McCain Speech is About the Constitution, Not the Issues, Confounding Press

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: May 06, 2008 10:20 AM
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.-- I suppose it's natural that the press would assume McCain would spend an entire speech about the judicial system talking about policy instead of principles. The beauty of conservatives, however, is that they understand judicial philosophy is not about enacting preferred policies.

This basic understanding is reflected in McCain's prepared speech, which starts and ends with the Constitution.

The press has trouble grasping this important distinction:

Journalists who pressed for details about "the abortion speech" or the "gay marriage speech" were told, repeatedly, that the speech was not about those issues at all, really, and would focus exclusively on McCain's longstanding convictions about judicial nominations and the appropriate power of judges. Ok, ok, that's fine, whatever they wanted to call it.

Well, the McCain campaign was right. There is no mention of abortion, or of same-sex marriage, or of most any particular question that the court has had to decide (two exceptions: the Kelo decision and Newdow.)
But how--how?-- the AP might wonder can McCain offer an "olive branch to the Christian right" in the south without mentioning "abortion" or even gratuitously gay-bashing? Indeed, he's doing it now by appealing to conservatives' intellectual understanding of judicial activism, their resentment at its usurpation of their own democratic decisions, and their inclination to beware the power of that branch of government just as they are wary of the others.

I predict the press will remain stymied, but the audience here is grasping it perfectly.

Update:On the Newdow case, "The 9th Circuit court agreed, as they usually do," prompted a laugh from the crowd. Newdow yields the first applause line when McCain worries "he's gonna catch wind of this and we're all gonna be in trouble when he finds out we met in a chapel."