(Via Flickr) Hatch 1921As John McCain clinched the Republican nomination for president, the Arizona senator said he “never believed I was destined to be president.” Neither did many Republicans,but the party faithful should be thankful.
McCain is the best hope for the GOP to win the White House. Granted, that hope is fairly remote and odds are pretty good that the one-time Vietnam POW will get a whopping not seen since Barry Goldwater got creamed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But he is the only Republican that stands to a party to bring victory to a party lead by an extremely unpopular president who brought America into an extremely unpopular war.
The word “maverick” often is used to describe him. He is a very likable guy and has bucked his party from time to time. But Paul Krugman of the New York Times argues that’s a myth.
Mr. McCain’s reputation as a moderate may be based on his former opposition to the Bush tax cuts. In 2001 he declared, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us.”
But now — at a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war, when the case against tax cuts for the rich is even stronger — Mr. McCain is happy to shower benefits on the most fortunate. He recently voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, an action that will worsen the budget deficit while mainly benefiting people with very high incomes.
When it comes to foreign policy, Mr. McCain was never moderate. During the 2000 campaign he called for a policy of “rogue state rollback,” anticipating the “Bush doctrine” of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later. Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat to the United States; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain’s aggressive views on foreign policy, and his expressed willingness, almost eagerness, to commit U.S. ground forces overseas, explain why he, not George W. Bush, was the favored candidate of neoconservative pundits such as William Kristol of The Weekly Standard.
The Democrats are going to tie together McCain and Bush in ways the two rivals would never tolerate. Bush is due to endorse him tomorrow. McCain isn’t hiding from Bush entirely telling his supporters that he didn’t need to “defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime.” He also spoke of looking forward and not back but you have to wonder how long that talk will last.