McCain Should Retire

John McCain clings to more liberal positions than almost any other Republican in Congress. Whether encouraging economic suicide by standing against drilling in Alaska, putting the nation's security at risk by equating waterboarding with torture, demanding the shuttering of Guantánamo, or joining hands with Ted Kennedy to open the floodgates of amnesty to illegal immigrants, nothing seems to satisfy his vanity more than hearing compliments from the leftist press after crossing over to the other side of the aisle. 

Now that the Supreme Court has declared much of his crown legislative jewel -- the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) -- to be unconstitutional, perhaps it's finally time for John McCain to go back to Arizona while preserving the luster from his honorable national service. The court's firm rejection of key funding provisions in McCain-Feingold reveals the philosophical dead end that bipartisanship for its own sake often produces. In the end, a bill that purports to average out the demands of the extreme left with those from the other side of the aisle produces nothing but a garbled, unconstitutional mess. By announcing that he will not run for reelection, McCain would allow a new conservative vanguard led by tea party patriots to advance in all its principled fury.

Unfortunately, John McCain stands in our way. Approaching eighty, leading no recognizable political movement, and clueless about the internet age, he should stand aside to allow more energetic and unapologetic elements of conservatism to govern. Almost anyone opposing him in the primary would more closely reflect the character of the man McCain replaced: Barry Goldwater. The newly confident right is desperate for candidates who will nobly and consistently reflect Goldwater's love of liberty and constitutional rule.

Displays of honor and heroism in war do not translate to a free pass in politics. McCain's brand of the politics of the center, both boring and uninspiring, is nothing but a poor disguise for a lack of coherent political or philosophical principles. The middle in politics is a muddle, a position to be loathed, not admired. Compromising with an adversary whose beliefs are the opposite of yours (supposedly) is surrender, not victory. When conservatism compromises with liberalism, big government is the only winner. Truly, John McCain stands in the center, but for nothing.  He doth bestride America's middle like a pygmy. 

While he picked pro-life Sarah Palin as his running mate, had he waited another five minutes, his pick could have been pro-choice Joe Lieberman.  Having never created a job or engaged in any productive economic activity, he often rails against the evil profit motive while happily ensconced in the royal comfort of the multiple homes made available to him by his heiress wife.

There have been times when his public appearances have been more pathetic and embarrassing than almost any other politician's in America. These moments will not become fewer with age.

At his acceptance speech for at the 2008 Republican convention, McCain spent more time condemning fellow Republicans and George Bush than attacking opposition Democrats and Barack Obama, the candidate whose middle name became ineffable according to the sterile, self-destructive campaign rules of John McCain. His day on stage was as deflating as Palin's had been uplifting just a day earlier. That lethargy was the enduring legacy of the "McCain for president" campaign.

At a key moment in the presidential race, when principal, public opinion, and momentum all aligned like a compass needle pointing to the true conservative north, McCain buckled again into incoherence. While public polling was screaming almost ten-to-one against bank bailouts, McCain declared a cessation of campaigning in response to the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008. Ultimately, he was unable to cash in on this populist revolt, and he voted along with Bush and Obama and the Democrat majority in favor of the government bank rescue. Through these actions he achieved the impossible: He made Barack Obama, novice and fool, appear more seasoned and presidential than a Vietnam veteran and long-serving senator.

Having clumsily resumed the campaign, McCain debated Obama but managed to land not a single punch, nor utter a single memorable quip or comeback. Indeed, he opened the first debate by wasting precious minutes lauding the recently hospitalized Ted Kennedy as the "lion of the Senate." The comment only served to remind his repulsed conservative audience that he felt it more important to stand with one of the Senate's most notorious and longest-serving liberals than to lay out the case the against its most liberal and inexperienced arrival, Barack Hussein Obama.

Much is being written about Sarah Palin's regrettable decision to support McCain's reelection bid. History has many examples of principle trumping misplaced loyalty, and Palin might critically examine that history and the essence of John McCain's worldview before she books that flight to Arizona.

If John McCain could act on his beliefs, he would make it impossible for Alaska to ever again extract another barrel of oil from its North Slope, in ignorant deference to the environmental left. If jihadists decided to decimate Palin's son's Stryker brigade, McCain would find it reprehensible to hold the Muslim terrorists responsible for the attack as prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

And these positions just scratch the surface of a tired and unpredictable Republican brand, whose time has passed, and who has done as much damage as good to the conservative cause.  

Claude can be reached at