March 30, 2008
Another Unconservative Moment from John McCainBy Jeffrey Schmidt
John McCain's unconservativism was on display this past Wednesday in Los Angeles. Perhaps not in all ways, but in one telling way. Before a gathering of the World Affairs Council, the Arizona senator outlined his thinking on national security and foreign policy. The speech's larger elements have received plenty of coverage. One element did not.
McCain made a stalwart's argument for finishing the job in Iraq. That's a good thing, and expected. He made a case for greater collaboration with America's allies. That's a nod to the prevailing sentiment that Cowboy America needs to become Settler America-you know, an America that spends endless hours over bottomless cups of coffee chatting with allies about what it should do with their permission to defend itself and defeat its enemies. Call it the "Pretty Please" approach to national security. And good luck in getting that permission. One can't help think that it was McCain window-dressing to either preempt or mollify critics. Let's say he gets a pass for that little maneuver.
But there was one passage in his speech that stuck out like a palm tree in the Arctic. The passage where he discusses the threat of global warming. (http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/News/Speeches/872473dd-9ccb-4ab4-9d0d-ec54f0e7a497.htm) No window dressing here. The Senator has discussed it regularly. So he must be a true believer. And if not a true believer, then McCain is taking a lot of bad advice from his pal, Joe Lieberman, and other liberals, who he enjoys cordial across-the-aisle relationships with.
In either case, it's no small thing. If McCain wins the presidency, we can expect this self-described straight talker to act on his convictions. That means translating what he believes into policy. His global warming proposal includes the "cap-and-trade" (http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/bg2075.cfm) mechanism that he mentioned. Just as there are no tax increases in the liberal lexicon-merely "revenue enhancements" or obligations by the rich to pay their fair share-there are no higher taxes in the world of global warming hucksters-err, apostles.
But in unliberal America, a tax is a tax; penalties are penalties.
Simply put, the mechanism would impose limits on industrial emissions. Industries would be granted allowances. Within that framework, an industry would have the prerogative of "buying" allowances from others that have underutilized their emissions quotas. Anyway it's sliced, cap-and-trade saddles industries with substantially higher costs for doing business, costs that will inevitably be passed along to consumers. Those costs will range across the spectrum. That includes the cost of cars, gas, housing, home heating, groceries, TVs, airline travel-you name it. Anything that carries the label "Made in the USA" will come with a heftier price tag.
Take that, middle class America.
When government mandates that industries spend money over and above what is required to operate their businesses, that's tantamount to imposing new taxes. That could be a bit of a dilemma for McCain, who is committed to extending the Bush tax cuts.
It begs the question: "How does it help the economy to extend the Bush tax cuts while enacting sweeping new taxes?"
To make matters worse, McCain said that the United States may have to lead by example. The Senator wants to set an example for those recalcitrant Indians and Chinese, who haven't bought the notion that crippling their economies to satisfy a dicey hypothesis-that is a good bet to be an outright fallacy-is in the best interests of their nations. Arbitrary action by the United States would amount to economic death wish fulfillment. Global engagement would likely produce a worldwide depression. But for liberals and FDR sentimentalists, that may prove quite a boon for the government activism trade.
The good news is that McCain isn't president yet. No cap-and-trade legislation has been passed. Heaven knows, global warming enthusiasts, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, would make a McCain policy look downright pro-business. Al Gore's dour visage hangs over their proposals like a big, black cloud.
However, McCain's global warming utterances in Los Angeles are yet another cautionary reminder for conservatives. The Senator's conservatism is no set menu. His is a cafeteria sort, where he picks the issues that he'll be conservative about.
The Senator's stand on global warming is a real test of conservative judgment and maturity. Support for McCain is best qualified. The qualification, which is taking on more currency lately, is that when the Arizonan is right, he merits support. When he's wrong, conservatives need to dissent-loudly. If elected president, then McCain will need to be opposed by conservatives when he pursues initiatives that are decidedly unconservative.
Global warming dogma is, unequivocally, unconservative. A vibrant economy isn't just about the Good Life; it's integral to the nation's security. A dynamic national economy gives the United States leverage in the world. It affords the country the ability to invest in its military as it sees necessary.
McCain's global warming proposal, if enacted, would cause great damage to the economy, thereby undercutting the nation's ability to press the War on Terror or do whatever else the nation needs to do for its protection.
It is Reagan conservatism, not patchwork McCainism, which has irrefutably demonstrated its success as a governing philosophy. It is to the former, not the latter, that conservatives owe their true allegiance.
In rejecting McCain's global warming position, conservatives, above all, remain true to themselves.