Yesterday's conference call with bloggers was supposed to be routine, a quick way to push out the post-Michigan message that Tuesday's wipe-out in the Wolverine State at the hands of Mitt Romney wasn't slowing down John McCain.
Then the WeeklyStandard's Michael Goldfarb tossed out a question. Here's the exchange as recorded by National Review's Jim Geraghty:
Mike Goldfarb: Some people are perplexed by your rhetoric on global warming. Is this one of those ‘no surrender’ issues, or is there room for discussion?
McCain: There’s always room for discussion. But I don’t know how any conservative can not support cap and trade. We did it with acid rain. The Europeans are putting it into effect. It’s a capitalist process that encourages green technologies. If we’re wrong, all we’ve done is adopt green technologies, in an effort to give our kids a greener planet.
As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world.
There in a sentence is another example of the dynamic that drives conservatives away from John McCain. Not only do the vast majority of Republicans support exploration in ANWR, they also deeply resent the idea that such a position is on a par with a proposal to strip mine Yellowstone. But here is John McCain comparing exploration in ANWR to drilling in the Everglades or the Grand Ganyon. It isn't just that McCain's position is opposite that of the Republican party. It is also that he uses the harshest rhetoric of the left to convey that disagreement.
Bill Kristol called McCain's latest blast at a GOP base position shot "gratuitous," and he's right. Every Republican Congressman or Senator who supported exploration in ANWR can look forward to an attack ad arguing that John McCain has condemned their vote as the equivalent of drilling in the Grand Canyon. Here's a representative e-mail from a listener who tuned into yesterday's show in which the McCain ANWR answer was center stage:
I have been all but jumping out of my skin while listening to your show today as it is so spot on about John McCain. My problem with him has always been that, not only is he wrong on the issues; not only is he arrogant about his positions; but he always resorts to the worst sort of liberal demagoguery in making his case. His comments about Guantanamo, torture, ANWAR, global warming, etc., uniformly concede the liberal, MSM stereotypes about Republicans and even Americans generally.