Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Right Gathering

McCain at CPAC

Too bad I had to travel hundreds of miles to feel at home, but it was nice nonetheless. Very nice. Now it’s back to the reality that I live in a blue state where very few people see the world as I see it. It’s hard to get three conservatives together around here. At CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington DC, 6800 of us gathered to discuss what was important and what to do about it.

We didn’t agree on everything, but there was mutual respect between those with different opinions. Vice President Cheney spoke in the morning under heavy security on Thursday, the first day of the conference. Then, at lunchtime, I listened as Mitt Romney announced he was suspending his campaign. Most of us were shocked and I don’t think even Laura Ingraham, who introduced him, knew what was coming. That left only McCain, Huckabee, and Ron Paul, and it looked like McCain would win. With that, divisions within the attendees loomed larger. In the lobby outside the ballroom, NPR’s Mara Liasson put a microphone to my face and asked, “How do you feel about Romney dropping out?” Classic liberal question.

“You mean ‘What do I think?'” I asked.

“No. I mean how do you feel? Did you support Romney?”

I told her I did and that I was disappointed. Then she asked if I would work for McCain. I said I would vote for him but I was not inclined to work for him, except to point out in my writing why his Democrat opponent’s positions on issues are wrong. Then a New York Times reporter asked me the same question.

Many of us were struggling with the realization that our choice in November would most likely be between McCain and Obama or McCain and Clinton. Though McCain claimed to be a conservative and his support for our war with Islamofascists was strong, his positions on issues like illegal immigration, tax cuts, campaign finance, global warming, closing Guantanamo, and others were decidedly liberal. He’d even considered becoming John Kerry’s running mate in 2004. Prominent conservative leaders like Rush Limbaugh (not in attendance), Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter had been suggesting they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for McCain in November given his liberal positions. Could other strong conservatives bring themselves to put an X beside his name? That was the dilemma, and he was due to speak in a few hours.

Though I originally intended to go elsewhere in the big hotel for the next two sessions, I instead attended the ones scheduled in the big ballroom where McCain would be speaking to make sure I had a seat for his 3:00 PM appearance. During those sessions, his name came up several times as the speakers - two senators and two congressmen - began referring to him as “the presumptive nominee” and urged the audience to unite behind him. Most applauded when they heard this, but enough were booing that they could be heard everywhere in the large room. It was going to be interesting when McCain finally came to the podium.

The whole day’s program had been shuffled around to accommodate the vice president and the candidates. There was confusion when it got closer to McCain’s speech, but another factor was in play too. There were a lot of media in the room and not all of it friendly toward conservatives. Cameras were rolling. More than one speaker begged the crowd not to boo when McCain walked up but some still did whenever they heard his name. The Emcee gave a big introduction and many of us stood up and cheered loudly, but there were still plenty of audible boos. Then, instead of McCain, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma came out again to praise McCain up and down as if he were trying to tenderize the crowd. Finally, McCain came out and received the same combination of about 85% cheers and 15% boos.

It was a very important speech for McCain - almost an acceptance speech before a very sophisticated and very critical audience whose support was essential if he were to have any chance of winning the White House. He did as good a job as could be expected and moved significantly to the right on many issues including tax cuts, Supreme Court appointments and illegal immigration, pledging to build a border fence, and only after it was completed and functioning, to address the millions already here.

Later, Ron Paul announced his withdrawal, and the next morning, President Bush asked the audience to unite around the party’s nominee. Mike Huckabee came in Saturday morning saying he was still a candidate. McCain still has to beat him, win a majority of delegates, and unite the party. He’s not the nominee I would have chosen, but as for my choice in November? It’s a no-brainer: McCain. I hope my fellow conservatives come around to that before November.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your trip to D.C..
According to Raymond Aroryo's early question to Kate O'Burn, Washinton Editor of the National Review and agreed upon by Terrance P. Jeffrey, editor of Human Events, on EWTN's World Over last Friday night about her pridiction of which party will win the seat, the public have had it with the Republican's in the Whitehouse because of the war etc... and we will be seeing a Democratis win next year unfortunately.
Hopefully, anything thing is possible with God and they're wrong for the babies sake.

Anonymous said...

With the dispicable choices I have to vote for now, I may write in Donald Duck!

Harvey in North Baldwin

Anonymous said...

I guess you're right, it's a 'no-brainer'. Only those without a brain would vote for someone they don't agree with on many of the important issues - and then lie about the only true conservative with a 100% Constitutional / Conservative track record still left running (Ron Paul hasn't withdrawn from the race).

Anonymous said...

I was at the McCain rally this morning in South Burlington, Vermont, taking photographs for the local paper in the area I work for. I consider myself a liberal, but decided that if McCain ended up becoming president, I probably wouldn't get the same sick feeling in my stomach that I did when Bush was re-elected. McCain spoke well and seemed more honest than Democratic candidates that I've supported in the past. If not for his stubborn view on Iraq (I still see the troop escalation as something that will not help in the long run... but that's another story), I would consider voting for him. But maybe the qualities I like - his ability to "reach across the aisle," as well as his informed positions on torture and immigration - are the real issues that make true conservatives angry.

Also, I hate the question reporters use, "how do you feel about" something. I wouldn't consider that a liberal question, just a stupid one. It's a lazy question for reporters to ask and it rarely gets a good answer. I'm reporter/writer and I never ask that question. "What are your thoughts" or "what's your reaction" usually gets better information. I like how you tried to correct the NPR reporter and she still insisted on an answer with "feeling." Incidentally, a Fox news reporter asked McCain, in our little press gathering today, how he "felt" about Huckabee still in the race. McCain didn't know how to really answer the question because it was asked so stupidly. He mumbled something about Huckabee being a good person and then moved onto another question. Maybe I was the only one in the room he found the moment hilarious.

Anyway, those are my little observations.

Tim - Waterbury, VT

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments Tim. "What's your reaction?" or "What are your thoughts?" are much better questions. Feelings are important, but not usually relevant to political questions. Obama's support, however, is a political reality and largely based on feelings. Will it last? Doubtful. We can only hope that it lasts long enough to beat Hillary, then it can collapse.

Correction: I've been lambasted by Ron Paul supporters who insist their candidate has not dropped out. When I stood around the monitor outside the ballroom where Paul was speaking, observers said he was dropping out. Guess he wasn't. Not that you'd notice though. He's going nowhere, except in his own mind.

It's rather like reports that Calvin Coolidge had died: Reporters asked, "How can you tell?"

Anonymous said...

Can't quite see how Romney could have been a presidential candidate when he would have been unable to take the oath of office --- you, know, he'd have to pledge to uphold the constitution, and he was pretty clear about his commitment to do just the opposite. And, as the father of a serviceman, I'm probably oversensitive on this issue, but I really have a problem with his assertion that serving in Iraq is no different than driving an RV around Iowa.