Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Caution that is Audacity

When is audacity the better part of caution? I think Bill Kristol knows. In his New York Times column today, he argues that McCain needs to demonstrate the kind of caution that requires audacity--not only in his veep choice, but also in the full on operation of his campaign. Kristol’s reflection comes from his talks with McCain staffers and, if his representations are--in fact--representative, it sounds like they know what they’re about. It’s well and good to watch your opponent set himself afire, but you’d better not assume he’s an ordinary bird when he might be a phoenix. The Arizonan McCain, who somewhat miraculously pulled his own feathers out of the fire, must know this. But it’s not just the general rule of thumb that one should never underestimate one’s opponent that should drive McCain’s campaign. As Kristol argues, at at time when there’s a 30% approval rating for a GOP President and when 80% of the voters think the country’s on the wrong track, overconfidence is not going to serve McCain well. And yet, perhaps the only thing more deadly in this situation is excessive caution. So what to do?

VP choices, in and of themselves, rarely mean anything substantive or representative for a campaign. That is unless, of course, it is a bad choice and it causes voters to question the judgment of the man at the top of the ticket. (As we’ve seen in the last few weeks; one has to be careful about the people with whom one associates in politics!) But even putting the Reverand Wright aside, this has been a campaign season in which almost every rule of thumb has been tossed out the window.

Kristol’s article has me thinking that in this year and for this election, perhaps especially in the case of McCain, it’s going to be very important to see who he selects to be his VP running mate. There are a whole host of reasons for this that are obvious: his age, his need to shore up the conservative base, his need to appeal to Reagan Dems, his need to bring energy to the campaign, etc. But more than all of this, it is going to be McCain’s next (and, if it’s not done well, maybe last) really big opportunity to set the tone for his campaign and define himself to voters. He will have a chance to make a case to voters about what kind of a Republican he is and what kind of energy he will bring to the campaign. Is he a clone of Bush, representing ties to an unpopular and troubled administration? Is he an establishment Republican, with an assortment of old stalwarts (or their clones) in his entourage? Is he an associate of overly zealous religious conservatives who (fairly or not) will invariably invite comparisons suggesting equivalence between themselves and Wright . . . or is there really something to his "maverick" reputation?

What does it mean for McCain to be a "maverick," anyway? Are his conservative critics right that he’s only a maverick when he’s going up against conservatives--or could they be missing something? Could it be that McCain sees himself more as a patriot trying to forge new and workable directions--a guy open to new ideas and to making things work in the best sense of the American tradition? We don’t have to agree with McCain’s self-perception to concede that it may, in fact, be his understanding of himself. Perhaps this caused him to butt heads with conservatives in the past . . . and perhaps (dare he say it?) in some of those instances, he turned out to be wrong. But could this be a different time? Could this be a time when a maverick is exactly what we need? Could this be a time when the "maverick" in him, instead of sizing up the next conservative opponent is now drawn to a fresh, young, reforming but conservative maverick in his own right? Could the caution that is audacity move McCain to be a real maverick and choose Bobby Jindal for his running mate? Could this pre-boomer and post-boomer ticket work the generational angle in such a way as to explain away much of the poor perception of the GOP that is the immediate (though I still say, not the lasting) legacy of last 8 years? I don’t know but I think . . . maybe. Anyway, it is the audacity of my hope.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Bobby Jindal has a great deal to commend him.

But is Jindal tough enough to function as a pit-bull.
Moreover, Jindal possesses intellectual firepower. McCain doesn't. As the campaign goes on, McCain could easily find himself shrinking in comparison alongside a guy like Jindal.

I think that McCain should consider Santorum. There are some negatives there, to be sure. But a Santorum selection offers some advantages as well. And Santorum is tough.

The guy to avoid is Romney. I'd put Romney in charge of FEMA or Homeland Security. But don't put him on the ticket.

Santorum would not be my choice. I like him, but he lost big time. Only people who are like me like him, you have to see that. So he's not persuasive. Besides, there's only room for one phoenix on a ticket. I think Jindal's intellectual firepower would be a boon to McCain because Jindal is young. Even if he's smarter, he'll have to defer to age and experience--except for those rare cases when he doesn't. In those cases it will most likely be very much in McCain's best interest to defer to Jindal. And Dan, really, John McCain does not need a pit-bull. Come on!

McCain won't attack. Witness how he bashed N.C. Republicans for that rather mild ad.

Traditionally, the top of the ticket tries to stay above the fray, while his underlings go after the opponent. Sometimes he'll have no choice but to get involved, but he must be seen at least as struggling somewhat to rise above the fray. But the guy who fills out the ticket suffers from no such impediment. His whole task is to attack the other guy. It's true that Santorum did get blown out in Pennsylvania. But there were few Republicans who didn't get blown out in '06. Which meant the fault didn't lie with Santorum, the fault was in Washington, and Santorum bore the brunt of a wrath that was directed towards Bush. Santorum explains himself well.

McCain needs people like you to vote for him. He's in great danger of seeing Conservatives slip away from him, because his instincts {such as his bashing of N.C. Republicans} lead him into actions that only grate on Conservatives. He sides with the media and the libs on global warming, car emission standards, ANWR, and a host of other issues. Conservative disenchantment with him hasn't gone away. He has to secure his base; he can't delude himself he'll gain more in the middle than he'll lose on his right flank. Santorum ANCHORS the ticket, in a way that Jindal can't, because Jindal is young and hasn't been hardened and seasoned as Santorum has.

I think a Santorum selection is exactly the type of bold move you're calling for.

I wouldn't try to glamorize the ticket, hoping to horn in on the media sensationalizing of Barack Hussein Obama. I would counter the Democrat ticket by seriousness, by intellectual firepower, {which is partly why I favoured Giuliani by the way}.

But if McCain doesn't distinguish himself from the failures of the Bush administration, ----------------- there's no hope for him.

Bobby J., as I said before, would be a bold move. There's also no one else. Santorum lost big-time for obvious reason; he would anchor Mac right to the bottom of the sea.

I'm a fan of Jindal too---besides being young and apparently beyond corruption, he's smart, economically conservative, a devout Christian, and a terrific public speaker. He also projects humility and reliability which would greatly benefit McCain and adds a patina of multiculturalism to the ticket. Finally, by way of contrast, what he's accomplished with his youthful inexperience is more impressive (and more indicative of executive competence) that anything Obama has done.

Which Republican Senators survived '06? The only name Republican that I know of who was in a tough seat, and survived, was Congressman Peter King from New York. But every other Republican who was in even a remotely close contest lost.

Which means the problem didn't exist with EACH particular Republican. Rather the problem was the odor that our party acquired during the Bush 2d term. It was that odor, that taint, that stain, that offense, which the American people rejected whole-heartedly. The American people were determined to send a signal.

But Peter failed to pick up on it. Republicans suffered not just in Congress, BUT UP AND DOWN THE WHOLE SLATE OF candidates. State races where the issue didn't have anything to do with the war, federal spending or anything else, yet nonetheless Republicans were hammered.

Yet this political tsunami we're to attribute to the individual flaws of individual Republican contestants?

That makes no sense.

Is Santorum articulate? Absolutely? More so than McCain? Without a doubt. Does Santorum understand the nature of the war? Yes. Does Santorum understand the role that Iran plays, and has played within this conflict? Again, yes, which is important because Iran will be an issue in this race. Is Santorum another featureless drone in Washington? No, he has personality. He comes from a blue-collar family, a blue-collar neighborhood, and had to fight for everything he's managed to gain in his life. Which means he relates. Which is something McCain doesn't, and occasionally McCain blurts out a comment that betrays some of the scorn that the professional military hold for those that work for money. Remember when McCain often said he chose a profession for devotion to country, ---------------------- and not money, implying that those who entered the workforce for lucre are some kind of lesser creature compared to him and his ilk, who we're told are motivated only by the most altruistic of attitudes. That's the type of thing that reflects the ethos of a professional military family. But doesn't play well in Peoria, for it's never a good idea to insult the American people. Most Americans work for money, and it's not a good idea to slight them on account of it. Santorum knows that, senses that, would never need to be informed as much.

I questioned McCain's toughness ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. The only time McCain seems really motivated going after anybody is when they're Republicans and Conservatives. He did give that speech at the GOP convention 4 years back where he went after Michael Moore. But can anyone recall him going after a Liberal since then? I can't. Santorum's pugnaciousness would compliment the ticket, because he would supply something that McCain lacks, the ability to distinguish friend from foe, coupled with a zeal to light into Democrats and Liberalism.

We'll need somebody on that ticket with the will, the ability, the savvy and the skill to rip and tear into American Liberalism. McCain can't, because he secretly subscribes to many of their causes, their attitudes, their weird world view.

Jindal is articulate. But can anyone recall a time or a moment where Jindal took off on a tear about American Liberalism.

I think it's all academic though. The Democrats are going to introduce another immigration "reform" bill later this year. McCain will go out there just like last time, and make a thoroughgoing fool of himself, demonstrating beyond all doubt that he doesn't give two damns about the GOP base. And demonstrating once again that not just does he possess a political tin ear, but he has a unerring knack for selecting the wrong policy approach. Once that immigration bill comes along, and the Democrats would be fools not to push one through, whatever fragile unity our party has managed to cobble together since the disastrous selection of McCain will collapse quicker than a house of cards. I doubt if McCain has even the savvy to make sure the bill is killed behind the scenes, and never comes to the actual floor for a vote.

PETER has often bemoaned Republican chances this year. I've not. Our party still can gain a shattering victory over the Democrats this year.

But we need two men at the top of the ticket as far removed from Bush, and all things Bush, as you can get. They'll need to run against Bush, his incoherence and incompetence as much as they'll need to run against the Democrats. Can Jindal, who appears awfully nice, do that. Does Jindal have a killer instinct, because that's what we need. We need toughness and savvy. Does Jindal have that? He's campaigned in Louisiana, which is culturally conservative. What does he know about taking his act on the campaign trail in states which are unlike Louisiana? Santorum by contrast ran two Senate races in Pennsylvania which he won, and a third that he lost, and he lost that when just about every other Republican in a remotely close race lost as well.

The GOP can't throw over the talent of men like Gingrich, Weldon, Santorum without seeing that reflect itself in ideological incoherence. And that incoherence results in political defeat.

Peter still doesn't seem to get how closely Bush is tethered to disaster. Just about every single problem besetting the GOP right now is attributable to Bush, or something that Bush inflamed, exacerbated, worsened.

It's all about Bush.

Another thing that Peter got wrong was saying that Santorum would drag McCain down. The VP pick rarely hurts the candidate. Recall the bad press that GHWB got for selecting Quayle compared to Dukakis' pick of Bentsen. But GHWB went on to win nonetheless. The battle isn't between the two tickets, it's between the two standard-bearers. The VP pick can help, by attacking, by relentlessly attacking, but if the ticket loses, it's almost never because of the VP pick.

Dan . . .

You've been so flattering to me that I've gotta like you, but come on . . . you've gotta know when your simply wrong about public opinion. There's no way that Rick Santorum is anything but a burden for John McCain. Whatever his massive virtues may be apart from the reality of this political situation, you can't run a campaign on what people "should like." There's room for a prudent statesman to guide and move public opinion, of course, but he can't turn it on its heel. Santorum did not lose simply because of the '06 tidal wave and Mark Foley. That doesn't even make sense. If any Republican should have emerged unscathed from the events and opinions propelling that disaster, it should have been Santorum (if, in fact, that was all that was at work in PA). He wasn't a big hypocrite on spending issues and he's about as straight laced as they come in comparison to Foley. So if the GOP base in PA was only searching for someone to blame for their frustration with the GOP Congress and the impropriety of Foley, Santorum was the wrong target. But he didn't come close. How would he fare any better on a national ticket? And you're still defending Giuliani? Yes, I liked him too. But when you've lost, own it. Will you also put your money on Eight Belles for the next derby?

A VP attack dog would make McCain look like Bush. Because if there is anyone who is more demonized than Bush it is Dick Cheney or possibly Donald Rumsfield. In fact if it is about not looking like Bush then I would certainly not suggest picking a vice president who is A an attack dog or B perceived as more intelligent or competent, i.e. the brains of the operation. A lot of people are disapointed in Bush at least in part because they believe that he was a puppet. McCain at least has this maverick image...It might even be good for the republican party to make a lot of fuss about McCain picking a conservative...have all the strategists and pundits on the right talk up the favorite conservatives and then have McCain keep them in the dark...set up a sort of brokered GOP convention on who McCain's vice presidential pick will be and then have him break out and pick his good friend from the Senate Joe Lieberman. Have the media switch back to talking about "momentum" and how the republican party is torn like the democrats were...but bam a bold recast of McCain with Lieberman and the story is back on how someone like good ole Joe used to be a democrat but became a Republican when his party forced him out, just like Hillary Clinton was denied the nomination because she took a more nuanced view on Iraq...just what is Obama's foreign policy?

But I suppose if you guys like Jindal you are right, I just don't see how anything that looks like a marriage of political convenience or strategy will help McCain...If you want McCain to be bold let him be contrarian bold and his own man. People are looking to make sure they don't see strings...don't show them any, let McCain make the pick that is 100% McCain, he is old, it is going to get hard on the campaign trail and he might lose his temper...he needs someone who understands him well...someone who just doesn't ballance him with a certain demographic, but who ballances his mood and keeps him calm, cool and in perspective. He might not be able to win...but at least let McCain pick his team chemistry so that we know it is McCain shining thru. I don't know that McCain would pick Lieberman as his own choice...but what I hope is that what McCain does is what McCain is sure HE wants to do.

And I might repeat this because it is important, there is no audacious hope in supporting a president whose judgment you believe to be flawed, and must therefore be micro-managed and kept in line. This is in the end what deep sixed George Bush.

What McCain might need from a vice president is someone who knows him and knows when he is overheating and knows how to get his attention without making it seem like he is controlling things. McCain needs the exact opposite of an attack dog, he needs a soft spoken friend. An Uncle that contrasts quite favorably perhaps?

First off, I know that Santorum won't be selected. So I'm looking at this as a whole devil's advocate affair.

I like Jindal. I hope to see him President one day. Putting him on the ticket moves him to the front of the list in '12. I know that.

But there are a few probs with Jindal, such as scanty resume. He doesn't have much more experience than Obama or Clinton. He has spoken on many domestic issues, and he's something of a policy wonk. But he still lacks actual experience implementing his views. We should contrast the inexperience of the Democrats with a seasoned ticket. McCain provides ample seasoning, but you want a full, comprehensive contrast. Not just a contrast amongst the standard-bearers.

I've had the opportunity to see Santorum on the stump. Santorum won when Gore took Pennsylvania in 2000. He's a strong Conservative that nonetheless won a Blue state twice. Twice stops being a fluke. He did it because he relates. He did it because of his blue collar attitudes, that he related well. Santorum has true star potential, and we shouldn't throw that aside. He has passion, he has energy, he can speak off the cuff, persuasively, convincingly, compellingly. It comes effortlessly for him. He's comfortable on the air, accustomed to the banter of the sunday talk shows. He gets along well with Conservatives, even guys like Hagee, and Santorum is Catholic. There are reasons that Democrats UNIQUELY targeted him for destruction, just as they targeted Gingrich. Democrats always go after Republicans they deem future threats. The Democrats had to beg Casey to take on Santorum, because Casey was convinced that Santorum would easily defeat him. These are the kinds of details those outside Pennsylvania may have forgotten. But Casey didn't "campaign" against Santorum. He hid. He scheduled a single campaign event per week. All he did was run ads equating Santorum with Bush. That was it. The ads played a continuous theme: "If you hate Bush, vote against Santorum." That was the entirety of the Casey campaign. And it worked.

Santorum has certain strengths. He's not wealthy, that's a political strength on the campaign trail.

Sure, I agree with the idea that when you've lost, "own it." But that doesn't absolve us from the responsibility of finding out why, why did he lose, when he previously he won. Pennsylvania has changed. But not enough to account for him getting hammered by a non-entity like Casey. Polling actually indicated that a sizable chunk of the Pennsylvania electorate didn't know that the previous Casey, who was Govenor, wasn't the same guy as the one they were voting for. Yea. I'm not making that one up. It's mind boggling, but true. Santorum encountered the bizarre popularity of the Casey name, simultaneously with a popular loathing of Bush. And he couldn't weather the storm. My question is who could. Which Republican would have fared better than Santorum in Pennsylvania? Shouldn't that inform our judgement about Santorum's political health, about his political future.

Santorum tried to do something that Bush and his staff refused to attempt, provide a compelling case for the incompetently managed war effort. But his speeches weren't covered, the debates weren't watched, and the media warped his message beyond recognition. He simply didn't have the pulpit that would have enabled him to make up for the communicative vacum at The White House.

Nixon lost twice. He lost to JFK, he lost the California governor's race, {I think he lost to Pat Brown, but Steve would know who he lost to}. But he came back later to defeat Hubert Humpherey and absolutely shatter McGovern.

We are dead wrong as a party to see a single defeat as the political equivalent to a death sentence. I'm not saying Santorum should be the head of the ticket, at least not yet. But putting him on the ticket first exhumes him from the political grave, promises him a place on the stage in '12, and provides ample intellectual firepower for a ticket that is in DESPERATE need of such. Santorum provides a youthful contrast to McCain, but not so much as Jindal, who is TOO young. Santorum is the kind of guy to look McCain dead in the eye and tell him he's wrong. There's not many Republicans with that kind of confidence and intestinal fortitude.

We can't put Rudy on the ticket because he's not a Conservative. Whoever McCain picks, the guy has to provide balance to the ticket. He has to be a KNOWN, SEASONED, HARDENED Conservative. Jindal is not seasoned, not hardened. At least not yet. He's getting there though.

I think I would like to see Jindal as president, too. Evidently, we all like him. Peter Lawler's point about lack of other talent may just be the tipping point on this one. The lack of talent in Republican Party is an issue that really has to be addressed. Are there any thick-skinned academics on here who might be persuaded to tackle another career?

I know too many people who like Santorum all that much. I don't know anyone who doesn't like Jindal, though I know plenty of people who haven't heard of him, yet. This could be a very good thing - look what being a relative unknown did for Obama.

Second paragraph should start, "I don't know...."

Dan: "Getting there" is probably going to have to be good enough.

With one quibble excepted, both of Kate's points are excellent and answer you fully (and with much fewer words); especially the second one. That's why I like the look of Jindal. My quibble has to do with anyone here stepping up to the plate to fill up the drought-stricken talent pool in the GOP. I'd say look elsewhere. Not only do I doubt that anyone here is looking for another career; I'd also say that, in general, that's probably a good thing!

Santorum participated in the culture wars. But so did Reagan back in the day. Both men acquired reps as hard Conservatives.

I don't want a guy who is constantly looking to be friendly and affable. We've had too much of that already. Men with convictions know that there are times to be in earnest, to be serious. Santorum and Reagan would never do as Bush has done, dismiss substantive policy differences as "just politics." Reagan never said in a debate: "We just have differences," or "we just have a difference of opinion." Such statements trivialize the policy discussion, as if it's almost meaningless.

Reagan got out there and said that this generation had a rendezvous with destiny, that either they would prevail or see the world slink back into some new Dark Age. He never said "we have a difference of opinion."

Santorum and Reagan are serious men. And both men had far more personality than their political peers.

Selecting Santorum guarantees the support of the GOP base. And Santorum isn't about to "grow" in office, he's not about to start ingratiating himself with the establishment that hates him, and the msm that desires to keep him down.

Santorum brings a great deal to the table. And the GOP ought to consider him. Ought to seriously consider him.

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