It’s a metaphor I’m going to beat to death in the coming week and a half. Politics is a tug of war.
And right now, the tug I’m following is within the GOP.
Although my choice for the caucuses was still up in the air as of yesterday, it was going to be between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Two good friends and colleagues of mine – Dennis Prager and Ed Morrissey – endorsed Rudy and Mitt, respectively, and for reasons I fully support.
Truth be told, I was planning on caucusing for Giuliani on Super Tuesday. Not “endorsing” Giuliani, because me and my political decisions are of no interest to anyone. But for whatever it’s worth, I was going to take it to the floor for Rudy. He has the combination of executive experience, fiscal conservatism and leadership that I think this nation needs. He’d have needed his feet held to the fire about nominating constructionist judges, of course, and the national media would have done to his personal life as the regional media did to Rod Grams (but, oddly, not Bill Clinton).
But there’s been a change of plan.
I’m a movement conservative first and a Republican second. My goal is to do what it takes to move the party to the right. My prototype for this idea was the 2002 Minnesota Gubernatorial nomination; during the convention, the insurgent candidacy of conservative Brian Sullivan drove pragmatist Tim Pawlenty to the right, enough that after over a dozen ballots he was able to win the nomination and, in November, the general election. I could have, and would have, gotten behind either one, because the alternative, Roger Moe, was too awful to think about.
And so it is this year; John McCain, whatever his sins against conservatism and conservatives, would be better than any of the Tic alternatives. He launched McCain-Feingold, but even the BCRA isn’t as bad as Hillary’s “Fairness Doctrine”; he’s wrong on immigration, but Madame Putin and Barack O’Kennedy would be worse; consulting with Carl Levin on judges is bad, but not as bad as having Levin controlling the president’s actions as he would with either of the Tic contenders. And McCain is right on so many issues; spending (although he needs to get religion on taxes), the war, the Second Amendment, and many more. Perfect is the enemy of good enough – and McCain would not just be the lesser of three evils when stacked up against Madame Putin and O’Kennedy – he’s lesser in the “evil” department by head, shoulders and ankles.
But the general election is nine months away; the convention, seven; Super Di Duper Tuesday, a week and a half. Today is not the time to settle for the lesser of evils; not yet.
So I’ll be caucusing for Romney on Tuesday. I’m going to do my bit to make sure that the media coronation of their pet Republican gets a steep, snarling speed bump, courtest of the right; I’m going to give the Straight Talk Express some straight talk of my own, right into the teeth of the gale, and make damn sure Mac knows that, while I’ll work and donate and vote for him should he come out with the nomination, there is a movement here that he’ll ignore, or antagonize, at his own peril.
You listening, John?
“Bogus” Doug over at True North says:
Seriously, despite the blather, John McCain is no liberal. Neither was (umm… I mean IS… he’s not technically dead. Just pining for the fjords.) Rudy. Neither is Mitt. They’re all merely imperfect in their execution of whatever conservative perfection is supposed to be these days…
…On to Super Tuesday and the Minnesota Caucus… where I shall be politely applauding the cause of the Man from Michigan Utah Massachusetts. But I’m not going to be all lathered up about it. Nor foaming at the mouth if the zeitgeist of my fellows ends up endorsing McCain. Any other result will get the expected mockery of course. But I’ll at least get some entertainment out of it, so even that wouldn’t be a total loss.
Thorley Winston stated a thought-provoking case for JMac last fall – one that coincided with my Road to
Damascus Tempe moment at the December 8 debate, where I noticed that Mac does say a lot of the right things. (Thorley – get back to blogging, man!)
Jay Reding (I add emphasis):
Sen. John McCain is an American hero, a man of great personal integrity and someone who has always stood strongly on the side of his country. He often rubs conservatives the wrong way, and his “maverick” image causes much consternation—however, when it comes right down to it a man who agrees with us 80% of the time is better than a woman who represents the worst of American politics and a man whose great rhetoric is but a cover for a fundamental lack of real-world experience. We may have our issues with John McCain, but when it comes down to the basic principles of the party: fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense and strengthening the family, McCain has his heart in the right place.
Conservatives should make their voices heard, and they should continue to push Sen. McCain towards the mainstream of the party as they have on issues like immigration. However, if McCain gets the nomination—and it seems altogether likely that he will—conservatives cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. John McCain will cut wasteful spending in Washington, defend our troops in Iraq and our war against radical Islamist terrorism and will continue to be a strong voice for respecting human life, born and unborn. He may not be perfect, but he can lead, and we need true leadership in Washington more than anything else.
If Romney wants to build momentum and define the race in binary conservative vs moderate terms, he has to start tonight and get aggressively positive about his credentials. He has only a few days in which he can crowd McCain out of the messaging. If he can’t do that tonight and for the next five days, he will have little chance of prevailing, especially if McCain takes a big delegate lead next week.
What does McCain need to do? He needs to reach out to conservatives. He started last night with a gracious victory speech, but he needs to address the real and honest concerns on policy that conservatives still have with McCain. They need to see McCain promise to go after the Democrats with the same fervor that he went after Republicans over the years, and he has to convince them that he won’t go back on his word on border security and tax cuts. After this debate, he has to make a significant outreach effort, and CPAC would be the best place to do this.
What I find particularly hard to swallow, though — and this is not Bill’s problem — are the people who say that if Romney doesn’t make it they’ll vote Democratic rather than support McCain because McCain’s not a true conservative. Maybe not, but neither is Romney, and it seems like a strange place to draw the line. Those who hold a special grudge against McCain over immigration or McCain-Feingold are a different case. But again, everybody gets to vote how they want. Just be prepared to live with the results.
More as we get closer to the cauci.