If the issue were simply, "Does McCain deserve the support of conservatives?" the answer would be simple and emphatic: No. Indeed, John McCain has fully earned the repudiation he received in the Arizona primary, when Mitt Romney ran far ahead among conservatives.
However, there is a question other than whether McCain deserves the support of the right, and it is this: Would it better serve the causes in which conservatives believe to have McCain in the White House or to have Clinton there?
If Hillary or Obama wins, as Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976, there is, argue some conservatives, a chance for a restoration in 2012, just as happened in 1980 when Reagan ousted Carter, sweeping 44 states and bringing in the first Republican Senate in a quarter century. And we got the Reagan Decade.
But if Hillary or Obama wins, the likelihood is good that either would nominate the next two justices to the Supreme Court. And there is no doubt that any Clinton or Obama nominee will be in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, not Antonin Scalia, and the long battle for the Supreme Court will be lost irretrievably.
The most powerful case against McCain is that, put brutally, he is not to be trusted.
Many on the right believe that if he wins, he will have no further need of conservatives and will revert to the McCain of McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy and McCain-Lieberman, the John McCain of the Gang of 14, who will never nominate justices like Sam Alito, because that would alienate his true constituency, the media, who are at his feet every time he undermines the conservative cause.
There is another consideration. McCain has said he will stay in Iraq another 100 years if necessary, that Russia should be thrown out of the G-8, that he will do whatever it takes to halt Iran's nuclear enrichment program. He has told us: "There's going to be other wars. ... I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender, but there will be other wars."
John McCain seeks to be a war president. Indeed, it is the role of commander in chief of a nation at war that seems to commend itself most to John McCain. But is that good for America, let alone the right?