Why McCain shouldn’t take the pledge

June 3, 2008

Why a one-term pledge would be a bad idea

According to this article Mark Salter, McCain’s speechwriter and confident, has claimed that the idea of McCain pledging to serve only one term, if elected, was discussed last year. The idea of a one-term pledge has been applauded by various people who have stated that, ‘it would be a brilliant thing for him to announce he means to be a one-term president’ and ‘I think he should do something dramatic: Renounce ambition for a second term’. I have to say that I think such a pledge would be a mistake. Although it would get a lot of short-term publicity, this would merely concede one of the Democrats’ main talking points, that McCain is too old to be an effective president, and it would enable Obama to run as the candidate with a vision.. More importantly, it would also seem as if McCain is not going to accomplish anything too significant or too controversial during his presidency, lest he be accused of not being around to face the consequences of his decision, which why both libertarians and many on the Republican right favour the idea.

Indeed, the reason why Bush’s personal ratings have been so dismal is that, with the exception of the surge, which was more down to pressure from John McCain and Joe Lieberman, he has refused to push any sort of agenda. Indeed, Mike Huckabee was correct in asserting that Bush has adopted, what Huckabee characterised as a ‘a bunker mentality’, though this is in the sense of refusing to defend his policies, rather than the point Huckabee was trying to make about his foreign policy. On the contrary McCain needs to rule out any sort of pledge and map out an ambitious domestic and foreign policy agenda. The only upside of such a pledge would be that it would make it extremely unlikely that Romney or Huckabee would be on the ticket, since social and economic conservatives would simply not tolerate Romney and Huckabee respectively being given such a leg up in 2012.

Because of the speculation these revelations will produce McCain needs to formally rule such a pledge out and state that he will consider two term. However, it could be that that McCain’s staff are trying to give such a pledge informally without having to spell it out. In this case McCain’s would still need to formally rule out such a pledge, but the leak would be used to ‘wink’ at supporters of the defeated candidates, including Hillary supporters that they can vote for him safe in the knowledge that their candidate can have another shot at Pennsylvania Avenue in four year time. At the expense of banging a drum that is pretty damaged, for this dual strategy to work McCain would also need to select a Vice-President who would not be a serious contender for the Presidency in 2012, which by implication excludes; Palin, Jindal and others. In this case, I wonder if a pro-choice, liberal hawk from Connecticut, who proved in 2000 and 2004 that he is a bad a presidential campaigner as he is a good running mate, might fit the bill?



  1. Ha! And the “Bob Dole of ’08” legacy continues…

  2. I have to admit that taking the pledge would probably put him in a similar situation to Bob Dole, which is why it is a bad idea (even though Dole was 73 when he ran).

  3. After watching both McCain’s and Obama’s speeches on TV Tuesday night, McCain no less than NEEDS to run Alaska Gov Sarah Palin as his VP mate.

  4. Agreed. That speech was God-awful.

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