Friday, May 19, 2006

Columnists on the Attack

I have been following the liberal commentary on John McCain, mostly because I am still trying to make up my mind about him. While I still think he is the best Republican we can ask for, I don’t know if I am as excited about him as I once was.

From what I have read, most of the liberal columnists are saying the same thing. Richard Cohen, Michael Kinsley, and Paul Krugman have all tried to paint McCain not as someone who is actually moderate and is just pandering to the base right now, but as a solid conservative. At first I just thought they were just trying to scare moderate liberals away from McCain and hoping to push them back to someone like Hillary. But after reading two of the latest pieces on him, I think it is actually something else.

Each of the commentators focus on two topics that prove McCain is really a solid conservative; abortion and the Iraq War. Everyone has known from the beginning that McCain was pro-life, so this is nothing new. But what I think is turning a lot of commentators away from McCain is his Iraq War stance (which is one of the things I like most about him). Read some of the following:

From Kinsley - In Powell's case, the theory always was that he was speaking truth to power from within, while telling the necessary public fibs to hold on to the privileged position this service required. With McCain, something more magical is going on. He says plainly that he is for the war, or against abortion choice, and people hear the opposite. It's a gift, I guess.

From Cohen - In short, he was the man who could restore faith in government.

But he cannot do that if, at the same time, he defends a war fought for nonexistent reasons, preceded by fibs, lies and exaggerations, draining America of blood and treasure and leaving us worse off now than before those bombs were dropped where -- as it symbolically turned out -- Saddam Hussein was not. Times have changed. The Straight Talk Express is in a ditch.

Here is what bothers me about all of this: They are using his defense of the war as proof of his truly conservative nature. The problem with this logic is that support for the war is not limited to the far-right and there are plenty of moderates (myself included) who support it. Furthermore, they are also saying that because he supports it, he must no longer be the same straight-shooter that he used to be – apparently you cannot tell the truth and support the Iraq War at the same time.

These commentators are letting their strong opposition to one policy affect their characterization of McCain, and they are sharing this with all of their readers. For any moderate voter, there are plenty of reasons to both support and be concerned about John McCain (his speech at Liberty University was a cop-out). I just hope that the discussion that follows in the future will be about more than just the Iraq War.