Why do so many Republicans pound the table and shout, "I'd rather vote for a Democrat than the 'insufficiently conservative' John McCain!"?
Are these the same Republicans who cheerfully voted for then-Gov. George W. Bush in 2000? Ronald Reagan, in 1980, campaigned to shut down the Department of Education. Bush, however, promised to be "the education president" -- and then delivered by expanding the federal government's role in education with No Child Left Behind.
Bush promised a prescription-benefits bill for seniors -- and then delivered the largest expansion of Medicare since the program began. Bush promised -- and delivered -- increased taxpayer funds for faith-based initiatives.
Are these the same Republicans who, pre-9/11, empathized with President Bush as he agonized over his decision to use federal funds for research on pre-existing embryonic stem cell lines? Federal funds! Are these the same limited-government Republicans who, post-9/11, sided with Bush when he expanded the Cabinet with the Department of Homeland Security -- demonstrating the Washington, D.C., axiom that another bureaucracy cures inefficient bureaucracy?
Are these the same principled states' rights Republicans who applauded when Congress big-footed its way into Florida's Terri Schiavo case? And how many conservative pundits still cheer when President Bush -- as he does often -- promises to use American power not merely for self-defense against Islamofascism, but to promote "the spread of liberty" throughout the world?
But McCain, why, he just tears it!
Yes, Sen. John McCain voted against the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Yes, McCain, like Al Gore, considers global warming a clear and present danger. He opposes drilling in ANWR, and co-sponsored the idiotic, First Amendment-trashing McCain-Feingold bill.
He opposes waterboarding, even in so-called ticking time-bomb cases, and saddled up with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., to pass so-called fuel efficiency standards. And, most notoriously for many Republicans, McCain teamed up with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for illegals.
But aren't these I-can't-pull-the-lever-for-McCain Republicans the same people who purport to care about A) the war in Iraq, B) the economy, and C) the Supreme Court?
As to the war, most conservatives, as well as many others, believe that our liberation of that country helped keep American safe. It keeps terrorists preoccupied with what Osama bin Laden himself called the central front. McCain consistently supports the war in Iraq, and enthusiastically backed "the surge," a new approach that caused a dramatic decline in violence along with some signs of political reconciliation. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, damn the consequences.
As for the economy, don't conservatives believe that the Bush tax cuts helped to jump-start the economy, expand family income, and create jobs? Sen. McCain voted for the extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2006, and supports the repeal of the death tax. His Democratic opponents promise to repeal the cuts and increase taxes on the so-called rich. Campaign promises made separately by Clinton and Obama would grow the budget by between $200 billion and $300 billion annually.
As to the Supreme Court, think of the many 5-4 decisions, including but not limited to, Bush v. Gore, the decision that put President Bush in the White House. McCain supported nominees like Justices Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts. Why, he even voted for the "reactionary" Judge Robert Bork. Justice John Paul Stevens is 87 years old, with four more justices near or over 70. One more conservative appointee, and Roe v. Wade could be history. Are principled conservatives truly willing to allow that decision to remain for at least another generation? To quote another John, this time McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!"
The I'd-rather-sit-on-my-hands-than-vote-for-McCain crowd argues that sitting out paves the road for the Party's re-emergence in the mold of Ronald Reagan.
But name a federal government program that, once begun, gets undone. New Deal social programs are now fixtures. The federal government created the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide Southern states with electricity. The electricity is there -- but so is the TVA.
Imagine a filibuster-proof Democratic-controlled Congress -- one that passes HillaryCare on to an eagerly waiting President with a pen in her hand. Once that program's out of the bottle, good luck on trying to stuff it back in. McCain opposes a government takeover of health care.
The irritating Arizona senator, for all his flaws and warts, understands the big issues -- the war, taxes, and the Supreme Court. Our nation remains at war. The stakes are high.