"I can see possibly not supporting the Republican nominee this election, and I never thought that I would say that in my life."--R. Limbaugh, January 21, 2008
Well, I must admit that if it's Huckabee vs. Obama, I might cross party lines for the first time since 1988 myself. Rush shares my antipathy for Huck, but I think he's really talking about John McCain.
Now, McCain has his sins against conservative orthodoxy, and wrote a bill with Ted Kennedy for what amounted to amnesty for illegal aliens. Very unpopular, but President Bush supported the idea, too, after all. McCain has since retracted this apostasy, and says he'll support border enforcement as the Will of the People.
Not great, but hey, that's the idiosyncratic McCain. Scarcer than honest men in Washington are people who agree with McCain 100% on the issues. It's part of his charm, what makes him appealing to independents, and what makes him the only Republican who, according to the current polls, is in a statistical dead heat with the Democrat candidates---any, all, and each, even against the odious John Edwards.
But what puts a burr under El Rushbo's bottom most is McCain-Feingold, a law that admittedly puts a dent in the First Amendment's protection of free political speech. Bad idea.
McCain was also one of only two GOP senators to vote in 2001, '02 and '03 against the Bush tax cuts [known today as "the Bush tax cuts"], a pillar of one of conservatism's three-legs-of-the-stool, economic liberty. But McCain's right out front in 2008 that he wants to make them permanent, under the somewhat twisted but clever logic that to repeal them would amount to a tax increase. McCain is philosophically against tax increases---and in this, the Year of the Mixed Bag, that should be sufficient.
As for the other two pillars of the conservative coalition, McCain's credentials on national security are nonpareil, and it was he who wanted to whack the counterattack in Iraq even more than Bush and the neo-cons did. As for social conservatism, McCain's record as a pro-lifer is nigh-perfect on abortion issues, although he's not an absolutist on banning embryonic stem cell research.
And if his "Gang of 14" bi-partisan coalition with 7 Democrats in the Senate was offensive to conservatives who wanted to go to the mattresses over Bush43 judicial nominees, it was that very peace treaty that put John Roberts and Sam Alito on the Supreme Court, neither of whom conservatives view as "compromise" candidates.
In fact, they may stand as the Bush43 administration's greatest accomplishment, and it may very well have been John McCain's statesmanship that made their confirmations happen.
So when the estimable Mr. Limbaugh says
The Drive-Bys [mainstream media] consider McCain's 'straight talk' anything they agree with, and the first item on the things they agree with him is: 'Bush sucks.'
I think he's missing the bigger picture here. Although it's unfair to call Bush43 a divider [he reached out to Ted Kennedy, after all, with "No Child Left Behind"], even Dubya's admirers confess that his style became more autocratic than statesmanlike. It was John McCain who buried the hatchet after the 2000 primaries, campaigned for him in 2004, and carried his water in Congress without losing himself and his credibility as his own man in the process.
"Bush sucks?" Hardly.
Look, Rush, I realize that you see yourself as a conservative first and a Republican second, and that's OK. You yourself admitted to the mistake of carrying the Bush administration's [and the GOP's] water, and regretted losing yourself in the process.
John McCain never did. That's presidential timber: his personal heroism is unquestionable, his statemanship and character as well.