Monday, September 03, 2007

The speech that cannot be made


After politically required attention and abeyances to family, friends, politicians, and his wife, Senator McCain begins-

I would like to address some issues that are foremost in my mind these days, the 2008 election and the success of the Republican party.

I know that the polls have told all of us that my chances of success in the Republican primaries are dim, dimming and dimmer. I don’t believe in governing or campaigning by polls, as must be obvious . . . . but they do tell us some things that we ignore at our peril. Not only has Mitt Romney caught up to or passed me in some polls, but Mayor Giuliani's numbers suggest he has far greater support than do I. Without even announcing Senator Thompson has already passed me by. I can only hope he is taking voters from my competitors instead of me.

With that in mind, I wish to tell you that I need your support and for those Republicans who are not for me, to consider changing their mind, because I believe that the polls also show that I and only I can beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. Take a look at the match ups. Do Republicans want to see their favorite candidate win the nomination only to lose the big race? I hope not, but there is the possibility that they do prefer that. Such is human nature. Sometimes people just want their way in spite of defeat. I hope, when they make that decision they think of what is best for the country.

The reason for my better chances of success in the general election than in the primaries may not be obvious, but it is not all that difficult to see either. While my lack of status with the cultural right and my position in the immigration debate has made me unpopular with part of our party, it is more likely that independents, center right Republican and right thinking Democrats will vote for me as opposed to Hillary. None of the other gentlemen who compete with me for the opportunity to run as the Republican candidate can say this. Just as it is clear from the polls I am losing among Republican voters, they also make it clear I have the best chance of winning in the general election.

I am convinced that despite my lack of popularity with them at present, Republicans will come out in droves to vote for me, probably any Republican, against Senator Clinton. For whomever she is in reality, to much of the conservative base she is the person they would most like not to see in the White House. Yet, this does not matter if the Republican candidate cannot get Democratic votes. Over the course of the last year, the trend is overwhelming that more people now identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans. No amount of getting out the votes by Republicans will surmount this.

Some have suggested that I should, in fact, run as an independent. I will not do this. I am now, and always have been, a loyal Republican, and I believe in and regularly vote for our shared values. I am pro-life, pro-military and pro-business.

I recently took a stand in the immigration debate by proposing legislation that was practical and hopeful, although ultimately doomed to failure. I was aware that it would be entirely unsatisfactory to many in my own party as well and Americans in general. I recognizing however that what most people want in this country -- the border to be sealed off, and the process to be made orderly, could not be accomplished with this Congress.

Too many special interests, including business, agricultural and the demographics of just who those new immigrants are likely to vote for made it virtually impossible. I therefore proposed compromise legislation, believing that some order and attempt was better than thumping my fist and demanding what was impossible. I still think it was legislatively the prudent thing to do. I am a legislator and my duty was to do the best I could under the circumstances. But, as for my campaign to be president, it was disastrous.

My opponents may have understood better than me that the way to win primary votes and polls is to support a policy of slamming shut the Southern border and throwing out illegal aliens, policies I do support in principal, not to try and accomplish a temporary fix in the hopes of later correcting the problem. They were right and I was wrong in terms of what would be the more popular tact. But none of my competitors have a Senate seat at this time, and that gave them a freedom I could not act upon. Legislation requires some compromise, particularly . . . particularly, when the opposition party controls the house. I would rather get a half bowl a rice a day than demand caviar three meals a day and receive nothing.

I have no doubt, in fact, completely understand, that my ability to reach across the table to accomplish something, instead of demanding precisely what I want and getting none of it, is viewed by many of my own party as capitulation and even political heresy. It has cost me a loss of popularity among those whose opinion I value most, and almost certainly the candidacy of the party I have bound myself to for most of my life.

Yet this ability, which I challenge Mayor Giuliani or Senator Thomas to show that they can do, was understood by the great Republican leaders before our time, from Father Abraham to Ronald Reagan. More recently, the father of our current president, George Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, demonstrated this ability in forging political alliances both nationally and internationally, in stopping Saddam Hussein from his destruction of Kuwait and threat to destabilize the entire Middle East.

I have not denied that in seeking this nomination that I have sought to make amends with many of my Republican friends who are often called by themselves the religious right. In doing so, I have offended many on the left, who had appreciated my previous castigation of those same people whose support I now seek. No doubt, George Bush and Karl Rove outmaneuvered me, fair or foul, in 2000, by getting the respect and support of a broad group of Republicans whose votes were necessary while I focused on principals dear to me but favored by many Republicans and Democrats at the time. It would have won me the general election against Bush or Gore, but could not get me to the table.

Many presidents who take the oath of office, begin their first term by declaring, one way or another, that they will be the president of all Americans, not just their own base or party. They more than likely did not campaign for the nomination that way, and usually hint at it in the post convention campaigns, but they rarely govern that way. I intend to seek the nomination of the Republican party that way, run for president that way, and govern that way. That does not mean I will support policies I do not believe in. I will try and defeat them, and veto bills which are dead against my principles. But when there is an opportunity to work with the other side, I will remind you that we are all Americans first, with diverse views, and we need to stick together. Our enemies understand this, and will try and divide us at every opportunity.

Which brings us to a central question. Can a longtime senator successfully win his party's nomination by honestly telling his party, the voters and the American voters at large, what he intends to do in frank, honest terms, popular or unpopular?h The answer seems to be . . . . “no”. The way we manage our elections gives a decided advantage to those who concentrate their pandering on the most active, even if not the largest, groups in his party. And I know pandering, having done it in my turn. But I do have my limits.

Despite all this, I urge my colleagues on the right to look across the political aisle and ask themselves if they want to be cordially greeting a new President Clinton on inauguration day. I expect the answer is know. But if they elect one of my competitors, all of whom I respect and think would make a better president than Hillary Clinton, they will not get what they want.

I have no doubt that cultural conservatives would feel satisfaction on nominating Senator Thompson, who is a good and decent man. They might also feel some satisfaction at nominating Governor Romney, who I also believe to be a good and decent man. But not only the polls, but also common sense tells us that in an election year where due to the present administration far more Americans identify with Democrats than Republicans, we will not win with either of these two gentlemen.

A healthy respect for my own credibility leads me to acknowledge that other than me, Mayor Giuliani has the best chance to defeat Hillary Clinton. Many on the left are grateful to him for his contributions after 9/11, as I am. Ironically, many of his social views are not only far to the left of my own, but they are also to the left of Senator Clinton. I am impressed by the fact that while not giving up his liberal values, and with only a little bit of flip flopping, he has convinced many Republicans that he is “their” man, the one who will most likely insist on “their” policies. I have a proven record, which should tell them that this is more true of me than Rudy Giuliani, but he has convinced them otherwise. I believe I am the best choice for president, but I am rarely the best politician in the room.

Indeed, the Mayor from New York does slightly better in polls where individual Republican candidates are pitted against Hillary Clinton than I do. This does not surprise me. However, we have only begun to see the effect of Mayor Giuliani's negatives rise, whereas I am a known quality, having run before, and my negatives are more likely fixed.

And I suggest to you, my friends, that Rudy Giuliani has not proven that he understands that governing the United States cannot be done in the same fashion as governing New York City. In order to accomplish America’s goals, compromise and the ability to reach across the aisle, which does not characterize my opponent, must go hand in hand with will power and principals, both characteristics which I do believe he possesses. If he is running on having tamed Dodge City, he hasn’t told you how he is going to govern the country from Fresno to Savannah, from San Antonio to Minneapolis, because that is a lot bigger, a lot more diverse, and a lot more contentious than Dodge City. We have seen first hand how hubris and single mindedness on all issues without compromise, can hurt a presidency and disappoint Democrats and Republicans alike.

If you, like me, believe it is important that a Republican be elected president; if you believe like me, that Hillary Clinton is not the best person to serve in this highest honor, then I ask for vote for the last best chance to defeat her.

A few more things I would wish you to know. I have changed my position on immigration. I have seen that there is no hope of compromise in Congress, no way to slow the flow or regulate the problem. Frankly, the American people, including in my own state, want a far more aggressive defense of the borders. If my adversaries wish to call it flip-flopping, so be it. I have flipped the right way.

Some may say that my position on the Iraq War will keep me out of office. They are not correct. Republicans will vote for me anyway. Democrats who are likely to vote for me will not be swayed by it, as they are likely more conservative than other Democrats.

If I am elected president I promise you that I will make every effort to keep America safe from external and internal enemies, to seek to make government smaller and more efficient, appoint judges to the courts who understand the rule of law is central to our way of life and advocate that the states take care of those matters which are the state’s own business. They are sound conservative and Republican principles. Abraham Lincoln understood this. Teddy Roosevelt understood this and Ronald Reagan understood this. If elected I will stand on the shoulders of these giants, in order to best serve the people of this great country.

I can at the same time promise you that I would also seek to emulate those same great men in their compassion for the underdog, the poor and the abused. In doing so, I urge upon you, that in many respects due to these great men of whom I speak, the world is a better place, but it is not the same place it was ten, twenty or a hundred years ago. Thanks to these leaders and America’s tradition of a professional and civilian led military, and the sacrifice of millions of men and women who have served this country, of whom I count myself lucky to be able to say I served with them, we are more free and have greater liberties than at any time in our history, and at any time in the history of the world.

People will and should jealously guard their freedom and liberties, but always with an eye to the security of the country and our mutual safety. While it is well known that we should not give up our liberties to gain a little security, we also should not make a fetish of our liberties in the face of enemies who seek to destroy us and have the capacity to do so. There is a balance which we have struck before and can strike again. We can do both.

I have taken some heat in the past for a joke I made during a talk where I put the tune of a popular Beach Boys’ tune to use in emphasizing that we must be aware of and take measures against the hostility and nuclear ambitions of Iran. I have no enmity towards the Iranian people. They undoubtedly seek the same freedoms we enjoy. At the same time, I remain distrusting of the dictators and haters of freedom which rule that country. If the Iranian people cannot restrain their leaders or these uncompromising tyrants continue to use their oil money for terrorism and weapon product, we may, I say “may” have to do it for them. I hope and expect that we will do this in concert with our allies, but I do not take off the table that we may have to do it ourselves.

Make no mistake about it. Iran must not become a country possessed of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. If that is accomplished we Americans face a disastrous choice. Either seek to disarm those nuclear armed despots or appease them out of fear. I have no doubt how the majority of Americans would feel. Ronald Reagan would have known what to do. He would face them just as he did the Soviet Union – with indefatigable pressure and irrepressible faith in democracy and freedom. But we must act now to avoid any possibility of this dilemma occurring.

We must always honor the rights of other nations to self government and to seek to improve the lives of their citizens as their people and leaders see fit, even where they have different customs and values than we do. Although we have, as a country, made mistakes along the way, it is my firm belief that the United States is a loyal friend and a ferocious enemy to all just and fair societies, whether they are democracies or not. We must strive to show our friends more loyalty, always with an eye to our own self interest, but I believe we must also show more ferocity to our enemies. I don’t believe that the Democrat leaders understand that.

If the leaders of Iran, whom we must not shy from calling tyrants, zealots and bullies, continue to make themselves our enemies, and continues down a path of funding terrorists, interfering in Iraq, threatening our friends and allies, and building nuclear weapons, then we must confront them with all of our might. Whether as president of this country or a single senator from my own state, I intend to do so, with all my heart, all my soul, and with God’s grace, should he choose to grant it upon me.

Thank you for listening, and God bless America, its allies and friends of Democracy all over the world.

Notes from the speechwriter – well, JM will never see this baby and, even if he did, he wouldn’t give it. Straight talking only goes so far, and few candidates would have the courage to say some of these things, McCain not being an exception.

In writing it, I used what I hope is McCain's voice, and did not substitute my values for McCain's with one exception. I would like to see him become president, given the other possibilities, although there are many things I disagree with him about. Responding to my friend, Bear's, “Who do you trust?” ( – I trust McCain. I don’t trust most of the others, and certainly not Giuliani, Romney, Clinton or Obama. I don’t know enough about Fred Thompson to comment on him -- but I doubt that I would trust any partisan much.

So, the loyalty to the Republican party, the invocation of God, the Ronald Reagan worship, the pro-life stances are his, not mine. Some of it even made me squirm. But it is supposed to be his speech not mine. The hawkishness we share. We are in a war, for better or worse, and despite the fact that I have been leaning more to getting out of Iraq lately, it does not disqualify him for me. For one thing, I believe he will do a much better job than Bush, and have much more compassion for our fighting men and women who are taking a physical and emotional beating, no matter who is winning. If we can win, he might be our best bet.

My one exception was having McCain get on the right track on immigration. Shut the door, and then figure out what to do about illegal immigrants. There are many possibilities, but the hemorrhaging must stop. If he openly and honestly corrects that mistake with conservatives (and others) he might have a better chance. But, realistically, I do not think the damage done to McCain in his party due to the 2000 campaign tactics of Bush/Rove and his own anti-religious zealotry statements can ever be undone. He has to win without them, and if he gets to the starting gate, he can.

I wrote this because I strongly believe he is the only Republican who can beat Hillary right now (who, in my opinion, is the not only the most likely Democrat to win, but the only “first tier” candidate with the any common sense or understanding of the world, although it will be 8 more years of open season on Clintons if she wins) and that since he apparently won’t run as an independent, it would be best if he explained to Republicans why they need him to win. My version of McCain admits that Giuliani also might have a shot to beat her, but I think less of one. My preference would be a McCain/Lieberman ticket, which I never expect to see. There are lots of things about Joe (and everyone else) I don’t like, but the possibility of independents winning the White House is too good not to hope for.

The latest rumor is that McCain will pull out and give his support to Giuliani, who continues to frighten me. I hope not. It is too early for that. He should stay in, finances willing, until February 6th, 2008. If guys like Kucinich can stay in, why can’t he?

Most of all, we know that people react to honesty. Be brutally, ridiculously honest. He has nothing to lose and should give it a shot. It is what made him popular in the first place.

Someone give him this speech, please.

Post publication note to readers -- Good news. I have belatedly decided that this will be my last McCain article for a long time. If he can't win without me . . . .

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .