March 2, 2007

Profiles In Political Courage?

It's not often I disagree with my friend John Podhoretz at The Corner, but today's post on John McCain and CPAC struck me as rather odd. In response to a post by Kathryn Jean Lopez that scolded McCain for skipping both NRI and CPAC, John said that McCain was right to stay away:

If I were a McCain adviser, there's no way I would recommend he attend CPAC. The stakes are simply too high. It's a total sandbagging opportunity for people who want to derail him. The last thing he needs is a headline like "Conservatives boo McCain," and you know people attending CPAC know it and would love nothing more than to provide that headline. Anything less than a performance that wowed his enemies on the Right would only do him injury.

I understand John's analysis, but all this does is confirm that McCain has no business running for the Republican nomination. McCain has gone out of his way to stress his conservative credentials, especially on hot-button topics such as abortion and the war. If that's true, then what does he have to fear from a conference of conservatives predisposed to his positions? In fact, if he claims to represent conservatives, why should he fear speaking in front of a group of them?

We debated this quite a bit on Blogger's Corner yesterday (which is somewhat misnamed, since we occupy a row and not a corner, but that's another story).Someone made the point that the eventual nominee needs the people in this conference to act as foot soldiers in the general election. What does it say to those foot soldiers if that nominee is too afraid to face them because he might get booed -- a slim possibility in any case? How does that nominee inspire loyalty in those he explicitly spurned out of the gate?

If McCain wanted to win the nomination as a straightforward Rockefeller Republican, his snub would make sense. It makes none if he wants to convince us that he's more conservative than Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, two men with spottier records than his but two men who had the intestinal fortitude to appear before conservatives to make their case. John is usually spot-on in his analysis, but he's off the mark here.

UPDATE: Another blogger here at the BC reminds me that Arlen Specter showed up here yesterday and gave a speech, and no one booed him -- and the conservatives have more reasons to boo Specter than McCain.


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