November 16, 2006

"The election was not an affirmation of the other party’s program...."

John McCain said at the Federalist Society convention today:
Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t find much evidence that my Democratic friends were offering anything that resembled a coherent platform or principled leadership on the critical issues that confront us today.

Nor do I believe Americans rejected our values and governing philosophy. On the contrary, I think they rejected us because they felt we had come to value our incumbency over our principles, and partisanship, from both parties, was no longer a contest of ideas, but an ever cruder and uncivil brawl over the spoils of power.

I am convinced that a majority of Americans still consider themselves conservatives or right of center. They still prefer common sense conservatism to the alternative. Americans had elected us to change government, and they rejected us because they believed government had changed us. We must spend the next two years reacquainting the public and ourselves with the reason we came to office in the first place: to serve a cause greater than our self-interest.

Common sense conservatives believe that the government that governs least governs best; that government should do only those things individuals cannot do for themselves, and do them efficiently. Much rides on that principle: the integrity of the government, our prosperity; and every American’s self-respect, which depends, as it always has, on one’s own decisions and actions, and cannot be provided as another government benefit....
Well observed.

(Sorry, no link. The text of the speech was emailed to me. But here's a news story noting the speech.)


Synova said...

In several places the last few weeks I've read observations that the Democrat on a local ticket was often more conservative than the Republican they were running against, up to and including being pro-life.

MadisonMan said...

If the majority of Americans are right of center, then the center isn't the center.

That's what I get for thinking normally.

mikeyes said...

I think Senator McCain was referring to the "center" as defined by the Congress. There seem to be big differences between the way our representatives in Congress think and the way we normal citizens believe. I could be mistaken ;'}

Simon said...

Synova said...
"In several places the last few weeks I've read observations that the Democrat on a local ticket was often more conservative than the Republican they were running against, up to and including being pro-life."

I'm not sure that I buy the argument that being pro life sites so comfortably on the left-right scale as you imply. I don't think Paul Begala, for example, would appreciate being called "conservative." I would argue that one's view on abortion has far more to do with whether one considers an unborn child to be a human life of some value or not. There's nothing in my political philosophy that answers that question, and there's nothing in the liberal political philosophy that answers it. Now, my political philosophy gives me some clear answers about what to do with that belief once it's there, but it doesn't establish the underlying and animating belief. Life is non-partisan.

YAMB said...

Synova, you may have read that, but do you actually have any comparisons of specific candidates in specific races to support that? I think it's wishful thinking on the part of cultural conservatives to say and believe that, just as it's wishful thinking on McCain's part to be convinced that the majority of Americans consider themselves conservative or right of center.

altoids1306 said...

It's fine and good that McCain gives speeches about this - until his actions convince me that it's not an act, my vote will go to a certain former NYC mayor.

I'm not sure that I buy the argument that being pro life sites so comfortably on the left-right scale as you imply.

It doesn't matter whether you buy it or not, it doesn't matter whether individual Democrats are pro-life, or individual Republicans are pro-choice. More Democratic power means more pro-choice legislation, and more Republican power means more pro-life legislation. A vote for a Democrat, any Democrat, even a pro-life one, aids the pro-choice movement.

Randy said...

Altoids: I'm not sure I understood you correctly. I assume your post means you are a pro-life voter, yet you will enthusiastically vote for Rudy Giuliani, who is unapologetically pro-choice?

Randy said...

I'm too lazy to provide the link, but a review of the self-identification of voters in the recent election might be an order. (Anyone interested can find it via Michael Barone's blog, I believe.)

IIRC, 37% of voters ID'ed themselves as Democrats and 37% as Republicans. (GOP ID was -1% of 2004).

In California, 31% said they were conservative, 25% liberal and the rest moderate. IIRC, that is about the same as in 2004.

Not saying it makes or breaks any story line. Am saying it helps to use the facts to support a contention when the facts are so readily available. ;-)

Simon said...

Altoids1306 -
How does this grab you?

Simon said...

I can't speak for Altoids, but my answer would be that if Giulliani is anti-Roe and will appoint judges who are anti-Roe, I couldn't care less what his normative view on abortion is.

IMO, at the Federal level, the major task is getting the abortion issue out of the Supreme Court an back to the states where it belongs. Since one does not have to be pro-life to recognize how singularly illegitimate and corrupting the court's protracted involvement in the issue has been, I have no hesitation in voting for a pro-choice President provided he shares my view on Roe-Casey and will act accordingly where appointments are concerned.

In other words, I don't care what Rudy thinks about abortion. I don't care if he's personally pro-choice; I don't even care, when pulling a lever for him as President of the United States, if he's politically pro-choice, just as long as he is, first and foremost, a federalist. Let him veto federal legislation by a GOP Congress against abortion in D.C. and the military, just so long as he gives us that fifth vote.

Revenant said...

My personal feeling is that McCain is right.

He is, in any case, accurately describing why I sat out this election instead of supporting the Republican candidates.

Randy said...

Simon: Thanks for your take - which I thought much more nuanced than most on this subject. Given that, in the end, I'm pretty sure that you will not be voting for Giuliani.

Revenant said...

If the majority of Americans are right of center, then the center isn't the center.

Depends on the distribution.


The average of those numbers is 5.5 -- but 80% of them are above-average. If you take "the center" to mean "the median political opinion" then obviously 50% of Americans are right of center; if you take it to refer to the average of political views, or to the average or median or Western or world political views, then there's nothing unusual about the idea of most Americans being center-right.

I think if you asked the average European they'd say that America is a right-wing nation, even when it is run by Democrats.

Simon said...


It is overly-simplistic to say that the Federal government has no role to play in abortion policy, but it is principally and primarily a question for the states to resolve in whatever manner they deem appropriate. If Giulliani shares that view, then it is of no interest to me whatsoever what he believes states should do when duly freed from the shackles of Roe.

I don't reject the validity of Ann's arguments about partial-birth abortion. I don't express any view on whether they should prevail. For the time being, I argue only that they are a question of policy on an issue reserved by the Constitution to the states. I challenge the Supreme Court of the United States -- as opposed to the Wisconsin State Legislature -- as a venue for that argument, not the underlying merits of the argument.

To be sure, I would oppose legal abortion in the latter arena, but I concede the authority of the states to legalize it should I fail to carry the day. Moreover, even if Antonin Scalia pulled into my driveway tonight in a souped-up DeLorean and some funky mirror shades, and proclaimed that he'd come back from the future - 2015! - to warn me that in 2007, the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, and that within three years, every state had passed laws legalizing abortion and a candidate who professed to being anything more than personally pro-life couldn't get arrested (that is, if the Jeff Rosen prediction is correct), I would still argue for Roe to be overruled.

I am not sure that Giulliani will win the nomination, but right now, I am really struggling to imagine any other candidate (possibly excepting Mitt Romney) who can win the country. He isn't my first choice (if I had my way, you'd be looking at President-for-Life Scalia, or, more practically, President Gingrich), but the fact is that any Republican who can't win or obviate Ohio in 2008 is out. Giulliani can do both.

Richard Dolan said...

It's easy to see how McCain could reach out to a winning coalition of voters with a speech like that, combined as it would be with a winning personal bio. But it's always striking to see how McCain still rubs so many self-identified conservatives the wrong way. Whenever his name comes up, even on Ann's threads, you find that reaction. The issues usually cited -- campaign finance "reform," immigration, some of the "social values" stuff -- don't really explain it. If anything, Rudy should be even less acceptable to conservatives on those same issues. On national security, tax policy, budget restraint and "small government conservatism" of the sort highlighted in his speech today to the Federalist Society, he is as "true blue" a conservative as one is likely to find. I think part of the reaction is just his personality, and part of it is that McCain is cursed with good press in the MSM (for now anyway).

I think he will have a different problem as a national candidate, in that the strong reactions to him by some conservatives will just exacerbate the tensions between classic Western conservatives, where libertarian values are more prominent, and social conservatives, who want the Gov't to adopt policies favoring specific social outcomes on "traditional values" issues. When Republicans win nationally, it is usually with a candidate, like Reagan, who were able paper over those tensions so that those two blocs of the conservatives aren't at war with each other. W has been somewhat successful at doing the same thing, although not to the degree that Reagan was. McCain, for whatever reason, has had trouble pulling off the same result.

In large part, of course, Reagan's and W's success in uniting the sometimes disputatious conservative sub-tribes was attributable to the sharp contrast offered by their opponents -- Carter, Mondale, Gore and Kerry. From that list, it would be hard for any conservative voter to decide whom he dislikes the most. I suspect that McCain, if he is the nominee, will be equally lucky -- the Dem nominee will do more to make the conservatives get over their angst about him than anything else, particularly after two years of Dem control of Congress. And, if his health holds up, he certainly seems to be in good position to win the nomination over Rudy. From what I've seen so far, I think he has the potential to be a great president, and I would have no trouble supporting him.

Brian Doyle said...

I think McCain understates it. The elections were clearly an endorsement of the conservative movement.

The American people are smarter (and far more conservative) than they get credit for. They know that the best way to ensure a smooth transfer of supreme executive power from King George to Saint McCain is to arrange for Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker, and for Joe Lieberman to become the most powerful man in the Senate.

Randy said...

I understand what you are saying, Simon, but IIRC Giuliani is someone I believe could be easily classified as pro-Roe, and unlikely to appoint anyone to the bench who would overturn that decision. Perhaps his position has become more nuanced in recent years, but I tend to doubt it.

As for Romney, his biggest problem is the very large percentage of Americans who say they would not vote for a Mormon for President (much, much higher than those who would not vote for a Jewish or black candidate). Look back at what Ted Kennedy did to him in what was probably Kennedy's only really tough election. All kinds of slurs and whisper campaigns in the theoretically enlightened and tolerant state of Massachusetts.

The Mormon Church has already had to publicly deny that they are secretly organizing Mormons everywhere on Romney's behalf, and the campaign has not yet even begun! (A lot of people seem to believe that Mormons spend a lot of time in church plotting political strategy and other nefarious things instead of practicing their religion.)

Randy said...

Doyle, one thing we probably agree on: Joe Lieberman is probably going to enjoy every minute of this next session in Congress, the people of the state of Connecticut are probably going to see a lot more federal dollars coming their way, and some senators are going to deeply regret (over, and over, and over again) some things they said last summer. I am quite sure that pay-back can be fun and Joe Lieberman is ready, willing, and able to have a good time while doing it. (Or don't you agree?)

Brian Doyle said...

Joe may feel betrayed, but if he wanted the full-throated support of Democrats, he should have won the Democratic primary.

He should just be grateful they sat it out, and get back to sniffing Republican jocks.

Randy said...

Lots of unpleasant imagery going around today. Too bad you chose now to add to it.

Simon said...

My level of antagonism towards McCain is relatively low; he's obviously very self-involved, and I think his grasp of the first amendment is almost non-existent (his view of Congressional power seems charmingly pre-Lopez as well), but overall, I think he's a sound sort of fellow and a capable pair of hands. If he is the nominee in 2008, I will vote for him, and not even entirely unenthusiastically. He is not my first choice, but he can win Ohio, and I don't think he'd be a terrible President. He would be, at least, no worse than the incumbent, and in the battle of visions between southern conservatism and western conservatism, I am profoundly a westerner.

But with that having been said - and I say it to make clear that I am not here to grind an axe against McCain - I think you have to recognize the sincere and genuine hostility, if not outright loathing, of a significant chunk of the Republican base towards McCain. I know people (and not crazies, either - smart, intelligent conservative-leaning people whom I respect a great deal) who would rather vote for Hillary than see McCain in the White House. That white-hot contempt for the man is serious, it is real, and it runs deep.

That it is quite illogical, for all the reasons you cite, I don't deny, but I suggest is irrelevant. I don't deny the logic of the liberal argument that it would make no sense for an MSM that is owned almost entirely by right-leaning corporations to have a liberal bias, and yet, all the force of reason one might muster folds upon the experience of actually watching or reading the MSM. Pace Holmes, a page of experience is worth a volume of logic. Inexplicable though the hostility may be, it is very real, and should not be underestimated.

In point of fact, it seems to me that if Rudy prevails in the primary, more so than any other single factor, it will be because of an overriding hatred of McCain overwhelming conservatives' misgivings over Rudy.

Simon said...

R.e. Giulliani, I can't honestly say that I believe that he is as hostile to Roe et al as am I, although I suggest he is more so than you might think. But I would argue that even if he is less hostile to it than I would like, he is certainly more so than any of the Democratic Party's nominees, and that any Justices that Giulliani might appoint is more likely to closer to my view of the law than any Justices that, say, Bayh or Clinton might appoint. George W. Bush is unlikely to deliberately appoint the kind of judges that I want, but he is more likely to accidentally do so when appointing conservatives than either of his opponents. At an absolute minimum, much the same appertains to Giulliani (and even to candidates who I would prefer in an ideal electoral environment; Newt's views on congressional nullification are nothing short of abhorent to me), and there is no more guarantee that any other viable contender for the nominee would be any more likely to share my view of the courts.

Revenant said...

I would argue that even if he is less hostile to it than I would like, he is certainly more so than any of the Democratic Party's nominees

The question is whether he could get the nomination in the first place, though, and he'll be running against a lot of other Republicans who are strictly pro-life.

I'd love to see him run, and I don't think there's any doubt that he'd win in a landslide if he did, but I can't picture the Republicans actually nominating him in the first place -- not unless they're convinced he's their only hope of winning, which doesn't seem likely at this point.

Unknown said...

Every single Democrat that was elected was further to the left of the Republican they replaced.

So Congress moved vastly to the left. If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, please provide it.

Simon said...

downtownlad said...
"Every single Democrat that was elected was further to the left of the Republican they replaced."

I can't speak for anyone else, but in my district, I think that it's honestly a toss-up whether Ellsworth is more conservative than Hostettler was.

Peder said...

Downtownlad, I'm not sure that's true in Rhode Island. Chafee was far from conservative.

Unknown said...

What planet are you living on Simon? Hostettler ran on a viscious anti-gay campaign.

"Eighth district voters are concerned about the homosexual agenda," Hostettler told The Associated Press Tuesday. "Brad Ellsworth himself has said that he is in favor of granting benefits to same-sex couples that are now reserved for heterosexual married couples."

Even Hostettler readily admits that Ellsworth is a liberal in the mold of Nancy Pelosi.

Revenant said...

Every single Democrat that was elected was further to the left of the Republican they replaced. So Congress moved vastly to the left.

Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that the Democrats were all left-wingier than the Republicans they replaced, it doesn't follow that Congress moved "vastly to the left". Only six percent of the seats changed parties. Because of the threshold effect the result will be much more left-wing legislation, but the average political position of Congresscritters was only nudged a teeny bit to the left of its previous location.

James said...

Here's the link to the full text, courtesy of the Senator himself, (and your tax dollars)November 16, 2006 MCCAIN CALLS FOR RENEWED COMMITMENT TO LIMITED GOVERNMENT AND THE RULE OF LAW AT FEDERALIST SOCIETY DINNER.

MadisonMan said...

revenant, re-read my 2nd sentence.

Unknown said...

Only six percent of the seats changed parties.

We just went from Senate Majority Leader Bill "You can get AIDS from Kissing" Frist to Majority Leader Reid.

The house went from Hastert to Pelosi.

If that's not a move vastly to the left, I don't know what is.

John Stodder said...

The right-wing animosity toward John McCain, who is clearly one of the most electable of the Republicans, is so self-destructive. Of all the conservatives, he's the one with the broadest public support. Even his variance from the orthodoxy mostly goes to reforms that are popular with the public in general. I mean, after the last Congress, can anyone say with a straight face that money is not too pervasive a force in governing? And despite what callers into talk shows think, arresting 12 million illegal immigrants, most of whom are in the work force, would case a recession.

None of that matters to self-appointed gatekeepers like Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh, who will do whatever they can with their considerable power to make sure he is crippled and won't make it. They are under the delusion that the public is aching to elect Mitt Romney president -- even though he is inexperienced in foreign policy, the primary qualification we need from the 2008 candidate of either party.

Sorry. Had to rant. Reading a sensible speech from McCain reminds me of the sXXX-storm to come.

reader_iam said...

The election was not an affirmation of the other party’s program

Be that as it may, and putting it to the side for the moment:

Am the only one looking back over not just the past 4 years, but he cycle before that, and finding it an amazing and illuminating thing to read and hear serious discussion about McCain V. Guiliani and vice versa?

Or either one of them as potential candidates against various from the other party?

I mean serious discussion involving them as the main point(s), not just as foils as against "XXX" within the context of the larger debate.

Sit back for a moment and think about that. Think back and let the trajectory sit with you for a moment.

No predictions here--just a finger pointed at an interesting unrolling of tangled political yarns.

Bruce Hayden said...

Sometimes McCain says or does the right thing, and sometimes the wrong thing, at least from the point of view of conservatives. Here, I agree with him.

But then he turns around and screws the Republicans. He shows no loyalty to anyone except for himself. Yes, leading the Republican side of the Gang of 14 played well with the MSM, but it didn't play at all well with most Republicans. They voted for George Bush for president, and it is his prerogative to appoint federal judges. Playing games with well qualified nominees does not sit well with a lot of conservatives.

Of course, one of his biggest transgressions was McCain-Feingold, which negated some of the Republicans' traditional fund raising strengths through pushing campaign spending to unaccountable 527 groups. This resulted in millions of dollars being spent by a very few people to sway the 2004 elections.

Of course, this later may be a result of his experiences as one of the Keating 5. And, many of us don't disagree with the concept of campaign reform - it is just that McCain seems to jump on any bill that even hints at it, regardless of how badly crafted the bill is.

Bruce Hayden said...

Besides the loyalty issue I mentioned above, another big problem with McCain for president is that he doesn't seem to have the temperment for it. He doesn't seem to work well with people. He lacks significant management experience (esp. as compared to his potential competition in 2008, or even 2000). And, maybe most importantly, he appears to have an explosive temper. (Well, ok, Clinton supposedly had one too - he just kept it under wraps from the public).

dklittl said...

But then he turns around and screws the Republicans. He shows no loyalty to anyone except for himself.

I can agree on that for McCain, but the problem is the hypocrisy of telling Democrats what a stand up guy Lieberman is. Face it Lieberman and McCain are guys who are in a party of one. That can help them win a broader coalition of support, but is contrary to the current party system that we've set up. And McCain, I would say is more loyal than Lieberman in that at least he took his "thumpin" in a Republican primary like a man.

hdhouse said...

I would assume that Mr. McCain demonstrates new depth to the phrase "It's all about me".

I wish the republicans would just ask God to move over as they don't hold themselves responsible for any evil (that's all Satan's fault and we let Satan run afoul so WE look good in comparison) and all the good in the world - including anything good that happens anyplace, anytime - that's us!

Simon said...

I can't get too upset about McCain putting together the Gang of 14 deal, because I maintain that his doing so prevented the Nuclear Option, which I believe would have been at odds with the Constitution, a view I have explained and expounded repeatedly.

Might eliminating the filibuster have helped the cause? Perhaps momentarily, perhaps not. I was undecided then and remain so today on the merits of the question, but the threshold question was whether the Constitution permitted it to be eliminated by the mechanism that was proposed. I don't believe that it does. I want to ensure the confirmation of Judges who will move the U.S. closer to the Constitution, but not at any cost: it would be absurd to support the use a mechanism that gets us further from the Constitution to appoint such judges.

In any event, we still confirmed Roberts and Alito, and while I realize that the flow of judicial nominations to the Senate floor has been something of a trickle, it seems to me that the real villains of that piece are Specter, Bush, and above all others, Frist. That's the part that I don't understand - why is everyone mad at McCain, when it has been Frist's incompetence that is most directly to blame. It was Frist who wanted to eliminate the filibuster, had the votes to do so, but failed to act at the moment when it would have been possible to change the rules by a legitimate process.

Simon said...

Another example: Robert Bluey:

"While McCain and others will surely continue to selectively cite progress on judicial nominees -- such as the confirmation of John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court -- the fact remains that there are many nominees who never got a vote because of McCain's shenanigans."

Those nominees never got a vote because of (in declining order of culpability) the Senate Democratic Caucus and Bill Frist. It all seems to basically come back to the nuclear option, doesn't it: the people who were all for it are mad at McCain for stopping it. And unfortunately, I seem to be virtually the only person on the right who was very much opposed to the nuclear option. Which doesn't bode well for McCain. LOL.

The Exalted said...

yup, just goes to show, no matter what happens, its always good for the conservatives. even a crushing defeat for conservative candidates.

and from such a disinterested observer too!

well observed indeed.

was it also well observed when the prez and his vice minion were braying that a dem victory would hand over the congress to OBL? can you really have it both ways? before the election, they're closet terrorists, after the election, they're closet republicans? and can anyone really be so shallow as to take both with a straight face?

as always, the answer, here at least, is yes.

dick said...

I don't know about anyone else but for me the whole idea of abortion and gay rights when it comes to the presidency is totally off the board. I am far more concerned with what the president will do to protect the country from enemies both inside and outside.

What affect does the president actually have on gay rights and abortion anyway. He can nominate judges who made decisions that might affect them but even then most of the cases that judges decide do not have anything to do with gay rights and abortion. He can make a presidential ruling on the subject but that can be overridden by the legislature.

I really just wish that the issue with the presidency would get back to dealing with issues that the president is taxed with executing. As I said the defense issue, the other issues that the presidential cabinet handles like the treasury, trade, commerce, agriculture, national relations, etc. What we have been doing lately is about the equivalent of talking about who you went out with last weekend while you are in a foxhole under fire.

When it comes to McCain, while many of his points make sense, I just cannot like the man. I do not have a good feeling that I can trust him and when it comes to the president I want someone there who will stand up for what he believes and is not poll driven. I don't think McCain is that person.

When it comes to the democrats in congress, I will be very interested in whether they can solve their catfights and handle the legislation that needs to be enacted. Right now I doubt it but who knows, maybe they will settle down after Jan.