Perhaps because I'm a neocon, and not a dyed-in-the-wool, native-born conservative, I look at John McCain, with all his flaws, and still think that he's a pretty darn good candidate for our time. More importantly, I think that Obama is a very dangerous candidate precisely because of the time in which we live. I therefore find disturbing the number of conservative purists who insist that they're going to teach John McCain -- and everyone else, dammit! -- a lesson, either by sitting out the election or by throwing their vote away on a third party candidate. This is a kind of political game that may be fun to play in uninteresting eras, but I think it's suicidal given the pivotal existential issues we now face.
It's easy to target John McCain's flaws. Most recently, he's managed to buy into the whole green machine just as it's becoming clear that the greenies probably rushed their fences, and leapt into hysteria well in advance of their facts. Still, whether because you view the world through green colored glasses, or because you really hate funding totalitarian governments that are hostile to America, there is a lot to be said for exploring energy alternatives. McCain's free market approach should help that effort. Also, by the time he becomes President, there should be a sufficient aggregation of rationally based information about the climate to allow McCain a graceful retreat from a foolish campaign promise.
McCain also seems to be unresponsive to the feeling ordinary Americans have that illegal immigration is a big problem. This feeling arises, not because we're all xenophobic nutcases, but because we recognize a few fundamental truths: (a) American law starts at American borders, and it is deeply destructive to society's fabric to have an immigrant's first act in this country be an illegal one; (b) a country's fundamental sovereign right is the ability to control its own borders; (c) unchecked immigration provides a perfect pathway, not merely for the field worker, but for the bomb-maker; and (d) immigrants who come here should be committed to this country and its values, and shouldn't just by moseying over to grab some illegal bucks to send to the folks back home.
Nevertheless, while illegal immigrants are irritating, they're not an existential threat that can bring America to its knees within the next four years. They are a problem, but not an imminent one.
McCain may also never be absolved of the sin he committed with the McCain-Feingold Act, a legislative bit of bungling that has George Soros singing daily Hosannas. However, that's done. There is no doubt that it reflects badly on McCain's judgment, but I think it's a sin that needs to be ignored, if not forgiven, in light of the person facing McCain on the other side of the ballot box.
You see, from my point of view, this election isn't really about John McCain at all. It's about Barack Obama. Of course, it shouldn't be about Barack Obama. During a time of war and economic insecurity, one of the two presidential candidates should not be a man who has no life history, beyond a remarkable ability at self-aggrandizement, and no legislative history, despite a few years paddling about in the Illinois State Legislature and three years (count ‘em, three) doing absolutely nothing in the United States Senate.
That Obama is a man of no accomplishments or experience, though, doesn't mean that he hasn't managed to acquire some bad friends and bad ideas. The friends are easy to identify: Comrade . . . I mean Rev. Wright; Michelle "the Termagant" Obama; the explosive Ayers and Dohrn duo; Samantha "Hillary is a Monster" Power; Robert "Hamas" Malley; Zbigniew "the Jews are out to get me" Brzezinski; etc. Over the years, he's sought out, paid homage to, and been advised by a chilling collection of people who dislike America and are ready to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who talks the Marxist talk and walks the Marxist walk.
Obama's ideas are as unnerving as his friends. To my mind, the Jihad that Islamists have declared against us is the fundamental issue of our time. Thanks to the nature of modern asymmetrical warfare, the fact that these Jihadists number in the tens of thousands, rather than the millions, and that they're often free operators, not formal armies, does nothing to lessen the serious threat they pose to American freedoms. We've seen with our own eyes the fact that, using our own instruments of civilization, 19 determined men can kill almost 3,000 people in a matter of hours.
I understand this. You understand this. McCain understands this. Obama, however, does not understand this. He envisions cozy chit-chats with Ahmadinejad and loving hand-holding with Hamas. There's every indication that, given his world view, he'll take Clinton's "Ah feel your pain" approach one step further, and engage in a self-abasing "I -- or, rather, America -- caused your pain." That approach failed when Carter tried it, and it's only going to fare worse the second time around.
Obama is also bound and determined to withdraw instantly from Iraq, even though the momentum has shifted completely to the American side. Even though another famous Illinois politician spoke scathingly of General McClellan for "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" at Appomattox, Obama has not learned from that painful lesson. He is adamant that he will repeat McClellan's errors and enshrine the snatching method as national policy. Every five year old understands that you don't leave the fight when it's going your way; Obama, however, does not. That is scary in and of itself.
There is one thing, though, that Obama understands with perfect clarity: the role of Supreme Court judges. He knows that they should apply compassion and empathy, without the restrictive hindrance of the outdated United States Constitution. I'm not making this up. He's said so: "I want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through."
As someone unfortunate enough to litigate in a jurisdiction filled to overflowing with these empathic judicial actors, I can tell you that this approach is disastrous. First, it's unfair within the confines of a single case when the judge can ignore the law and, instead, decide a case based on the color of his underpants on any given day. Second, and more importantly, judicial activism (for that is what Obama describes) also destroys the stability necessary for a safe, strong society. It becomes impossible for people and entities to make reasoned calculations about future behavior, since they cannot rely on cases or statutes as guides. They simply have to hope that, if things go wrong, the judge before whom they appear likes them better than he likes the other guy. This is no way to run a courtroom, let alone a country.
What should concern all of us is the power a President Obama will have to effect an almost permanent change on the Supreme Court, one that will last far beyond his presidency. Those with gambling instincts point to the fact that, if anyone leaves the Court during an Obama presidency, it will be the existing liberal justices. In other words, they say, Obama, by replacing the departing liberal justices with equally liberal incoming justices, will simply be maintaining the status quo. I'm not so sanguine.
Although I preface the thought with a "God forbid," it is possible that conservative justices might leave the Court too, whether through death, illness, incapacity, or personal choice. If that's the case, Obama, backed by a compliant Democratic Congress, will be able to appoint anyone he pleases to the Court. With a solid activist majority, you can bet that, in your lifetime (as well as your children's and grandchildren's lifetimes), the Supreme Court will become the second Legislative branch, with the sole difference being that it will be completely unhindered by having to woo or be answerable to any pesky voters back home.
It's these last two points -- the War and the judiciary -- that make me feel very strongly that we have to accept John McCain as president, warts and all. While he is far from perfect, he is rock solid on the two issues that can't just be massaged away in four years. He will continue to wage war, both on the field and in the realm of ideas, against the Jihadists, and he will appoint conservative Supreme Court justices.
He is, therefore, a much better bet than the scenario in which the gamblers among us have placed their faith; namely, a replay of 1976 and 1980. These risk-takers believe that, as happened before, we'll elect a horrible, horrible ultra-liberal President who will expose to the world how hollow Democratic ideologies really are. Then, after a mere four years, a sadder but wiser American public will elect the next Ronald Reagan who will magically make everything right again.
I have my doubts. First, I think there's a great deal of conservative hubris in believing that we can just wish for and get the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan. Not only was he a pretty unique man, he'd been kicking around the political arena for decades. Do you look out in that same arena right now and see anyone remotely like him who will be ready to serve and acceptable to the American public in the next four years? Second, Reagan came in facing two primary problems: a stagnant Cold War and a moribund economy. Both of these situations were remediable. Reenergizing a stagnant war game America the dominant position; and rejiggering a damaged, but fundamentally strong economy was difficult, but do-able.
Here, however, we have two situations that are not so easily repaired should Obama bungle them (as I confidently expect he will). We are not fighting a Cold War, we are fighting a hot war. To walk away now inevitably places the momentum in the hands of our enemies, enemies who have done what the Soviets never did: entered our borders and killed our people in the thousands. Further, unlike the Soviets who had replaced their revolution with a cold, calculating political machine, one that could yield to rational self-interest, we now find ourselves facing fanatics in the blind grip of an ideology completely antithetical to any rational negotiation. To lose the high ground now - and we certainly have that high ground in Iraq - may mean to lose it forever. Even the best case scenario would only echo the changes between the late 1930s and early 1940s, when the Allies, having lost the high ground, were eventually able to win it back at the cost of more than twenty million lives.
Likewise, the Supreme Court situation, if Obama is able to switch the balance from strict constructionist to activist, cannot magically be remedied. Even Reagan was unable to make that change. It's been thirty-five years, and American is still riven by Roe v. Wade, the most famous activist decision of them all (and that is true whether you are pro-Choice or pro-Life). One can only imagine how many decades of damage an activist Obama Supreme Court can do.
It is very tempting to those who care deeply about their country and their politics to "punish" an ostensibly conservative politician who has, too often and too visibly, wandered from the fold. Sometimes, however, teaching someone a lesson can be infinitely more painful for the punisher than for the punishee. That's what I fear will happen now, if conservative voters decide that McCain has failed to pass the purity test and then gamble that Obama can't really be that bad. I'm here to tell you that Obama can be that bad, and that we owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to keep him out of office.