Saturday, February 16, 2008

Texas newspapers: Time for GOP to rally 'round John McCain

Two Texas newspapers make an eloquent case for Republicans -- and, indeed, the country -- to rally around John McCain.

Houston Chronicle
Bested rival Mitt Romney said of Sen. John McCain, "This is a man capable of leading our country at a dangerous hour."

The Houston Chronicle agrees and recommends that Texas Republicans vote March 4 to make the senator from Arizona their party's candidate for president of the United States.

As a naval aviator and prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, McCain proved his courage, honor and resolve beyond question. If years of deprivation and torture could not break him, the stress and challenge of an international crisis are not likely to.

Most Republican candidates these days try to claim the mantel of the late President Ronald Reagan. McCain was actually Reagan's friend and supporter. McCain closely resembles Reagan in at least this regard: Most Americans disagreed with one or more of Reagan's policies, yet they trusted his sincerity. The same can be said for McCain. His well-known disdain for popularity-seeking has won him the support of establishment Republicans, independents and swing voters.
McCain's reputation as a maverick is well-deserved, but voting one's conscience should not be regarded as radically unorthodox. McCain simply does not let party dogma interfere with effective policy-making.

A prominent example is McCain's effort to craft reasonable immigration reform legislation. The bill he co-authored would have increased security on our borders but offered a path to legal status for the millions of undocumented workers in the United States -- many of them living and working in the Houston region.

Primary elections attract the parties' true believers, who tend to be less centrist in their views. McCain has had to maneuver and trim his sails to attract in sufficient numbers the votes of the Republican Party's base.

However, should McCain win the Republican presidential election, as seems likely, he will be well-suited to work beneficially with a Congress almost surely in Democratic hands.

Criticism from talk show hosts and other commentators that McCain is not sufficiently conservative to lead the party is baseless and absurd. McCain opposes the right to choose abortion; he is a hawk on Iraq; his long voting record consistently matches mainstream conservative thought; he opposes changing the Constitution for trivial reasons. Some critics fault McCain for opposing President Bush's income tax cuts, but McCain's opposition to the resulting runaway deficits is classically conservative.

Of all the candidates who sought the GOP presidential nomination this year, McCain is the most experienced and stands the best chance to attract the swing voters he needs to keep the White House in his party's control.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, is in trouble with the right wing of the Republican Party for his alleged apostasy on some major issues. The Caller-Times Editorial Board likes him for all the reasons why he is in trouble with that base. Consider the Arizona Republican's recent record.

We know now that McCain was right when he predicted that invading Iraq with too few troops could lead to a debacle. The situation would be far different in Iraq today if President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republican neo-cons had listened to McCain's advice before launching the invasion of Iraq.

Events in Iraq have confirmed that McCain was right when he pushed for a "surge" of additional troops and a change of counter-insurgency strategy. Once again, he was right when he urged President Bush to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who seemed incapable of changing course or modifying his entrenched beliefs on a failing strategy. The job that has been done by Robert Gates has shown that McCain was right to push for Rumsfeld's replacement.

There are other issues that are not so clear-cut, but which we believe that McCain has been right about.

He has steadfastly opposed the use of torture against terrorism suspects, arguing that its use will put American servicemen at risk when they are captured. No other candidate knows first-hand what it is like to be tortured. McCain, a former Navy flier, was a prisoner of war tortured by his North Vietnamese captors at a POW camp called "The Plantation" in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. He was a POW for 5½ years but refused to be freed unless his fellow POWs were freed with him.

McCain has stood up for the humane treatment of prisoners not because he is overly concerned about the well-being of terrorists in our custody, but because he is concerned about what it says about America and its values. He also knows from his own experience that information extracted by torture is rarely reliable.

McCain was right, we believe, to oppose President George W. Bush's tax cuts. In 2001, McCain was one of only two Republican senators to vote against the first Bush tax cut. He voted against the Bush tax cut in 2003, arguing that it didn't make sense to cut taxes in a time of war. The growing deficit and the troubled state of the economy confirm that McCain was right. He has promised that, as president, he would veto pork-barrel spending; he's one of the few Republicans these days who can legitimately claim to be a fiscal hawk.

Among the presidential candidates, only McCain has been comfortable enough in his own skin to admit that he knows little about economics. That admission is refreshing. A president can't be expected to be an expert in every field of study; but he does need to choose good advisers and, when faced with making a decision, have the good judgement to be able to make the right call.

McCain is right, we believe, when he says we have to tackle global warming; this will be a critical issue for the next president. This is another stance that has hurt McCain with the Republican base, but it should make him more attractive to independents and cross-over Democrats. He was right on immigration reform to favor a compromise that would offer the country's 12 million undocumented immigrants a path to legalized status and, eventually, citizenship.

Many of these positions have put McCain at odds with his own party's right wing. For that reason, he is known as a maverick. But that's just a euphemism for being an independent thinker, for being able to follow his own judgment. By political philosophy, McCain is a conservative and his voting record will bear that out. But he can be pragmatic and flexible. He can cross the aisle and reach compromises with Democrats.

People across the country yearn for leaders in the White House and in Congress who can get things done, who can move beyond the partisan rancor that has split the nation's capital into warring camps. McCain can remember the days when the Senate was a place of shared values and comity when senators of both parties could set aside differences and work together. That's why McCain could work with Sen. Edward Kennedy on immigration reform and with Russ Feingold on campaign-finance reform. For the party's true believers, however, his semi-detached status has always been an irritant.

He deserves some slack here. McCain has earned the nation's respect for his service in Vietnam. And he earned the country's respect for his demonstrated integrity in holding to his beliefs, even when others in his party were vilifying him for not following the official party line. But McCain says what he thinks, sticks to his beliefs, and refuses to trim his sails to fit whichever political wind is blowing.

There are two other candidates still in contention on the Republican ballot in Texas on March 4: Texas' own congressman Ron Paul, who can't win the nomination but is soldiering on to spread his quixotic message. And Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, the former Baptist minister, who has been an entertaining stump speaker and has gained support from the anybody-but-McCain forces within the party. But he has no chance of winning the nomination, either.

For Republican voters, there is really only one plausible candidate -- John McCain. And the Republican Party is lucky that McCain will be the nominee. After seven years of George W. Bush's presidency, Republicans entered this political year with almost no chance of holding on to the White House. But McCain gives the party a strong chance. This is no time for Republicans to be booing the one candidate who has broad enough appeal to take them down the road to victory in November.

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