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Mark Alexander / Feb. 8, 2008

McCain vs McCain

“I’m reminded of the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. … Speech delivery counts for little…unless you have convictions, and, yes, the vision to see beyond the front-row seats.” –Ronald Reagan (3 February 1994)

Mitt Romney, running a distant second to John McCain after Super Tuesday’s primaries, suspended his campaign Thursday. McCain, whose campaign was in tatters mere months ago, will thus be the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Speaking to thousands of supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of leading conservative activists, theorists and policy makers in Washington, Romney said, “If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. … If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.”

Romney’s graceful departure ensures the nomination of John McCain, thus, rightfully, causing conservatives across the nation some heartburn.

McCain, who claims “the Reagan legacy,” posted a decidedly unflattering “5” in The Patriot’s presidential candidate ratings. That is half way between Ronald Reagan and the reprehensible ranks of “useful idiots,” Leftist apologists for socialist political and economic agendas.

McCain is no Ronald Reagan, as outlined in his candidate profile, so when he invokes President Reagan’s name from campaign stumps, caveat emptor!

As well documented in the pages of The Patriot, President George W. Bush proved to be an excellent Commander in Chief, but he has a mixed legacy on domestic-policy issues. If elected, John McCain would likely also be a strong Commander in Chief, but if the past is any indication of future performance, a McCain presidency could prove catastrophic to domestic-policy issues.

In 2005, McCain admitted to The Wall Street Journal, “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign-policy issues. I still need to be educated.” Indeed, on the economy and other key domestic issues, McCain has made plain in this campaign that he has a lot more to learn.

Fortunately, McCain has some key advisors who are fiscal conservatives, namely Jack Kemp, Phil Gramm and supply-side economist Arthur Laffer. Despite his initial lack of support for the Bush tax cuts, to his credit McCain has voted for virtually every measure to cut “porkmarks” from the federal budget.

In an effort to make amends on the tax issue, McCain recently confided to Stephen Moore, a distinguished Senior Fellow with the Cato Institute, “I’ve learned from what happened after the tax cuts were enacted. They worked.”

Yesterday, McCain promised the CPAC crowd, “If elected, I will make the Bush tax cuts permanent.” (Apparently Gramm and Kemp have been busy.)

That notwithstanding, economists with the venerable securities firm Goldman Sachs warned their clients in an outlook analysis this week that “market participants should be aware of areas in which Senator McCain differs from most Republicans, including…climate-change legislation.” McCain needs to boot Sen. Lindsey Graham (who believes global warming is man-made and can, thus, be man-unmade) off the campaign wagon.

In better news, on the principles of Tenth Amendment federalism, among other constitutional issues, McCain relies on advice from his longtime friend, Fred Thompson, who made federalism the central theme of his brief presidential primary bid.

McCain supports important federalism initiatives like school choice, saying, “The day that members of Congress will send their kids to the public schools in Washington, DC, is the day I’ll know we’ve fixed education in America. Why won’t people like Hillary Clinton send her child to the public schools in Washington, DC?”

Finally, he has adopted the immigration policy outlined by The Patriot two years ago in an essay entitled “Insanity on bordering.” Immigration legislation must first address national security issues, meaning border security and enforcement are paramount before any legitimate immigration debate take place.

The best news I can impart on John McCain is that on matters of national security, the cardinal constitutional concern for a president, I have a high degree of confidence in the leadership he would provide.

One test of McCain’s support from conservatives, despite his record, was the reception he received at CPAC three hours after Romney’s withdrawal. McCain snubbed the invitation to speak at CPAC last year, clearly indicating the underlying tension with conservative activists. Yesterday, his reception was fairly enthusiastic, taking into account the fact that CPAC’s halls were inundated with McCainiac buttoneers.

Exhibiting precisely the arrogance that so many loathe in McCain, his senior advisor, Charlie Black, said, “There are some specific issues [conservatives] consider constitutional issues [and] they just disagree with Sen. McCain. When they understand, ‘OK, there’s nothing else we can do; it’s McCain versus Clinton or Obama,’ the huge difference will cause them to support McCain.”

Trouble is, while there is a difference, we’re not yet convinced there is a “huge” difference.

As outlined above, we are convinced McCain would perform significantly better on national-security issues than either of his dueling opponents, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Unfortunately, on domestic policies, this presidential election appears to be a contest between the lesser of two liberals. So once again, conservative voters must rely on the old proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Some suggest that McCain has no formidable primary opponents left, but I would argue he still has a daunting primary contender – John McCain. He has only a few short months to define which John McCain would be president.

I suspect, when it comes to McCain, conservatives will have to rely on Ronald Reagan’s oft-repeated advice when dealing with a proven adversary: “Trust, but verify.”

So, what does the future hold? McCain/Romney? How about McCain/Rice for a ticket with great potential in 2012, if McCain does not run for a second term because of age!

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