I have a chore to get over before April 1, so that I can avoid comments questioning my veracity (who knows what they’ll question instead). On November 4, 2008, I’ll be voting for John McCain for President of the United States. A little while ago I added a John McCain banner to the sidebar of this site and put a John McCain bumper sticker on my car. So now that primary disagreements and wishes for a more articulate standard bearer are moot points, let me get some explaining out of the way.
A John McCain administration will be like having George Bush with a veto pen. The biggest ill of the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, was a massive increase in federal spending. It took the election of a Democratic Congress to put the veto pen in action, where before Republican Congressmen were being lectured on restraint by drunken sailors instead of curbed by appropriate action from the Executive. Through that mess, one of the Senators opposing the spending increases was John McCain, including his vote as one of the few Senators to oppose the Medicare prescription drug boondoggle and his vote opposing the highway bill that should have been vetoed in 2005. On taxes, on national security, on free trade, on immigration, on health care, John McCain will be like George Bush with a veto pen. Or better.
Here’s what John McCain had to say a little over a week ago about what it means to be a conservative:
I am proud to be a conservative, and I make that claim because I share with you that most basic of conservative principles: that liberty is a right conferred by our Creator, not by governments, and that the proper object of justice and the rule of law in our country is not to aggregate power to the state but to protect the liberty and property of its citizens. And like you, I understand, as Edmund Burke observed, that “whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither . . . is safe.”
That statement sums up the core of the classical liberal Anglo-American political philosophy that we today call “conservatism” perfectly. (I will note that quoting Edmund Burke always earns brownie points.)
Some of my past complaints about McCain have been related to party loyalty. McCain has never tempered his statements with great regard for the feeling of fellow Republicans when he had an opinion that varied from the party line. Frankly, he doesn’t dilute his statements with great regard for anyone’s feelings. Though that often gives cause to argue, it’s hardly a trait I can fault. It would also be disingenuous of me, at best, to fault McCain for lacking party loyalty and then, as some have suggested we should, abandon the Republican ship. The sharp tongue, the willingness to be wrong and even the legendary temper are strengths.
I have a strong disagreement with John McCain’s signature legislation of the last 10 years. That law, while well intentioned, unfortunately was the paving for the road to free speech hell. Fortunately, McCain has promised to appoint the sort of judges who will, inevitably, whittle away at the worst aspects of the legislation until eventually it has to be repealed or replaced. Some don’t believe him on the issue of judges. I do. I believe him, have no reason not to believe him, when he said: “I am not in the habit of making promises to my country that I do not intend to keep. I hope I have proven that in my life even to my critics.” If nothing else, he’s proven that.
I have milder disagreements on some other policy issues, including his lack of support for the Bush tax cuts. The tax cut issue is in the category of “bygone” that we should let be, especially given his stance on keeping and expanding the tax cuts. On this biggest issue of the current election, McCain has it right:
MCCAIN: No new taxes. I do not — in fact, I could see an argument, if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates, and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates, which are the second-highest in the world, giving people the ability to write off depreciation in a year, elimination of the AMT.
There’s a lot of things that I would think we should to relieve that burden, including, obviously, as we all know, simplification of the tax code.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But under circumstances would you increase taxes?
I have a minor quibble with McCain on environmental policy, but am amazed that I’m more in line with him than with some folks I normally agree with. I still am not convinced that global warming (or whatever they’re calling it during the current cold snap) is a crisis. But McCain’s main policy solution, cap-and-trade, which is getting so much criticism lately, was the brainchild of the free market, libertarian think tanks of the 1970s and 1980s. The criticism is because it was part of the Kyoto protocol, but cap-and-trade wasn’t the flaw in Kyoto, it was the one redeeming feature. The flaw was that it applied draconian caps to the US and none at all to the up and coming polluters. Applied to sulfur emissions, cap-and-trade was the efficient, low cost, market friendly alternative to the bungling, bureaucracy and red tape of the Environmental Protection Agency. If carbon emissions are an issue, cap-and-trade is certainly preferable to a UN collected carbon tax or bureaucratic mandates.
A while back I wrote about my Top 10 Issues for the fall election. Let me recap with where John McCain stands on each:
- Tax reform. Two words – Steve Forbes:
More and more Americans will be impressed by John McCain’s efforts to reform our convoluted, growth-retarding, anti-opportunity tax code…He understands that dollars and decisions are best left to hard-working Americans. John McCain’s pro-growth plan to cut taxes, stop wasteful spending and reform our health care system will secure our nation’s prosperity for generations to come.
- Expanding Free Trade – On this issue, McCain is actually one of the strongest candidates in the whole election cycle. McCain was one of the few in either party to support the correct, conservative pro-trade position on the Dubai ports investment while Hillary Clinton was pandering to racism. On free trade, the new Cato Institute project rating the members of Congress rates John McCain as a “Free Trader” with 88% on votes opposing trade barriers and 80% on votes opposing trade subsidies. By comparison, Ron Paul got 58% and 96%, Barack Obama gets 36% and 0%, Hillary Clinton gets 31% and 14%. For those who think a Hillary Clinton administration would be just another 4-years of deficit hawk, free trade, good ole boy Bill – Think again!
Expanding legal immigration. McCain is fairly clear that he still believes in the position that George W. Bush campaigned on in 2000 – expanding legal immigration with our neighbor to the south and others. In 2000, that was the conservative position and it still is. It was George W. Bush’s position and still is. Securing the border is part of that package, always should have been. One of the main arguments for expanding legal immigration is that we will know who is crossing the border and why and we can assume anyone trying to cross illegally isn’t coming here for a job. Whatever argument I have with McCain on this issue now is the result of those who made conservatism about expanding government power instead of expanding freedom. I can’t fault John McCain for that.
Sell or give away federal lands. McCain has favored increasing the National Parks, but also worked to repeal a Bill Clinton executive order banning roads in National Forests. He’s stated that he favors local control of federal lands. As a western Senator, he certainly has the experience to understand the issues involved with managing this vast federal resource.
Spending reduction. On this one, John McCain wins big. McCain is on the Club for Growth’s list of members of Congress who have sworn off earmarks. Taxpayers for Common Sense just released a report on earmarks in 2008 appropriations bills. Five Senators had the distinction of having $0 in earmarks. $0 in solo earmarks, $0 with other members and $0 with other members and the President. One of those five was John McCain. (The full list is short enough to include here – Coburn (R-OK), DeMint (R-SC) , Feingold (D-WI), McCain (R-AZ), McCaskill (D-MO), Wicker (R-MS).) (By comparison – Ron Paul: $537,000 solo, $27,066,000 and $43,944,000. Barack Obama: $3,334,520 solo, $91,421,220 and $99,293,220. Hillary Clinton: $98,000 solo, $342,403,555 and $1,209,611,755 – yes folks Hillary brought home $1 billion in bacon! More than double Robert Byrd.)
Tax reduction. Covered.
Licensing more energy production facilities. McCain on energy policy:
It is in our national DNA to see challenges as opportunities; to conquer problems beyond the expectation of an admiring world. America, relying as always on the industry and imagination of a free people, and the power and innovation of free markets, is capable of overcoming any challenge from within and without our borders. Our enemies believe we’re too weak to overcome our dependence on foreign oil. Even some of our allies think we’re no longer the world’s most visionary, most capable country or committed to the advancement of mankind. I think we know better than that. I think we know who we are and what we can do. Now, let’s remind the world…
There is much we can do to increase our own oil production in ways that protect the environment using advanced technologies, including those that use and bury carbon dioxide, to recover the oil below the wells we have already drilled, and tap oil, natural gas, and shale economically with minimal environmental impact.
The United States has coal reserves more abundant than Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves. We found a way to cut down acid rain pollutants from burning coal, and we can find a way to use our coal resources without emitting excessive greenhouse gases.
Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Oops….sorry. Wrong candidate.
- School Choice or Reducing the Federal Role in Education. “Public education should be defined as one in which our public support for a child’s education follows that child into the school the parent chooses.”
Repealing McCain-Feingold. Well, you can’t have everything. And a decent judge will do the trick. Just don’t tell Senator McCain.
Deploying a Serious Missile Defense. “John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses. Effective missile defenses are critical to protect America from rogue regimes like North Korea that possess the capability to target America with intercontinental ballistic missiles, from outlaw states like Iran that threaten American forces and American allies with ballistic missiles, and to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China. Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary.” Couldn’t have said it better.
More details, sources, etc. follow the cut. Very messy.
Total Earmarks in FY08 Appropriations Bills, by Earmarks Received
Prepared by Taxpayers for Common Sense (www.taxpayer.net)
John McCain: Solo Earmarks $0 Solo and with other members $0 Solo and with other members and the President $0.
John McCain (R-AZ)
First elected to the Senate in 1986
Barrier Votes: 88% (35 votes out of 40 opposing trade barriers)
Subsidy Votes: 80% (8 votes out of 10 opposing trade subsidies)]
Barack Obama (D-IL)
First elected to the Senate in 2004
Barrier Votes: 36% (4 votes out of 11 opposing trade barriers)
Subsidy Votes: 0% (0 votes out of 2 opposing trade subsidies)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)
First elected to the Senate in 2000
Barrier Votes: 31% (9 votes out of 29 opposing trade barriers)
Subsidy Votes: 14% (1 votes out of 7 opposing trade subsidies)