McCain’s Leadership

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

Besides the issues on which McCain and I differ, there is another aspect about a McCain Presidency that greatly troubles me.   This is the issue of leadership, which has troubled me since the first Bush Presidency.  Presidents are more than simply Chief Executives; they function as both the leader of the country, and the leader of the party.

One of the things that amazes me, is how decisions can ripple.  George HW Bush owes his presidency to Reagan and Reagan’s very successful eight years.   While I supported Bush, I was concerned because I knew that every president wants to put their own mark on the presidency, and this would be especially true for a former Vice President.  Thus I knew that Bush would seek ways to differentiate a Bush presidency from Reagan’s. Given the conservatism of Reagan, this would mean that Bush would move left.  

This is important because I do not support conservative principles because I am a conservative, I support them because I believe they work, and are what is best for the country.  The country was in really bad shape in 1980.  The economy was in huge trouble and Communism was spreading to country after country.  Paul Johnson’s fantastic history of the Twentieth century, Modern Times, which at the time ended in 1980, saw little hope for the West. 

Then came three people who quite literally turned it around: Margret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan.  Conservatism worked, and in fact worked so well, people quite literally forgot how bad things had been.  So Bush moving away from the principles that had worked so well could not be a good thing.  My fear was that he would move to the left, things would get worst and conservatism would be blamed, which is pretty much what happened, as the four years of Bush lead to Clinton.  Yes, I realize that it was a little more complicated this, but I believe the summary is still accurate.

Now Democrats argue that Clinton moved the country to the left, increased taxes and gave us eight wonderful years. However that is not quite what happened.  True, once taking office, having inherited a rebounding economy that was growing, Clinton abandoned his promise to cut taxes and increased them instead. He (or Hillary) also move take over control of health care.  The result was that the economy stalled, and in 1994 Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in my life.   They pushed a conservative agenda of tax cuts, balanced budget, and welfare reform over the objections of Clinton, though he did claim credit later when they worked.   It is simply a fact that the economic boom of the 1990s started with the Republicans winning Congress in 1994, not Clinton in 1992.

But without leadership, the Republicans lost focus, and began to abandon conservatism.  When the current President Bush ran in 2000, while more conservative than his father,  he was still not really a conservative,  especially on domestic issue where he touted a “compassionate conservatism.”  We had that in California under Governor Pete Wilson, and it basically meant a large increase in social spending. 

 This concern has become a reality.  While ok on the war, his failure to stand up for or even defend conservative principles is one of the main reason we are in the position we are in now.  He proposed bigger domestic spending and it is just a fact that it is very difficult to fight against a president of your own party.  We see the result in the dispirited and angry base, and the subsequent loss of Congress;  A loss that in many respects can trace its roots back to a decision made by Ronald Reagan in picking a Vice President.

But where Bush showed a lack of leadership, McCain is a big unknown. On the one hand he argues for solid conservative principles of limited government and has the reputation of a budget hawk.  But on the other hand, he supports big government, budget busting proposal such as Global warming.  He holds generally good positions on social issues,  but has hardly been a leader in these areas, and I heard one Republican Senator claim that he often blocked progress in these issues behind closed doors.

So what will be the ramification of a McCain presidency? Where will McCain lead the party? Will he continue to anger the base, further weakening the Party?  Will the once supportive press becoming negative as it supports the democratic nominee, drive him move him more to the conservative side or will it cause him to reach across the aisle even more than he does now?

Conservatives in California were told they needed to support the moderate Pete Wilson for Governor because it was the only way to win.  They did, and were rewarded with Wilson attempt to move the Party sharply to the left, resulting in a fracture and devastated party, and as a result California is solidly a Blue state.

Will we end a McCain presidency in a stronger position like we ended the Reagan presidency? Or will the party be split, fractured and devastated in much the same way Wilson left California?  It is impossible to say.  It all depends on what McCain chooses to do, which is pretty much unpredictable? And that concerns me a lot.

Feb 26th, 2008

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