So tonight, with my state's primary election looming, I decided it was time to settle on a candidate. And after several hours online visiting websites and looking up policy statements and past votes and quotes on issues, I made my choice: on Tuesday I will be voting for John McCain.
If my chance to vote had come a little earlier, I would have probably gone with Fred Thompson because in spite of my reservations about his passion for the office, he was the viable candidate whose views best reflected my own. But of course Fred is out, and so is Rudy Giuliani, the other candidate to whom I was giving serious consideration. I had previously decided against both Huckabee and Paul, so that now leaves me with a choice between Romney and McCain.
I have all along been unable to enthusiastically embrace any of these Republican candidates, having doubts about all of them. Thus my indecision a mere four days before the vote. But I will admit that I have always had a "soft spot" for McCain and thus a difficult time understanding the anti-McCain passion, even hatred, that often spills from the lips of many of today's vocal conservatives.
For example, this video of Ann Coulter promising to endorse and campaign for Hillary Clinton should McCain get the nomination confirms my growing suspicion of her as a complete loose cannon and self-serving publicity hound, and I will forthwith be removing her link from my sidebar:
I just don't understand how anyone can claim that Hillary Clinton is more conservative and would be better for the country than John McCain. I also don't accept the argument that there is little difference between the two. Here are just a few issues illustrating the chasm that exists between these two frontrunners of their respective parties:
McCain supports overturning Roe v. Wade, voted yes on parental notification and banning partial birth abortions, and has a 0% rating from NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League) and a 75% rating from the NRLC (National Right to Life Committee).
Clinton supports upholding Roe v. Wade, voted no on parental notification and banning partial birth abortions, and has a 100% rating from NARAL and a 0% rating from NRLC.
On Civil Rights
McCain has a 0% rating from the ACLU, a 33% rating from the HRC and a 7% rating from the NAACP. He voted yes on banning same-sex marriage and on banning affirmative action hiring with federal funds and no on adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes. He supports an amendment against flag burning and the right of formerly Confederate states to fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of their heritage.
Clinton has a 60% rating from the ACLU, an 89% rating from the HRC and a 96% rating from the NAACP (a rating, by the way, that indicates a strongly pro-affirmative action record). She voted no on banning same-sex marriage and on recommending a Constitutional ban on flag desecration. She also voted yes on adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes.
McCain supports homeschooling, charter schools, and vouchers as well as unrestricted block grants to states so school districts can decide for themselves how educational funds are best used. He has voted no on a host of educational funding initiatives such as $52 million for "21st century community learning centers" as well as on national education standards. He has a 45% rating from the NEA.
Clinton supports federally funded universal preschool. She is against educational vouchers and only supports choice for those in the public education system. She has never seen an education funding bill she didn't like and has an 82% rating from the NEA.
On Family Values
McCain has an 83% rating from the Christian Coalition; Clinton's rating from the same group is 0%.
On Free Trade
McCain has a 100% rating from CATO; Clinton's rating from the same group is 17%.
On Health Care
McCain is against mandating universal health care or insurance coverage; Clinton wants to universalize health care and pay for it with a huge tax increase.
McCain wants to achieve victory in Iraq; Clinton says she will begin withdrawing troops within 60 days of taking office.
McCain says he will appoint strict constructionist judges. Clinton will not.
I could go on. All of the above information and more is available at http://www.ontheissues.org/. The site itself reflects a slight leftward bias in its use of certain descriptive words and phrases, but the factual information is detailed and extensive. And based on that information I simply don't understand how it is possible to see the two of them as birds of a feather. I understand that McCain has taken some positions on issues such as global warming, campaign finance reform, tax cuts and immigration that are unpopular with conservatives. But he has an impressive gallery of supporters, he has long fought government expansion and overspending, he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and his record on cutting taxes certainly beats Hillary's (72% from the NTU versus her 21%). He may not walk in lock step with the country's conservative powerhouses, but a Clinton or Obama clone he is not, and I wish people would stop making that claim. And I can't for the life of me understand how any Republican would choose to sit out this election because their first choice of candidate did not win the primary. The judges that are appointed during the next term will impact the direction of our country for a generation or more, and while we can't know for certain what to expect from any president's judicial appointments (just think back to that conservative hero Ronald Reagan), I would much rather take my chances on McCain's (or Romney's or Huckabee's or Paul's) appointees than Clinton's or Obama's.
(By the way, it is interesting to note that the site linked above describes both Romney and McCain as "populist-leaning conservatives" and places them at almost the same position on its political philosophy graph. Both Clinton and Obama, on the other hand, are "hard-core liberals." And to round out the current group, you might be interested to know that Huckabee is described as a "hard-core conservative" and Paul as a "moderate libertarian.")
So why McCain and not Romney? Even though I will admit to a certain "ick" factor with reference to his Mormonism, that is not my reason for not voting for him. McCain believes in evolution, which I view as just as false a faith as Mormonism. But voting for a president is not about finding the candidate who shares your religious views; it is about finding the candidate you believe to be most capable of leading the nation and most deserving of your trust. And with McCain I have a certain level of security that he knows what he is doing and that even though I may not agree with him on all points, I can count on him to say what he thinks and to stand up for his principles even when they are not popular. There is a record there that I can look at and feel that I know what I'm getting, whereas although Romney says a lot of the right things I have with him a much stronger sense of a politician saying and doing what is necessary to win the election, whether that means changing previously held views, promising sweeping government solutions to long-existing problems, or speaking glowingly of the sunny skies and good feelings that are going to magically manifest themselves as soon as he takes office. I respect that one can have a change of heart or mind, but in Romney's case I am not comfortable with the number of such changes he has apparently experienced in recent years (two big ones that come to mind are his views on abortion and the Department of Education). I also think that given the current state of world affairs, McCain's foreign policy experience is a huge plus, and I will frankly sleep better with him in the White House. Finally, I think McCain has a much better chance of winning in November, and I believe the importance of that simply can't be ignored, especially in a situation that to my mind offers no "dream" candidate.
If you will be voting on Super Tuesday and are undecided or simply unsure about your decision, I heartily encourage you to spend some time visiting candidates' websites, looking at specifics on issues, and visiting the site above. This is what I did tonight (at long last!), and I now feel that I can vote with some conviction and a clear conscience, if not that all-encompassing enthusiasm that has been so elusive during this very long election season.