Jewish World Review March 15, 2004 / 22 Shevat, 5764
Conventional wisdom or not, don't be so quick to rule out Kerry/McCain ticket
If Republican Sen. John McCain winds up as John Kerry's running mate on a Democratic ticket this fall, the weird thing won't be that Kerry joined forces with a "pro-life, free-trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk," as McCain called himself while admitting he'd "entertain" an invitation from Kerry. The truly weird bit would be that John McCain joined forces with a man who nastily, intemperately and foolishly called Republican critics of him "crooked" and "lying."
Not only would John McCain bring star power and double the Vietnam War hero status to the Democratic ticket, it would be wise and not weird for Kerry to pick a running mate who balances out the Democratic ticket on issues of economics and trade. After all, Democrats are bloodying Bush over the rising deficit. They're blaming his tax cuts not, of course, his insane levels of social spending on silly things such as the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded cultural offenses like "P-ss Christ."
McCain says he can't "imagine" Democrats seeking a deficit hawk for the ticket, but he's just not being imaginative enough. And Democrats, very much like Republicans, are divided over the issue of tariffs and outsourcing. It was a Democratic President and Democratic Congress who passed NAFTA in 1993. Just as Republicans can't afford to be painted as unsympathetic to victims of outsourcing, Democrats can't afford to be painted as labor goons smashing cheap but desirable imported goods on America's docks. Both parties need nuanced positions on the trade issue.
True, on abortion the Democratic party has been zealously pro-choice, even denying a speaking role to Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey at the 1992 convention because he was a pro-life Catholic. That certainly would be McCain's biggest liability in a party that demands pro-choice litmus tests of all candidates and judicial appointees. But opinions are changing on abortion, and polls show that more Americans are pro-life in 2004 than were pro-life in 1994. (Could the advent of sonograms be responsible?) A Vice-President John McCain who calls himself pro-life in the same breath that he announces he wouldn't want to see Roe v. Wade overturned may be the safest way for the Democratic party to triangulate on the issue.
No, it wouldn't be surprising for John Kerry to tap John McCain at all. It would be surprising for John McCain to get into bed with a man who said of his Republican critics: "These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen." That might have been a fair assessment if Kerry reserved his condemnation for a particular Republican operative or organization, but he didn't. So if a little old blue-haired lady who happened to be a registered Republican criticized Kerry for being a flip-flopper on issues as important as the Iraq war, a proponent of 350 tax increases, and the only Democrat to vote for major cuts in the intelligence budget, well, she's one of the "crooked liars," according to John Kerry.
Clearly Kerry is trying to gin up the Al Franken/Michael Moore audiences, who inflame the rhetoric on the Left in an attempt to out-shout the Right. If John McCain wanted to lend his support to that mission nasty name calling against all members of his own beloved GOP well, that would be surprising, even for the media-attention-hungry McCain.
Opinion polls show that even though 50 percent of voters approve of President Bush in general, a majority is unhappy with his handling of Iraq and the economy. But voters should be happy about this: Throughout his first term as President, Bush has gone out of the way to avoid criticizing Democrats, or even liberals in general. He bends over backwards often to the dismay of conservatives to work bipartisanly with Ted Kennedy and other public menaces of his ilk. As former Bush speechwriter David Frum points out, the most severe label Bush is willing to use against opponents is "Some folks in Washington." Compare that to "crooked liars."
John McCain ought to reflect on that comparison as he enjoys the media adulation he misses so much, as he publicly muses about his confusion over which ticket he will work to elect in November George W. Bush's or John Kerry's.
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