Based upon the issues I care about, this post is my effort to evaluate John McCain as a Republican candidate for president. The last section of this post, The Issues, describes those issues.
This post was first written during the Republican primaries. Nonetheless, it still gets quite a few hits. So I have decided to update it and make certain all the links still work. Please bear with me.
To make it clear that I am a McCain supporter, albeit a reluctant one, I decided that I had better add this blurb. Note that I have also prepared a post on Barack Obama, PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: BARACK OBAMA. Please compare this post with that one. Obama may be a nice guy, but his political views are not. The gentleman is unfit to be our president. He is a socialist. Presumably Obama understands what is doing. If so, then he is deliberately proposing programs he knows will not work. With his proposals to tax the rich, Barack Obama is using tactics traditionally associated with class warfare to buy votes. We can only hope there are not enough gullible voters to elect this guy president.
Much of the data in this post is taken straight from the candidate’s websites. In addition, Wikipedia (from here), OnTheIssues.org (from here), The Club For Growth (from here), and some news articles are cited. In addition, I reviewed candidate’s response to a questionnaire from The American Conservative Union (see here).
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?
In his response to the questionnaire from The American Conservative Union, McCain offered up an interesting idea.
I believe we should expand the circle of our democratic community, not by surrendering sovereignty but by strengthening its reach through key partnerships. We should start bringing democratic peoples and nations from around the world into one common organization, a worldwide League of Democracies. Too often, the United Nations has simply failed to act responsibly if it acts at all. This new organization would not be like the universal-membership and failed League of Nations of Woodrow Wilson, but much more like what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace and freedom. It would be the one organization where the world’s democracies could come together to discuss problems and solutions on the basis of shared principles and a common vision of the future. (see here)
If uniting the world’s democracies is a great ambition, then John McCain has great ambitions, and in many respects that is what we need in a president. However, we must ask if the man is up to the task. We must ask what has he done?
McCain’s experience as POW provided the initial impetus for his political career. While McCain brave behavior as a POW deserves praise, being a former POW does not qualify him to be president. What else has he done? As a senator, McCain’s signature accomplishments are either failures, undesirable, or both failures and undesirable.
McCain does not pay enough attention to the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.
- McCain supported the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. Such a change would clearly change the relationship between the President and Congress as described by the Constitution. McCain tried to make the change the easy way. So the Supreme Court declared the bill unconstitutional.
- Because McCain has promoted such legislation as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, he is a darling of the news media. That is because such legislation would limit your right-to-know to whatever the news media chooses for you to know. In other words, come election time, your fellow citizens would not be able to work together to broadcast a differing view.
McCain’s efforts to promote amnesty for illegal aliens, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, has become a national scandal. That is why the bill he promoted did not make it through the Senate.
Instead of with solid accomplishments, McCain has achieved most of his notoriety as a maverick. McCain most of all enjoys success annoying the members of his own party. With Republicans like McCain, who needs Democrats?
The Candidate on the Issues
Education – McCain’s website implies support school choice and the No Child Left Behind Act (although he voted against the original bill; see here). However, McCain does not explain precisely what he intends to do. Based upon its research, OnTheIssues.org rates McCain as favoring school choice
McCain supports a program of federally financed vouchers, but states would decide individually whether to use standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about who could get the vouchers.
McCain’s proposal would create the most ambitious voucher experiment yet, spending $5.5 billion over three years to present one million students with vouchers of up to $2,000 annually.
To counter the argument that vouchers siphon money from public schools when students leave, McCain would create a new source of financing: the tax money now spent as corporate subsidies.
The senator has yet to define how the vouchers would be awarded, but he has said the poorest children in the worst schools would be immediately eligible. (from here)
The The Club For Growth provides a more emphatic endorsement of McCain’s position on school choice.
John McCain’s record on school choice is very good. He has consistently supported school choice programs, voting for a Washington D.C. school voucher program in 1997 and a trial voucher program in 2001 as an amendment to No Child Left Behind. (from here)
Here is Physics Today‘s take on McCain’s position.
During the 9 December 2007 republican primary debate on Univision McCain (http://www.ontheissues.org/2007_Univision_GOP.htm) stated
“Choice and competition is the key to success in education in America. That means charter schools, that means home schooling, it means vouchers, it means rewarding good teachers and finding bad teachers another line of work. It means rewarding good performing schools, and it really means in some cases putting bad performing schools out of business. I want every American parent to have a choice, a choice as to how they want their child educated, and I guarantee you the competition will dramatically increase the level of education in America.”
McCain has also suggested turning education policy back to individual states and offering federal money through unrestricted block grants. He will keep most aspects of No Child Left Behind legalization in place. (from here)
Law – In his response to the questionnaire from The American Conservative Union, McCain said:
I believe true conservative governance means limiting the reach of government because no government should have a right to impose itself between human beings and their lawful aspirations to make of their lives what they will. I believe that government that governs least governs best; that government should do only those things individuals cannot do for themselves, and do them efficiently. (from here)
That sounds good, but from my perspective McCain’s respect for individual rights leaves something to be desired. In the past, I have written about McCain’s support for so-called campaign finance reform, McCain-Feingold (see here). McCain took a lead role in promoting his version campaign finance reform. George Will says McCain-Feingold “licensed government to ration political speech.”
As a member of the Gang of 14, McCain’s support for the appointment of conservative judges is somewhat dubious.
- McCain claims he is pro-life, but he has voted to support stem cell research (here and here).
- McCain says he is against the legalization of same-sex marriage; however, he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment (here and here)
McCain defends second amendment rights (here).
National Defense – McCain is running as the foremost defense hawk. As his website says, McCain unequivocally supports victory in Iraq.
A greater military commitment now is necessary if we are to achieve long-term success in Iraq. John McCain agrees with retired Army General Jack Keane that there are simply not enough American forces in Iraq. More troops are necessary to clear and hold insurgent strongholds; to provide security for rebuilding local institutions and economies; to halt sectarian violence in Baghdad and disarm Sunni and Shia militias; to dismantle al Qaeda; to train the Iraqi Army; and to embed American personnel in Iraqi police units. (from here)
McCain supports a military modernization and buildup, and he wants a missile defense system. However, he has not quantified his support for these things.
Nonetheless, despite his hawkish stance, maverick McCain has managed to give the Bush administration an extraordinary amount of grief over Iraq. McCain has taken the lead:
- Trying to increase the number of troops in Iraq. He constantly complained about Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the war (here). In December 2004, Rumsfeld responded to a soldier’s comments about inferior military equipment by saying “you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want (here).” Given that our military has not grown significantly, it is quite apparent that neither McCain nor Congress want to understand or admit to the problem they gave Rumsfeld.
- Opposing anything that even remotely looks like the torture or mistreatment of the prisoners our forces have acquired in the war on terror (here, here, and here).
- Opposing the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (here and here).
Immigration – McCain’s position on immigration contrasts radically with his position on National Defense. On his website McCain promises to secure the border (see here). In practice, McCain is a Senate leader in the amnesty movement for illegal aliens (see here). McCain is in bed with Senator Ted Kennedy. McCain and Kennedy crafted the 2007 Senate bill that effectively would have provided amnesty for illegal aliens (here, here, and here). This bill failed only because it so angered the American public that they would not let it pass (see here, here, and here).
Given how the public hated his horrible bill, why is the McCain campaign still able to make any headway? I can think of only three answers:
- The news media likes him.
- With respect to immigration, his competition does not look that much better.
- Too many of us have short memories.
To reign in government, I believe we must do many other things with controlling spending a top priority. I believe you cannot achieve limited, smaller government without spending restraint, which is why I voted against the prescription drug benefit that became law a short time ago. Let’s start with pork barrel spending and corporate welfare, eliminate all earmarks, pass the line item veto, employ honest budget accounting, and end emergency spending bills for nonemergencies as a way around budget limits. (from here)
How does McCain’s record compare with his rhetoric? The Club For Growth notes (here) that McCain’s record is mixed. McCain has voted for tax cuts and against tax cuts. Initially (2001 – 2003), McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts. Later, (in 2006), he voted for their extension. However, The Club For Growth is happier with McCain’s position on spending, and they provide a long list of the spending he has voted against (here).
McCain was a major backer of the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. Understandably, the Supreme Court declared this law unconstitutional.
The Environment – Does John McCain believe in Global Warming? The answer is yes (see the video here). In addition, McCain offers up the usual argument that reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources is a national security issue. However, McCain opposes the Kyoto Treat unless China and India join it. Instead, McCain offers up a national energy strategy (see here). He says this stragegy “won’t be another grab bag of handouts to this or that industry and a full employment act for lobbyists.” To some extent, McCain can be taken seriously on that score. Although he now supports ethanol production, he still opposes subsidies for corn growers (here).
The centerpiece of McCain’s plan to attack the greenhouse gas problem is a cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions; he opposes a carbon tax (here), something that would be much more simple and straight-forward.
Grist.org reviews McCain’s environmental record here.
Welfare – Health Care reform is this year’s welfare issue, and that is what McCain addresses on his website (listen to the video here).
McCain states a bunch of nice goals. The good news is that he advocates keeping Health Care in the private sector, and he would get employers out of the business of health insurance ($2500 tax credit for any individual with health insurance). What is worrisome is the extent McCain would have federal regulation override state regulation and cripple our drug industry’s capacity to recover research cost via patent protection.
This (here) WSJ article describes McCain’s plan.
The Economy – A 2005 WSJ editorial contains a now infamous quote.
On a broader range of economic issues, though, Mr. McCain readily departs from Reaganomics. His philosophy is best described as a work in progress. He is refreshingly blunt when he tell me: “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.” OK, so who does he turn to for advice? His answer is reassuring. His foremost economic guru is former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm (who would almost certainly be Treasury secretary in a McCain administration). He’s also friendly with the godfather of supply-side economics, Arthur Laffer. (from here)
So what is economic plan? McCain website focuses on reducing taxes and spending. We have had presidents with far worse ideas.
Here is McCain’s economic stimulus plan.
Candidate Website -See ELECTION 2008 PRO AND CONS: JOHN MCCAIN WEBSITE REVIEW for a more complete review.
McCain’s website is professional quality. The website highlights is military service, particularly as a POW, and his attractive lady.
The issues pages, the pages of most interest to me, contain a fair amount of content. Nevertheless, McCain simply avoids providing substantive information on those issues where he has proven himself quite unpopular with rank and file Republicans. McCain’s Lobbying & Ethics Reform page provides a slew of platitudes. This page does not say what McCain intends to do nor does it mention that the Supreme Court declared much of McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, unconstitutional because it trespassed on First Amendment rights. To anyone the least bit familiar with McCain role on immigration issues, the Border Security & Immigration Reform page can only be accurately described as pathetically uninformative.
Personal Life – I write this section last because I find it awkward. We cannot judge each other. We can attempt to judge each other, but we do not know enough for any such judgment to be accurate. And in the end, any such judgment becomes a self-judgment. So what use is this section?
We each set a public example for each other. What of John McCain’s public example (see here)? In spite of his shenanigans as a cadet, McCain record of military service was exemplary; his story as a POW is well known. His infidelity to his first wife is also well known.
More disturbing, however, is McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal. Without a doubt, McCain at gave the appearance of exercising undue political influence on behalf of a contributor.
As citizens we need to keep in mind is that when politicians exercise undue influence on behalf of contributors, they are acting to destroy our society. The Savings and Loans Crisis cost our government well over a 100 billion dollars. Similarly, unscrupulous lenders peddling subprime loans threaten to launch our economy into a recession. Thus as we read the last few lines of this article, we should keep politicians such as John McCain in mind.
The feds really should have known better. Yet they ignored a basic principle—that no level of government has a monopoly on good policy—to brush aside state legislatures’ thoughtful efforts to protect their citizens from rapacious lenders. As the feds move to clean up the subprime mess, it’s worth remembering that they helped create it. Maybe the next time around, they’ll remember that sometimes the states know best. (see here)
- Education – Ostensibly, the Federal Government has no role with respect to education. Unfortunately, the lack of constitutional authority does not seem to stop elected officials from spending money and issuing mandates. I want this abuse of authority to stop.
- Law – Our president should understand the law and be willing to live within the law. Our president should take the lead in protecting our rights, particularly freedom of religion, the cornerstone of American Law. As a conservative, I also think Supreme Court judges such as Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas have the best understanding of the Constitution. I want more such judges appointed.
- National Defense – To deter potential aggressors, it is imperative that we have a strong military and an ethical strategy designed to protect our vital national interests. We cannot cavalierly abandon Iraq.
- Immigration – Our nation is being slowly overrun by poor, uneducated, illegal immigrants. Since most of these people come from Spanish speaking nations to the south of us, our nation is being balkanized into different language and economic groups. What that portends for the future is civil strife.
- Limited Government – You will not see a balance budget or low taxes in this list. What I am looking for is a candidate who sees all spending as discretionary and that we have too much government. We do not need a candidate who makes promises to hand us other people’s money. As I see it, anybody who will rob Peter to pay Paul cannot be trusted not to rob Tom too.
- The Environment – A clean environment is a fundamental right. To protect the environment, we need a strong environmental policy. Such a policy cannot depend on the scientific wisdom of politicians. No human being, not even a politician able to make endless promises, has sufficient brain power to figure out how to build a modern industrial society that does not pollute the environment. What our government can do, however, is punish polluters when they dump pollutants into our environment. Thus I want candidate who understands the difference between stopping polluters and trying to run private industry.
- Welfare – The welfare state is a massive scam; welfare is politicians buying us with our own money. Our cradle-to-grave welfare state is also a steadily growing national disaster. Even though the Federal Government has no constitutional authority throw our money into these idiot programs, each year we put a greater percentage of the Federal budget into welfare programs. Eventually, the money must run out.
- The Economy – Because none of us know enough to run everybody else’s business, government must have a limited role in the economy. What government can and must do is regulate economic activity. Government encourages economic activity by ensuring that buyers and sellers are honest. In addition, government encourages economic activity by establishing a currency for exchange and standard weights and measures. Government cannot and does not create jobs.
- Candidate Website – Any candidate fit to run our nation should be able to set up a decent campaign website. That candidate should also be forthcoming about his record and what he intends to do if he is elected.
- Personal Life – Character makes a difference. If we want our nation to strive for high ideals, then the person we select to lead us must honorable and trustworthy. We should not allow a candidate to buy our vote, but people do. By suggesting that those of us who want to vote for a trustworthy politicians are fooling ourselves, some seemingly revel in the fact too many candidates are unworthy of our trust (see here). That makes for a sad state of affairs and says how much we need to pray for our leaders.