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Thomas: The case for McCain as a conservative

POSTED: April 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Just how conservative is John McCain? It has been interesting to watch, listen and read about this issue.

With the withdrawal of Mitt Romney, it also will be interesting to watch as McCain tries to sell himself to those skeptical of his conservatism. Many conservatives have contended that he is a liberal masquerading as one of their own. Some conservatives have gone so far as to say that there is little difference between John McCain and Hillary Clinton, and the country would be served equally well with either one occupying the White House.

This all makes for high drama and high ratings, but I don’t buy it. I do not see McCain as a liberal, and I don’t think it was reasonable to conclude that he was more liberal (in general) than Romney, his chief rival.

I’m not alone in this assessment either. National Review, a leading conservative journal, and an endorser of Romney, recently noted that, "McCain has a more consistent conservative record than Giuliani or Romney ... This is an abiding strength of his candidacy." Bill Bennett, in a recent article concluded that, "There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Barack Obama)."

The McCain haters, at least those with an audience, pinned their hopes on Romney. It is beyond me how a governor from "The People’s Republic of Massachusetts" became the darling of many diehard conservatives. His record as governor is as liberal as one would imagine.

For example, in 2002 Romney responded to the National Abortion Rights Action League’s candidate survey with, "I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose. ... Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs." Interestingly, he refused to respond to the candidate questionnaire sent to him by Massachusetts Citizens for Life. His platform during the 2002 governor’s race said that he "would protect the current pro-choice status quo in Massachusetts."

Twice Romney sought and received the endorsement of the homosexual group, Log Cabin Republican Club. During his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, his organization distributed bright pink flyers during Boston’s annual Gay Pride events, which said, "Mitt and Kerry (his running mate) wish you a great Pride weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights regardless of their sexual preference."

Then Romney ran for president as an anti-abortion, pro-family conservative. I’m not saying he wasn’t sincere in his policy reversals, but his conversion at least appeared politically convenient. However, I would have enthusiastically supported him over Clinton or Obama.

Some claim that if McCain gets elected, he will make a political "left turn." Why were those supporting Romney so sure that he wouldn’t pull the same thing?

As has been widely reported, McCain’s lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 83. This puts him right behind Fred Thompson’s 86, who was the favorite of most conservatives early on. From 2003 to 2006 McCain averaged a 79 percent rating from National Right to Life and during that same period he averaged a 0 percent rating from the pro-abortion groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

From 2003 to 2006 McCain averaged a 6.5 percent from the liberal National Organization for Women, and a 100 percent from the conservative Concerned Women for America. (Interest group ratings for many politicians can be found at www.vote-smart.org)

The Family Research Council, founded by James Dobson (who refuses to support McCain’s candidacy), as recently as 2003 rated McCain 100 percent. Interestingly, the founder of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, found it acceptable last November to endorse the thrice married, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-gun control Rudy Giuliani, who also was once a darling of other vocal "conservatives".

President Bush is no perfect conservative, either, whatever that is. However, he has been steadfast as commander in chief, has given the country tax cuts, has overseen significant economic growth and perhaps most importantly, appointed the strict constructionists Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court.

Whatever a conservative’s concerns with McCain, and there are legitimate ones, the dual roles of commander in chief and appointer of federal judges should be enough to cause any reasonable conservative to give him some benefit of the doubt.

Concerning McCain as commander in chief, even some of his most outspoken critics, such as conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, admit that, "The world’s bad guys would never for a moment think he would blink in any showdown, or hesitate to strike back at any enemy with the audacity to try again to cripple the U.S. through terror."

Contrast that with Obama, who has about the same foreign policy experience as I do, or with Clinton, who said recently that her first act as president would be to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days.

On the judiciary, the Wall Street Journal recently said, "there is no reason to believe that Mr. McCain will not make excellent appointments to the court. On judicial nominations, he has voted soundly in the past from Robert Bork in 1987 to Samuel Alito in 2006."

Given all of this, I will eagerly vote for McCain over the likes of Clinton or Obama. If you call yourself a conservative, I hope you will do the same.

Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident and frequent columnist. Web site, www.trevorgrantthomas.com. His columns appear frequently.



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