accurate, that your current experience is reliable, that what you don't know isn't likely to hurt you, and that it's safe for you to act in all important respects like our nation is at peace, then you've established an essential precondition, an essential premise, for a particular political decision:

If you're convinced we're not at war, then you're absolutely entitled to insist that it doesn't matter whether you vote in November 2008 for Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama or for John McCain. In particular, if you consider yourself to be a principled conservative, and you believe we're at peace, then you're absolutely entitled to withhold your presidential vote in its entirety, rather than cast it in favor of John McCain. Certainly he's insulted you enough in the past; certainly he's betrayed the principles you hold dear; certainly he's been disingenuous and sneaky and self-righteous and petty, and he's pretty damned unapologetic about all of that. He's an old dog now, and he'd rather snarl than even try to learn any new tricks. It would just feel delicious to cast a spite vote against him, wouldn't it?


If, by contrast, you understand in your bones that — despite all the indicia of peacetime I've summarized — we are at war; that our enemies are still alive and dangerous; that their lust for our blood is not only unabated but more inflamed by the events since 9/11/01; and that their entire existence is devoted to repeating and eclipsing the events of that day, then you don't have that luxury. Your "feel-good" vote against McCain, or even your non-vote, carries too high a price.

I fully understand the depth of your loathing for John McCain. My own is considerable, and other than for his record as a Navy pilot and POW, such respect as I am able to summon up for him could serve as a dictionary-precise example of the phrase "grudging respect."

But the immortal Winston Churchill had it right when, in response to a challenge over his wartime support of Joseph Stalin, he illustrated the need to prioritize one's villains: "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

McCain, if president, will continue to fight the Global War on Terror. Indeed, he will keep us on the offensive. This is the sole issue on which I have absolute confidence in John McCain. And I have equal confidence that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will, for all practical purposes, refuse to fight it.

And that is the transcendent difference among the remaining presidential candidates. That is the issue in this election that is more important than all of the others combined. There are other things that are important, and from a committed conservative's point of view, McCain is wrong, or unreliable, on many of them. Clinton and Obama, though, are wrong on most of them. And no matter how many of those issues they're all wrong together on, it doesn't change the fact that we're at war, or the fact that Obama or Clinton wouldn't fight it effectively.

Someone, in comments below, will argue that Clinton's really a moderate Democrat who won't actually surrender, that her anti-war rhetoric is just for the Democratic primaries, and that there wouldn't be that much difference between her and McCain on the war. One must be very skilled at self-deception, and eager to be deceived, to believe that. President Hillary Clinton would win the Global War on Terror in exactly the same way that President George McClellan would have won the Civil War.

Someone else, in comments below, will argue that their conservative principles are so important that it would be better to lose to the radical Islamic terrorists than to betray those principles. I respectfully reply that the luxury of standing on such principles to that degree is one which no patriot can indulge in during wartime. Your duty to help your country continue this fight trumps those principles. You need not abandon them or disclaim them, but you must set them aside long enough to ensure that we retain the freedom to pursue conservative principles — or any principles at all which come from elsewhere than the Wahabi-interpreted Koran.

"Daddy," asked one of my children recently, "What does 'existential' mean?" I answered that it depends on the context, but that one example is when you're in a fight to the death. "That," I said, "is an existential fight, because at the end of it, only one of you will still exist."

That is what we are in, friends and neighbors. Your Chevrolet Impala or Toyota 4Runner didn't get blown up in your driveway overnight, and your daughter wasn't stoned for showing a bit of ankle at the grocery store. But that's not for lack of trying by our enemies, who would change your world and mine to that world even at the cost of exploding their own children with remote-control bombs.


The GOP primary season is effectively over now. Gov. Romney will withdraw, gracefully and with some millions of his personal fortune still intact, before the week is out. Whether Huckabee has made himself into a viable Veep candidate probably won't be known for some time yet; I doubt it, and I hope not. But after last night's Super Tuesday results (particularly in Missouri and California, which could have been Romney's upset states), there is no plausible path to the GOP nomination for anyone but John McCain. That's just the reality, based on a plurality of voters in elections where the votes genuinely counted and must be respected. McCain got more of those votes, and the resulting delegates, than anyone else, and there's no way to pretend that didn't happen. The majority of McCain's party that dislikes him didn't unify themselves in favor of someone else, and it's too late now to do that.

It is a good thing, overall, that there is so much time left between now and November. John McCain has to actively campaign to win over the majority of his own party, along with enough others to get himself elected. He'll need that time. But there are many conservatives who will never accept him, who will never become comfortable with him, who will never be persuaded that he represents them, and who are genuinely, viscerally distressed at the notion of giving him their votes. Ten years would not be enough to change all of their minds.

But between now and November, many — I daresay most — of those will gradually return to the dissatisfying, distressing, but inescapable conclusion that no issue this election season is more important than the Global War on Terror, and that no difference among the candidates is as profound as on that exact issue. They'll hold their noses, they'll pray for the best, and they'll cast a vote based on patriotism over all other principles, because they're grown-ups, and because they'll remember that yes, indeed, we are still at war.

Nothing in this post is really shocking or profound. This isn't rocket science. It's about as subtle as a scimitar at your throat.


UPDATE (Wed Feb 6 @ wee-small-hours): You may think I'm being premature in counting Gov. Romney out and predicting that he'll end his campaign this week. I say that, actually, as an implied compliment to him and his practicality.

McCain is supported only by a plurality, and not a large one at that. However, to beat him, Romney had to either convince Huckabee to drop out, or convince Huckabee voters that a vote for Huckabee is effectively one for McCain. Super Tuesday's results showed that Romney could not achieve either of these goals, nor is there any likelihood that that will change in any of the upcoming primaries. As a result, his chances went from "unlikely" to "wildly improbable, and dependent on some cosmic confluence of a major screw-up by McCain and some principled, selfless act by Huckabee," the likelihood of either being something below 1%.

The sort of clear-eyed, unemotional analysis that permitted Romney to consistently make money at Bain Capital requires him to face reality here, and a reality check will tell him that now is the time to liquidate his position. He is a relatively young man, certainly a vigorous one. And in the event of a Democratic victory against McCain, he is well-positioned to use the intervening four years to further strengthen and deepen his ties, and perceived devotion, to movement conservatives for 2012 — when the unspoken motto of his campaign can be: "I told you so."

Posted by Beldar at 01:43 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Are we at war? And what is the political consequence of that for conservatives in this election? and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Beldar the Fortunate from Big Lizards

Tracked on Feb 7, 2008 5:56:40 AM

» 2008.02.08 Politics and National Defense Roundup from Bill's Bites

Tracked on Feb 8, 2008 12:15:36 AM

» Watcher Countdown - Four! Midwatch by the Watcher's Watch from Big Lizards

Tracked on Feb 27, 2008 5:33:19 AM


(1) cboldt made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 6:29:36 AM | Permalink

I see multiple "wars," on divergent fronts. There is the war against terror (or Islamic extremists, as you characterize it), and there are "wars" with entirely different stakes.

I don't believe Islamic extremists represent a threat to the very existence of the US, not in the next 6 years for sure. Will they inflict losses? Sure, just as they have for the past 15 or more years.

Then there are domestic wars, the war for the heart and soul of the GOP, etc. It's not possible to craft a method to "balance" these various wars, or to clearly justify giving ground on one front, in favor of hopefully gaining ground in the other.

But I, a past GOP stalwart, am telling the GOP to go to hell. May it die a quick death. McCain is perhaps a good warrior, maybe too good. He's a hothead, intemperate. And if my fellow GOP voters want to cram him down my throat, I say to them, "my friends," you lost my vote.

And I predict they will respond with ridicule, further cementing my resolve.

(2) capitano made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 7:26:33 AM | Permalink

Every voter should read Beldar's post; it's thoughtful without the tone cboldt warns of in his closing sentence.

I won't vote for McCain in the Texas primary under any circumstances, but I also won't commit beyond that at this point. Cboldt probably captures my opinion at the moment, but November is a long way off in political terms.

Thanks to both of you.

(3) Phelps made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 7:27:45 AM | Permalink

I'm with cboldt. We have been at war with Islamic fascism for 30 years. We have been at war with domestic liberal fascism for over a century.

In the war on domestic liberal fascism, McCain is a double-agent. I pray that posterity forgets that he was our candidate.

(4) steve sturm made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 7:47:59 AM | Permalink

Whatever one decides to call whatever it is that we're engaged in right now, with the exception of Iraq, I don't see a whole lot of difference between McCain, Obama and Clinton. It's not that Clinton or Obama are closet warriors (although Obama did suggest he'd go into Pakistan if necessary), it's that McCain isn't all that he is cracked up to be; in many critical regards, his positions are indistinguishable from the peace loving Democrats.

Not one of them is in favor of an active 'seek-them-out-and-kill-them' approach to terrorism. None favor using extreme forms of interrogation to gain information that can deter attacks. All of them want to close Guantanamo and treat terrorists more like common criminals. None will take a sufficiently aggressive position to keep Iran from getting (and using) nuclear weapons. None will act to keep the likes of Iran and Syria from sponsoring and committing terror attacks against US citizens and our allies. None will effectively pressure our supposed allies to pressure the countries that sponsor terror, as they're more concerned with our image than with keeping Americans safe. All three think the key to Mideast peace is with pressuring the Israelis, not with pressuring the terrorists. And all three are more concerned with protecting 'civil liberties' here at home than with running an effective anti-terrorism intelligence program.

That leaves Iraq as the sole issue on which they differ. Setting aside my view that our keeping troops in Iraq does nothing to protect America from attack and that those troops and money could be used in much better ways, neither Clinton nor Obama will rush to pull our troops out, if only because Bush's ineptitude has left the generals in charge and neither of the two Democrats is going to be eager to overrule the generals and order the troops home at a faster pace. The end result will be the same regardless of which of the three win the Presidency, our troops will stay in Iraq, dying to keep Iraqis from killing one another, until such time as the generals say it's okay to start pulling them out.

Given that, with all three pretty much being on the same page when it comes to domestic policy, I'd rather get screwed by a Democrat than by a supposed Republican.

And by the way, how did you know I have a 4Runner?

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 8:25:44 AM | Permalink

My friend Steve Sturm's comment is, alas, the expected one which predicts "that there wouldn't be that much difference between [Hillary] and McCain on the war." He argues it well, as well as Barack Obama does, in fact. But they're both wrong.

McCain, without doubt, would prosecute the war "his own damned way." He's got strong rhetoric about torture, but it's not clear to me that that will ever actually make any practical difference. He wants to close Guantanamo, but not to release its occupants or to bring them into the American criminal justice system. Countries like Syria and Iran will perceive and react to him like Reagan, whereas they'll react to her like Jimmy Carter; our military forces will hold their heads higher for him as Commander in Chief. And he will continue to support the fledgling government of Iraq, rather than pull the plug on it and leave it to rapid collapse as soon as our most obvious fingerprints can be wiped away from it, which is what Hillary Clinton will be effectively forced to do by her campaign promises to her own party. That is hugely consequential, and it requires an act of self-blindness to deny or ignore, which I fear that Steve has fallen into.

I can't promise that McCain will do "enough," and as Steve's just done, it's entirely possible to find bits and pieces of his war and foreign policy strategy to criticize. But Hillary will be much worse, not in terms of style but in terms of brutal realpolitik substance. She might not be as bad as Obama, who is a genuine amateur on these issues. But the argument that Hillary and McCain are peas in a pod on this issue is — with due respect, and no ridicule implied or intended to its makers — a fundamentally mistaken one that finds its roots in McCain hatred rather than the obvious facts.

Cboldt, I don't ridicule your position, no more than I have ridiculed the people of Iowa who gave that state to Huckabee and inadvertently started in motion the cascade that allowed him to be the agent by which McCain's plurality became the dominant one. But I do urge you to continue thinking, hard, about the relative evils here, and I urge you to value your vote more highly than you're valuing it when you intend to throw it away. "To hell with them all" is a sentiment that's hard to avoid, but I think you, and many others like you, will turn out to be too much of a thinking patriot to ultimately give in to the gratification that you would hope may come from acting on it. And I doubt you'd end up finding much gratification in that act anyway. Hoping to bring you to that same conclusion, eventually, is certainly my purpose in writing this post.

(6) cboldt made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 8:57:56 AM | Permalink

I don't ridicule your position

And I didn't take your opening post as such. To be sure, many McCain supporters use the positive aspects of their candidate to "sell" the position, instead of the tired and trite tactic of assorted party hacks, that one must vote for this party, because the other one is worse. That formula, recent history teaches us, leads to the left, and I am resisting.

As for the notion of "throwing away the vote," I suppose that label can be fixed, in hindsight, to every candidate who lost. I threw away a vote for Ford, for Ford. Is it my fault that the GOP didn't win enough votes?

Understand, my beef is more with the GOP as a lost cause, than it is with McCain. McCain is just my line in the sand.

Gratification? None to be found. I don't like the political situation, but I'm just an outspoken participant, not a mover and shaker.

Best of luck to you and the GOP, "my friend."

(7) cboldt made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 9:04:21 AM | Permalink

That last was meant to reflect "thrown away votes" (and pre-election footwork) for not only Ford, but also Dole.

Not to say that McCain will lose in a race against Clinton or Obama, he may well win. But he emphatically does not have my vote.

Neither does the Democrat. Or should I say, "the other Democrat," whoever it might be. (just kidding - I see vast differences between the choices. If it's between McCain and a Democrat, I will have no pang of conscience voting "none of the above.")

(8) Diffus made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 9:27:56 AM | Permalink

Beldar, I have as much confidence that McCain will continue to prosecute the war in Iraq as I do in any of his other promises. (Which is to say, not a lot -- but I won't digress down that path.)

What I have my doubts about is whether McCain has the strategic vision that Bush, whatever shortcomings be may have, does in recognizing that we are involved in an ideological struggle against an amorphous enemy that could last for decades. In other words, he may be committed to winning the battle Iraq, but is he committed to winning the war on Islamists?

(9) stan made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 10:17:54 AM | Permalink

I think anyone who restricts the "war" to Iraq or Afghanistan or Islamic terrorists is missing the bigger picture. We have been at war since long before I was born. We will likely always be at war. The opponents may change, but there well always be some.

The worst attitude of the 90s was the idiocy that we had a cold war dividend that allowed us to ignore military and intelligence needs. The biggest danger from the Democrats is due to their failure to understand and appreciate the need for a military and intelligence structure that is ready and prepared for any enemy.

If we abandon all the people in the mideast who have trusted us, the rest of the world will be watching. Just as they watched what happened to those who trusted us in SE Asia. And they won't work us in the future.

All the Democrats who will demand that we turn over some future war effort to those people will never understand or admit that their short-sighted foolishness caused the problems we will have in securing help. Because they don't know now and won't then, we can't entrust them with power. Ever.

(10) nk made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 10:20:21 AM | Permalink

Half the eligible voters do not vote in any particular election, possibly in any election. They each have a reason not to, and hating the other voters of the Republican Party is as good a reason as not wanting to miss Happy Hour at the bar after work on election day.

(11) nk made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 10:27:38 AM | Permalink

And "hating the other voters" is the most nearly correct assessment of their attitude. So far, McCain is where the voters have put him, not the "party bosses".

(12) Brad S made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 1:48:44 PM | Permalink

"Then there are domestic wars, the war for the heart and soul of the GOP, etc."

We really need to lay off the 1964 Goldwater rhetoric, folks. It resulted in one of the worst electoral beatings the GOP ever faced. It's actually retarding whatever progress was made in making conservatism part of the national discussion.

(13) Brad S made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 2:06:29 PM | Permalink

Having said what I just said, Beldar, we have to, WE MUST, realize this: In this era of fast media and even faster opinion, there is no real incentive to be "responsible" or to want to "effect policy." Conversely, there is every financial incentive in the world to stay on the sideline throwing mudballs at whichever party is in control of the White House. If you don't believe there isn't, you'll be in for a big surprise when Rush Limbaugh announces his (likely) 9-figure contract with XM/Sirius Satellite radio next year.

Or to put it in a way that matches the '60s: The GOP in 1965-1969 was nothing. They weren't in the discussion. They only did what Everett Dirksen counseled them to do: Go along to get along. What do you think the course of the Vietnam War would have been if the 1965-69 GOP had the Internet megaphone that Markos Moulitsas has today?

(14) steve sturm made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 3:01:37 PM | Permalink

I'm not, if there's any confusion, touting Hillary as someone I want leading the fight against terror. It's the absence of positive 'bits and pieces' and not my animus towards McCain that makes me doubt he would an enthusiastic and effective leader. Dare I say an animus towards Clinton might lead one to see in McCain a competence, commitment and effectiveness (Iran and Syria will react to McCain as if he were a Reagan?) that isn't supported by anything concrete?

As for Iraq, Hillary would like to pull troops out faster than McCain, but I, blinded as I am, fell (years ago) into the trap that that would be a good thing. Unfortunately, even Hillary won't be able to pull the troops out fast enough for my liking.

(15) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 4:07:23 PM | Permalink

Dare I say an animus towards Clinton might lead one to see in McCain a competence, commitment and effectiveness (Iran and Syria will react to McCain as if he were a Reagan?) that isn't supported by anything concrete?

The very day of Reagan's inauguration, the very hour, the Iranians blinked so hard they practically popped their contact lenses out in returning the American embassy hostages. As of then, Reagan had exactly zero time serving as commander in chief of any military force (except in the very limited sense that a state governor commands his state's reserves, which is effectively a total fiction from the point of view of a foreign power). His own military career consisted of making movies about WW2 for the War Department. The Reagan we remember now — who invaded Grenada and fought for the Pershing II missiles, for example — was still years in the future. Yet there was a profound international perception, even as of January 1981, that Ronald Reagan would be fundamentally more willing to flex America's military muscles, and to do so effectively, than Jimmy Carter had been. And that perception was exactly correct, even though as of 1981 the only "proof" for it was Reagan's consistent "talking of the talk" as a pundit and then a presidential candidate, before he'd ever had a chance to begin "walking the walk."

John McCain personally brought, and led others in bringing, their bomb payloads through the flak and missiles over downtown Hanoi. He showed legendary, almost incomprehensible tenacity and steadfastness as a POW. Throughout his political career, he's supported our armed forces (and according to every survey, enjoys a high regard among most of their members). He's been to the right of Dubya on the GWOT pretty consistently. His political rhetoric is consistently filled with the sort of vivid, almost cornball imagery that Reagan used too (e.g., "I will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell!"). And there is no figure on the American political scene from either party who shares a fraction of his national or international reputation on these matters.

Yes, I think that was a fair comparison. The first month of a Hillary Clinton presidency, you'll see more Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat incidents in the Straits of Hormuz. The first month of a McCain presidency, said speedboats' drivers' nether orifices will remain water-tight. To borrow the line from the old Second City TV skits, the bad guys know that John McCain, every bit as much as George W. Bush, will take great delight in blowing them up real good. Or to borrow the rhetoric of a century ago, regardless of whether he walks softly, John McCain will be seen, accurately, to carry a big stick.

I don't mean to go overboard with praising him in this area. I don't think he's the only GOP candidate who would make an effective Commander in Chief, but it is his one genuinely strong suit.

(16) Gary Denton made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 4:11:04 PM | Permalink

We are at occupation. We suck at occupation.

As to the "global war on islamofascist terrorists" it makes about as much sense and is being won about as much as we are winning our century long war on drugs.

(17) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 4:27:04 PM | Permalink

Thanks for your comment, Mr. Denton. I needed a pithy example from someone who doesn't believe there's a war going on, and who therefore may believe we can afford to cast protest votes or engage in protest non-votes because it doesn't really matter who's Commander-in-Chief.

They see themselves at war with us, and the only ways in which our enemies' warfare falls short of classical models is a product of their inability to mobilize effective conventional forces. If they could invade the Virginia coast and march on Washington, they would, but they can't, so they do what they can do, which is hi-jack jet aircraft to serve as flying bombs in the U.S., or wire up young victims of Downs Syndrome to be walking bombs in Baghdad.

Sleep well tonight, Mr. Denton. Your and my personal safety, and that of our families, is being assured by rough, dedicated men and women in American uniforms who are willing to do violence, and suffer it, whether you or I deserve that or not. It's only because we don't in fact 'suck" at occupation that it can seem to you that we are not even in a real war.

(18) steve sturm made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 8:00:36 PM | Permalink

As to your point regarding gunboats in the Straits of Hormuz, I'll stipulate that McCain can be counted on to react forcefully, he'd probably be pretty good in a traditional 'us against them' military confrontation. I question his positions on the less traditional aspects of the war on terror, specifically his willingness to do whatever it takes to seek out and kill those before they have the opportunity to kill us. Catchy sayings aside, his positions don't give me that warm feeling I like to have before I go to bed; I'd sleep much more soundly if I knew that our intelligence agencies were waterboarding terrorists at Guantanamo, that the NSA was monitoring all sorts of communications without having observed the niceties of persuading a liberal judge to grant a warrant, and airport security was subjecting young Muslim men to special scrutiny. Unfortunately, McCain opposes all of these, a position made worse that in the near term we face more of a threat from terrorist attacks than from Iranian gunboats.

And, for what it's worth, as much as I liked Reagan, I think the Iranian decision to release the hostages was based more on their realization that Carter was the only President that they could get away with tormenting and less with their fear of Reagan himself.

Having said all that, I labor under no more of an illusion that I will have convinced you that I am right than you will think you have done the same to me. We'll just have to wait to see if, as you hope, McCain will be a strong and effective leader, or as I fear, that McCain will be to the left of Bush and indistinguishable from Clinton or Obama.

Can you guess how thrilled I am that one of those three will be our next President?

(19) Antimedia made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 9:28:31 PM | Permalink

Beldar, I have the greatest respect for you, my friend. I think perhaps you and I were the only ones who consistently supported Harriet Miers' nomination to the bitter end.

But I have to disagree with your comment about "throwing away" your vote. It's my contention that, if you truly value your vote, you will not "throw it away" by voting for someone who represents none of your principles. McCain comes so close to that for me that the difference is indistinguishable.

I agree with you that we are at war. I'm still angry at Reagan for not bombing the hell out of the fanatics after they killed our Marines in Beirut. But I also agree with one commenter who said that we're not going to lose this war in the next four years, even with a Democrat President (which is no certainty, mind you.)

I'll even go so far as to say that, if it appears we might lose, even a Democrat President is going to suck it up and start fighting. They might be craven fools, but they still value getting elected. Start losing the war here and they will never be elected again.

So, I'm not as sanguine as you, my friend, that we are in mortal danger if a Democrat becomes President, and, other than the war, there's not a dime's worth of difference between McCain and the Bobbsey Twins.

Just to be clear - there's no way in hell I would ever vote for Hillary or Obama, but it will take a great deal of soul searching for me to waste my vote by pulling the lever for McCain. I want the Republican party to know that his type of candidacy is completely unacceptable.

(20) Antimedia made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 9:53:12 PM | Permalink

Perhaps we should all read John Podhoretz' article about McCain?

(21) Paul McKaskle made the following comment | Feb 6, 2008 11:38:06 PM | Permalink

I think Neville Chamberlain, not John McClellan, is a better model for the Clintons, Obamas, and those to their left, of the world.

(22) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 12:03:59 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Have you ever thought about setting up shop as a trial lawyer? You have a great knack for closing arguments... A little more seriously, the answer to your question is easy: No, America is not at war. There’s a great picture on this subject that has on the Internet for a year. Here’s a link:


For those who don’t want to follow up, the picture is of a whiteboard with three lines on it:

“America is not at war.
The Marine Corps is at war;
America is at the mall.”

There you have it: we are not at war. I can prove it further by asking you to show me a declaration of war. Please, no pathetic substitutes such as “Authorization to use military force.” The Constitution mentions declarations of war early and specifically for a reason. War is about the most serious business a nation can engage in. It’s not to be done lightly. Conversely, when it is done, the citizenry needs to know that it is in such an operation up to its neck. “Up to its neck?” I mean: a draft, much higher taxes, restrictions on travel, on sending money in and out of the country, price controls, huge government intervention in business, no new social programs...you get the idea. There would be a lot of roaring and bellowing, most notably by business notables such as Larry Kudlow whose conservatism always has a good excuse ready when it’s time for Wall Street to be shoved in the lemon squeezer. But the we could follow Charles Evans Hughes’s dictum, “The power to wage war is the power to wage war successfully.”

So. Theory done, look at the present situation. Who best to run the conflict that undoubtedly exists? None of the Democratic contenders stands up to examination. Like you, I am impressed with the force of character John McCain has shown, both as a POW and in politics. He may have doubts, but once he’s decided, everyone can go to hell, particularly if they are Republican. But is steadfastness all that is needed? That McCain will fight the war, I don’t doubt. But what is he fighting? How is he fighting it? Example: I think you, like many of the folks who comment, thinks the invasion of Iraq, for all its difficulties, will pan out eventually. It was the right thing to do. Was it the best thing to do? I myself think that Afghanistan has long been neglected, and there are other nations that deserve to tremble in their boots. Iran, or my own favorite, Saudi Arabia need some hands on attention. How will McCain handle this? At present, we are constrained because our armed forces are not big enough to fight much more than we have on our plate. How is McCain going to eliminate that constraint?

One facet of the conflict has to be energy independence. Richard Nixon talked about it starting in 1973. Thirty five years later, this nation is still talking, sending scores of billions of dollars to the devil’s cauldron of the Mideast every year. Energy independence will not be achieved without lots of anguish. Will McCain face this? If so, how?

Another facet of the conflict is secure borders. I cannot understand McCain’s laxity here. Right now, what is the biggest safeguard against a terrorist conspiracy slipping through the southern borders? The Mexican security services. They take great interest in such possibilities, knowing that if a successful mass attack was ever staged from Mexico, the American response would be Tom Tancredo times a million. This may be effective security, but it is damned lax on America’s part. What’s McCain’s plan here? This is the principal issue at drives me away from him.

How about reform of the intelligence services? God knows they need it. This is where I REALLY REALLY regret that Mitt Romney isn’t going to be the nominee. I will admit, I can’t see McCain sending George Tenet off with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

There are other facets of McCain and the conflict, but this is enough to make my point. You quoted Churchill in your post. Let me quote his lifelong friend, Lord Birkenhead back at you. Birkenhead on Churchill: “Winston was often right, but when he was wrong, well, my God.” There will a hideous amount of my Godding in a McCain administration. Too much? We won’t know until he gets there. Every election is a leap of faith. So, like you, I think in November my vote will be for McCain.
But not certainly. I think it is too early to declare just yet. November is seven months away. Let things shake down a bit. That will also give us time to listen to what McCain has to say. Also, one important thing he will do: who is to be his running mate? If he picked Fred Thompson, I would feel marvelous, and I think we’d have to give you lead boots to hold you on the ground. But what if he chose Mike Huckabee? That’s a different story. That, and the doubts I’ve raised here, would make me think about writing in Mitt on Election Day, conflict or no conflict. On the other hand, your marvelously apt Hillary Clinton/George McClellan comparison will be pulling the other way. But there’s still time. Let things shake out, give JMcC a chance to talk, watch how he acts.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(23) Brad S made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 8:09:41 AM | Permalink

"One facet of the conflict has to be energy independence. Richard Nixon talked about it starting in 1973. Thirty five years later, this nation is still talking, sending scores of billions of dollars to the devil’s cauldron of the Mideast every year. Energy independence will not be achieved without lots of anguish."

Why is "energy independence" such a necessity when transport security is guaranteed by our US Navy? We don't, by and large, have such conniptions about "clothing independence," even though a lot of the countries that make our clothes have equally unpalatable political and social dynamics.

Or are we just addicted to the "Apollo Programs" and the "Marshall Plans," even though we've done a fine job working around the political/social dynamics that prevent such big plans?

(24) charclax made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 11:00:01 AM | Permalink

To Beldar - amen and thank you. To my conservative bretheren who are unhappy with Sen. McCain - where were you (and your wallets) when true conservatives like Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo needed you?

(25) Tom J made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 11:10:24 AM | Permalink

Brad S wrote ...
"Why is 'energy independence' such a necessity ...? ... We don't ... have such conniptions about 'clothing independence' ... ."

First, our insatiable appetite for clothing does not fund the House of Saud, Al Quida, and the mullahs of Iran.

Second, there are multiple alternative sources for clothing, so there is no "Sword of Damocles" hanging over our economy.

The fastest way for us to put the militant Islamo-fascists out of business is to end our dependence on energy from the Middle East.

(26) steve sturm made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 11:34:25 AM | Permalink

"The fastest way for us to put the militant Islamo-fascists out of business is to end our dependence on energy from the Middle East."

No offense, but this is just wrong. At best, cutting the money that flows into Saudi Arabia will lessen somewhat the resources made available to the terrorists, but make no mistake, it will not put them out of business.

(27) hocndoc made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 12:27:17 PM | Permalink

Well, Governor Romney suspended his campaign due to the threat of war and the inability of the Dems to defend the Nation.

(28) Brad S made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 2:04:21 PM | Permalink

"First, our insatiable appetite for clothing does not fund the House of Saud, Al Quida, and the mullahs of Iran."

Please keep in mind that at the height of AlQaeda's "power" (otherwise known as 9/11), the price of a barrel of oil was around $22, and the House of Saud had quite a bit of unsustainable debt. And speaking of the security of oil, never underestimate the ability of the Saudis (or the Iranians, for that matter) to fiercely protect their patrimony.

Again, why focus on "energy independence" if the product is secure from the well to your gas tank?

(29) Friend #1 made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 2:24:46 PM | Permalink

With Mitt Romney mercifully (if, somewhat tearfully) out of the way, it is time for all good Republicans to enthusiastically embrace John Sidney McCain, III.

Seriously, folks, stand by your GOP man. You know you want to. That's what Beldar is doing. Even El Rushbo will carry Johnny Mac's water bucket sooner or later. He'll probably use McCain's CPAC speech, or perhaps McCain's choice of running mate, as an excuse for "reluctantly" embracing the Party leader. But you can bet your boots that the self-described "conservatives" and the right-wing pundits and right-wing bloggers will eventually follow Beldar's lead and fall in line. After all, as Beldar suggests, this is a time of war and we don't want to risk Democratically induced mushroom clouds over any of our major cities.

Now, speaking of mushrooms, whom will Johnny Mac choose as his running mate? We've got a neo-con moderate at the top of the ticket, so does it automatically follow that we'll have an evangelical at the bottom? I'm curious to know what y'all think.

From my perspective, as long as the GOP offers us a nominee who is rational on the issues of earned citizenship for undocumented workers, campaign finance reform and global climate change, Americans will finally have good and difficult choices in this presidential election no matter whom the Dems nominate.

(30) Friend #1 made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 2:30:19 PM | Permalink

UPDATE: McCain's speech to CPAC was extremely well received. He was gracious and said all the right things. Hopefully that will end the debate on this topic. Time to love and embrace John "My Dear Friends" McCain!

(31) Pat made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 3:01:57 PM | Permalink

My wife called me in deep distress because she had just heard that Romney had dropped out. Even if we held our noses and forgot all the ways that McCain has shafted the GOP in general, and conservatives in particular, and supported McCain, it would matter not a jot.

He is just too old to win. His fawning media coverage will change, almost overnight, to negativity. His age will be made the central issue of the campaign. Every photo will be chosen to make him look even older. Every sound bite will be chosen to make him sound older. Every verbal slip will be taken as a sign of imminent senility. His brush with Melanoma will be used to paint a picture of a man living on borrowed time (my late mother-in-law survived one Melanoma; the second, a few years later, took her from us).

If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, the contrast between youth and old age will be played to the hilt by the media.

The only thing that could get McCain elected is another major terrorist attack on US soil. If it comes via the Mexican border, even that won't help him.

We live in dangerous times. McCain's nomination just made them even more dangerous.

(32) rfy made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 4:00:54 PM | Permalink

I've voted for the lessor of two evils in lots of elections. 2008 will be no different. Although there's more I dislike than like about McCain, I'm with Beldar and Romney - either D will be far worse. So, I just gave McCain $100 of support on rightroots/F7 and urge we all do the same.

(33) Paul McKaskle made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 5:20:37 PM | Permalink

Some of the more extreme right pundits (Anne Coulter, et al) seem to be recommending sitting out the election in view of McCain's now almost certain candidacy--or voting for Obama or Clinton. The theory appears to be to lose the election this time, regroup and elect a "true" conservative next time--four, more likely eight, years from now. The Carter interlude before the election of a "true" conservative (Reagan) is cited as an appropriate example. That may be one historical precedent, but I think there is another historical precedent suggesting that such people are taking more of a chance than they anticipate.

Remember that in 1933 the Nazi's did NOT have a majority in the Reichstag thus could not insist that its leader, Hitler, be appointed chancellor by Hindenberg. The other leading candidate was Von Papen, but he too had difficulty in mustering majority support. So Hindenberg and Von Papen, convinced that Hitler would foul up if he were chancellor and thus quickly lose support and be out of office in a short time, agreed to allow Hitler to become Chancellor. The rest, as they say, is history.

I don't for a moment suggest that either Clinton or Obama are in any respect equivalent to Hitler, but I do suggest the arch conservatives proposal to sit out (or vote for Clinton or Obama) the next election might have considerable negative and irreversible consequences to positions they hold dear. I don't think Clinton is nearly as politically dumb as Carter was. I don't know about Obama but he does have much more charisma than Carter and that may prevent a short-term disaster for him. Thus either might well be in office for eight long years.

The consequence in eight years time may well be a national health service just like Canada's or Great Britain's (impossible to dismantle--look at Thatcher's inability to do so); substantially higher taxes (perhaps with gimmicks for the favored friends); much higher budget (things funded are almost impossible to dismantle); a weakened foreign policy; more threats from Jihadists; a permanent liberal majority on the Supreme Court (if any one of the five most conservative were to retire in the next eight years--and Kennedy is over 70 and Scalia is, or is close to, 70).

Can the new conservative savior (who hasn't been identified as yet) reverse all of these possible outcomes. Reagan didn't dismantle very much government even though he wanted to. Nor did Thatcher!

(34) dmark made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 7:37:03 PM | Permalink

"The consequence in eight years time may well be a national health service just like Canada's or Great Britain's (impossible to dismantle--look at Thatcher's inability to do so); substantially higher taxes (perhaps with gimmicks for the favored friends); much higher budget (things funded are almost impossible to dismantle); a weakened foreign policy; more threats from Jihadists; a permanent liberal majority on the Supreme Court (if any one of the five most conservative were to retire in the next eight years--and Kennedy is over 70 and Scalia is, or is close to, 70). "

This is probably one of the best lists of what a non-vote could lead to... anyone who is waiting for the next round may find that most of what they hold dear, (small government, freedom to choose ones health care, a conservative Supreme Court) is lost for a very long time.

Only the narrowest thinking could see McCain compiling such a list. But one could easily see how either dem might, particularly with congress on their side.

The pundits would love a dem in office, it means bigger ratings for them, but I think it would hurt the party and the country, which is more important?

If you decide not to vote and the above list comes to past, aren’t you partially responsible for not doing your part to avoid it?

(35) Antimedia made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 7:55:30 PM | Permalink

To answer your question, dmark, no, we are not. The American people are. Guilty of being greedy fools who have forgotten John F. Kennedy's admonition to serve rather than be served.

Of the list, what do we not already have, at least in part? This country is already well on the road to communism, and, as you admit, not even a Reagan can stop it.

All conservatives can do is continue to point out the manifest failures of both parties, remind their friends and family of the all too clear lessons of history and hope and pray, against all hope, that more Americans "get it".

Otherwise we are doomed, standing on a sinking ship, with only the time of submergence at issue.

(36) DRJ made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 8:56:34 PM | Permalink

Well said, but I disagree on your last point (before the Update). This may not be rocket science but it's close. Logic and analytical skills are in short supply these days but you clearly have and use both.

(37) DRJ made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 9:10:37 PM | Permalink

By the way, Friend #1's comments strike me as disingenuous. Care to share your true feelings, Friend?

(38) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 9:29:36 PM | Permalink

DRJ, as always, you're too kind to me, but thank you. As for Friend #1: He's really not being disingenuous. He's just a very smart guy, and a very committed Democrat — which results in some cognitive dissonance that probably isn't obvious to him, but that sometimes results in him striking readers here as him being less than candid. If pressed about his personal feelings about the Dems' candidates, I suspect he'd admit to scruples about Hillary and fears about Obama. But he'll vote for his party's nominee.

(39) bridgeguy made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 10:55:10 PM | Permalink

Beldar seems to concede that McCain is little different from Obama/Hillary on the domestic issues; only on the national security is there a significant difference. Many of the comments above illustrate how many of McCain's positions on non-military items (Guantanomo, NSA, waterboarding etc) will limit his effectiveness on the GWOT. Even his domestic poitions will have a deleterous effect - he has tied his hands on getting solid judges that he needs to defend programs like NSA etc that he may finally realize he also needs. He may keep his promise of making the Bush tax cuts permanent (a position he was dragged to kicking and screaming) but if he keeps his pledge on global warming legislation, that will result in an effective economy-killing tax well beyond anything contemplated by Obama/Hillary. A ruined economy will also effectively destroy his ability to support a war on terror. So when boiled down to essentials a McCain presidency will be pushing towards the very same place as an Obama or Hillary presidency, although at a somewhat slower pace. Except for one essential aspect - in a Democrate presidency the conservative Republicans in Congress can effectively act as a brake on the Democrate march over the cliff, much as in Clinton's presidency. In a Republican presidency the Congressional conservatives are severely limited in their ability to act, just as in the Bush years. That is another aspect of this discussion that Beldar and others must think about before they close ranks on McCain. What is the most probable; that McCain acts as Beldar hopes and effectively continues the GWOT; or that the Republicans in Congress can effectively limit the worst of a Democrat presidency. I have not firmly decided which way to go, but based on the track record of both McCain and Congress, I am currently much more hopeful of Congress doing it right.

(40) Phelps made the following comment | Feb 7, 2008 11:11:30 PM | Permalink

"The consequence in eight years time may well be a national health service just like Canada's or Great Britain's (impossible to dismantle--look at Thatcher's inability to do so); substantially higher taxes (perhaps with gimmicks for the favored friends); much higher budget (things funded are almost impossible to dismantle); a weakened foreign policy; more threats from Jihadists; a permanent liberal majority on the Supreme Court (if any one of the five most conservative were to retire in the next eight years--and Kennedy is over 70 and Scalia is, or is close to, 70). "

And with McCain, we get the "lite" version of these instead, like the poxy Medicare drug boondoggle GWB pushed through?

(41) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 8, 2008 1:45:19 AM | Permalink

Bridgeguy wrote,

Beldar seems to concede that McCain is little different from Obama/Hillary on the domestic issues; only on the national security is there a significant difference.

I said no such thing, and I certainly don't believe that. Look at their career voting records in the Senate, as charted either by conservative or liberal rating groups. Obama is the most liberal Senate Democrat, and Clinton isn't very far behind him. McCain is in the middle of the Republican pack. If you can't tell the difference between that, you're being willfully obtuse.

Nor do I accept bridgeguy's argument that only "in a Democrat presidency the conservative Republicans in Congress can effectively act as a brake on the Democrate march over the cliff." That ignores logic, the recent past, and deep history. I emphatically believe that conservatives ought to work hard to see conservatives elected to both chambers of Congress. But conservatives can cast conservative votes in Congress regardless of whether it's a Republican or a Democrat at 1600 Pennsylvania.

You can argue about how sincere McCain was today at CPAC when he insisted that he'll wait for a broad consensus that the borders have been secured before attempting any broader immigration reform. Maybe you credit that at zero. But don't ignore the fact that McCain-Kennedy -- despite aggressive support from George W. Bush -- did not get enacted, nor even very close to being enacted.

I'm sorry, bridgeguy, but that's the least persuasive anti-McCain comment I've seen in some time. It's exactly this "McCain would be more or less the same as Billary/Obama" that I think we need to reject, because it's a dangerous oversimplification that's far more false than true.

I find arguments in favor of deliberately voting for the greater of two evils entirely unpersuasive. I want the most conservative president I can get, and the most conservative Congress I can get, and I frankly hope they'll act as a check on each other, no matter how far short either falls from time to time.

(42) walt made the following comment | Feb 8, 2008 3:11:37 AM | Permalink

As Senator Coburn noted, McCain voted to confirm Bork, Thomas, Owens as well as Roberts and Alito. But you McCain haters would rather Clinton or Obama appoint judges. This could cause more damage than what they would do about the war.

(43) Phelps made the following comment | Feb 8, 2008 10:33:27 AM | Permalink

You can argue about how sincere McCain was today at CPAC when he insisted that he'll wait for a broad consensus that the borders have been secured before attempting any broader immigration reform. Maybe you credit that at zero. But don't ignore the fact that McCain-Kennedy -- despite aggressive support from George W. Bush -- did not get enacted, nor even very close to being enacted.

I will be the first to say that this isn't a breech that can't be mended. McCain has rarely been one to say something he doesn't believe. Actions to support the things he said at CPAC (especially the free choice things) could bring me around, just like I came around on Romney.

(44) MikeR made the following comment | Feb 8, 2008 12:55:03 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the post. I keep coming back to this issue. It's interesting to me how different this existential battle is from the two that preceded it (WWII, Soviet Union) There, we probably had them outnumbered, but technologically we were (more-or-less) well-matched. This time it's different. There are a billion Muslims against the US and change. Of course, all or most of that billion are not actively involved in global hiraba, and many of them may not be in favor of it either. So it's hard to count them, but there are a whole lot of enemies for sure.
On the other hand, they are no technological match for the Good Guys at all. Even if some of them get advanced degrees, the whole culture they are espousing doesn't really like modernity or modern science. All they have is oil. I don't think that this is going to change, either; they can't change their hatred for modernity without basically giving up their cause.
So I guess my first response to Beldar would be, unless Islamofascists get nuclear weapons, we are not at war. They managed to kill 3000 of us through fiendish cleverness, but they cannot possibly pose an existential threat.
On the other hand, if they get WMD, all bets are off. I doubt our society could continue in its present form if even one nuclear weapon destroyed one of our city centers. A lot of the liberty and lifestyle we take for granted would disappear in an instant.
So I would think that our main effort in foreign policy should be to stop that from happening, and Iran's nuclear program should be at the very top of our main issues. Sadly, we stayed focused on Iraq (for what I think were laudable reasons) long after the WMD ceased to be a major concern there, and now we have neither the money nor the political will to do anything about Iran.
What do you think?

(45) Earlg made the following comment | Feb 8, 2008 1:24:52 PM | Permalink

You can’t fight a War without the resources.

If McCain and the GoP can’t ensure those resources - especially those appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan - will be available at the beginning of 09’ fiscal year ahead of the elections, I'm certainly not going to help any Republican into Congress...much less McCain into the Oval Office.

(46) cboldt made the following comment | Feb 9, 2008 9:20:40 AM | Permalink

But you McCain haters would rather Clinton or Obama appoint judges.

McCain would limit his choices to consensus nominees, those acceptable to at least 60 Senators. A minority of DEMs will continue to have a disproportionate degree of control, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.

McCain endorses the abuse of parliamentary procedure that facilitates this -- where GWB rejects it.

And while McCain voted to confirm Alito, he also signaled that the degree of "conservatism" Alito "wore on his sleeve" was excessive (in McCain's opinion).

Now, the GOP can engage in the same misuse of parliamentary process that the DEMS (and McCain) endorse, i.e., use cloture to impose a 60 vote margin on contentious nominees. The GOP could, in theory, block objectionable SCOTUS nominees. I think doing so would enhance their political fortunes.

My point here is generally that the "judicial gap" and "judicial risk" aren't
necessarily as stark as they first appear.

(47) bridgeguy made the following comment | Feb 10, 2008 12:04:19 AM | Permalink

Beldar – I do not accept your characterization of McCain’s record. His votes were more conservative prior to 1996, and his trend, especially since 2000 is more to the left. When rated by various groups, how many conservative votes does it take to balance out one McCain-Feingold? The Gang-of-14 incident was not even a vote and won’t show up in the career ratings. In that he was not merely a participant but the leader of the coup. I can accept that McCain has mostly conservative leanings, but he has demonstrated that he will push those aside if he sees an advantage for John McCain. I feel his ego trumps all, and although patriotic, his ego will end up defining patriotism as “What is good for John McCain is good for the Country”. As President, he will be, like Bill Clinton, more concerned for his legacy than anything else. The following link has the best description I’ve seen on what a McCain presidency will look like.


I also believe, Beldar, that you credit Republican members of Congress with greater powers of resistance than they actually have. The defeat of McCain-Kennedy is the exception that proves the rule. If the conservatives in Congress had the power to fight a President of their own party as effectively as you state, the 2006 elections would not have been a Republican debacle.

from the Rush Limbaugh radio show 10.18.06

"As I said yesterday, it's one thing to blame the House, but it's unfair to tar them with everything. Do you realize how tough it is for movement conservatives in the House to get anything done and to stand out when they have a Republican president who is not a movement conservative? George Bush is a "conservative," but he's not "conservative." He is a Republican. This is not a criticism. We've known this all along. Bush, as opposed to Reagan, is not leading a movement. You don't sit down with Ted Kennedy and let him help write the education bill; you don't join with Ted Kennedy and McCain on the immigration bill. You talk about Republicans and spending? A lot of these spending initiatives came from the White House!"

"It's what Bush wanted to do, his idea of a compassionate conservative, think of it what you will. But when you have conservatives in the House, it's much more difficult to break away from a president in your own party. If you do that, it won't be you who are upset with them. It will be the White House, and the White House will not help 'em campaign the next two years, will not direct money to them from the RNC, which is run by the president and his people. So these guys in the House finally had enough with Porter Goss being canned, when they were told that wouldn't happen, and they finally did buck their own president on immigration. It was late in the summer. Has it bought 'em any goodwill at all? No."

Beldar, it’s hard enough to fight the Democrats in Congress day and day out as a Republican, but near impossible to continually fight a Republican president as well. At best, the conservatives will be able to pick a few critical pieces of legislation to buck McCain on, and then all hell will break loose. McCain has shown he is petty and vindictive and, unlike Bush, will do everything he can to avenge himself on those who oppose him. Why do you think Senator Coryn and everyone else is climbing on the Be-Nice-To-John Express?

I did not say I would vote for Hillary or Obama. And I did not say I would not vote. I will vote on every down-ticket position on the ballot. But I cannot say I will vote for McCain for President.

(48) walt made the following comment | Feb 10, 2008 7:29:53 PM | Permalink

"Now, the GOP can engage in the same misuse of parliamentary process that the DEMS (and McCain) endorse, i.e., use cloture to impose a 60 vote margin on contentious nominees."

The problem is that if McCain is not elected, the Republicans may not be able to stop anything since the DEMS may have at least 60 senators. If McCain elected and tries to appoint a Roberts clone and the DEMS stall, then the Republicans have a good issue for the 2010 midterm elections.

(49) cboldt made the following comment | Feb 11, 2008 4:56:20 AM | Permalink

The problem is that if McCain is not elected, the Republicans may not be able to stop anything since the DEMS may have at least 60 senators.

The future is unknown, but if history is a guide, the GOP wouldn't resort to blocking a DEM nominee anyway. Majority or minority status doesn't matter. The GOP endorsed Ginsberg in a 96-3 vote, despite concerns that her advocacy positions would spill over into judicial fiat.

I do see a risk, and a gap between McCain as nominator, and Clinton or Obama as nominator. My general point was that I don't see this gap as being large.

The GOP has a good issue NOW, in the form of DEM obstruction of judicial nominees -- it's had that issue for 5 or 6 years now, in spades after McCain formed the odious Gang-of-14.

The GOP in general, and McCain in particular, seems to agree that the Senate has a right to assert a 60 vote margin for confirmation. The party keeps the peace with its opposition by keeping contentious nominees away from the Senate floor.

My belief is that McCain will pre-clear nominees with DEMs in the Senate: seeing as he finds a 60 vote margin to be "proper," and that he thinks the Senate's role includes providing advice in advance of the nomination.

As far as I'm concerned, the GOP has enabled an unhealthy shift in the balance of power on the subject of judicial appointments, toward the Senate and away from the president, and McCain is a leader of that movement.

(50) cboldt made the following comment | Feb 11, 2008 5:12:14 AM | Permalink

As Senator Coburn noted, McCain voted to confirm Bork, Thomas, Owens as well as Roberts and Alito.

And Ginsberg and Breyer too.

Presenting McCain's AYE votes for Bush's nominees, as though it's a complete history that indicates the future, is misleading. McCain was instrumental in torpedoing the nominations of a number of Circuit Court nominees that were objectionable to a minority of senators -- torpedoing them without the courtesy of an up or down vote.

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