February 14, 2008
To turn himself into a one-man bridge over troubled political waters, McCain will reportedly insist that his vice president be Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a lifelong Democrat who currently calls himself an independent. Lieberman endorsed McCain at the end of December and campaigned actively on his behalf in New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida. In Florida he spoke to numerous Jewish groups around Miami, emphasizing McCain’s support for Israel. Photos of McCain campaigning frequently feature Lieberman standing in the background. Joe Lieberman is also no social conservative, so he and McCain should get along just fine on most issues. Sources in Washington believe that Lieberman will conveniently become a Republican to gain the GOP’s acceptance.
In considering this, it’s worth revisiting David Brooks’s “Party No. 3“ bad idea he proffered just before the “06 elections. Here he envisioned national unity and an end to partisan bickering in the form of the big-government status quo (wee!), more Middle East wars (horay!), and, in case you weren”t already convinced, “comprehensive immigration reform” (I”m lovin” it!). Within Brook’s well-insulated neoconnish world this is exactly what America is looking for. Three months later, the Democrats, not “Party No. 3,” took power on promises of “ending the war,” and little else.
Brooks’s “Party No. 3″ platform seems a pretty good approximation of what to expect from a McCain-Lieberman presidency: no structural reform whatsoever, lots of talk of combating nefarious “Earmarks” (which make up, by the way, less than 2% of the federal budget); “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” and perhaps some winks and nods to “the culture of life” that have no bearing whatsoever.
This sounds dreadful, but I don”t think it’s particularly probable. The McCain-Lieberman deal would have taken place before the “talk-radio rebellion” reached its heights and Rush, Mark Levin, and Hannity withheld their support from a McCain candidacy. Yes, it’s easy to dismiss all this (as Paul has forcefully done), observing that movement conservatives have no where else to go but back home to GOP and that most of them love McCainian foreign policy anyway.
Still, it’s undeniable that the talk-radio rebellion has had a great effect in weakening support for McCain. The AP reports that 51% of avid talk-radio listeners voted for Huckabee; whereas 57% of non-“Great Americans” went for McCain.
This is all rather odd since before Rush & Co. were attacking McCain, they went after Huckabee as a kind of pro-life John Edwards.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that McCain still has not received a majority in any primary, hitting a high of 50% in a virtual two-man race in Virginia, and he thus needs to rally the base, many of whom looks to Rush as a their primary source of news.
This doesn’t mean that McCain would select anyone good in Lierbman’s stead. The Huckster is probably out of the question: he didn”t much help his VP chances when he scolded Bush for his “bunker mentality” and spoke of a national “attitude adjustment” (not that a Huckabeean foreign policy has much to offer Realists, however).
I sense that we should start preparing ourselves for something really terrible like Sam Brownback.
Brownback endorsed McCain early, well before his comeback and Rudy’s collapse, and this risky investment might pay dividends.
There’s also a certain logic to the choice. McCain could win over social conservatives, many of whom are currently voting for Huckabee, with promises of ending abortion and defending marriage (and other things Republicans never actually get around to doing). More importantly, in Brownback McCain could find a partner whose foreign policy is just as insane as his own.
Brownback seems to have a genuine opposition to abortion, but then his particular “social conservatism” actually amounts to a rather fantastical globalism worthy of the name Obama. Brownback’s “Whole Life” philosophy means that he adopts the respectable Catholic position of opposing abortion and the death penalty”but then from there, he concludes that the U.S. must lead a UN-NATO intervention in Darfur. He proposed just this in a Washington Post op-ed co-written with a certain junior senator from Illinois. Interventionists of the Left seem to really like Brownback.
All this is to say that as VP, Brownback would be put to good use applying a “Christian” patina on an indefinite occupation of Iraq, strategic bombing of Iran, and other misadventures. McCain could thus rally the Rambo wing of the GOP coalition as well as bring on board the evangelicals.
With Brownback, I could also imagine the talk-radio rebellion against McCain collapsing into self-satisfaction. Rush and friends might interpret the choice of Brownback as proof that they”re relevant, that the GOP must take them seriously, and that McCain, against his better wishes, was forced to put a “real conservative” on the ticket. Or perhaps they”d remember that Brownback voted for “comprehensive” immigration reform (before he voted against it) and recognize this pro-life Obama for what he is.
Whether it’s Condi, Lieberman, Brownback, or Huckabee, I can”t imagine coming home to the GOP in November.