Wednesday, February 13, 2008

GOP Conservatives Will End Up Backing McCain

Like dying fish flailing without hope on the beach, such conservative commentators as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and the evangelical leader, James Dobson, are suggesting that they won't back Sen. John McCain when he is the Republican presidential nominee.

They can't possibly really mean it. They won't support Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton, when one of them (it looks this morning most likely Obama) is the Democratic nominee, there is going to be no strong Third Party conservative candidate, and, as the election approaches, they will see they have no alternative but to back McCain. Where else can they go? Nowhere.

That's why all the suggestions from political commentators that McCain must somehow focus on tacking to the right and proving ad infinitum reassurance to conservative Republicans that he is really and truly one of them is nonsense.

The fact is that, beyond running as the best candidate for commander in chief, on the security platform which would be his strongest suit against Obama, McCain can lose no time in emphasizing his maverick and independent tendencies. For his own good, he must start moving even further to the center without delay.

The economy isn't good. There is strong sentiment for revisions in U.S. foreign policy along some of the lines Obama and Hillary have both been suggesting, Democratic voter turnouts in the primaries are running twice the Republican, and, unless McCain is inventive, he is very likely to be swept aside in a Democratic landslide. Obama, I think, would be a heavy favorite to defeat him, and even Hillary might be likely to do so, by a narrower margin.

McCain, who is too honorable a man to try to use the race issue against Obama, has no reasonable options but to appeal to independents, and just assume that conservatives, because they have no alternatives, will be dragged along.

Besides that, even many conservatives and evangelicals have changed, becoming more moderate. The days when the Baptists down South routinely wouldn't let their daughters go to the movies or swim with boys, have very largely dissipated. As the election approaches, I'm sure most of these folks will come to realize that McCain is quite acceptable to them.

Even a strong Republican (on most occasions) like me, may however, feel attracted to Obama for idealistic reasons. You might ask why this is so.

I would answer by telling you of an experience I used to have while working at the L.A. Times. I used to often pass through the Globe lobby, always my favorite entrance to the paper, and there I'd see the bust of Gen. Harrison Grey Otis, founder of the modern Times, and read the bio affixed to it that said Otis had attended the Republican convention in Chicago in 1860 that nominated Abraham Lincoln for president.

But it did not say that Otis had been among the delegates who actually voted for Lincoln. It left the impression that he had opposed him. Maybe, he was a supporter of Chase or Seward, one of whom was thought likely to be the nominee. And I used to think to myself that I would not want to look back on the 1860 convention, were I Otis, and recall that I had not supported Lincoln.

Well, this year, I'm not at all sure I'd want to remember later that I did not vote for Obama. The poet Walt Whitman once said that every time he saw Lincoln walking in the streets of Washington, he always thought to himself that he wanted to be on Lincoln's side. Well, whenever I hear Obama speak so inspirationally, as he did last night in Madison, Wisconsin, celebrating his victories in the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia primaries, I confess to a strong feeling I want to be on Obama's side.

Many other Republicans may also be seduced in a similar way.

That is not to say McCain is not an attractive candidate as well, and that his record of heroism in the Vietnam war doesn't command admiration. Even Obama habitually refers to McCain as a war hero and joins in the thanks to him for his service. On Dec. 26, this blog endorsed both of them for their respective party nominations.

McCain last night, borrowing a phrase from Obama, said he was "all fired up and ready to go." I have no doubt he will give his all to the race, and, one never knows, developments in the Middle East or elsewhere may bring security issues that favor McCain back to the fore.

But at the same time, it has to be rememberd that Obama is 46 years old and McCain 71, and that this would be the biggest age difference between presidential candidates in the history of the U.S. It's difficult to envision the younger man not winning.

--

This morning comes the excellent news that someone -- perhaps Israeli or American special forces -- have successfully blown the Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, to Kingdom Come in Damascus, Syria.

Mughniyeh was identified long ago as a key perpetrator of the attack that killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French soldiers in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. He was believed to have been instrumental also in a deadly bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, in the kidnapping of cleric Terry Waite and the kidnapping and murder of William Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut. He was responsible for the murder of the U.S. Navy diver, Robert Stethem, in the hijacking of TWA flight 847 to Beirut in 1985. And he may have been responsible for the Iranian-backed bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed many innocents.

Whoever finally got rid of him this morning should have all our compliments, and thanks.

In response to the elimination of Mughniyeh, Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian stooge who leads Hezbollah from a hiding place, vowed to strike at Israeli interests throughout the world. When Nasrallah is found, he must quickly be eliminated as well.

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