February 01, 2008
The most appalling thing to come out of the Florida primary this week was not John McCain’s victory over Mitt Romney. Instead, it came in the days immediately before the vote, when McCain attacked Romney for his supposed “weakness” in supporting the Iraq war. Romney had made a statement about “timetables and milestones” in the context of Iraqis meeting political benchmarks. In other words, he was reiterating the administration’s position almost verbatim, aside from his opposition to a multi-decade presence in Iraq. For this supposed call for “withdrawal,” McCain told Romney that he should apologize to American soldiers in Iraq. The worst of all this was that Romney has never voiced any meaningful objections to the war or to the “surge,” and he took this opportunity to redouble his support for the Mesopotamian misadventure. Such are the low antics in a party that has decided to define itself by its unwavering, unthinking commitment to remaining in Iraq virtually indefinitely.
As Richard Spencer has noted earlier, there is a clear tendency of antiwar and anti-Bush voters to rally around the candidate who has all but guaranteed to pursue policies that are equally, if not more, reckless than those of the current administration. Despite the observation that Romney seems better suited to make a break with the Bush administration in some ways, he has become the first choice for Bush loyalists and has become the de facto candidate of a movement that remains largely supportive of the president, particularly when it comes to his most disastrous policy.
The Republicans are now set to re-enact the 2000 primary contest in which “conservatives” support the moderate Republican and former governor and the “moderates” back an irascible warmonger. The outcome will be different this time because the winner in 2000 has re-made the GOP with his war and made jingoism and aggressive foreign policy generally the essential qualifications for the Republican nomination. Depressingly, the one thing that stands to bring most Republicans together is the war that has already led to one major electoral defeat and seems very likely to cause another. While movement conservative leaders, pundits, and talk radio hosts wax hysterical about McCain’s various policy errors, they are beginning to reconcile themselves to his nomination on the grounds that his pro-war credentials ultimately override everything else. To unite the GOP, a McCain ticket will emphasize the candidate’s pro-war views and make them a central focus of the campaign. The one thing a majority of Republicans finds attractive will be the same thing that ensures their humiliating defeat in November.