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A Man in the Arena

June 24, 2008

Why McCain needs to invoke the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt

As I have said elsewhere, it is obvious from the polls that that McCain’s attempt to run on a hard right tax cutting agenda isn’t working, and more importantly is something that McCain doesn’t believe in. In reality McCain is a right of centre populist who believes in free trade, school vouchers and attacking wasteful spending but also believes in regulatory reform, global warming, expanding access to health care and is worried about inequality. He also supports issues such immigration reform, energy independence and balanced budgets which are neither right nor left. Just as his best moment on foreign policy came when he directly confronted Ron Paul, his best two domestic policy moments came when he attacked Romney (and implicitly Giuliani) over the ‘profit not patriotism’ line and Huckabee over his regressive tax plan.

The Democratic lead on economic issues and their lead in the generic ballot means that there is simply no popular appetite for further economic conservatism. Obviously, Dick Morris is the last person who should be giving policy advice and his stuff about oil speculators and companies is simply demagogic nonsense. However, his contention in a recent interview that, ‘McCain can win by entering the democratic primary. He has to be a democratic opponent to to Obama. He should be a populist, and win over (working-class) Hillary voters’, is correct. It is also self-evident that the Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson wing of the Republican Party, who seem to have hi-jacked the McCain campaign, seem hell-bent on blaming everyone else, including the very people that McCain needs to win over, for his predicament. For instance, even the normally reasonable Irwin Seltzer seems to have gotten into his head that the one person to blame for Bush’s failures in the past two years is not Bush himself but Joe Lieberman.

So what should McCain do? I think the first thing McCain needs to do is to stop trying to be a third rate Barry Goldwater. Even though Obama has tried to give the illusion of moving to the centre there is plenty of room for McCain to come up with a tax plan that is a bit more progressive and which closes more loopholes, while still keeping economic conservatives on board. McCain should also stop hedging, instead of talking about building a few more nuclear power plants in the next twenty years he should talk about building a whole generation by 2012, a goal that is achievable if foreign technology is allowed to be imported into the US and Yucca Mountain is opened up. As I have said before McCain also needs to make overtures to those on the DLC wing of the Democratic Party. Although this may seem radical, it would be no different from the Republican recruitment of hawkish Democrats, such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfovitz in the mid to late 70s. I am not suggesting that McCain should go overboard or do anything silly, but moving the Republican party to the centre, by enabling conservative Democrats to vote for McCain, would do more to help protect the idea of free trade and market solutions than anything the NRO wing of the GOP have come up with so far.

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2 comments

  1. McCain needs to go back to being his normal self. People didn’t want Fred Thompson. I am not a Republican, but given that I am opposed to Obama and I believe McCain will be president, I would like to see some moderation. He knows the GAO put out a report that more drilling is useless and that there are already enough gas and oil leases on BLM land to serve the purpose had any oil company found it profitable. I was sorry to see him support something as terrible as offshore drilling.


  2. McCain had a chance to be the most influential Republican since Teddy Roosevelt in 2004. Had he agreed to be John Kerry’s running mate, like he was asked to, Bush would’ve lost re-election and our entire future would’ve been different.

    Instead, McCain sold his own views down the river and endorsed Bush for a second term for the slight hope that his party would overlook his unreliability and vote for him in 2008.

    Teddy Roosevelt would have never been such a partisan hack.



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