Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thoughts On The Vice Presidential Picks Of John McCain

There seems to be a disturbance in the blogosphere this morning. On one hand we have Patrick Ruffini @ The Next Right discussing Joe Lieberman as John McCain's possible vice presidential pick. On the other hand there is Captain Ed Morrissey @ Hot Air and Hugh Hewitt both arguing that Mr. Ruffini is incorrect in his assertion. We like Patrick, a lot, and we loved it when he was guest-blogging at Hugh's site. We respect him and his opinions a great deal. His piece today "Lieberman is Acceptable to Me" is one readers should take a look at. He lays out an interesting argument, but one we hate to say, is faulty. The key paragraphs:

When I took the readership's temperature on various VP picks, Joe Lieberman did not come out on top. Far from it. At 26% acceptability, he was at the bottom of the heap.

I was one of those 26%. To me, he wouldn't be the best pick, but he wouldn't be the worst either.

There is much to commend the "do no harm" VP calculus. Lieberman wouldn't be a "do no harm" pick. If you do the static analysis (is Lieberman better than, say, Rob Portman?) it's all wrong.

The difference is that any of the conventional picks don't help McCain with his #1 priority: winning the election. Despite narrowing the gap, McCain is currently about 3 points behind. He needs a better VP pick than Obama will come up with -- and unless Obama chooses Clinton, Obama's pick will be safe and milquetoast. Lieberman is the most obvious opportunity to shake up the calculus of the race. Picking him did something for Al Gore in 2000, taking him from a sure loser to a position of strength in the fall. A conservative VP on a losing ticket is still a losing ticket.

Lieberman's endorsement of McCain was a turning point in McCain's favor in winning the primary. Republican primary voters did not recoil in horror that a Democrat would give McCain his stamp of approval. Much the opposite. It's very possible someone else would have been the nominee had Lieberman not endorsed. It's easy to see how McCain would feel a deep sense of gratitude.

Win or lose, Lieberman as the VP nominee would have the practical effect of forcing him to switch parties sooner rather than later. If you want to notch a Senate seat and prevent a filibuster proof Obama majority, this is one way of doing it. As part of the Republican conference, he'd start voting as a party line Republican most of the time, though not always.

An interesting premise to say the least. But I am afraid we have to disagree with it. Let us take his voting record into account first. According to On The Issues he is a moderate liberal populist who caucuses with the Democrats on many different issues. The only time he has really broken from the Democrats is on the issue of the war. He has remained a stalwart ally in that respect. To think that he will immediately switch sides is farcical, at best. A tiger does not change it's stripes overnight, and Joe Lieberman would not change overnight either. Mr. Ruffini should look at his record a little more closely.

Additionally, there is the matter of his age. John McCain is 71, and Joe Lieberman is 66 -- just five years younger than Senator McCain. What exactly would this ticket be called in the media? The Odd Couple ticket? The Sunshine Boys? We do have that to contend with, and if the media can dig into this ticket, they will tear it down no matter how well either man does in their respective debates. John McCain needs a younger face along side of him to help bring voters to the polls. He also needs someone that people know and trust beside him, and unfortunately that is not Joe Lieberman.

This past Saturday there was a forum held by Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In that event John McCain handily routed Senator Obama. He had all the energy and all the right answers. After that event, John McCain basically shored up his base. Republicans that we know who swore they would never vote for him -- that have been saying they will leave the presidential box unmarked on election day -- were elated to hear him sound off on the issues that were important to them. They took heart that the former Navy fighter pilot still had some fight left in him. Those people are now telling us that they will vote for John McCain, as of right now, but that vote is dependent on his vice presidential pick.

Never before has the vice presidential pick meant so much for the base of the Republican party. Hugh Hewitt relays this:

Reagan was tempted but ultimately went with George H.W. Bush and drove straight-ahead to a blowout win over then President Carter. Reagan won because he persuaded millions of Americans he had the right vision for the country, and that the voters could trust him --and his party-- to govern well though Watergate was only a short six years in the past.

Senator McCain has the same choice ahead of him. He doesn't need any bank shots or game-changers. He needs what was on display Saturday night at Saddleback --a confidence in the rightness of center-right ideas across a range of issues and of course a deep belief in American exceptionalism. A conventional but base-energizing choice --Romney or Pawlenty-- will keep the momentum going and reveal no deficit of confidence in McCain's ideas or the core ideas of his party. Such a choice will also say that while the Congressional GOP was seduced by spending and Beltway ways over the past few terms, the party's ideals remain the right ones for governing, and that its social agenda of protecting and strengthening families while seeking to protect the unborn remain at the core of the party and its nominee.

Then, like now, the base needed to see the sort of person President Reagan was willing to take. Yes, they had all the confidence in the world in him, but should something happen (and we will recall that in 1981 something did happen) the base needs to know that the agenda that John McCain lays out will be followed. That cannot happen if he picks Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman would create an agenda all on his own, and based of his liberal point-of-view. Furthermore, we really do not think that we could trust Joe Lieberman to abide by John McCain's agenda in the Senate where he would cast tie-breaking votes when necessary.

One of the biggest issues facing this nation right now is our dependence on foreign oil. Joe Lieberman has repeatedly voted against drilling in the OCS and in ANWR while in the Senate. Another key issue is judges. Six of the nine Supreme Court jurists are age 68 or older. (John Paul Stevens turned 88 this year.) There is a potential, however remote, that the next two-term president could have an unprecedented six jurists to appoint. That is not a decision we want int he hands of Joe Lieberman should something happen to John McCain. Furthermore, we do not want him counseling a President McCain on such an issue, given his stance on a variety of topics the Supreme Court has had to deal with, and will likely deal with, in the coming years.

Captain Ed Morrissey sums up his points succinctly:

Lieberman may not be the worst choice, but he’s close to it. If McCain wants a Democrat, let him pick John Breaux, whose positions really do reflect conservative values. Otherwise, the Republican Party has plenty of options for a Republican ticket.

We disagree with Captain Ed on John Breaux because looking at his record, he mirrors Joe Lieberman on many things. He is more conservative when it comes to issues like abortion, education, and the environment, but he also voted against the tax cuts and spending cuts. He is not the sort of reform-minded candidate that we need for a reformer like John McCain. Our bench is deep enough that we should not have to look for a Democrat to be on the ticket. We have two very solid conservatives that appear to be at the top of John McCain's short list in Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. Behind them are a host of others including Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Representative Eric Cantor, former Virginia Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, and former Representative JC Watts. There is no need for us to look at the other side of the aisle.

John McCain likes to talk about being bipartisan, but the vice presidential choice should not be one of these instances. Let him work in a bipartisan fashion with Democrats in Congress when he is elected. He need not do it now on the most important decision he has to make in his running mate.



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