Are McCain and Hillary/Obama really the same?

I do wonder if my ability to accept McCain is fairly easy because I’m a pragmatist, a neocon or a simplistic thinker. The first is the argument I make: McCain’s not perfect, but he’s better than the Democratic candidates. The second argument is that, because I’m a neophyte conservative, I’m more easily able to back away from core conservative matters and contemplate a more liberal conservative (if that last isn’t an oxymoron). Maybe so. And finally, one could argue that I’ve just got a fairly primitive brain that can’t handle too many complex ideas.

For example, in comments to my posts about McCain, Earl has taken a very interesting, thoughtful and nuanced position. As I understand it, he feels that, if Hillary is in the White House, the Republicans in Congress will act as a strong bulwark against her more liberal policies. However, if McCain is in the White House, he’s inevitably going to drag these same Republicans to the Left, because they won’t be able to form a strong opposition — he is, after all, of their party — and there will be an inevitable drift into the Democratic camp. As for me, probably because I’m not a very nuanced thinker, while I can understand what Earl is saying, I just have a hard time envisioning it actually happening. I think that’s more a limitation in my thinking than a practical statement about the realities that we may face in 2009 if McCain is President. Nevertheless, for every person who thinks in the complex, strategic way that Earl does, I suspect that there are at least two blockheads like me who will be voting in the Fall.

Because Earl is looking beyond McCain and examining McCain’s interaction with Congress, I thought that William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn had a very interesting point about Congress’s impact, not on McCain, but on Hillary, who has suddenly become the candidate of choice for conservatives worried about McCain:

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: We are in an existential war against Islamic terrorists throughout the world. This very week, Senator Clinton was asked what her first act in office would be. She stated that first act would be the beginning of the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq within 60 days. Her first act. That is a surrender to the enemy — there is no other way to portray such a withdrawal and there is no other way it will be portrayed by our enemies and other observers around the world.

Some will say, “She can’t mean it, she’s stronger and more sensible than that.” Caution: Recall that Senator Clinton will be our commander-in-chief from a party that also runs the Senate and House — and the leadership in the Senate and House, not to mention the most active members in them, want us out of Iraq. Even on her most “sensible” day do we think she can be relieved of that pressure? The Democrats on the Hill have been chomping at the bit to make good on their 2006 promises; will she really turn on them? Can she?

In other words, if one assumes — as one must — that Congress will continue with a Democratic majority, even a small one, that majority will push the Commander in Chief — that is, Hillary — to exercise her unique prerogative to end the war. No Republican coalition, no matter how vocal and coordinated, can stop that from happening. Since I believe, as do Bennett and Leibsohn, that the War against Islamism is the most serious existential issue of our time, that’s kind of the end of the argument. Hillary = dangerous when it comes to Islamists; McCain = fairly solid when it comes to Islamists. (And maybe that’s the neocon in me speaking again.)

Bennett and Leibsohn are also more sanguine than are my “I’m an ardent conservative but will vote for Hillary” readers when it comes to the Supreme Court:

Second, we come to the realization that at least one Supreme Court justice is about to retire, and several others will be over age 70 come January 2009. Do we really think the nominees Senator McCain or Clinton (or Obama ) would appoint will be no different?

Let’s go to their records, to the very time-period opponents of Senator McCain cite in their indictment of him.

McCain voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year, Clinton didn’t and would likely expand Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding.

McCain voted to ban partial-birth abortion, Clinton didn’t and would likely reverse the partial-birth abortion ban.

McCain voted for Roberts and Alito and made the case for them in the media, Clinton didn’t.

And in recent spending votes, McCain is also distinguishable from the Democratic herd, even though he’s not as much as a hardliner as solid conservatives would wish:

McCain has never voted for a tax increase, Clinton will increase taxes.

McCain will continue the Bush tax cuts, Clinton will end them.

McCain will end pork-barrel spending, Clinton supports the endowment of projects like the Woodstock Museum with taxpayer funding.

Even on free speech, as to which McCain bears the huge black mark of McCain-Feingold, it will still be worse under Hillary: “McCain sponsored legislation to keep the Fairness Doctrine from rearing its head again, Clinton has not and has signaled moves to revive it.”

The differences that Bennett and Leibsohn point out between the two candidates go on and on and on. It’s worthwhile to read these differences because I think McCain has become something of a bogey-man. He’s certainly not a conservative purist, but he’s no liberal.

Also, as you read the comparisons, it’s important to keep in mind that we internet geeks are the ones who care most strongly about politics, so we’re most likely to stake out carefully thought through ideological positions that are probably going to be more . . . extreme? pure? rigid? Pick your word or add one of your own. The same doesn’t hold true for the vast number of voters, people who want someone who is pretty much like them on most issues, and who isn’t planning on walking away from a war or turning our laws over to the sharia courts. As for all the other issues? Well, as far as those voters are concerned, the other issues are for the blogosphere to argue about.

And as I’ve said in other posts, there is a very good chance that people are clustering in the McCain center because they find almost impossible to contemplate another four years (or more) of the intense political hostility that characterized both the Clinton and Bush presidencies.

I’ll give Bennett and Leibsohn the last word, one that looks to the two alternatives of a McCain presidency and that opts for the more optimistic one:

Let’s admit the concern: Some people predict that a President McCain will open the borders, close Guantanamo, and tie our policies to some false premises related to global warming. We hope he doesn’t, but even critics must admit it is just as likely — if not more so — that his legacy will be the following: He pursued al-Qaeda to the ends of the Earth and vanquished them; he cut deficit spending and vetoed pork-barrel spending over and over again; he appointed four good justices to the Supreme Court; and he reinvigorated a sense of thoughtful patriotism, citizenship, and unselfish devotion to the Republic.


11 Responses

  1. Isn’t it sad for conservatives that the best argument in support of the Republican nominee consists of comparing him to Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama?

    ‘Yeah, he’s not so great, but look…he’s better than them on two…no THREE! yeah, three issues! The contrast is to Hillary Clinton, no less. Who would’ve dreamed 2 years ago that we would possibly be debating whether our Republican nominee is better than HILLARY CLINTON?

    Where is the leadership in McCain?

    I’m still torn on the whole thing. I think the argument Earl brought up has a lot of merit. The way things work in D.C., a member of congress HAS to support his President the vast majority of the time if he doesn’t want to ruin his career.

    Now, the thing that scares us about McCain is his liberal policies…so we know we won’t be able to count on opposition from the Dems…they’ll just be pushing things further in that direction…and we all know McCain how much McCain loves to make them (and the left-leaning media) happy.

    So who will apply the brakes? No one, as far as I can tell. The only exceptions to party loyalty in D.C. comes from ‘mavericks’ like McCain…but those ‘mavericks’ NEVER go out on a limb alone. They join up with the other party -and that won’t be an option in this case- that’s the direction we don’t want it to go.

    As a matter of fact, that has been the source of McCain’s power..his constant threat to vote with the Dems has gained him huge influence within the Rep. party. The Republicans HAD to constantly check in with him and make sure he had what he wanted or he would put their majority at risk. Remember Jeffers? Same thing.

    That won’t work in this situation. Mavericks going against a liberal agenda cannot threaten the Republican Party in any way. There is nowhere for them to go, no one to team up with….all they can do is ruin their own career. So who applies the brakes?

  2. It’s true that conservatives would look forward with distaste at having to fight a President from their own Republican party. As they’ve had to fight George Bush quite often.

    That would be NOTHING compared to having to battle Hillary and a Democrat Senate and House.

    A fight is what it will take to keep McCain’s worst in check:
    – Once the border is secure, McCain will try for some sort of amnesty package. But so did Bush. Easily defeated and prevented. (There’s help from the left on this one; many don’t want it either)
    – Supreme Court justices: This should be easier than George Bush. You won’t see a Harrier Myers nominated. If there is any problem, though, a fight will take care of it.
    – Lower taxes: McCain will lower taxes only if there are spending cuts associated with it. He will hold the line on current tax cuts. That’s not too bad of a position to take.
    – Guantanamo Bay and “torture” : This one might be difficult. I think we can find a way around the problem. McCain will keep up (otherwise) a VERY VERY strong offense against the jihadists. He’s no friend of Saudi Arabia, home of the Wahhabis and madrassas that preach jihad, so we’re better off there.

    And in every way, better off than with Hillary or Barack!

  3. I agree with you, Book, and I too thought the Bennett and Leibsohn essay had a lot of meat to consider. I too would not choose McCain as the Republican nominee if things were different, but now we must make the best overall choice for the country, not “sit home in a snit,” as you say!

    Conservatives must recalibrate now:

    And claiming that McCain in the White House will pull conservative Republicans to center, I think is an absurd proposition. Bush in the White House did not do that; his “centrist” policies galvanized conservatives to fight against them. I agree it is still better to have a centrist Republican in the White House standing against a Democrat-led Congress than it is to have a Democrat in the White House leading a Democrat-led Congress. I hope conservatives will take the time to consider that carefully.

  4. […] [Discuss This Topic with Bookworm] Share Article Hillary, McCain, Clinton, Obama    Sphere: Related Content Trackback URL […]

  5. First, let the record show that the use of terms such as “blockhead” is BW’s, not mine. I fully understand why people react so negatively to my suggestion that they consider the possibility that a Hillary presidency might be less dangerous to our nation than a McCain presidency. My own reaction to voting for Hillary Clinton over John McCain is, as my brother suggests, to reach for a glass of a very strong anti-emetic.

    I do want to thank Tap, who has clearly expressed my concerns in a different way, a way that may assist others to understand that we’re not simply daft. Mike may be correct in his assessment of the future – none of us really know what is going to happen. I’m not so sanguine about McCain’s real “core”, if there is one…..he has played to the media and the leftists (think of all those bills where he combined with enemies of conservatism – has he EVER gotten together to write a bill with someone that he SAYS he identifies with?) so consistently over a such a long time that I wonder why so many are so eager to assume that he is either a conservative, or that we can count on him to act like one when he becomes President. What is the source of that confidence? Or should we call ilt “hope”?

    I think it’s unlikely that the leopard is going to change his spots, is all. Does ANYONE doubt that the “drive-by media” has chosen the Republican candidate? Are we really going to simply rationalize the choice in terms of how well this can turn out, rather than ask ourselves WHY this man is the Dems’ and the media’s favorite Republican? My answer is that he’s their favorite because he really *isn’t* what he claims to be. And for reasons clearly enunciated by Tap, I think that presents us with the real possibility that he would be a bigger danger than Hillary.

    NOT that he will drag genuine conservatives to the middle — I don’t see that happening. But, there is a bell curve over the Republicans in Congress in terms of their conservatism. And those on the left side of the curve are going to be tempted to “cooperate for the good of the country” with those who are the enemies of property rights; who are the enemies of a comprehensively stout defense of Western Civilization and the United States; who are the enemies of certain parts of the Bill of Rights; who are the enemies of those who see American citizenship as a reward for demonstrated respect for the rule of law and the culture of our nation; etc., etc. And John McCain has NOT shown himself to be stalwart in these areas, folks — or, if he has and I’ve missed it, please come up with examples of his ACTIONS prior to the current Presidential campaign.

  6. Everything you say is true about McCain, Earl, but I still have trouble thinking that Hillary wont’ be worse. I guess I have a very hard time imagining Congressional Republicans developing backbone at this late stage in the game and actually blunting the force of her worst initiatives.

    (And yes, I denominated myself a blockhead, because I recognize that you’re a more sophisticated thinker in this area than I am.)

    When caught between the Scylla and Charybdis, there’s a temptation just to abandon ship, isn’t there? I have the very unpleasant sensation this election cycle that there are no good options, only bad ones.

    Still, and with all due respect to your very well-reasoned, well-thought-out arguments, I’m going to cast my luck with McCain — at least for the time being. Maybe after being a conservative for such a short time relative to my whole voting career, I just can’t bear the thought of flip-flopping right back into Democratic arms.

  7. Can’t blame you too much, BW…..remember, your former political identity is closely identified with voting on the basis of feelings. My own feelings are much as yours are. I’m not saying what I’ll be capable of in the voting booth…..I’m analyzing here. I hope that more conservatives (new or old) will put aside who they can bear to vote for or not, and do some careful analysis. I’ve asked some questions, above, that I don’t know the answers to — I’m very curious to know the facts about some of this stuff. I hear VERY LITTLE about the factual content of McCain’s performance over the last several years, and it seems to me that this is the best evidence we have available if we want to know what he’s likely to do in the future.

    Second is the question of what Republicans in Congress will do. Please don’t think that I believe many of them are going to suddenly grow backbones – Not. Going. To. Happen. But, with Hillary in office, it is the electorate who will provide the spine-stiffener. Haven’t you noticed how the prospect of losing an election will concentrate the mind of a politician? For the best recent example, notice McCain’s current campaign… he talking like he did back in Washington in 2005? On the other hand, with McCain in office, acting like he did BEFORE the campaign, how effective will that spine-stiffener be? With many Repubs, it will work just fine…..but on the left side of the curve, we’re going to lose a lot of them. Again, if you analyze the situation, without regard to your feelings about who you’ll vote for in the end, what answer do you come up with?

  8. If you have ANY questions about McCain and his performance as President, don’t miss this piece:

    Here is how it starts:

    Picture a President John McCain , next January, making his first appeal to Congress. What might that message entail? Certainly, it will include something about Iraq, and the war on terror, and other elements of national security and defense that will put him at odds with the majority Democrats.

    But then, the new president will turn his attention to his domestic agenda. And he likely will be facing a Congress with larger majorities of Democrats than it now has. The electoral math all but guarantees Democratic gains in the Senate. The House looks pretty good for them, too. If President McCain wants legislative victories, he will have to turn to those majorities to get them enacted.

    And he will be happy to do so. That’s how McCain has always operated, and there is no reason to believe that if he becomes president, he will operate in any other manner.

    Yep…..that’s what I’m talking about.

  9. Having even larger Democrat majorities in the House and Senate do not harm McCain in my eyes given the choice: McCain or the Dem. nominee. That would make me more likely to vote for him.

    Of course, your main point remains – it will likely increase the damage that McCain will do, too.

  10. The Clinton campaign didn’t have a healthcare plan befor it felled and they don’t have one now. Well to be honest, if everyone is a goverment employee, then the Clinton healthcare plan will work for everyone. Unfortunately some are self employed, independent contractors or work for private employors or small business. Under the Clinton healthcare plan these people would be penalized if they don’t pay for their healthcare. This means that most of your family members and friends will have their paychecks garnished. We all know that it doesn’t stop there if it is a goverment enforcement. There will be fines and then misdemeanors which is a criminal offense defined as less serious than a felony. Why did Ms. Clinton decide on this approach? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Big business, big Corporation call it what you will, they want their money back and in order for Ms. Clinton to get their support in her race to presidency she is giving victory to one side (the healthcare providers) by promising to them that she will have the poeople wages garnished if they continue to give healthcare. Thus allowing her to shout the words “UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE” This is a shady tactic and makes fools out of every american that falls for this trick. The Obama healthcare plan is for the people. Poor people, middle class and rich people can rest assured that there is no tricks or penalties in the Obama healthcare plan. VOTE OBAMA!!

  11. way to long but i agree go obama boo mcain

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