McCain’s utopian advisors
There is no end of conservative pundits who keep telling John McCain that he can win the support of conservatives for the fall campaign by assuring them over and over that he’s a “true conservative” and that he really, really, really believes in border security and opposes amnesty. That’s the advice he keeps getting from, among others, Richard Lowry, John O’Sullivan, and Fred Barnes. Correction: Barnes in his piece in the Weekly Standard does not tell McCain to make assurance on border control—which is no surprise, given that Barnes is himself an open borders fanatic of the McCain stripe. Rather, Barnes thinks McCain can gain conservatives’ support simply by re-affirming, over and over, his credentials as a “social conservative,” i.e., as an opponent of abortion. But of course McCain’s opposition to abortion has been the centerpiece—and virtually the sole content—of his endlessly repeated self-advertisement as a “proud conservative” for the last 20 years. So what new thing is Barnes proposing here? In telling McCain to call himself a conservative in order to convince conservatives that he is a conservative, Barnes engages in the same brain-dead pursuit of the impossible that President Bush engages in when he calls on Muslims for the thousandth time to adopt democracy or to accept the existence of Israel. For some people, words, such as “Islam” or “conservatism,” do not point to any objective concepts or larger realities, but are simply words. And since there are no objective concepts to which words point, there are no mutually exclusive concepts, such as Islam and democracy, or open borders and national existence, or conservatism and McCainism. And therefore nothing is impossible.
Notice that Barnes says that McCain’s credentials on national security are “dazzling,” on the basis of McCain’s support for the surge in Iraq. I agree that the surge significantly—though I also think temporarily—improved national security in Iraq. But what did it do for the national security of the United States? Neocons seem to have defined the “nation” as the world. And this is in keeping with President Bush’s 2005 inaugural address, in which he said that tyranny anywhere in the world is a threat to America. So McCain’s devotion to “national security,” which is his main claim to the presidency and to the mantle of conservatism, is in reality a devotion to a world order governed and policed by the United States.