John McCain held a blogger conference call today, mostly to respond to John Fund’s claim in the Wall Street Journal that he might not appoint a judge like Sam Alito who “wore his conservatism on his sleeve.” (Which, by the way, I don’t think Alito did.) McCain said that he doesn’t recall making the statement attributed to him by Fund, and doesn’t know its source. McCain emphasized that he supported Alito enthusiastically, spoke in his favor on the Senate floor, and voted for his confirmation. He has said repeatedly that if elected President, he would nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Roberts and Alito.
In response to a question, he said he could imagine a situation where a judge could “wear his politics too much on his sleeve,” but said that for him, the key question is whether the nominee has a clear track record of strict construction.
Absent more information, I’m inclined to take McCain at his word, as he certainly supported Justice Alito’s nomination and, like all or nearly all of the Republican candidates, has held up Roberts and Alito as model nominees.
For the rest of the call, the Senator was his usual charming self. He was asked about his battle with Mitt Romney; McCain noted the need to unify the party, but didn’t back off any of his attacks on Romney. He portrayed Romney as the aggressor, having “spent millions,” bought “robo-calls,” and “thrown everything but the kitchen sink” at McCain. So McCain sees no alternative but to “respond.” He ticked off a litany of negative statistics about Romney’s performance as governor of Massachusetts and said that (unlike Mitt’s) his charges are “accurate.”
Frankly, I’m not sure where the animus between the McCain and Romney camps comes from. It’s obvious that the ill will is real. In an interesting contrast, one of the participants on the call asked about McCain’s falling out with Pat Buchanan, with whom he was formerly friendly but who is now criticizing him. McCain responded graciously, saying that he has always liked Buchanan, that Buchanan is one of the smartest political minds around, that they have had their differences over time, but the differences don’t diminish his respect for Buchanan. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll ever hear McCain talking that way about Romney.
McCain also clarified his position on the Swift Boat Vets’ 2004 ads. I’ve often seen McCain quoted as a critic of the Vets, but he was quick to say that he was only critical of the ad that questioned Kerry’s combat record. McCain said he thought that was out of bounds. On the other hand, when the Vets went after Kerry’s activities with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, his charges of atrocities and his antiwar activities generally, that was “legitimate” and “fair game.”
On the topics that are close to his heart, national security and spending, McCain was impassioned as usual. He was gleeful over the President’s impending crackdown on earmarks and predicted that the appropriators will react like “scalded apes.”
The call was another reminder that John McCain at his best is very good indeed.
PAUL adds: McCain’s portrayal of himself as the victim of attacks by Romney rings a bit hollow in light of his unfounded claim that Romney advocated setting a date for withdrawing from Iraq. As far as I’ve been able to determine, no one on today’s call asked McCain to defend his statement on this matter. No wonder McCain likes blogger calls.
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