Radical Right Warns McCain: No Moderates For VP... Or Else
This week there have been a flurry of rumors about McCain picking a moderate as his running mate. Florida's closeted gay governor, Charlie Crist (recently engaged to his beard) is so interested in being VP that he abandoned his "live-and-let-live" approach that has endeared him to moderate Floridians and come out in favor of the homophobic Amendment 2. Right-wing poobahs went nuts a few days ago when it was rumored that McCain was considering former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. But both those "trial balloons"-- like Obama's dangling of Tom Kaine and Evan Bayh-- are just to titillate the starving, ravenous media-- and please local voters.
Still, in the midst of the body slam McCain took today from the Greed and Selfishness portion of the party (see below), the GOP extremists who control much of the party's actual base have quietly told him that if he picks a moderate he can kiss the base bye-bye. Today religious right kook, Richard Land, was less quiet in an interview with CBS News:
Richard Land: First of all, I agree with that assessment. I think that the vice presidential choice that John McCain makes is probably the most important choice he's going to make in this entire campaign. Because he has no room for error, no margin for doubt. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will confirm the unease and the mistrust that some evangelicals--and don't forget this, social conservative Catholics--feel about McCain.
If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will help to ease their concerns and confirm to them that, while he may not have been their first choice, he may not have been their second choice, that it's better to vote for a third class fireman than it is to allow a first class arsonist to become president.
CBSNews.com: So, Tom Ridge, who's been discussed. You think …
Richard Land: That would be a catastrophe.
CBSNews.com: As well as Joe Lieberman?
Richard Land: Yes. And I like Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman wrote the forward to my book. And I would love to have Joe Lieberman as Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. But not as Vice President, not as Attorney General and not as a Supreme Court Justice.
CBSNews.com: Who’s on the list of people mentioned for VP that you think would most excite Southern Baptists and other members of the conservative faith community?
Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.
She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist.
CBSNews.com: You do hear about the possibility of McCain picking somebody really outside the box, somebody who's never served in public office, like Fred Smith, the CEO of Fed Ex, or Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, or Meg Whitman, the former CEO of EBay. How would those choices play?
Richard Land: Well, I don't know what their position is on the life issues. That would be the first thing I would want to know before I could answer the question. The second would be that I don't know that in this particular climate someone who is a CEO is the best choice.
Richard Land: Well, just because we're in a tough economic climate. And you think about Fiorina's, what, 40 plus million dollar buyout when her company was taken over or merged. I mean, I just don't know how that would play.
CBSNews.com: And what about Mitt Romney?
Richard Land: I think Mitt Romney would be an excellent choice. There are people in the evangelical community who would have a problem with his Mormonism. I am not one of them. I mean, I'm very clear that I do not believe Mormonism is a Christian faith. But that does not disqualify someone from being President or Vice President. And my guess would be that, probably, about 15 to 20 percent of the evangelical community would have a problem with his Mormonism.
CBSNews.com: And so, it's probably a risk not worth McCain taking?
Richard Land: Well, I don't know. What I know of John McCain, he will make this choice. One of the things that makes him interesting is that he's totally unpredictable.
I'll tell you another choice that I think would ring a lot of bells among evangelical and Catholic social conservatives, and I think could have some real electoral punch to it, is Eric Cantor, the congressman from Richmond. He's the fourth highest person in the House leadership. He is a conservative, observant Jew, a one hundred percent pro-life voting record. And if he picked Cantor, that would probably help hold Virginia. And it would increase McCain's percentage of the Jewish vote in Florida and Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
OK, heard enough of the religionist right telling McCain what he's allowed and not allowed? Let's skip to the really good stuff. MarketWatch, a service of DowJones laid out their ideas of why McCain would make a "mediocre president":
Lack of accomplishments
Like the current occupant of the White House, McCain got his first career breaks from the connections and money of his family, not from hard work.
The son and grandson of Navy admirals, he attended Annapolis where he did poorly. Nevertheless, he was commissioned as a pilot, where he performed poorly, crashing three planes before he failed to evade a North Vietnamese missile that destroyed his plane. McCain spent more than five years in a prison camp.
After his release, McCain knew his weak military record meant he'd never make admiral, so he turned his sights to a career in politics. With the help of his new wife's wealth, his new father-in-law's business connections and some powerful friends had made as a lobbyist for the Navy, he was elected in 1982 to a Congress in a district that he didn't reside in until the day the seat opened up. A few years later, he succeeded Barry Goldwater as a senator.
McCain hasn't accomplished much in the Senate. Even his own campaign doesn't trumpet his successes, probably because the few victories he's had still rankle Republicans.
His campaign finance law failed to significantly reduce the role of money in politics. He failed to get a big tobacco bill through the Senate. He's failed to change the way Congress spends money; his bill to give the president a line-item veto was declared unconstitutional, and the system of pork and earmarks continues unabated. He failed to reform the immigration system.
Every senator who runs for president misses votes back in Washington, so it's no surprise that McCain and all the others who ran in the primaries have missed a lot of votes in the past year. But between the beginning of 2005 and mid-2007, no senator missed more roll-call votes than McCain did, except Tim Johnson, who was recovering from a near-fatal brain aneurysm.
McCain says he doesn't understand the economy. He's demonstrated that he doesn't understand the workings of Social Security, or the political history of the Middle East. He doesn't know who our enemies are. He says he wants to reduce global warming, but then proposes ideas that would stimulate -- not reduce -- demand for fossil fuels.
McCain has done one thing well -- self promotion. Instead of working on legislation or boning up on the issues, he's been on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" more than any other guest. He's been on the Sunday talk shows more than any other guest in the past 10 years. He's hosted "Saturday Night Live" and even announced his candidacy in 2007 on "The Late Show with David Letterman."
McCain has not articulated any lofty goals. So far, his campaign theme has mostly been "McCain: He's None of the Above."
In the primaries, he campaigned on "I'm not that robotic businessman, I'm not that sanctimonious hick, I'm not that crazy libertarian, I'm not that washed-up actor, I'm not that delusional 9/11 guy." In the general election, he's emphasized that he's not that treasonous dreamer.
McCain has frequently taken on near-impossible missions that go against the grain of his party. It's the basis of his reputation as a maverick. But McCain has never been able to bring more than a handful of Republicans along with him on issues such as campaign finance reform or immigration. Democrats on the Hill have accepted McCain's help on some issues, but except for a few exceptions (John Kerry and Joe Lieberman), they've never warmed to him.
To achieve anything as president, McCain would have to win over two hostile parties: The Democrats and the Republicans.
Living in the Sixties
McCain is still fight-ing the Viet- nam War. But he's not fight-ing the real historic war, which taught us the folly of injecting ourselves into a civil war that was none of our business. We learned that, in a world where even peasants have guns, explosives and radios, a determined and popular guerrilla force can defeat a modern army equipped with the mightiest technology if that army has no vital national interest to protect.
Instead, McCain is fighting an imaginary Vietnam War, where a sure victory could have been achieved with just a little more bombing, just a little more "pacification," just a little more will to win at home. This fantasy clouds McCain's judgment on foreign policy.
Most of the other high-profile politicians who fought in Vietnam -- Colin Powell, Chuck Hegel, John Kerry, and Jim Webb -- aren't stuck in the past, and they don't view the Iraq War as a chance to get Vietnam right.
After years of honing a reputation as a guy who'll say the truth regardless of the political consequences, McCain has crashed the Straight Talk Express. On almost every issue where he took a principled stand against the Republican line -- taxes, immigration, oil drilling, the Religious Right -- he's changed his views.
We ought to like politicians who change their mind when the facts change; it shows maturity, judgment and flexibility. But politicians who change their mind to suit the prevailing winds show the opposite.
The bottom line
Successful presidents come from two molds: visionaries, or mechanics. The visionaries -- think Reagan or FDR -- see what others can't and say 'Why not?" to inspire the country. The mechanics -- think LBJ or Eisenhower -- know the ins and outs of government and are able to harness the power of millions of humans to accomplish great things, or at least keep the wheels from coming off.
McCain fits neither style. He's neither a dreamer, nor a detail guy. His major accomplishment, in Vietnam and in the Senate, has been merely to survive.
Just surviving doesn't make you're a hero, or a decent president. America needs to do more than survive the next four years.
Four more years?