February 14, 2008
John McCain will keep the country saferBy James Lewis
John McCain's recent American Conservative Union ratings are not the 80% plus that we hear about all the time. McCain has scored much less conservative in recent years, now making him one of the most liberal Republican Senators. That served his strategy of tacking Left to please the national media; but more worrisome, it seems to reflect his real beliefs.
Here's a man who really seems to believe the NYT Op-Ed pages. McCain is not an independent thinker on certain issues.
Half the Republican presidents of the past century were on the liberal side. On balance, they were better than the Democrats would have been.
The single biggest advantage of McCain as president is that he is no fool on foreign policy, in a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since Ronald Reagan's second term. Nuclear weapons are bound to spread in the next eight years. Their spread can be hampered, with luck and effective US policy. Iran is bound get some nukes, and its nuke factories may be struck by Israel, with secret US and even Arab backing. But Israel can only handle a brief strike, and a brief defense, but not a long siege by an enraged Iranian theocracy. So it will need American backing, and anti-missile defenses in the Gulf States and elsewhere.
The best result might set back Iranian nuclear and missile development by some years. Those few precious years will give time for much more effective anti-missile defenses to be rushed into place. McCain presumably understands that better than Hillary, and certainly better than Obama.
The same can be said of the renewed danger from the Afghan border region with Pakistan, where Al Qaida and its ilk are finding safe haven. By some estimates more than 100,000 jihadis have received terrorist training in the old North-West territories.
The War on Terror will continue no matter who is president. It must be prosecuted effectively, and with a bigger military.
On judicial appointments, John McCain will have to work with a Democrat Senate. That inevitably means compromise, along the lines of the Senate Gang of Fourteen. But that compromise brought in Alito and Roberts, two prized conservative Supreme Court appointees. It would be far, far better than the Court-stacking Hillary or Obama will try to achieve.
In sum, on American security and judicial appointments, McCain is bound to be better than any Democrat.
What about health insurance? Any Republican president is going to bring in some sort of national health care plan. Mitt Romney did it in Massachusetts, with the advice of the Heritage Foundation. MittCare is turning out to be more expensive than projected. McCain is likely to apply some sort of plan at the national level, but probably with a lot less economic savvy than Romney. . That is one reason why McCain could use a conservative policy hotshot as Veep.
Cost control is going to be crucial for any universal health insurance plan, and individually-owned accounts are the key to that. The same can be said for Medicare and a national retirement plan. With the Boomers retiring, the political and economic pressure on retirement, Social Security and health insurance will be impossible to resist. In practical terms, the only question is how to channel that pressure in sane and practical ways. Not an easy job, and one that will require someone with Romney's talents to accomplish.
Finally, John McCain sounds like a True Believer in the global warming superstition. That reflects very badly on his personal judgment. But no American president will cripple the US economy so badly as to court political defeat. McCain is certainly capable of signing treaties like Kyoto that commit us to foolish and totally speculative economic burdens, but they are not likely to be enforced during a McCain administration. All the European Gaia worshippers have managed to exempt themselves from any real pain under Kyoto, and McCain is not likely to be worse.
We need more domestic oil production, nuclear energy, and high-tech energy research. McCain is more likely to err on the side of sanity than faux-Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, who has now broken the California State budget with harebrained schemes for a sci-fi "hydrogen economy," a six billion dollar unneeded investment in stem-cell research, and a compulsory health-care-plan-for-all-Californians, including illegals, that actually was halted by Democrats for cost reasons.
For a purist conservative, half of these issues signal retreat. But I would suggest they are inevitable retreats, and can in principle be managed. The dirty little secret is that Romney and Giuliani would also be running on national health insurance against Obama or Hillary.
In sum, McCain gives us a better chance in a very dangerous period in foreign and defense policy. McCain will be better (if not great) on judicial appointments, the only way to address the liberal catastrophe of trivializing all the baby killing that is being done in the name of women's rights. On those issues, McCain wins against any Democrat, at least on points.
National health insurance of some kind is unavoidable with the retiring Boomers; if McCain has an excellent fiscal team, and is able to follow their advice --- a big, big "if" --- we might land on our feet with regard to Social Security benefits, health insurance, and an individual retirement plan for younger people. Since domestic energy is a national security question today, we may see some movement out of a very stuck political energy quagmire under a McCain administration -- speaking quite optimistically. On environmental concessions, they can be limited, as the True Believer nations have limited them to avoid major economic damage.
Finally, immigration and its security implications. Here the Republican Party itself is split, with corporations advocating a libertarian "let it all hang out" approach to illegal immigration. It is bound to get us intro real trouble -- as it did with the 9/11 attack. All the jihadi attackers in 2001 easily fooled our incredibly sloppy and dangerous immigration tracking system. It has not improved much since that time. New automatic bio identification technology will change that picture for the better, while raising new civil liberty questions. We have not reduced our immigration from truly dangerous countries, but we will be able to track individuals better, using new technologies.
Regarding tax cuts and fiscal responsibility -- I'm not hopeful. McCain is not a small government conservative, and like George W. Bush, he will need to buy freedom of action abroad by making domestic concessions to the Democrats. Bush addressed that problem by trying to build in more accountability into the education industry around the country. It may be the best that can be done.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been hyper-responsible in pursuing the war on terrorism. That has been their top priority, and they have knowingly compromised on pork barrel projects to ensure American victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democrats have put up a giant propaganda battle domestically to please and whip up their constituents, but they have not blocked any war-related spending. That is a significant victory for the Bush-Cheney team. They have made the right choice, against a vicious and ruthless enemy -- and I'm only talking about Democrats here.
Because the Dems are so dreadfully irresponsible and hateful on matters of war and peace, they cannot be trusted with the presidency. Obama might mean well, but he is bringing in a far-Left team. We know Hillary and Bill to be Typhoid Maries when it comes to foreign policy.
All of which brings us back to John McCain. We may not like the SOB, but he is better than any likely alternative. The biggest question is: Can a McCain administration be influenced by conservatives? Only if conservatives can elect an enthusiastic and substantial Congressional delegation.
Only if McCain is genuinely willing to work with conservative policy wonks with good ideas, rather than relying on the NYT Op-Ed pages to run the country. It's all a gamble.
But what's the alternative?
James Lewis blogs at dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/