Sunday, May 15, 2005

McCain Issues Challenge to Centrists

Senator John McCain was George Stephanopoulos' guest on ABC's "This Week" earlier today. On Iraq, the senator described himself as "guardedly optimistic" that Iraqi armed forces and police would soon be prepared to take over most of the security operations now being controlled by coalition troops. "We cannot afford to lose this," McCain said, citing the need to take on terrorists overseas so that we don't have to fight them here. "It's very, very tough, but we can and must win this conflict."

McCain verified that he has been part of discussions seeking compromise on the judges issue, saying "There is a way out. ... People of good will will sit down and try to work out a reasonable compromise." He said any compromise should include "approval of the overwhelming majority" of the disputed judges, and agreement from Democrats not to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. Tellingly, he added the "except under extreme circumstances" qualifier that Democrats have long sought. Compromise is "close," McCain said, but whether it will be accomplished remains unclear. He lamented the involvement of extremists in the process, responding to a pro-life ad accusing him of blocking "godly" judicial nominees by saying "I regret this is the kind of way we address a serious issue in America."

Compromise and moving beyond the filibuster fight are key, the Arizonan said: "We have many compelling issues that face us in the future ... I pray that we can move forward." He admitted that Nancy Reagan's support for stem cell research was influential in changing his mind on the issue (he is supporting a bill that will allow federal funding on more stem cell lines), but added that we must "be careful that we don't in any way get into cloning." He urged the scientific community to "play a greater role" in the political debate over stem cell research.

On immigration, McCain touted the bill he introduced with Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy this week, which opponents derided as "amnesty." "This is not an amnesty," McCain said, adding that his opponents "can say that pigs fly, and up is down and black is white." It's just not practical to try and ship all illegal immigrants, some of whom have children and grandchildren who were born in this country, back to their homeland, he noted, so we have to find "practical solutions" to the problem.

Finally, at the end of the interview, Stephanopoulos noted that while McCain fares well against prospective Democratic candidates in 2008, he might have a harder time winning the Republican nomination. McCain, after making the standard statement that he has made "no decision" about running in 2008, noted that "fiscal conservatives are in great agreement" with him, that many evangelicals have become concerned about climate change, and "many Americans" [note the non-use of 'Republicans'] are concerned about finding practical solutions to immigration, stem cell research, and foreign policy.

And then came the challenge. Asked about the gap between religious and economic conservatives in the GOP, and whether he agreed with Senator John Danforth that the religious right has gained too much influence in the Republican Party, McCain looked directly into the camera and said "I would say to my friends who think the religious conservatives have too much [influence], they should get more active and regain control" of the GOP. He went on to say that religious partisans have a legitimate right to be involved and to make their voices heard [clearly true], and that he didn't personally think that they were too powerful at the moment ... but as he finished his answer he returned to the statement he'd made earlier: to those who do think the religious right wing is too powerful, "regain your influence in the party."

Centrist Republicans, let this be our rallying cry. For now, this is the closest thing we're going to get to an outright statement of support, so let's run with it. To [closely] paraphrase Republican senator Margaret Chase Smith, in her famous "Declaration of Conscience" speech in 1950, it is time that we search our consciences, muster our moral and physical courage, shed our intimidated silence, and declare our conscience. My friends, let's do exactly as Senator McCain suggested: let's get more active, and let's retake control of the Grand Old Party from the forces of intolerance and social fundamentalism. The tide must turn, and it's going to take us to do it.

[Update: Rory at Sunday Morning Talk has more on McCain's "This Week" appearance, including a more comprehensive transcript. -- 2:14 p.m.]


At 11:46 AM, Anonymous True Independence Is Hard To Find said...

Thank God he's come out of his shell. I've been waiting for someone to get some backbone and start the fight that needs to be waged.

If winning the nomination will be difficult - I agree it will be nearly impossible - then why doesn't McCain form an aliance with other moderate, sensible Republcans to take control back?

I know there are many political reasons for caution but sometimes someone has just got to make the charge into the hail of bullets to allow others to move forward.

Who will that person be?

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

JBD, God bless you and good luck. I'll fight the same battle on the Democrat's side.

Knock wood that the centrists of BOTH parties wake up and smell the sulfur burning before the bomb explodes.

LOL...I sometimes imagine that we centrists would form the third party of READ. Readily Engaged About Democracy.


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