Conservatives: Beware of McCain Regression Syndrome

Michelle Malkin

1/22/2010 12:01:00 AM - Michelle Malkin

Pay attention: In the afterglow of the Massachusetts Miracle, there are flickers of peril for the right. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but like Paul Revere’s midnight message, consider this warning “a cry of defiance, and not of fear.” Conservatives have worked hard to rebuild after Big Government Republican John McCain’s defeat. But McCain isn’t going gently into that good night.

Red Flag No. One: A reader from Arizona informed me the day after the Bay State Bombshell that he had received a robo-call from Massachusetts GOP Sen.-elect Scott Brown. “He basically wanted me to vote for John McCain in November,” the reader said in his description of the automated campaign call supporting the four-term Sen. McCain’s re-election bid. “No wonder [Brown] said he hadn't had any sleep. … He was busy recording phone messages!”

Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution

Red Flag No. Two: Also in the wake of the Massachusetts special election, the nation’s most popular conservative political figure Sarah Palin announced she would be campaigning for her former running mate in Arizona in March. Palin told Facebook followers that she’s going to “ride the tide with commonsense candidates” and help “heroes and statesmen” like McCain.

Facing mounting conservative opposition in his home state and polls showing him virtually tied with possible GOP challenger and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, McCain welcomed the boost: "Sarah energized our nation and remains a leading voice in the Republican Party."

Savor the irony: After a career spent bashing the right flank of the party, McCain is now clinging to its coattails to save his incumbent hide.

And pay attention to the hidden, more troubling irony: While he runs to the right to protect his seat, McCain’s political machine is working across the country to install liberal and establishment Republicans to secure his legacy.

In Florida, McCain’s Country First Political Action Committee is supporting the Senate bid of fellow illegal alien amnesty supporter and global warming alarmist GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, whose crucial 2008 primary endorsement rescued McCain from disaster. Grassroots conservatives support former GOP state House leader Marco Rubio -- who is hitting Crist hard for lying to voters about his embrace of President Obama’s pork-laden, fraud-ridden stimulus package.

In Colorado, McCain and his meddlers infuriated the state party by anointing former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton to challenge endangered Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. She’s a milquetoast public official who has served on a lot of task forces and GOP clubs -- and who happens to be the sister-in-law of big Beltway insider Charlie Black. An estimated 40 percent of her coffers are filled with out-of-state money (and much of that is flowing from the Beltway).

The mini-McCain of Colorado claims to oppose “special interests,” but has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from D.C. lobbyists at McCain’s behest -- stifling the candidacies of strong conservative rivals led by grassroots-supported Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, an amnesty opponent whose aggressive illegal-immigration prosecutions have earned him the rage of the far left and big-business right. A recent Rasmussen poll showed Buck and GOP candidate Tom Wiens beating Bennet -- despite the huge cash and crony advantage of frontrunner and blank-slate Norton.

In California, McCain’s PAC supports former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina -- a celebrity name with deep pockets of her own, massive media exposure and a checkered business record. Fiorina served as the economic adviser to McCain, who supported the $700 billion TARP bailout, the $25 billion auto bailout, a $300 billion mortgage bailout and the first $85 billion AIG bailout. As GOP rival and grassroots-supported Chuck DeVore’s camp notes, Fiorina has also vacillated publicly over the Obama stimulus. With taxpayer “friends” like this, who needs Democrats?

With all due respect to McCain’s noble war service, it’s time to head to the pasture. As the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, he was wrong on the constitutionality of the free-speech-stifling McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations. He was wrong to side with the junk-science global warming activists in pushing onerous carbon caps on America. He was on the wrong side of every Chicken Little-driven bailout. He was wrong in opposing enhanced CIA interrogation methods that have saved countless American lives and averted jihadi plots. And he was spectacularly wrong in teaming with the open-borders lobby to push a dangerous illegal alien amnesty.

Tea Party activists are rightly outraged by Palin’s decision to campaign for McCain, whose entrenched incumbency and progressive views are anathema to the movement. At least she has an excuse: She’s caught between a loyalty rock and a partisan hard place. The conservative base has no such obligations -- and it is imperative that they get in the game (as they did in Massachusetts) before it’s too late. The movement to restore limited government in Washington has come too far, against all odds, to succumb to McCain Regression Syndrome now.