The Mirage of the Maverick

CORRECTION APPENDED

On Thursday, Nov. 16, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) created his presidential exploratory committee and began what will likely be his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. During speeches that day to the Federalist Society and GOPAC, McCain hypothesized that the Republican Party lost the midterm elections because it had “abandoned its principles.” But as McCain explores his presidential bid, Republicans need to be wary of this rhetoric from the senator known for his bipartisanship. The Republican Party may have abandoned its principles, but John McCain is a symptom of this disease, not the cure.

McCain believes that hypocrisy is the “most obvious of political sins,” but his own hypocrisy is what is most galling. With help from the national media, Senator McCain has built part of his reputation on his image as a maverick in the Republican Party, a moderate who can appeal to a majority of Americans. But the facts show that John McCain is anything but a centrist, and that he is not what Americans, or the Republican Party, need for the future.

McCain’s stance on stem cell research is slippery—he voted for HR 810, to provide funding for adult stem cell research, but not for embryonic research. [CORRECTION APPENDED] Even more important than his vote is the justification he provided: Without federal regulation, scientific exploration will not adhere to ethical standards. It just doesn’t make sense. How can McCain want to regulate the very “sphere of enterprise” that he also wants to keep free and private?

According to The New York Times, a spokesman for Senator McCain said that he “would have signed South Dakota’s extremist anti-abortion law.” HB1215, signed into law on March 6 by S.D. Governor Mike Rounds, prohibits all abortions in the state. The law also criminalizes the sale of any drug that could lead to the termination of a human embryo.

This law goes beyond its impact on abortion rights and emergency contraceptives. The language used in this bill also threatens the possibility of stem cell research. HB1215 is called the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act, but it would more properly be called the “Diktat on a Woman’s Right (or lack thereof) to Choose.”

If McCain is for returning to the Republican Party’s roots—less government—then why would he support this bill, which overrides a woman’s constitutional right to privacy, potentially interferes with scientific discovery, and legislates within what should be the most private of spheres?

McCain says the Republican Party needs to get back to its core ideals. He says fiscal irresponsibility and pork barrel spending (there will be no “Bridges to Nowhere” under his watch) have contributed to disillusioned voters. He says that “there is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles.” Agreed. But McCain’s hypocrisy makes him unfit to implement the necessary realignment.

In 1998, a piece ran in the New York Post entitled “How Republicans Win.” The author of this piece argued that the future of the Republican Party hinged upon its big-tent philosophy and its ability to retain independent voters. He spoke of the “core Republican principles of tax reduction, smaller government and individual freedom” and told Post readers that for Republicans, “common-sense conservatism is the answer.” The author of this piece was New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani succeeds as a model conservative in ways that make sense to most Americans—he is fiscally responsible and socially liberal. More importantly, Giuliani recognizes that legislating a defense of marriage is both unconstitutional and superfluous. Giuliani recognizes the sanctity of a woman’s right to choose, although his Roman Catholic background might dictate otherwise.

Giuliani’s keen ability to meld a changing cultural landscape with conservative philosophy makes him the ideal Republican candidate for 2008. Senator John McCain wasn’t the only Republican to open an exploratory committee on Nov. 16: Rudy Giuliani was right behind him. For the sake of the Party’s future, the GOP should hope that Giuliani moves in front of McCain in the months to come.

Vanessa J. Dube ’10 lives in Wigglesworth Hall.

CORRECTION

The Dec. 11 op-ed “The Mirage of the Maverick” stated that HR 810 would provide funding for adult stem cell research but not embryonic stem cell research, and that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted for the resolution. In fact, HR 810 sought to increase embryonic stem cell research by providing stricter ethical standards for such research. McCain voted for the
resolution in order “to ensure that this research does not expand into ethically objectionable ground in balancing the promise on the foreseeable horizon of stem cell research with the protection of human life,” according to a press release from his web site. The Crimson regrets the error.