How Conservatives See John McCain

Over the weekend, Paul did a post that talked about demands that some conservatives are making on John McCain as the soon-to-be Republican nominee. I added some comments of my own; it’s fair to say that both Paul and I are skeptical of the reasonableness of such demands.
That prompted an email from talk radio host Mark Levin, the subject heading of which was “John, Did You Actually Mean to Write This?” This initiated an exchange between Mark and me, which, with Mark’s permission, I’m reproducing below:

John, did you actually mean to write this?

If there are conservatives who sincerely believe that it makes little difference whether the Executive Branch is run by John McCain or Barack Obama, they are entitled to sit out the election. And if they’re going to sit it out, I’d appreciate it if they would sit it out entirely; in other words, stop attacking McCain for his “impurities.”

I assume you did. I will address is on my show tomorrow. I don’t believe conservatives should sit out this election, but I would suggest the argument that conservative criticism of McCain is a demand for purity is a pretty thin argument.
Also, Paul, if you have evidence of John McCain’s record speaking out for increased defense spending during most of his career, may we see it? And if you can find anything akin to a McCain policy statement laying out how he would take on global terrorism (apart from Iraq, say, Iran and Pakistan, for starters), would you pass that along as well? As this is McCain’s strength, I think it’s not too much to ask for.

My reply to Mark:

Of course. I only write things I mean, although I may express myself imperfectly at times.
Conservatives are of course free to criticize anyone they choose, a privilege I indulge in freely. But some conservatives have made a fetish–an obsession–out of criticizing John McCain, who was, after all, the only viable Republican candidate who could plausibly describe himself as a life-long conservative.
It is rather silly to expect that every four years the Republican Party will nominate, or the American people will elect, a flawless, unalloyed conservative. This is because we conservatives are a minority. We are a minority because we have not persuasively made our case to American voters that our policies are preferable to our opponents’. Frankly, in the current political climate, we are lucky to have a nominee as conservative as John McCain, and we are even luckier that, because of his outstanding character and service to the nation, our mostly-conservative nominee has a good chance to win.

I’ll let Mark have the last word, with his reply to me:

McCain’s character in the political context is defined how? Staking out what he considers to be principled positions and stubbornly holding firm even if his position is unpopular? If so, you seem to condemn conservatives for the same thing, but with such uncharitable words as fetish, obsession, and purity. And yet, many of McCain’s positions have been unprincipled on big matters, or acts of betrayal as Sowell put it, betraying both principle and party. And his rhetoric has often manifested itself in pandering to the kneejerk positions of the left/media-I am thinking of his efforts against tax cuts and for McCain-Feingold.
In any event, this is why, in part, I found your post unusual, I.e., more cheerleading than analyzing. That’s fine, but then why demand that others keep their mouths shut. Do you think that’s a persuasive point? I think you made Bozell’s case.

I think this is a pretty good example of the kind of intramural argument that many conservatives are having these days. Such debates will no doubt continue for a while, perhaps until November; for my part, I intend to engage in quite a lot of analysis along with an occasional spot of cheerleading.
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