January 30, 2008

Not gonna do it (vote for McCain)

Commenter Little Coach is confident that I'll take a deep breath and cast my ballot for John McCain if he goes on to win the GOP nomination.

I've been struggling with whether I can do that.

Kevin Baker provides the rationale given by some conservatives for supporting McCain -- and a devastating rebuttal.

As I've noted before, I sometimes listen to Hugh Hewitt on the way home from work. Today, of course, the show was all about the Florida election and about the two-man race for the Republican nomination. There's been a lot of talk about how much of a RINO John McCain is, but Hugh said that if McCain wins the nomination he will urge everyone to vote for McCain for six reasons:

John Paul Stevens, 87
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 74
Antonin Scalia, 72
Anthony Kennedy, 72
David Souter, 69
Stephen Breyer, 69.

I'm almost convinced. But John McCain is the guy who said on Don Imus's show,

I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.

John McCain swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. In that single sentence he proved that he lied when he took that oath. He's willing to do whatever he feels necessary to achieve what he believes is needed - and he is not willing to be constrained by the Constitution - the founding legal document of our government, and one expressly crafted to restrain that government.

So why should I believe that he'll nominate strict constructionists judges that will be likely to overturn any unconstitutional laws John McCain wants passed? Remember FDR and his threat to "pack the court" with judges that would rule his way?

Sorry. That reason doesn't fly with me, and it's the only reason that might have.

I wasn't familiar with the quote about the First Amendment attributed to McCain, but it does highlight one of his most appalling acts: cosponsoring an attack on free speech relating to political campaigns -- inarguably the very core of the First Amendment.

The article that Baker quotes from is "McCain vs. Madison," by the Cato Institute's John Samples, and it delivers a roundhouse blow to the senator's conservative bona fides.

Since McCain is thought to be on the right, the choice might appear easy for conservative voters. After all, both Clinton and Obama are famously Progressive in politics and much else. However, the choice this fall for conservatives may not turn out to be much of a choice at all.


Madison, and the other founders for that matter, would have rejected the notion that citizens lived for the state, the nation, or some higher collective power. For them, individual liberty and rights were moral goods, not a selfish claim against the state.

Matt Welch's new book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick lays out the senator's philosophy. McCain once said "each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest." That cause will be the good of the collective, often defined as the nation or the national community.


McCain's progressivism may be seen mostly clearly in his primary legislative project: the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The First Amendment to the Constitution is not Progressive. It gives greater weight to the right of the individual to speak, to write, and to associate than to any collective purpose the government might have in suppressing speech. That right includes inevitably a right to spend money to speak, to write, and to associate. Without the right to spend, the other rights would have no concrete meaning.

In contrast, Progressives see speech as a means to a collective good -- improved public debate -- attained by government restrictions on individual liberty. In this view, free speech and free spending are mere self-interest or selfishness, vices to be overcome by benevolent censors.

For McCain, such self-interest should be sacrificed to the higher cause of "clean government." Hence, McCain's infamous statement on Don Imus's radio show: "I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."


President McCain -- and yes, the words make me shudder even subjunctively -- would pursue endless "reform" of campaign finance. He would do so in part for political reasons. Such restrictions on speech will quicken his transformation of the Republican Party away from its Reaganite past and toward a Rooseveltian future. But "reform" is more than a political tactic for McCain. For him, the First Amendment is a philosophical mistake that limits our true calling to national greatness. It is a mistake that might be corrected by proper laws and compliant courts.

John McCain does not want to save America for James Madison. He does not want to save America at all, because the Madisonian vision remains, for conservatives at least, what America means, the criterion of our hopes.

The election of a Progressive like Clinton or Obama would deprive conservatives of power. The election of a Progressive like McCain would deprive conservatives of both the government and the means to resist Progressivism. Which is the lesser evil?

I'm less confident than ever that John McCain represents a principled alternative -- conservative or otherwise -- to either Clinton or Obama. The more I see, the less I like.

Posted by Mike Lief at January 30, 2008 09:58 PM | TrackBack


Okay, so it would have to be a REALLY deep breath to get one composed enough to cast a McCain vote. One would have to REALLY hate the other candidate. Fortunately, the Socialists seem REALLY intent on providing us with just that situation.

After last night's debate, I am for Romney. Not just against McCain, but FOR Romney. REALLY for Romney.

If McCain says one more time that being the C[ommanding] O[fficer] of a fighter squadron gives him the same presidential experience as being a governor, I am going to puke. Oh, oh, the sun is up and I bet he is speaking somewhere right now, and oh, oh . . .

Posted by: The Little Coach at January 31, 2008 07:37 AM

OK, let's review:

1) You don't like McCain for a variety of reasons with which I disagree, though I have my own set of reasons for despising him.

2) You don't like Obama or Clinton for the fairly obvious reasons that they are, in varying degree, at least vaguely progressive.

3) Your first choice, the effervescent Fred Thompson, has dropped out. How anyone with principles could have supported him is beyond me, but he's no longer a choice.

4) Who do you have left? Ron Paul? No serious person can support a candidate who supports the "Liberty Amendment" which "explicitly forbids the federal government from performing any action not explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution." Under this theory, the government can't protect free speech on the internet, on radio or TV. I'm pretty sure there is no mention of the internet in the First Amendment, though I'll admit to not having read it in the last couple weeks.

5) Huckabee, who believes in creationism, not evolution, but won't commit to a literal intperetation of the bible beyond that and although progressives can support much of Huckabee's views on various government programs (the arts, farm subsidies, foreign financial aid, education) his way of paying for them is in the typical "borrow and spend" republican mold. He says he'll cut waste, but he's got a plethora of new ways to spend money, so cutting looks unlikely.

6) Romney? He's the Republican version of Slick Willy. If there has ever been a candidate who's harder to nail down on an issue, I don't know who that is. Of course his view of how his sons have sacrificed for their country, much like the boys and girls serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have done, should be enough that you could never vote for him.

What's that leave you with? A write-in vote. Vote Mike Lief on February 5th? Much though I don't support him, I don't know how you'll be able to vote for anyone, unless you plan to vote for McCain.

Me? Now that Edwards is out, I'm left with Obama. I'll vote for Clinton in the general election if that's the choice I'm left with, but she is as centrist as her husband, molds her views based on the latest polls, lacks his charisma, and will undoubtedly be mired down in endless hateful attacks from the right who have despised her from day one of the 1st Clinton presidency.

It's beginning to look like we'll both get stuck with relatively unhappy choices, McCain v. Clinton. Presidential politics always seems to devolve into a lesser of two evils. Just once I'd like to go vote and feel like I'm voting for someone I want, rather than someone I despise less. Perhaps in my next lifetime.

Good to talk to you the other day. And see, I wrote you something on the blog too...

Posted by: BullButts at January 31, 2008 11:07 AM

Last time I wrote in Joe Leiberman (too bad he wasn't running). I thought he would do better then W (and I attended his first inaguaral) and I could not bring myself to vote for the other guy. Looks like I might do it again the way things are going.

Posted by: andrewdb at January 31, 2008 02:09 PM

I'll take DFC over LDS any day.

Posted by: LT at January 31, 2008 07:21 PM

Post a comment

Remember personal info?