Two superb speeches at CPAC will work together to make the unification of the Republican Party more painless than most activists expected.
It’s not just that Mitt Romney and John McCain both spoke with grace, eloquence and fervor about core conservative principles. The most important aspect of the twin triumph involved the fact that the two speeches were virtually interchangeable.
If you take out the personal references – Romney alluding to the suspension of his campaign, or McCain recalling his first trip to CPAC as the guest of Ronald Reagan – there’s nothing that either man said that would have sounded out of place if delivered by the other guy. The passionate confession of conservative faith delivered by Mitt, corresponded almost exactly to the issues enumeration offered by McCain. By the same token, none of the specific policy commitments presented by the Arizona Senator contradicted the principles or posture of the former Massachusetts governor.
The two men may have developed a fiery personal antipathy during their hard-fought campaign against one another, but the performance today demonstrates that they face no substantive disagreement on the most important issues. Anyone who reviews the details and declarations in both presentations will not only conclude that these two could easily work together—in fact, it’s obvious that in terms of political philosophy and a vision for the future, they’re already on the same team.
With their common commitments in mind, conservatives need to stop acting like liberals. It’s liberals who give precedence to feelings and personality; conservatives are supposed to look beyond emotion to confront substance and practical reality.
As McCain made unequivocally clear today, his differences with Clinton or Obama count as substantive, dramatic and obvious--- on all three legs (security, economics and social issues) of the famous conservative stool.
His differences with Romney, on the other hand, counted as relatively trivial – which is why both men concentrated (stupidly) on carping about stunningly minute details in the public record of his rival.
With that competition finished, two compelling candidates should be able to go forward together to emphasize their shared priorities for the future. In so doing, they’ll follow the example of Reagan and Ford (after Ford’s narrow victory in 1976) who brought the underdog Republicans within two percentage points (48% to 50%) of sparing the nation the agony of Jimmy Carter; or of Bush and Reagan (who, after their battle for the nomination, shared victorious tickets in 1980 and ’84); or, most relevantly, of McCain and Bush (who followed a bitter primary struggle by campaigning together and securing victory by the narrowest of margins.
May the two leaders who spoke so effectively today now collaborate with similarly triumphant results.