Why has McCain won the Republican nomination and why will he win the election in November? One word—Trust! I didn’t predict it. I didn’t even vote for him in our primary, but I’m coming to appreciate what I think a lot of Americans understood about this rock-solid patriot and public servant. At a time of economic and geo-political uncertainty, we want a leader we can trust. Even if you don’t always agree with John McCain, you can trust the man to do what he says!
An encore of the Clinton Years is a trust nightmare most Americans do not want. Hillary earned her negative trust numbers the old fashioned way by disappointing us over and over again. From her faulty memory on dodging sniper bullets in Bosnia and producing peace in Ireland to the past sudden appearance of Rose Law firm billing records, her actions have never engendered trust.
Barack Obama may be eloquent to some, but his trust account is already overdrawn. He promises to be a uniter, but where’s the evidence of ever producing on that promise. In the absence of a proven track-record, people look for ways to assess his judgment. His close associations with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the political rainmaker Tony Rezko, and Weather Underground leader William Ayers encourage more questions than trust. His campaign’s continuing and consistent mischaracterization of McCain’s “100 years in Iraq” comment do not match his promise to be a different kind of politician.
I have often disagreed strongly with John McCain. But as upsetting as John McCain can sometimes be to conservatives, his ability to take an unpopular stand and confront his own party is one of the things many respect the most. This man, who withstood years of captivity in a POW camp, is not afraid of a little criticism—giving it or receiving it. There’s no better sign of character than the ability to honestly confront one’s own party when you think it’s wrong. Whether it’s harping on Rumsfeld and calling for more troops on the ground, pushing for immigration reform or wielding the power of his gang of 14 in securing judicial appointments, this man can make waves.
In a recent talk in Pittsburgh, McCain provided some economic straight talk: “In so many ways we need to make a clean break from the worst excesses of both parties. For Republicans, it starts with reclaiming our good name—our good name as the party of spending restraint.” He promised a “top-to-bottom” review of federal spending and promised to veto any bill that earmarks money to pet projects of members of Congress. “That kind of careless spending of tax dollars is not change, my friends. It is business as usual in Washington, and it’s all a part of the wasteful and corrupt system that we need to end.”
Beltway Republican leaders earned their mid-term election loses by not walking their principles. McCain doesn’t walk softly and carry a big stick. He’ll talk straight, loud and often. You can bet he will be using that big “veto” stick on a few Washington Senators and Congressmen who try spending as usual, no matter which party they are with. When McCain talks about putting the breaks on government spending and ending the abuse of earmarks, you can trust he means it.
Because we trust his word, we are more likely to honor his promises to change. He may not have voted for the Bush tax cuts, but he has voted to sustain them and promises to work to extend them if elected. When McCain got the message that his immigration plan was not what Americans wanted, he admitted that Americans don’t trust Washington. Now, he has repeatedly promised that securing the border wall comes first. McCain has shown that he takes his promises and his duty seriously!
Finally, at a time that Americans seem to want a president who can work across the aisle, McCain is the man they can trust. Obama talks about uniting America in every speech, but John McCain has the proven track record. McCain’s endorsement by Joe Lieberman speaks to the power of building bridges across the political divide. You don’t build relationships by bending your principles. You build them by finding common ground where even “enemies” can agree to make a difference together.
Demonizing Democrats or Bush will not win this election. McCain has taken a strong stand against partisan attacks. He realizes that America thrives in a workable tension between alternative approaches to governing America. McCain focuses on what he is for and reaches out to any independent or Democrat willing to join his cause to keep America strong.
While the Democrats are selling that all the answers come from Washington, John McCain seems to be taking a lesson from Ronald Reagan. At the 1992 Republican Convention, President Reagan shared the “secret” to his success: “I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts.” Many Democrats and independents trusted Reagan because he trusted the American people.
Speaking to an audience in Texas John McCain launched his fight to win this election once his nomination was secure: “We are the captains of our fate. We're not a country that prefers nostalgia to optimism; a country that would rather go back than forward. We're the world's leader, and leaders don't pine for the past and dread the future. We make the future better than the past. We don't hide from history. We make history. That, my friends, is the essence of hope in America, hope built on courage, and faith in the values and principles that have made us great. I intend to make my stand on those principles and chart a course for our future greatness, and trust in the judgment of the people I have served all my life. So stand up with me, my friends, stand up and fight for America -- for her strength, her ideals, and her future.”
In a long and demanding campaign, authenticity and trust will beat eloquence and empty promises every time. In this great game of politics 2008, McCain has the wild card that will give him the winning hand—Trust!