McCain no friend to conservatives

*Published by The Greenville News on February 5, 2008

Conservative pundits and leaders question if U.S. Sen. John McCain would be a loyal standard-bearer of GOP principles.

Some pundits, albeit surprised by his Lazarus-like political ascent going into the South Carolina primary and his subsequent wins in South Carolina and Florida, are no longer overlooking McCain’s record in favor of his military and political background.

“His mere third of the voters in South Carolina means that, once again, he failed to carry Republicans or conservatives,” Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center of Politics, wrote in a Rasmussen Reports commentary.

And conservative pundits are not letting their base ignore McCain’s drawbacks either.

David Limbaugh, in his Jan. 28 opinion, called conservatives to remember the damage the Arizona senator has dealt to conservative causes, naming his opposition to the Bush tax cuts, favor of the McCain-Kennedy illegal immigration bill and Roe v. Wade decision as examples of McCain’s betrayals.

“Vote for McCain if you wish, but please don’t insult conservatives by suggesting he’s one of us,” Limbaugh concluded.

Conservative leader Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, agreed: “I served 12 years with him, six years in the Senate as of one of the leaders of the Senate, trying to put together the conservative agenda, and almost at every turn, on domestic policy, John McCain was not only against us, but leading the charge on the other side.”

McCain’s penchant to compromise conservative values in favor of liberal ones causes deep concern. More often than not, he has taken his role of power broker much to the delight of liberals and the chagrin of conservatives.

Consider McCain’s marquee pieces of legislation.

Recently McCain-Lieberman came to the U.S. Senate floor. This bill embraces some environmental protection language and raises taxes on certain energy sources.

Then, last summer McCain co-sponsored McCain-Kennedy. The bill provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country and several other illegal immigration-related provisions. The bill went down due to strong opposition from conservatives — led by talk radio hosts.

He is the co-author of McCain-Feingold — a bill intended to clean up money in politics. Instead, it has pushed money to front groups under the 527 IRS Code, and consequently politics has become arguably even more unscrupulous. Rush Limbaugh dubbed it “the Incumbent Protection Act.”

McCain’s leading bills have embraced not only liberal Democrat leaders but also liberal policies on campaign finance and the environment, alienating him from conservatives.

Even on his strongest issue, national security, McCain has problems. He advocates closing Guantanamo Bay, an offshore security installation for suspected agents of terror. He has embraced the liberal rhetoric of America’s “damaged image” abroad. And he has been instrumental in opposing the president on terror detainees and interrogation methods.

According to, McCain is strong in the war on terror, but on domestic policy, “he’s very, very dangerous. There’s nothing worse than having a Democratic Congress and a Republican president who would act like a Democrat in matters that are important to conservatives.”

While many respect congressmen for working across the aisle, McCain seems to stand against conservative interests when he compromises. Not only has John McCain compromised with Democrats, but he has compromised on conservative principles also.

McCain was the ringleader of the “Gang of 14″ that was instrumental in legitimizing the extra-constitutional filibustering of judicial nominees. On fiscal policy, he voted against President Bush’s tax cuts — twice. Thus, the Arizona senator deserves no credit for the economic growth of the past seven years.

McCain does not support the federal Human Life Amendment or the Federal Marriage Amendment and voted to fund embryonic stem-cell research, calling evangelical icons Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell “agents of intolerance.”

And McCain has a history of courting liberals for their approval. The New York Times has endorsed McCain this primary season.

McCain may be the next president. If elected, he will serve well, but based on his record, he will not lead in the mold of Reagan conservatism. McCain will lead in his amalgam of moderate compromise under the moniker of a maverick, a move that plays well in the eyes of the media but will not assuage conservative fears.

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