Jonah Goldberg

In 1960 Barry Goldwater, the patron saint of modern conservatism, gave some famous advice to conservative Republicans who were angry with their shabby treatment at the hands of the Nixonites. Get over it, Goldwater told them.

"Let's grow up, conservatives," Goldwater proclaimed. The embryonic conservative insurgency within the GOP couldn't let hard feelings get in the way of the hard work that needed to be done, AUH20 counseled.

Today's conservatives might be well-advised to take similar advice with regard to the successor to Goldwater's seat, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

In the eyes of his conservative detractors - among whom I've long counted myself - McCain has a maddening habit of proving his political independence by winning accolades from the New York Times editorial board. On campaign finance reform, global warming, opposition to tax cuts and other issues, the "maverick" has too often racked up points by scoring against his own team. Sometimes he stands to the right of the GOP, sometimes to the left, but always he seems to relish breaking ranks for its own sake.

It's an annoying habit, but conservatives should consider their other options. For example, by any measure, Rudy Giuliani is the more liberal candidate - indeed, the most liberal serious candidate Republicans have fielded in decades. But because Giuliani made the right enemies - chief among them those vexatious New York Times editors - conservatives respect him, even though they disagree with him on almost everything. Meanwhile, they give the cold shoulder to McCain, who agrees with them on most of the important things.

For instance, McCain's been a consistent pro-lifer (which distinguishes him from pretty much everyone else in the race so far). Until recently, Giuliani argued passionately for partial-birth abortion as a constitutional right. McCain has voted to confirm every conservative Supreme Court nominee, including Robert Bork. He voted "guilty" in Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. He campaigned for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, even after a bitter defeat at Bush's hands. Giuliani says he was ideologically simpatico with Clinton, and he endorsed Democrat Mario Cuomo for governor of New York.

My point isn't merely to make invidious comparisons between McCain and Giuliani (heck, to liberals they're not invidious at all). I'm actually a fan of Giuliani, and I think the GOP and the country could do worse in a president and Republican standard-bearer. But the double standard on the right seems more than a little self-indulgent.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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