Sen. John McCain is not George Bush. He is in fact something closer to nemesis than supporter, a Republican who has wandered so far off the ranch that Sen. John Kerry considered him as a running mate four years ago and articles in a couple of liberal magazines said he really ought to be the head of the Democratic ticket.
The Democrats now are contending a McCain victory would represent a third term for Bush, leaving them to explain the Grand Canyon’s worth of differences between the two men on such issues as Donald Rumsfeld’s competence, a 2005 Bush energy bill seen by McCain as a lobbyist giveaway, global warming, tax cuts, a Medicare prescription-drug bill, the interrogation of terrorist suspects, nuclear proliferation, gun control, fuel-efficiency standards in cars, a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage, drilling for oil in Alaska and ethanol. For starters.
If there were a Mr. Bipartisan crown, McCain is the senator who would wear it. Articles remind us he joined as chief co-sponsor with Democrat Russell Feingold on campaign-finance reform, with Democrat Edward Kennedy on immigration reform, with erstwhile Democrat Joe Lieberman on global-warming legislation and on detailing safeguards for patients with Democrat John Edwards. For starters.
Few Democrats have given the Bush administration a harder time on big issues, but now, says no less a spokesman for that party than Barack Obama, he is voting with the president 90 percent of the time, and has reversed himself on vital positions for the sake of getting to the White House.
McCain voted with Bush just 77 percent of the time one year, and has voted with his party as little as 67 percent, according to one review of his record I read. He is ambitious, but advancing his idea of the American cause has clearly mattered more to him than advancing his own.
I think that conservatives have at least as much to fear from this man as liberals, except in three crucial areas.
One is that he is now and always has been an adamant foe of excessive spending. The second is that he would nominate strict-constructionist judges. And three is that he would bring a sure sense of our defense needs to the presidency.
Such issues should determine how people vote, not the silly argument that McCain would be Bush all over again.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former Washington opinion writer and editor of two dailies. He can be reached at Speaktojay@aol.com