On the economy, voters have the same impression of McCain that I had on the Senate floor, where he fought plenty of fiscal battles. Some he lost. Some he won. Sometimes his colleagues liked him for it. Sometimes they most decidedly did not like him for it.
But the impression left with voters is, again, one that contrasts with his opponent’s. The McCain record shows he often stood alone in understanding that long-term prosperity of the American people requires us to stop wasting and spending the birthright of the next generation. And he knows, as his opponent does not, that you don’t make the American people prosperous by making the government richer and that, in an economic downturn, you don’t impose the largest tax increase in American history.
Finally, an issue McCain has asked me to help his campaign with — the federal judiciary — is one that disturbs voters to the point of having enormous electoral possibilities. The federal judiciary is the Democratic Party’s vehicle of choice to enact policies that could never see the light of day if they were required to go through the democratic process. And that party now talks about electing a supermajority in the Congress that, along with the most liberal president in our lifetime, would allow them to change the face of America without enacting one piece of legislation — a change that would take us a generation to rectify, if we ever could.
McCain has chosen to make this issue a priority because he thinks the public worries about a Supreme Court lost to liberalism for our lifetime, and that it cares about the appointment of federal judges who will follow the law and the Constitution and not remake it along the lines of their own policy preferences.
McCain’s opponent has carefully worked his way up the political ladder, guided by no discernible political principles except adherence to party positions — which he has showed a willingness to change if the political winds blow too strongly against them. By contrast, McCain’s life and career exemplifies courage, sacrifice and leadership.
Put simply: Others talked about reaching across the aisle and reconciling differences; John McCain did it. Others went along with pork barrel spending and getting the political benefit from it; John McCain fought it. Others wanted to declare defeat and cut and run in the central front of the war on terrorism; John McCain fought for a strategy that would ensure victory. Others gave lip service to reform; John McCain actually made it happen.
So impressions matter in politics — as do the facts and the record that create those impressions. Through all the convention hoopla and focus on the Electoral College horse race, then, the impressions of John McCain come through. Impressions of the same John McCain who lit up the political atmosphere last week with a startling and brilliant choice for running mate, the impressions of a lifetime record summed up by a word: leader. And a title: Mr. President.
Fred Thompson has been a lawyer, actor and United States Senator. He writes exclusive analysis and commentary for Townhall Magazine.