Slate'sJacob Weisberg and engaging article entitled "John McCain's Not Really a Conservative." He tries to explain McCain's manuouvers not as losing his maverick egdge, but about playing the game to get the GOP nomination. He notes:
Most liberal commentators take McCain's love fest with the neo-Calvinists at face value, arguing that he's finally revealing his true colors. A few months ago, The Nation ran a cover story titled "The Real McCain," which contended that the Arizona senator is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. To the American Prospect, McCain is Barry Goldwater's true heir. A couple of weeks ago in the New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote, "The bottom line is that Mr. McCain isn't a moderate; he's a man of the hard right."
But the literal-minded left has McCain all wrong. He's trying to win over enough of his party's conservative base to win, for sure. But this is a stratagem—the only one, in fact, that gives him a shot at surviving a Republican presidential primary. Discount his repositioning a bit, and McCain looks like the same unconventional character who emerged during the Clinton years: a social progressive, a fiscal conservative, and a military hawk. Should he triumph in the primaries, we can expect this more appealing John McCain to come roaring back.
Weisberg then goes into detail explaining some of McCain's moves as more of facing reality than it is about him becoming a true believer. The thing is: Weisberg is right. Let's face it: if McCain wants to win the nomination in 2008, he has to be realistic: he has to pay attention to the social conservatives. McCain ran as an insurgent in 2000 and got burned by the right. I think McCain is still very much a reformer, but he is more of a realist in 2006 than he was in 2000. He wants to win, not simply get his message out.
I think some of the problem with people like myself and others is that we want this perfect Messiah that will stand up to whatever demons we think are out there, even if we lose. Centrists have this problem just like those on the extreme left and right. McCain could make no compromises and end up just like he did in 2000, or he can bend a little and get the nomination and make some changes as President. I may not like it, but you know, it's politics in a democracy. If you want the golden ring, you have to make some compromises and those who follow have to determine how much they can stomach. While I might not like his daliances with Jerry Fawell, McCain is still good on issues like immigration, the enviroment and foreign policy in my eyes. I know that there are many who think McCain would do well as an independent, but let's wake up and smell the coffee: no third party candidate has won the Presidency since 1860. Not Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, not George Wallace in 1968, not John Anderson in 1980, not Ross Perot in 1992, not Ralph Nader in 2000. Again, this would be McCain as the noble crusader, tilting at windmills, but not really doing anything to change things.
I'm still a little worried about McCain's dances, but I will keep my eyes open and hope. McCain is still the candidate I want to see get the GOP nod two years from now. I just pray he plays his cards wisely.
Here are some other worthwhile views on this issue:
McCainiac Marshall Witman aka Bull Moose still has faith in McCain, seeing him in the mold of his hero (and mine) Teddy Roosevelt. He notes:
Both the right and the left often do not understand John McCain. The truth is that he is very much like the Moose's idol - T.R. During his time, both the left and right, at times were dissatisfied with the Colonel. Progressives thought he betrayed their cause. Stand-patters loathed his progressive traits.
The truth is that John McCain has always been a conservative. The Senator's political mentors were Goldwater and Reagan. He is a hawk who advocated rogue state rollback and Clinton's intervention in the Balkans when then Governor Bush was against nation-building. He voted against spending bills and the Medicare drug bill because he supports limited government. McCain is a strong supporter of private accounts in Social Security. He is a pro-lifer who only endorses choice when it is related to private school selection.
And... John McCain believes that we need strong action against global warming. He joined with Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform. He courageously denounced and did something about torture. At the same time that liberals complained about McCain speaking at Falwell's Liberty University (keep in mind that the Senator reconciled with the Vietnamese who imprisoned and tortured him), our modern T.R. was working with Ted Kennedy to make our immigration laws more reasonable taking on the restrictionist right. Although he has supported a state ban, he opposes a federal constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.
Can McCain's critics cite a politician alive or dead who similarly defies the turgid categories of the left and the right? Who are the other brave souls in either party who consistently put country before party? America is looking for leaders who defy the conventional categories.
Also, there is a great piece on National Public Radio about McCain's moves to woo Bush Republicans for 2008.