Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is he one of "us"? Are you???

Since so much talk lately on the conservative side has centered on “what makes one of us?”, I decided that I should probably sit down and give a little thought into what I think an American conservative is, and then to stack John McCain against my own developed thoughts to see how easily he passes my own standards. I would encourage everyone to do the same, because each of us will come up with different results. With that, I begin my list.

To me, an American conservative:

-- recognizes the existence of an Almighty. For two reasons I put this on my list of conservative traits. For starters, there’s the role that religious belief played in the history of this country. Even if for no other reason then as a source for inspiration that helped found this country, conservatives should understand the positive value of belief in God. The second reason that I put this trait on the list is that there ain’t no better way to explain the existence of life here or anywhere else in this universe. Try as science might, they still fall short of explaining how matter one (my own personal designation for the first piece of matter that existed) came into being. Conservatives do not deny this shortcoming in science, and they seek an explanation for it--an explanation that points to the divine.

-- values human life. This is manifest not just in the strong opposition to the destruction of a human life that cannot defend itself, but also in the actions that conservatives will find acceptable to protect those who can not be trusted to act in their own best interests (children, criminals, etc.)

-- believes that the purpose of government is to provide opportunities for the citizenship to find and explore answers, not to provide answers. Conservatives’ default position is that our fellow man can think for him/herself, and should be held accountable for those decisions that they make.

-- values individualism and the contributions an individual can make to society--provided it is not disruptive to the pursuit of happiness for other citizens.

-- denounces bigotry. Conservatives measure others by deeds, not by race, creed, or gender.

-- understands that sacrifice is necessary for the protection of the state. Notice I said “state”, not “the government” or “the administration”. Things like FISA and ANWR go directly to this point: personal liberty (FISA) and environmentalism (ANWR) are both noble ideas that should be vigorously protected--except when the good of the state is at risk (read: national security). Conservatives understand that without a secure state, there will be an unacceptable opening--perhaps even a yearning--for intrusive government that limits the choices of an individual.

-- understands that not all players on any stage have the best interests of Americans (or other Americans) at heart. There isn’t a “fundamental goodness” about everyone--there is only a willingness to let that person/persons prove their worth (or lack thereof) through their own words and deeds.

-- thinks that parents should raise children, not the state.

-- is disgusted by pork, which adds to the bill that the American people are stuck paying.

How does McCain stack up? Well, point-by-point:

-- he has publicly spoken (see last post) about his belief in God--in fact, I am still struck by the simplicity but beauty of the statement he made. Score one for McCain.

-- McCain has a mostly solid--but not spectacular--pro-life record. His website highlights his opposition to Roe v Wade--which is necessary wording for anyone running as a conservative, but I think it‘s kind of a red herring. Roe v Wade likely won’t be overturned on a states-rights basis--it will need science proving that a pillar of that horrible decision was wrong-headed and faddish. Absent that--and it could happen in the next 4 years, but then again I thought Romney would win Florida--I think Roe will be left alone. On other topics, his website also highlights his stance against human cloning activities and his desire to protect our children from predators. While not perfect, he’s good enough for me. Score another for McCain.

-- regarding the role of government, I grade McCain as mixed. While I appreciate his stances against socialized medicine and his desire to promote judges that are constructionist in nature , his authorship of McCain-Liebermann falls flat on my ears. And his creation of a super-legislature in the gang of 14 is a definite black mark. I won’t quite give him a thumb’s down, but he isn’t going to get a point here, either.

-- points 4 and 5 are kind of related, so I’ll grade them as one. I think it is clear that he shows a great interest in humanity (his reasons for supporting the naturalization of immigrants shows this); as such, he is unlikely to devalue humans for any reason, much less based on some prejudice. Score one for McCain.

-- McCain understands self-sacrifice to a degree that no other major party candidate of the last 40 years save Bob Dole did; however, I don’t know that he has the whole bubble legislatively. Even I can appreciate a desire to protect a “pristine” lot of land--even if it wasn’t really pristine. But to me, the overriding question is: how does the issue relate to national security? Whereas the ability to intercept the communications of terrorists has an unquestioned tie-in to making our nation more secure, I also happen to think that our reliance--to whatever extent it exists--on foreign oil is a severe hindrance to this nation’s overall security. When we have the ability to lessen that reliance literally under our own noses and we don’t do it because of environmentalist concerns. . .well, that’s just plain dumb. (I also hold out for hope in alternative sources of energy. But we ain't there yet. And I don't know when we will be) Again, I’m all about saving the environment--but environmentalism is an issue that takes a backseat to national security to me. Also, the porous border is a HUGE national security concern to me, and McCain was wrong-headed on this topic as recently as this summer. Again, I’m with him that the immigration debate requires a humanitarian resolution--although we differ on what constitutes “humanitarian”. As President, if he gets presented an immigration bill from the Democrat-controlled Congress that takes steps shy of securing the border while clearly delineating a path to citizenship for illegals, will he really veto it while asking for more? Listen, I am 100% positive that McCain will pursue terrorists where he KNOWS they are. . .I’m just concerned about his lack of imagination in seeing how other “interests” hurt our overall security. I’m actually going to knock him a point here--not because he’s entirely wrong, but because he can’t be wrong AT ALL about homeland defense.

-- I think McCain proves time and again that he understands that there isn’t necessarily a fundamental “goodness” about everyone--he lets actions speak for themselves. And he has a good, long memory. Score one for McCain.

-- McCain’s website has a lot of good stuff about the raising of our kids and who is responsible for it. Score one for McCain.

-- I don’t think there’s any question about where McCain stands regarding pork in our government. In fact, the only thing he has to say to win me over from a fiscal standpoint is to publicly take a stand against earmarks--which he has done, and which I believe he will deliver on in office. Again, score one for McCain.

By my counts, that’s 6 yeas, one push, and one nay. I think he is solidly conservative. . .but I really really REALLY hope that he starts getting imaginative about the efforts that need to be taken to secure this homeland.

What say you?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

a quick one this morning

I'm FINALLY getting around to blogging about McCain's speech at CPAC last week.

Not that you need me to tell you that he did well there. Or even that you need ANYBODY to tell you that he did well there. By now, if you're truly interested in the advancement of conservative principles, as are most people who've even HEARD of CPAC, then you've come to realize that there's no way we can sit idly by why a Clinton or Obama administration sets this country back YEARS and years, potentially in a devastating manner. McCain is our candidate now, end of story.

But on to the speech: it was all-in-all okay, maybe not the stuff of Lincoln or Reagan but definitely not a snorer. It did have one key moment, I thought, right at the start of the thing:

I am proud to be a conservative, and I make that claim because I share with you that most basic of conservative principles: that liberty is a right conferred by our Creator, not by governments, and that the proper object of justice and the rule of law in our country is not to aggregate power to the state but to protect the liberty and property of its citizens

I have been stewing over this line for a week now, and I like it more and more every time I hear it. Now I'm not going to do the legwork to see if he has always legislated in the manner which this quote points to, but I gotta tell ya': as President, if he would GOVERN according to this basic principle, then I would be happy.

And I think this sets up some key lines of demarcation with the eventual Democratic nominee, both of which can't wait to give the state more control of our lives.

Score one for McCain.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

CPAC sure was interesting, eh?

Wow, what a day!

And I'm not talking just about Romney's decision to bow out. Although I was sad to see it happen, I can understand why he did it. I only wish he would have set the stage ever so slightly better for McCain. . but I'm being picky here.

I AM enjoying watching some of the commentary in favor of McCain now. I think Paul at Powerline said it best: "McCain is not as bad as some conservatives made him out to be when it looked like his nomination might be avoided, and he's not as good as other conservative will make him out to be now that his nomination is inevitable". Here's the bottom line, and one that hopefully everybody who considers themself a conservative will arrive at before that magic day in November: a President McCain would be a heckuva lot better on absolutely every front than a President Clinton or a President Obama. Honestly, tell me one scary initiative that McCain has supported to gain the ire of conservatives that wouldn't be supported by a Democratic White House. Now tell me all the things that McCain does right--and there's a lot of them, starting but definitely not ending with the war in Iraq--that would be similarly supported by Clinton or Obama. Suddenly the difference between Clinton, Obama, and ANY SEMBLANCE of a conservative agenda over the next 4 years becomes crystal clear--and so does our choice in November. There's no option to sit on the sidelines, people--4 years in the wrong direction is way too dangerous of a proposition while we are engaged in a struggle of civilizations.

On another front: I watched Obama's speech on Tuesday night. Now I know I'm a little skeptical when it comes to him. . .but isn't his strength as a communicator supposed to win even people like me over? I thought he was remarkably long-winded. . .I mean REALLY long-
winded. And he absolutely said nothing. Oh, he's great at pointing out the ills of society--as he sees them--but where's the solutions? The fact that this man of no letters is "this" close to being a Presidential nominee of a major party speaks loads about our current political landscape.

And it ain't pretty.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The morning after

Okay, now let's see how quickly I can reverse some of the things I wrote last night:

For starters, upon further review I don't think Huckabee's performance makes him the odds-on favorite for VP on McCain's ticket. McCain did really really well in all the states Huck showed any strength--except Arkansas. Is it worth "locking up" this state's recently-reliable red vote by putting Huck on the ticket vice putting on, say, Rudy Giuliani, who would help McCain actually compete in places like NJ, and hold strong in FL? I guess it all depends on who the Dems put forward, and that is far from decided at this stage.

Is it really a two-man race now, given Romney's abject failure in CA? No, it isn't. . .it's a one-man race. Face it, it's over. While I don't think Romney should necessarily pull out, I also don't think he should spend one more dime of his own money. Yes, it's suicide to his '08 campaign to stop self-funding--but that's the reality. My brother has some excellent ideas of what Romney could do from the formal end of this campaign until 2012 in order to further ingratiate himself with the party--a party that just didn't feel comfortable turning to him in this very important election year.

Wither talk radio, after the strong play made on Romney's behalf this past week? You know, I'll leave the debate about the medium's strength of "influence" to others--I don't listen to talk radio, so they don't "influence" me one way or the other. Heck, more often than not I get really irate listening to even Rush and Sean Hannity, so I am DEFINITELY not a good judge. But I do think there's a lesson here: it's much more influential to position yourself "FOR" somebody rather than "AGAINST" somebody. Rush waited 'til THIS WEEK to announce for Romney. And although he'd made his dislike of McCain and Huckabee clear well in advance of that time, not looking at a 3-man race that featured those two options and actually saying "I endorse Romney" hurts not only Romney, but also--and far more importantly--it hurts Rush's credibility to influence his audience. His audience was going to vote because they are a politically tuned populace, and Rush essentially didn't provide any reason to be listened to and allowed to influence the primaries until Monday. So I won't chalk up any of this as the "death" of conservative talk radio--but I do hope the talking heads learn a lesson. Running an Anything but (Insert Democrat name here) program well into November will not hold as much influence on moderates as actually running FOR McCain.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

the 10 o'clock report

Okay, some observations:

-- First of all, whoever made the call for McCain's people to get behind Huckabee in West Virginia made possibly the smartest call of the day. Romney's complaining--via a surrogate--that this action somehow was a "backroom deal" did not shine a good light on his political ear, either. Wouldn't it be funny if somehow that decision ends up backfiring on McCain?

-- Who'd have thunk that Huckabee would emerge from today still viable? And what we just saw was a man emerging as the no-brainer #2 on McCain's ticket--although I think that sets up a fun decision between him and McCain regarding illegal immigration.

-- I'm watching Hillary's speech right now, and I can't help but smile. The GOP should be able to trounce her easily. She's still running against Bush, when I think it's pretty obvious that McCain is going to run against Bush, too. As I wrote earlier, the only way the looming disaster for conservatism could not ruin my mood was if Hillary held the edge on the Dem side--which it appears that she did. There's still a lot of dust to be settled on the left side of the aisle, but tonight at least it looks to be good for Hillary. . .and that makes me feel better.

-- A lot has been made of McCain's relative weakness in his home state of Arizona. Well, Romney only won Massachusetts by 10%, too, and I'm sure McCain didn't spend too much time campaigning there. In fact, the only GOP candidate that really fared well in his homestate is Huckabee in Arkansas.

-- I like the talk forwarded by Huckabee that it's a two-man race--and one of them is him. I would honestly give that some credibility IF McCain wins California. If Romney wins CA, he's still the second dog--although as Bill Kristol pointed out on Fox, Romney's weakness in the South is very very troubling. You know, I've watched Huckabee speak 3 times now. . .I could get behind him. I think he's a little populist economically and a little green on foreign policy--but those are things that can be fixed with solid staff decisions. HE is someone who appears genuine and good-natured, and that is sorely missing in the other two candidates.

-- And that makes me want to take a pause here and look at some REALLY IMPORTANT albeit small races. I don't want to talk about CA, the only purpose of which is to potentially keep Romney's campaign afloat--that will be a blue state come November. All of Huckabee's already-stated wins came in states that will likely vote for the GOP candidate, too. Let's talk about some of the "battleground" states in November: Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota. It's still too early to call CO and MN, and MO is too close to call, but if Romney fares well in all three states--and returns thus far look encouraging--well, combined with his victory in Michigan, THAT is a reason to hope he finds a way to get to the convention.

More to follow. . .

verification. . .and prediction

First, a clarification: I don't think that on your 70th birthday you suddenly become incapable of running the country. I know plenty of spry-minded folks who have passed this age gate and who I would welcome as a leader in any capacity. I meant to say the other day that if age were to become an issue in an election, at least there is a slightly more reasonable basis for that issue than class rank and other such nonsense. And to clarify even that point: that doesn't make it an overall reasonable basis.

Again, this is a man (McCain) with enough legislative and campaign-trail miscues to pick on that there's no need to go personal on him. My apologies for any writing that led a reader to believe that I'm an agist.

ALL right, back to my regularly scheduled program:

My brother has dire predictions today for Romney. He captures brilliantly the same idea that I failed to quantify the other day: this race has McCain written all over it. I'll only disagree with him in one context: I think McCain actually has an above-average shot of beating the Clintons in a general election. Which is why I'll be paying as much attention to the Dem primaries tonight as to the GOP. With our candidate a foregone conclusion, I just hope beyond all reasonable hope that the Dem voters show themselves to be as clueless as they did in 2004.

Which brings me to my most recent death proclamation: the issue of "electability". I hope that this meme gets put to rest in a voter's mind at the end of this election. Or at least from GOP voters' minds.

It is, in all truth, a death knell to any ideological movement within a party.

In 2004 we laughed when the Dems nominated John Kerry based largely on the idea that he was "electable". Possibly the worst major-party candidate in a lifetime, he somehow lost a net 5 million individual votes from Al Gore's 2000 campaign. Some of that, of course, was because of Bush's strengths. . .but a lot of it was due to Kerry's overall averageness.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right?

Which isn't to say that McCain's only strength is the idea that he is "electable". I know quite a few McCain voters, and I'm willing to bet not a one of them will use the "e" word as the reason for their vote.

But I don't know EVERY McCain voter. And I'm equally willing to bet that there's a good chunk of people pulling the lever for St. John because they buy into the narrative that he is the "most electable". And that spells trouble.

Nominating the "electable" candidate means that the identifying features of the roots of the party will become ever-more vague--and that is far more the case with McCain to the GOP than it was with the liberal record of Kerry and the Democrats in 2004.

An "electable" candidate means trouble down-ticket, because the headliner just doesn't inspire enthusiasm from the base.

And here's my biggest beef: the application of the title "electable". Isn't the "electable" candidate the one who has the greatest opportunity to maintain the base while rallying independents and moderates to the cause?

Kerry failed in the latter score, largely because he was disingenuine and contradictory; McCain gets tabbed as "electable" because of his strength in the middle, but may well fail on the former score unless the conservatives rally to an "ABD" battle cry (that's Anything But Donkeys). And we've still yet to see if the Dems of '08 repeat the failure of '04 by nominating Clinton (who would fail in rallying the middle to her/their cause)--but I can hope.

Of course, the time for this dissertation--and far more importantly, its adoption--was pre-Florida when the GOP field was more diverse. Now, with only three serious but flawed candidates left on the ticket, "electable" is as good of a course as any to follow--but not for McCain, who is not, I think, the most electable. When Rush seriously doubts he'll campaign actively for you, then you are NOT electable for the GOP, period.

And just because it's "the best course" doesn't make it a good course. I'm quite a-feared that November 2008 will end up proving to our side of the aisle that we are just as prone to make some really bad electoral mistakes as our fellow Americans from the other side of the spectrum.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

THAT'S a Super Bowl!

What a game!

Last-minute heroics.

An UNBELIEVABLE catch. We're talking on par with the immaculate reception and some of Lynn Swann's antics.

And in the end: one of the biggest upsets in the history of football.

What a game!

This Pats team? Yes, they were good--but they can't even begin to enter the rankings of "best team ever" until you get down to #43.

It's all about the ring, baby. And Junior Seau still ain't got one.

What a game!

What I wouldn't do to have the Broncs be able to get pressure on the QB like the G-men did tonight.

Some key plays: I'll go with Tuck's fumble-causing sack with under a minute left in the first half that kept a decent-looking Pats drive from putting them up by at least a touchdown as one of the biggies; obviously, Tyree's freakin' unbelievable catch after Manning pulled a Houdini on the final drive; and of course the d-backs not leaving Moss alone despite the fact he was 70 YARDS from the QB on Brady's next to last heave-ho (seriously, a 70-yard dart. That guy is sick!).

What a game!

a dose of reality, please

Okay, so thus far in the primary season I have called exactly two things right: Thompson dropping out after South Carolina, and . . .uh. . .well, apparently, I've even lost my ability to count.

Geez, I really stink at this prognostication business.

And yet, undeterred, onward I press!

Some observations off the bat, because some things have really been sticking in my craw: first off, I think McCain is getting some really below-the-belt attacks thrown his way. I mean really: finishing in the bottom 1% of his class at Annapolis is somehow worthy of scorn? Take it from me (think Lloyd Bridges in Hot Shots part deux, "I went to Annapolis!"), the bottom 1% of a graduating class at USNA represents a whole bunch of people who would have done really really well in a state school--if they had the focus for it. Most of the lower-ranked folks I knew worked their tails off and endured extra administrative burdens (withdrawn liberty, academic boards and the like) that would make even some strong-willed people decide to throw in the towel. SO let's cut the man a little slack, shall we? It's not like he ever argued he was the smartest man in the room--in fact, everything he does belies the fact that he KNOWS he isn't the smartest man in the room.

As for the attacks on his age? Well, I hate to say it, but in my humble opinion there is an ever-so-slight degree of merit to inquisitions along those lines. It's not just that he's old, either--it's that for 5-plus years of his life he was forced to endure conditions that are beyond rational understanding in this day and age. So it's not like he's a "young" 71--he's all of 71 and a little more, if you know what I mean. And that could be a concern. At the debate the other night he was impatient, irritated, monothematic. . .which are traits I associate with overeager young activists hepped up on Starbucks and with old, deenergized adults. McCain falls squarely into one of these groups, and it ain't the young 'uns.

BUT REALLY, there are enough possible criticisms of McCain stemming from his record in the Senate and things that he's said on the campaign trail that I don't know why anyone would attack the man personally. I mean, there's something there for everyone! SO keep the attacks above the belt, shall we?

NEXT: Mark Steyn put in much better words something that I posted the other day, which is that as much as I really WANT to adore Romney, the candidate himself doesn't inspire that kind of belief in him. I blame this squarely on the fact that he doesn't seem willing to get in there and mix it up. One of the many things I love about our current president is that he didn't--until recently with all this Annapolis conference and associated crap--shrink away from a challenge. The GOP primary season is down to two people on the exact opposite ends of that spectrum (is that possible? I guess I just created a three-dimensional spectrum): one who can't wait to challenge all the wrong people (McCain), and one who won't stand up to a challenge presented ever so clearly to him (Romney). And Romney's crime is every bit as frustrating as is McCain's. He needs to remember that the conservative bloc is where people see things in mostly black and white hues--gray is for the other side of the political spectrum. When someone calls you out, you've got to defend yourself. To not do so isn't "dignified" or "above the fray"--it's just wrong. And every time he retreats from a challenge is another perfect opportunity missed. I'm not sure he has any opportunities left.

WHICH GETS ME TO MY FINAL BEEF. I saw a post today that cited a ZOGBY poll in California, showing Romney ahead. Isn't Zogby the pollster that we righties have condemned as the least reliable one? Oh, well of course that's the case--until it says something we like. Listen, the numbers themselves may be right, and they may be wrong (Zogby's actually done fairly well so far this cycle--with the exception of being 10 pts off against Romney in Michigan), but at this stage of the game there's NO REASON to think that movement in one poll shows anything other than the inbred inaccuracies of that poll's methodolgy.

I am just skeptical that there's some great "movement" afoot to Romney's camp. Maybe I'm wrong, of course, but I don't see that he comes out of SuperTuesday looking too good.

What I think. . .

Okay, the most attention-grabbing event of the day goes down like this: New England by 12.

I think the first half will play as kind of a wash until the last 5 minutes or so, where something happens to give the Pats some kind of edge. Out of the gun in the second half, the Pats will put distance between them and the Giants. The result will be out of question by early in the 4th--but that won't keep the Giants from playing to the end, and making up some ground in the last 7 minutes.

SO a good game for a half, and a game of interest until the midpoint of the 3rd quarter.

Not everything I'm hoping for from the game, but at least it's something.