Last week I gave my reasons why I won't vote for Barack Obama in November. Today I'd like to explain why I probably will vote for John McCain.
I should say first that McCain's campaign has been desultory and disappointing. He seems unfocussed, unable to articulate his positions and unwilling to differentiate himself clearly from his rival. Like Obama, he has been, until the primaries, pretty much of an open borders/amnesty guy. He says things that cause me to shake my head in puzzlement. The Democrats have never won the White House with a candidate of the left, and yet they appear poised to do so this year. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton ran as moderates. George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry, all left-wingers, all lost. Obama might have been already out of the running had the GOP been able to find a principled, articulate conservative to run against him. As it is we have John McCain who seems intent on playing General Custer to Obama's Sitting Bull.
Nevertheless, despite his inadequacies as a campaigner, McCain can be relied upon to do what needs to be done to prevail in the Middle East, and he will probably also expand domestic oil supplies. He's much more likely than Obama to follow through on his new-found commitment to border security and appoint judges who believe their role is to interpret the law rather than make it. He's a deficit hawk who will oppose unnecessary spending and the boondoggle earmarks which are attached to so much legislation. He has also vowed to keep the Bush tax cuts in place which will help a struggling economy. He has throughout his career been reliably pro-life and has certainly demonstrated personal toughness and courage, especially during his five years as a POW.
All of this makes him a more qualified candidate than his opponent, who, by any measure, has no qualifications for the office whatsoever other than a personal afflatus that many find endearing.
I have qualified my claim to vote for McCain with the word "probably" because though he seems to be better than Obama on most important issues, one can't be sure how committed he is to some of them since he has arrived late to the need for off-shore drilling, secure borders, and low tax rates.
Even so, at this stage of the game there's no other plausible choice in the race, nor is there likely to be. Libertarian Bob Barr is a good man who I wish was still in Congress, but he has no chance of gaining sufficient name recognition by November to be a contender. He could, though, cost McCain the election by taking votes in close states that would otherwise go to McCain, just as Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000 by pulling several hundred votes away from him in Florida, and Ross Perot may have cost George Bush, Sr. the election in 1992. For this reason, I will cast a protest vote for Barr only if election-day polls show a lop-sided Obama victory pending in Pennsylvania where I vote.
Otherwise, I will pull the lever for John McCain with the same diminished enthusiasm I had for Bob Dole in 1996. Unfortunately, McCain's candidacy seems in many respects to be a reprise of that ill-fated venture. You'd think the Republicans would have learned from the Dole experience not to run an aging war veteran with few deep ideological commitments against a young, charismatic charmer who's able to mask his leftism behind a smokescreen of seductive speeches. Time will tell whether this time things work out differently.RLC