I have been reading this morning across the right blogosphere and media a lot of advice for John McCain for when he comes to speak at CPAC tomorrow. My friend Ed Morrissey breaks some of that down in his customarily cogent style. Jed Babbin goes perhaps a bit over the top with his demands.
But what I haven’t seen anywhere is much interest by the conservatives in what they might learn from McCain – an odd phenomenon since he cleaned their clocks on Super Tuesday. Yet McCain is being asked to eat humble pie, not Rush Limbaugh.
Since I regard myself as an Independent, I am admittedly a poor choice to offer recommendations here, but since no one I can see is filling this gap, I will have at it, at least tentatively.
Speaking bluntly, it may be that the search for ideological purity anywhere on the political spectrum is a fool’s game (unless you’re trying to sell books or drive ratings). Anyway, it’s clear from Tuesday’s returns the Republican electorate isn’t buying it. Across much of the country, the man advertising himself as the perfect conservative ran a poor third to a “maverick” Republican and a Southern populist. And that purist of purists, Ron Paul, simply disappeared from view.
Of course, this pure conservative (Romney) may not have been the best standard-bearer for conservatism. Indeed, there is an argument to be made that he was a notably bad one (a long history of flip-flops).
But that should only prove my point about purists. No one is good enough for them. When Rudy Giuliani came on the scene and was running high in the polls, for the most part they sat there with their arms folded, waiting for him to make ideological bows in their direction. And when he did, they still didn’t jump on his bandwagon. Even Fred Thompson, supposedly a pure conservative himself, wasn’t good enough.
As we know, both of these men tanked. The lack of wholehearted support by the conservative movement wasn’t the sole reason, but it helped.
So I have a suggestion for the attendees at CPAC. You are expecting John McCain to meet you at least halfway (or maybe more) on Thursday. Why don’t you think about meeting him halfway as well? He has something to do that you don’t. He has to win a presidential election. The American electorate is in the middle. If you force him too much over to your side, in the name of ideological purity you will have elected your opponents.
It should be obvious by now that the American public wants politicians who can talk across party lines. (The Democrats got their heads handed to them when they booted out Joe Lieberman. Obama seems to have learned that lesson and is paying a lot of lip service to cross line politics.) Also, the vast majority wants a humane approach to immigration. A border fence is popular and necessary, but mass deportations are not.
I’m not going to run down every issue. But as you know, there is one overriding one – we are at war. On that issue alone, the Republican Party is hugely fortunate to have a potential candidate whose credentials are impeccable. Don’t undercut him. Our lives and our culture are at stake.