With Mitt Romney's decision to suspend his campaign, the pundits would have you believe that John McCain is now guaranteed to be the Republican presidential nominee. He may well end up such, but I don't think it's anywhere near that certain; to this point, Sen. McCain has received less than half of the votes cast in Republican primaries, and if most of Gov. Romney's supporters go to Mike Huckabee, I think the convention could well end up deciding this race. (On the Democratic side, I think that's highly likely to happen. Heaven help Denver.) Still, the odds would seem to favor Sen. McCain at this point—which has a lot of the conservative talking heads completely apoplectic. "McCain's not a true conservative," etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum, combined with dark suspicions about his stability and the like.
Now, as a Navy brat, I know a lot of people who knew Sen. McCain back when he was still, say, LCDR McCain, and I trust them to have more of a perspective on the man than your typical pundit. Here's what one of them, as true-blue a conservative as anyone I know, had to say about him a while back (this is posted with permission):
Lt. John McCain was a flight instructor in VT-7 based at NAS Meridian, MS in the summer of 1964 while I was a student Naval Aviator there. Based on my observations and those of my best friend then and now, it is my opinion that the best thing that ever happened to him was doing hard time in the Hanoi "Hilton." He had a violent, hair trigger temper and was arrogant, self-serving and vindictive. Following his experience as “ground zero” of the Forestal fire (a lesser man would likely not even have survived that) he needed to find a way to get his now-denied combat experience to stay competitive for promotion. I have no doubt that he used his considerable political influence to immediately get a set of orders to CAG-16 deploying on the Oriskany.
During his tenure as a POW he demonstrated immense courage and resourcefulness. He was tough and I admire him greatly for the way he handled himself and I think that experience took the edge off of his most negative qualities. Just a side note here for those younger folks who may read this and for whom the Viet Nam war is little more than a few pages in a dusty history book, the gutty conduct of most of our POWs in that war was nothing short of incredible. And Senator McCain was right near the top.
I had the privilege of quaffing a couple of beers with him and a few of his pilots in Yuma following his repatriation while he was CO of VA-174 (the East coast A-7 RAG). He was mellow and gracious and a pleasure to be with then.
I was a big fan of his until he started his first run for president and I became aware of his inconsistent positions on several issues that I held dear. In short, he didn’t appear to have a coherent conservative worldview. I also think he blew his chance for the nomination in 2000 because he didn’t understand and embrace the evangelical grassroots. He had that block for the taking early on when they were still skeptical of W. Instead, he thumbed his nose at them (us) and lost the nomination. Most of the grassroots energy in the party comes from the so-called “Christian right” and McCain missed his chance (although he may never have been any more able to connect with them than, say, Hillary).
The problem with the entire Republican field is that there is no “Reagan conservative” anywhere to be seen so we are back to asking, “which one will we settle for?”
On the plus side: McCain is pro life, anti spending and spot-on on the WoT. Negatives are: Soft on immigration, voted against tax cuts and McCain-Feingold was a disaster that gave us Soros, Lewis et al. Also, have to give him credit—though I was unhappy with him at the time—for getting our Supreme Court nominees through.
Senator McCain may end being my man though I think the governor from Arkansas is the best of the bunch in debate and thinking on his feet.
Now, this is far from pure adoration of the "he's the ideal candidate" type. Clearly, he isn't. However, while there are certainly reservations here about McCain (reservations which I share), I don't think there's reason for hysterical opposition, either. Yes, he's a man of great pride and greater temper who can be a bit short in the fusebox; no, that doesn't make him "unstable" (the kindest insinuation I've heard). And yes, he's spent too much time poking conservatives in the eye, and yes, he needs to give up the adulation of the NY Times and come back to his conservative roots on some things; but I agree with John Weidner: once he's no longer a thorn in Bush's side, but instead the guy standing between the MSM's favored candidate and the White House, the NYT's gloves will come off, and that will solve the problem.
The bottom line: if Sen. McCain is the nominee, I think folks like Rush who are suggesting conservatives are better off if he loses have gone clean 'round the bend. As Dan Lehr says, if he isn't the nominee we wanted, we need to grow up and get over it. Two reasons: one, we will get far better judges out of Sen. McCain than out of Hillarack Oblinton (two peas, one pod). Even if you don't trust him on nominations, anyone he'll come up with will be much, much better than anyone either of those two would put forward. And two, he will prosecute the GWOT, and probably far more effectively than the current administration; the Democrats will concede our gains. We have turned the corner in Iraq; we can't afford to be in thrall to those who want us to turn back around it. I'm still voting Huckabee in Indiana, but if it's McCain in November, then my vote is McCain all the way.