February 08, 2008

CPAC Submits Gracefully

In his “€œendorsement”€ of John McCain this afternoon, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma promised the CPAC crowd that McCain “€œdoes not have a secret plan to grant amnesty.”€ He added that McCain-Finegold was a very bad law but McCain’s intentions were oh so good. As you might imagine, the positive things that Coburn had to say about the man he was recommending to us for president had much to do with a certain “€œtranscendent challenge.”€  

There was a scattering of boos. Others held up Mitt Romney signs, the mildest kind of criticism even if the former governor had not just dropped out of the race. McCain then proceeded directly to proving his conservative bona fides“€”that is, he made some vague references to Edmund Burke and threw in some pro-life code words. To prove his supposed fiscal responsibility he pushed his earmark obsession into the outer limits: “€œI won”€™t sign a bill with ANY earmarks in it!”€  Who cares!

McCain then shifted his position drastically, essentially “€œreaching out”€ to conservatives as a necessary component in the GOP coalition. He actually quoted a famous line from Ronald Reagan’s address at the first CPAC, “€œA political party cannot be all things to all to all people,”€ and then spoke of his plans to win over “€œmoderates, independents, and enlightened democrats”€”€”conservatives would just about put him over the top!

Many at the conference seemed to be buying: McCain stickers began appearing on the blazers of many an undergraduate GOP groupie. 

Throughout McCain promised that, “€œdespite our differences,”€ he will always value conservatives”€™ “€œcounsel.”€ The implication was clear: “€œyou need me much more than I need you. But don”€™t feel too bad; I promise that I”€™ll be listening.”€    

Of course there’s a question of whether conservatives would really get anything out of the deal. A former CIA agent at the conference told me that the a pact has already been struck and that Joe Lieberman will get the VP nod in return for his campaigning for McCain among the snowbirds in Florida. 

This sounds like a complete disaster on many levels.

McCain closed out his speech promising that while other elections have been won on very small margins, if he gets the nomination, he”€™ll win big: 2008 will be about “€œbig things”€”€”whether we”€™ll retreat in Iraq and not go on to defeat terrorism etc. I would direct McCain to the video of Ann Coulter’s quite interesting appearance on “€œHannity and Colmes”€ last week in which she claimed that it’s unlikely that Hillary would actually pull out of Iraq and that she”€™d be better on the issue of torture than McCain.  

Putting this aside, one might remind McCain that George W. Bush ran on some pretty “€œbig things”€ in 2004 and often accused his opponent of “€œcuttin”€™ and runnin”€™”€ in Iraq”€”and he was elected by the slimmest of margins. In the mean time, the public has lost all faith in the war (“€œthe surge is working”€ mantra only allowing them to concentrate on other things), McCain has alienated the conservative base, and his likely opponent in the fall, Barack Obama, is infinitely more attractive to independents than John Kerry. “€œBig ideas”€ or no, Lieberman or Huckabee, McCain is set to go down hard.

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