Who gets the credit / the blame for the rise of McCain?

“In the absence of a compelling conservative,” writes Charles Krauthammer, “the Republican electorate turned to the apostate sheriff,” meaning McCain. But, he asks, who prepared the ground for the McCain ascendancy?

Not Feingold. Not Kennedy. Not even Giuliani. It was George W. Bush. Bush begat McCain.

Bush remains popular in his party. Even conservatives are inclined to forgive him his various heresies because they are trumped by his singular achievement: He’s kept us safe. He’s the original apostate sheriff.

There are several problems with this. First, as Paul Nachman points out in a comment immediately following Krauthammer’s article, it is highly questionable that Bush is keeping us safe. Nachman quotes my idea that as long as there is a significant Muslim population in America, a population that is continually being augmented by the mass immigration of Muslims which Bush supports, the constant threat of Muslim terror will be with us, along with the accompanying security regime that has so altered our way of life. Also, as Carol Iannone indicates, the former Palestinian terrorist Walid Shoebat, who was part of a terror cell in America, has said in a speech on YouTube (see the last six minutes) that the jihadists’ plan in the West is to advance jihad by financial means, then by political means, and then, when the Muslim population in a country reaches 20 percent, by violence. Thus Bush, by encouraging the steady growth of the U.S. Muslim population through continual Muslim immigration, is doing the very opposite of improving U.S. national security. And of course McCain seeks open borders even more aggressively and emotionally than Bush.

A further problem with Krauthammer’s argument, that Bush has kept us safe and that McCain will follow in his footsteps, is that McCain won’t even keep us safe to the limited extent that Bush has done, since McCain wants to dismantle Bush’s principal measure to protect America (as distinct from protecting Iraq): telephone surveillance of possible terrorists in the United States. McCain also wants to bring al Qaeda prisoners from Guantanamo into the U.S., which will hang up our courts for years and lead to the release of many of the prisoners, not exactly improving our security.

Thus the notion that McCain is deeply committed to national security is a fantasy—a fantasy born of mainstream conservatives’ confusion between national defense and liberal globalism with a gun.

When Krauthammer, who is himself a leading ideologue of liberal globalism with a gun, observes that Bush prepared the way to McCain, he intends it as a compliment. But what he’s really saying is that Bush’s sellout of conservative principle in exchange for a specious and illusory safety, combined with the establishment conservatives’ eagerness to support this package, is what has paved the way to McCain. “Safety” uber alles, “National Security” (i.e., Global Democracy) uber alles—this is the Bush policy, which McCain is able to inherit and carry forward only because the establishment conservatives, Bush’s lapdogs, have spent the last seven years validating it instead of challenging it.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

Bush gets the “credit” for the rise of McCain in another way—by discrediting conservatism politically, Bush made it difficult (or impossible) for an authentic conservative candidate to win the nomination.

Just look at these letters in the NYT.

All of them equate Bush with aggressive intervention overseas, big government, corruption, incompetence, and government intrusion into the private lives of citizens. None of these labels would stick if Bush had governed as an authentic conservative instead of wrapping himself in a mantle of conservative rhetoric while governing as a liberal. In doing the latter, Bush has severely damaged the conservative brand, and as an immediate result, an authentic conservative cannot succeed him. The conservative punditocracy further damaged the conservative brand by endorsing what Bush did. Most conservative voters know full well that Bush was not a real conservative (and neither is McCain), but who can blame the average Joe for thinking that Bush was a conservative when he said he was, lots of conservative talking heads said he was, and the liberal media said he was?

It remains to be seen whether McCain will be able to succeed Bush, but without a doubt, if he does, then he will further damage the conservative brand if not destroy it entirely.

Also, if the conservative talking heads fall in line behind McCain as they did behind Bush—which they will almost certainly do if McCain is elected—that will be another nail in the coffin of conservatism.

LA replies:

”. In doing the latter, Bush has severely damaged the conservative brand, and as an immediate result, an authentic conservative cannot succeed him.”

Excellent point.

“[If McCain succeeds Bush], he will further damage the conservative brand if not destroy it entirely.”


I don’t know that it will destroy it, it will certainly damage it. Which is not a speculation, because, as you point out, we already have the clear results of seven years of Bush.

Also, it’s been one of the major themes of this website over these last several years to attack conservatives for going along with non-conservative ideas, and to insist on a principled and consistent conservatism. I’ve often been criticized for insisting on ideological purity. But the proof is in the pudding. The conservative movements’ consistent failure to grasp and adhere to conservative principle has now resulted in the rise of McCain.

Larry G. writes:

“The fault … is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Republican voters. First, most Republicans are not conservatives, or even “conservatives,” and so they have no problem with a candidate who scorns conservatives. Second, like most Americans, Republicans are appallingly ignorant, so they probably didn’t even know about McCain’s previous actions or current positions. Finally, they put politics over principles and are willing to support the GOP candidate simply because he is the GOP candidate. With all sorts of moderates, liberals and RINOs in the party, there no longer is a set of core principles the members can agree on and support. This is a result of the “big tent” philosophy that lets anyone call himself a Republican, on the theory that numbers are all that matter. This is the same force behind Republican support of affirmative action (to get that 10 percent of the black vote that isn’t reflexively Democrat) and open borders (more people = more voters, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of them will vote for the Democrats). Certainly there were other factors at work and certain individuals in influential positions who may deserve some share of the blame, but I place the blame for McCain on the people who flipped the lever beside his name.

LA replies:

You blame the party for having a big-tent philosophy, then you blame the individual voters who belong to the party by virtue of the big tent. But if the party admits non-conservatives, why criticize non-conservatives for not voting conservative? It seems to me that blaming the party’s overall rules/philosophy, and blaming individual voters, are mutually exclusive arguments.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 08, 2008 03:17 PM | Send

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