Friday, February 1, 2008

Austin Statesman Endorses John McCain

In face of challenge, McCain bends but doesn’t break

By The Editorial Board, Austin Statesman | Friday, February 1, 2008, 07:30 PM

The best candidate for president the Republican Party could offer to American voters in November is Sen. John McCain of Arizona. A conservative, McCain also is pragmatic - he tries to solve problems, not just make the world, or the nation, work the way ideologues say it should.

At this point, just a few days before so-called “Super Tuesday,” when more than 20 states hold Republican primaries, McCain is the front-runner. Unless party sentiment swings heavily to him or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that day, the two men then might well look to the Texas GOP primary on March 4 as the decisive battleground.

Just a few months ago, McCain was considered politically dead. Some of his closest advisers quit; others were forced out. But McCain didn’t quit - he fought back, on his own terms, and now leads his party’s race. It’s the kind of performance that inspires confidence.

One of McCain’s strengths is that he’s a lot more blunt than most politicians. In fact, it gets him into trouble sometimes. In Michigan, as Romney rolled out promises to bring back all those auto factory jobs, McCain told the truth - most of those jobs are gone forever.

The recent economic news has seized America’s attention, and McCain has acknowledged the economy is not his expertise. But any president’s first job is ensuring the defense of our republic, and McCain is an expert on that.

By now, most voters are generally aware of his military background. He is the son and grandson of Navy admirals. A graduate of the Naval Academy, McCain became a pilot. He was shot down over North Vietnam and spent five years as a prisoner of war and was tortured.

After he was released, McCain eventually moved to Arizona and started a political career, serving first in the U.S. House and, since 1987, in the U.S. Senate.

Given that background, it is not surprising that McCain today is most passionate about the United States not walking away from its disastrous war in Iraq without first ensuring that a stable, friendly government is in place. But he has been no mindless defender of President Bush’s handling of that war - he was among the early critics, even as he later stoutly supported the “surge” of additional troops to stabilize Iraq in the face of public opposition.

We don’t know that we would agree with every move a President McCain would make regarding Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. But we’re confident that he would not insist that a mission had been accomplished when it had not and that he would not hesitate to replace commanders or diplomats who needed replacing.

And McCain has shown that he knows that to dissent from a president’s defense policy is not tantamount to treachery. If he’s the nominee, we can expect a high level of debate over U.S. military commitments.

We’re also confident that, in fighting terrorism, McCain would not besmirch the honor of the American people. When McCain demanded that Americans be barred from torturing this nation’s enemies, he wielded a moral authority that no other U.S. leader could match.

McCain has said he would, as president, appoint Supreme Court justices like the deeply conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both Bush appointees. He opposes abortion and defends the right of individuals to bear arms.

But he knows that politics is supposed to be about working together to solve problems, not just crushing political enemies. And so he worked with Democrats in Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation and on a major immigration reform bill that ultimately did not pass.

McCain’s record in Congress is that of a solid Republican. He has a lifetime rating of 82.3 percent from the American Conservative Union. Some conservatives say that rating isn’t nearly high enough. For us, though, it’s an indication that McCain cannot be zipped into anyone’s straitjacket.

His true conservatism can be seen in his willingness to recognize the threat of global warming and the need to conserve Earth’s atmosphere and environment. He refuses to pretend there is no problem.

McCain also looks commanding compared with his remaining GOP rivals.

Romney is trying to evolve rapidly from his record as a moderately progressive governor of Massachusetts to the heir of Ronald Reagan. Politicians are entitled to change their minds about issues from time to time, and every politician has to adjust to changing circumstances. But Romney abuses the privilege.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is an intelligent, charming man who appeals especially to conservative evangelical Christians. But his rather goofy idea for a national sales tax to replace the federal income tax relegates him to the ranks of second-tier candidates.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, from Texas, is a niche candidate, a devoted libertarian with a resolute following, but he’s hardly a contender for the world’s most important job.

We’ve had enough of the bitter partisanship of recent years. We hope that McCain can find a new path if he is elected. Texas Republicans would do well to support him in their March 4 primary.


John McCain needs to be able to state his position on issues in about 40 seconds (each) of compelling statements. He's not there yet. On an issue like health care, we need to do a heckuva lot more than generalize about socialized medicine. There does have to be a safety net -- it just shouldn't be one iwth 300 million people in it.

The public generally has a fear about "losing their health care," and we need to deal with that effectively. We can't afford a candidacy like Dole in 1996, where he responded to Clinton's specifics with rambling comments about "Everybody knows where ole Bob Dole stands." If they did know, they didn't like it.

The Limbaughs, Coulters, and Hewitts of the world desperatedly want John to lose. They want him to appeal to a conservative "base" that isn't big enough to carry Alabama. Let's make sure we don't give them the satisfaction.

We do need a 50-state campaign (although I'd be satisfied with 45 states). There is enough time to conduct such an effort. Sorry, John, no vacations.

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