Yesterday's conference call with bloggers was supposed to be routine, a quick way to push out the post-Michigan message that Tuesday's wipe-out in the Wolverine State at the hands of Mitt Romney wasn't slowing down John McCain.
Then the WeeklyStandard's Michael Goldfarb tossed out a question. Here's the exchange as recorded by National Review's Jim Geraghty:
Mike Goldfarb: Some people are perplexed by your rhetoric on global warming. Is this one of those ‘no surrender’ issues, or is there room for discussion?
McCain: There’s always room for discussion. But I don’t know how any conservative can not support cap and trade. We did it with acid rain. The Europeans are putting it into effect. It’s a capitalist process that encourages green technologies. If we’re wrong, all we’ve done is adopt green technologies, in an effort to give our kids a greener planet.
As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world.
There in a sentence is another example of the dynamic that drives conservatives away from John McCain. Not only do the vast majority of Republicans support exploration in ANWR, they also deeply resent the idea that such a position is on a par with a proposal to strip mine Yellowstone. But here is John McCain comparing exploration in ANWR to drilling in the Everglades or the Grand Ganyon. It isn't just that McCain's position is opposite that of the Republican party. It is also that he uses the harshest rhetoric of the left to convey that disagreement.
Bill Kristol called McCain's latest blast at a GOP base position shot "gratuitous," and he's right. Every Republican Congressman or Senator who supported exploration in ANWR can look forward to an attack ad arguing that John McCain has condemned their vote as the equivalent of drilling in the Grand Canyon. Here's a representative e-mail from a listener who tuned into yesterday's show in which the McCain ANWR answer was center stage:
I have been all but jumping out of my skin while listening to your show today as it is so spot on about John McCain. My problem with him has always been that, not only is he wrong on the issues; not only is he arrogant about his positions; but he always resorts to the worst sort of liberal demagoguery in making his case. His comments about Guantanamo, torture, ANWAR, global warming, etc., uniformly concede the liberal, MSM stereotypes about Republicans and even Americans generally.
It is certainly possible to hold differing positions than other conservatives on a variety of issues without giving credence to the caricature of Republicans as a bunch of racist, war-mongering, chicken-hawk, environmental plundering country-club elites--or bible-thumping, bone-headed bubba's for that matter. And it is certainly possible to disagree without trafficking in the anti-American left about our "image being destroyed abroad. But McCain has made a career of not simply disagreeing with Republicans, but of tarring them with this liberal-elitist brush.
What is so ironic about this for McCain is that, in the unlikely event of a hoar-frost settling in in Hell and him winning the nomination, he will find that all of his MSM cheerleaders will desert him faster than you can utter "carbon-tax."
Paul D. M______
I don't know how any conservative can say "I don't know how any conservative can disagree with cap and trade." That's because there are quite obviously many conservatives who do disagree with it, and they are legitimate participants in the public debate. Conservatives believe in that debate, not in shutting it down.
John McCain is running as an anti-conservative. As a result he has failed in the first four contests to win even a plurality of Republican votes cast, and now the primaries enter the contests where only Republicans can vote. I don't doubt McCain's sincerity on ANWR or a dozen other issues, but I am certain that he is not the man to lead a Republican Party pledged to many things with which he not only cannot agree, but about which he cannot even imagine disagreement.