Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

It Just Ain’t Right

Are we witnessing the COMPLETELY UNDESERVED victory of the Giuliani-McCain-Schwarzenegger wing of the Republican party? No candidate was ever more thoroughly repudiated than Rudy. And John has never even gotten a plurality of Republican votes in any of the primaries so far. Noboy really think Arnold is a Republican (except in some strange California sense) anymore. I’m not suffering from deranged hostility against McCain. It’s just that facts are facts and my sense of justice is offended by them.

The least that needs to happen, in my view, is that McCain needs to be chastened by a worse-than-expected showing next Tuesday. It’s not true that Romney would win in the southern states (including MO and OK) if Huck were out of the race. And Huck doesn’t have any chance at all outside the South at this point, although he’s ahead in GA and close in AL, TN, OK, and MO.

So I’m inclined to be for Romney next week in the North, where I advise him to campaign hard on McCain’s indifference and incompetence on the economy. And to be for Huck in the South, where I advise him to hit McCain hard on the socially conservative, pro-life front, while leaving religion out of it. They should both starting talking about the fake conservatism of the G-Mc-S wing... It goes without saying that my advice almost certainly won’t be taken (again). (Romney sounded way too much like the petulant Bob Dole in last night’s debate--accusing McCain of distorting his record etc.)

McCain may really be the best possible nominee--and certainly the nearly inevitable one--but he has to be given some tough love to curb his self-righteousness and bring the so-called coalition together on the real issues.

Discussions - 29 Comments

It would also help if Romney's supporters would quit acting as if every candidate who lacks his ability to self-fund is merely an obstacle who "objectively" helps McCain. This diminishes Romney's stature as a stand-up guy responsible for his own successes and failures. And it insults those who, for whatever reason, prefer someone else to Romney by suggesting that they lack the capacity to think clearly for themselves.

If Republicans were all conservatives, we wouldn't be in this spot.

Maybe it's not that bad. Well, the sniping is bad because it will cause all available candidates to look tarnished and shop-worn when most folks finally get around to looking at them. I understand why you guys would look away from McCain to Romney. This from Mark Steyn this morning, is, naturally, funny and clear about McCain.

However, this point by Victor Davis Hanson is also true: if perfect isn't available, and given the alternative, we may need to settle for McCain and see what we can do to make the best of that.

With all due respect, Joe, to the attractive features of the DREAM THAT WAS HUCKABEE, it's time for his supporters to rethink things. Huckabee didn't have all that was needed--he just didn't, even though he was worth looking at seriously. Do the lines they've sold themselves on Romney, on his flip-flops, really stand the acid-test? When the alternative is McCain? And that's the alternative, whatever one wants to say about past analyses.

I suppose there's a rationale or two to be heard for Huckabee staying in the race, calculated on his own interest, on bargaining power, but is there really any rationale for social conservatives serious about the nation's interests to be supporting him anymore? Are people hoping for a Romney meltdown, so that Huck becomes the alternative to McCain? Or, if the rationale is that Huckabee might say to McCain in August, "look, either give us x, y, and q or I'm advising all my supporters, past and present, to sit out November" well, then, he doesn't need a lot of delegates in the meantime to do that effectively. Huckabee men and women should be lending their voices to Romney. Now. Lucas?


I have problems with all three candidates, and happen to think that, of the three, Romney is the least electable in the fall. I agree with Peter that McCain needs to be chastened, but I can help accomplish that without throwing myself at Romney's feet (which, I fear, is how he and his supporters would regard it). Stated another way, I think that the business Republicans--whose standard-bearer is Romney--need to be chastened as well. If the GOP nominee is to have any chance at all in the fall, all the parts of the coalition need to recognize that they need the others.

The water in the deranged hostility end of the pool is just fine, Peter. Come on in.

When the alternative is McCain?

A REAL, honest liberal, like Obama or Billary. Why settle for the thin characterless swill of "liberal lite" when you can have the real thing?

"but is there really any rationale for social conservatives serious about the nation's interests to be supporting him anymore?"

Um ... well yeah. It's this little thing called principle. Of course if they were real serious about the nation's interests they would be supporting Ron Paul. :-)

I think that the business Republicans--whose standard-bearer is Romney--need to be chastened as well. If the GOP nominee is to have any chance at all in the fall, all the parts of the coalition need to recognize that they need the others.

I think this goes to the crux of the issue. One reason I think the business Republicans don't really give as much as the get from the rest of the "coalition" is that they don't have to. They often get what they want from Dem's as well, particularly the "pragmatic" kind like Billary. The next big thing they want, moving the cost of health care off of their books by making their employees pay through it through "universal" medicine, can be accomplish with anyone but a real conservative in the White House. A Bush, McCain, especially a Romney - or an Dem will all "get'r'done" so to speak. Shoot, even a Gingrich.

So, Romney talks the talk on the campaign trail but will walk the business walk. Really, think about it, what have the social conservatives got from the GOP since 94? A few judges is all, and that will be balanced out eventually, as the Dem's will have their chance sooner or later. Until the GOP, which is de facto the business party, actually has to give to other members of the "coalition", conservatives are simply sheep if they keep voting for GOP...

One could argue that the shift towards the Guilani/McCain wing of the party started during during the last presidential election--didn't those two plus Schwarzenegger headline the GOP convention? That had less to do with a shift in principle than their starpower (and maybe a heavy dose of real thymos to counter Kerry's imagined variety). Now it might be that the uncertainty regarding what conservartism means within the party plus the power of circumstance yet again (it might be that much of McCain's surge has to do with the surge in Iraq) has benefited that group again....if Iraq continues to show progress come election time and and Iran/Pakistan continue to defy it McCain might do even better than projected...not that this a scenario conervatives should savor.

Peter and Joe are both right, which sort of defines our pickle. At any rate, Peter's is a brilliant post. Now, can we raise some money from the Lawler wing of the party to get the message out!!

I think Democrats and Republicans ought to really be worried about Bloomberg if this turns into Hillary vs. McCain....

Peter, I already told ya' what needs to happen, McCain needs to be forced to make his own penitential journey to figurative Canossa, just like perfidious Henry IV did long before him.

Nothing less will do.

And CINDY, that was a good one.

The solution to our problems exists.

It hasn't been done in a while, but it's not unheard of in our party. And it would be a VERY healthy development for our party, were it resurrected in our current crisis.

I suggested it months ago, and I suggested it again a couple of days ago. But Quin Hilyer expands on it and fleshes it out over at The American Spectator, {}. Go read his piece.

I agree with both Prof. Lawler and Prof. K on the idea that McCain needs to be chastened (and Romney and Huckabee as well). But I don't think that a poor showing on Tuesday would do it for McCain. At this point, I'm not sure anything would. If he doesn't win as many delegates as expected, it'll be because of those "foolish" conservatives who want to "ruin the party" by opposing X (campaign finance reform, amnesty, etc.)

And while I agree that the business wing of the party probably takes social conservatives too much for granted, I'm not sure that it's fair to blame Romney on that score. He's gone out of his way to appeal to social conservatives. It hasn't worked as well as he hoped, but he certainly has't ignored us.

But Huckabee and his supporters need to be chastened too. It's not true that evangelicals haven't gotten anything substantial out of the Republican party lately (partial birth abortion, marriage tax penalty reduced, child credits, no spending on destructive embryo research, judges, etc.) And while there are probably some blue-blood Republicans that don't like evangelicals, it doesn't help anything at all when Huckabee derides everyone who likes Romney as 'corporatists' or some such nonsense. It just reinforces the mistaken view that evangelicals don't really belong in the party and should be ignored. When Huckabee acts like it's poor little him against the big bad Republican Party it doesn't do anyone any favors. Romney came out and met with the Arlington group and other social conservatives, did Huckabee try to meet with Club for Growth or AEI?

I'm beginning to wonder if the lasting effect of this primary is that we lost an opportunity for a real debate and discussion about the makeup of the party and why each branch 1) needs the rest and 2) is generally compatible with the rest of the party.

We're likely to get a candidate that a majority of the party doesn't really support - and have him match up against a guy that a huge section of the Democrats absolutely love.

If there was any doubt before, the above comments, more than anything, reflect how the GOP is splintered. Wish we could all be united for the right principles as the Democrats are for the wrong ones! I voted for Romney in the SC primary elections for one simple reason: he represents the closest one can come to representing our broad based conservative ideals. References to Romney's "self-funding" ability and "throwing oneself at Romney's feet...",appear, at least to me, to portray Romney as an elitist capitalist who lacks the credentials to be a true social conservative , even though he is a true Mormon religionist. And I believe therein lies the real problem: deep down we purists cannot accept the fact that Romney's religion is "different" from ours.He may be right on defense, immigration, abortion, and all of our conservative ideals, but it is that "religion" thing that bothers us. So , if Huckabee can't win, let's go with McCain, who may well compromise our conservative ideals in the end.....

JK, don't panic, force a floor fight, and draft a Favourite Son candidate. There's absolutely no reason we should let ourselves be bridled, saddled and spurred by McCain, or by any of these candidates. Our party has provision for a Favourite Son being drafted in. Those provisions are of long standing duration, and it's time that they be availed of once more.

There's no need to panic. In fact the sight of the party taking charge of the nomination process in such a way, would be an incredibly exhilarating, heartening and positive experience for the America's body politic.

We could easily draft in a John Thune, or a former Colorado Governor Bill Owens.

Let's all start thinking outside the box here. Now that's usually a cliché I avoid, but it's appropriate for this situation. The box is the mess we're in now, thinking outside of it is the solution.

Yup, my dad and mom voted for Romney in S.C. And, yes, I'm reacting at least as much to Romney's supporters as I am to Romney himself. Though I will say this: Romney has tried almost every possible version of himself to appeal to voters, without much success where he faced a real challenge. I found the Michigan version least appealing, but perhaps most "authentic," in that he promised to do almost whatever it takes--small government principle be damned--to save the automobile industry. Julie's point (back then) is well taken--we can't let all our heavy industry go. But I ask again: how many industries is he willing to promise to save, and how close is that to the small government principles that are alleged to be at the heart of the GOP or, for that matter, conservatism?

Joe, I don't get it. You don't seem to be FOR anyone here, even if you did vote Romney. Or really for a consistent position. You're a wise political hand who can see beyond each and all the candidates, but between your multiple ambivalences and Peter's "vote one way Northerners and another way Southerners," I'm getting confused. It happens to those of us who wade in Cindy's "deranged hostility end of the pool," I guess. You say Romeny deserves chastening for being the representative of the business wing of the Republican party, and then in another comment you say that to stereotype him as a rich businessman is unfair. And while I'm sure you don't mean to in your own voice, you seem in that last comment to be defending a hold-out against Romney by social cons on the basis of discomfort with his Mormonism.

And good comment, Caleb--it touches upon the resentment-nursing that has always bothered me about a good deal of Huckabee's support, and to some degree the purist "outsiderism" of the Huckabee campaign.

But it's late, and good night all...I'll let you know if I have any McCain nachtmares.

JK, "commanding heights" old boy. That's the answer to your question, make sure you maintain those "commanding heights." And that's probably what Julie was trying to suggest. Reagan didn't quote Edward Burke and Ludwig Von Mises when Chrysler needed to be bailed out, he just bailed it out.

Conservatives shouldn't make a fetish of an economic ideology. And they certainly don't make so much of a fetish as to endanger public safety, The FIRST obligation of the state, its very raison d'etre is to protect the citizens thereof. Life first, then property. Not property privileged over existence. For there's no points for losing wars and going down the path from which none return, but being able to say in the dread aftermath, "well, at least we didn't throw overboard Adam Smith and Milton Friedman."

"Erect no graven image...." Some of the open borders crowd have done exactly that, privileged an economic fetish over what should come first and foremost, the security of the United States, and the public welfare of the citizens thereof.

I'm a Conservative, and I've been known to go off on Romney, BUT I don't fault Romney for making the commonsensical observation that America ought to make sure that there IS an American auto industry. Just like we ought to make sure firms like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics continue to exist. That was another reason why the whole notion behind the Dubai Ports deal was not just obnoxious, but in a real way, patently insane. The type of insanity that 90% of the American people rejected, and found hilarious, though it was a clear case of gallows' humour. The type of gallows' humour we've been force fed throughout this 2d Bush term.

Mega-dittoes, Professor Lawler.

Well, this is a great discussion. I'm most chastened by the criticism that I have "commitment issues" when it comes to this race. My reservation to Romney has never been that he's a business elitist or puts too much product in his hair. I've never thought he could win, although I was hoping he could prove me otherwise. I agree that Huck's criticisms of Romney are ridiculous, and his criticisms of McCain could have been (had he made them) very effective.


Some of your confusion comes from the fact that comment #16 was made by my dad, who started out supporting Giuliani on electability grounds, never could stomach McCain (despite that fact that, as a 20-year veteran, he ought to have been one of Mac's natural constituents), and finally came around to the position my mom held quite consistently (voting for Romney).

I could vote for Romney in a general election--"we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" who aren't terribly excited by him as we watch him go down in flames against his Democratic opponent--but have never been convinced that he's a good enough campaigner, capable of connecting with the voters. I'm also not certain which version of Romney we'd get, were he to make it to the White House as anything other than a guest at a state dinner.

I could vote for McCain in a general election, confident that he would be equal to the foreign and defense policy challenges of the day, but worried about his tenuous connection with constitutionalism.

I'll probably end up voting for Huckabee in the Georgia primary, a vote that's easier now that he's highly unlikely to be the nominee. His message and his constituency need to be taken seriously by the deep thinkers who ride Amtrak between NYC and DC. And I'm not just talking about social conservatism, but about the Sam's Club Republicans (though I myself am a slightly more upscale Costco/Trader Joe's Republican).

Costco/Trader Joe's give their money to the Democratic Party and their candidates, so we don't belong to Costco. I prefer them, too. You can get real vanilla there. Isn't the idea of "membership" at Sam's & Costco and interesting concept in light of Tocqueville, or maybe just in what those business entities reflect about politics?

I am still puzzling over which aspect of McCain and McCainism is seen to be conservative beyond international political aggression. I could vote for McCain in a general election, confident that he would be equal to the foreign and defense policy challenges of the day, but worried about his tenuous connection with constitutionalism. is about it, but I am going to have one heck of a time voting for him in the primary and will probably end up voting against him. Which leaves the next dilemma of who to vote for and that will probably be Romney because he looks stronger and I like that idea of "chastening" McCain, if the Republican establishment does like him, which I do not get at all.


Your view of the primary makes sense in Ohio; in Georgia, I'm less sure that it does. I'm probably still going to vote for Huck, though the latest poll leaves me with some doubts about his "viability" even here.

Slept like a babe. Sorry, Knippenbergs, about the elder/younger confusion. Here's what I think I know:

Huckabee absolutely cannot win against either Dem., short of his opponent suffering total meltdown.

Romney probably can't win against either Dem, for the reasons people have been spelling out. Something oddly detatched about him. Not a "strong personality" like Huck, McCain, Obama.

CW says McCain can win against either...the CW may be right. A lot of people like this guy.

But McCain will provoke conservative sit-outs. Guaranteed.

So the key question is, would McCain's sit-outs outnumber the number of moderates and other McCain-likers that Romney could not gain?

Unless we have a way of knowing the answer to that question (as well as the answer to whether McCain can reign in the unlikable side of his temper for eight months), I think we have to conclude that the CW doesn't understand that McCain is as unlikely as Romney is to win.

If each is probably equally unlikely to win, but each certainly has a chance, then what? Well, for conservatives, they vote the man who is with them on the issues. That's Romney.

The wild cards here (besides John McCain himself) are 1) the inclination many Republicans have now to go with the front-runner, an inclination non-social-con business types are obviously encouraging, and 2) the determination of conservatives like Joe K the younger and Red Phillips to send a message by sticking with Huckabee even though we now know he can't win.

Several so-clever conservatives I know here in Ohio are registering as Democrats for the primary to influence that race. They can't decide which Republican they want, anyway. Unfortunately, about half of them are convinced that Hillary can't win the general, either because she is obnoxious or because America is not ready for a female president and will never elect her. This contrasts with the about half of them who think America isn't ready for a black man and will vote for Obama as he is sure to be defeated in November. Are there many voters in many states playing these games? I know a couple of dozen men and their wives who think this is clever as clever.

However, this point by Victor Davis Hanson is also true: if perfect isn't available

McVain is VDH's perfect candidate, so lets not pretend that he is making some sort of pragmatic compromise.

the inclination many Republicans have now to go with the front-runner, an inclination non-social-con business types are obviously encouraging

I don't know of a single business type who likes McCain. I suppose some of the people desperate for amnesty may be backing him. But the man is an economic dunce. His backers like him pretty much entirely because of his anti-religious-right stance, in my experience.

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