- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 1999

You can tell a lot about a man by the friends he makes. By his enemies, too. But that’s not always true of men in politics.
Sometimes a candidate attracts people who like him for the wrong reasons. Orrin Hatch has made a career of his friendship with Teddy Kennedy. (Both men have survived it.)
Would anyone want to blame John McCain because he’s the favorite Republican of the boys and girls on the campaign bus? They’ve decided that if the senator is not exactly “one of us,” he’s the Republican closest to it.
At least for right now. Mr. McCain, an authentic war hero, is an odd god for some of the media heavyweights who so cheerfully trashed everyone in the Vietnam War a generation ago. He’s against everything the media libs love abortion (in all its gruesome guises), taxes, gun control, raising the minimum wage beyond the ability of small businesses to pay it, the flaunting of the homosexual high life, the judicial rewriting of the Constitution, the relentless campaign against traditional, religious and ethical values as we know them. If Mr. McCain wins the Republican nomination, he must be prepared for some very long media knives as the boys and girls on the bus make their penance by slicing him up like a crisp sweet gherkin.
What actually makes him so superficially attractive to helpful media Democrats is that he is willing eager, from the sound of it to turn campaigns over to the bureaucrats of the Federal Election Commission and the diseased organs of the media, who together would regulate some political speech and suppress the rest.
The qualities that make him attractive to the rest of us, the qualities that made the early Barry Goldwater so attractive to so many Americans, are just those that will earn the anger and ridicule of his media “friends” later his uncomplicated and easily understood answers to hard and sometimes complicated questions.
Only yesterday, speaking in New Hampshire before the debate last night in Arizona, he said he would shut down the government if necessary to curb the wild and out of control pork-barrel spending by Congress.
Someone at a forum in Farmington, N.H., asked him: “How would you make good on your promise when you’d be working with a Congress that has grown fat on pork and thin on service?”
Easy, he replied. He would veto every piece of special-interest spending he could. If Congress overrides him he’ll blow the whistle.
“I’d make them famous. I’d go on the radio the next Saturday and say, My fellow Americans, I think you should know Senator X has $2 million in this bill for manure-handling.’ “
Another man asked him whether he really would veto all the spending bills and shut the government down, if that’s what it takes to get the undivided attention of Congress.
“Sure I would,” he replied. “If we don’t change business as usual in Washington, people will be deprived of their representation.” (Twenty-three Republican members of the House fainted when they heard the question and 44 others had cardiac arrest when they heard his answer.)
The senator used similarly unambiguous language to come to the support of the 6-year-old Cuban boy rescued at sea when his mother and stepfather drowned in a desperate dash to freedom. The senator called it a fundamental issue of “freedom.” President Clinton sent his press agent out to tell reporters it was merely an “immigration” question. The bureaucrats can handle it.
Mr. McCain offered the same kind of Shermanesque (but not quite Shermanlike) directness in answer to the inevitable but meaningless question put to him by Tim Russert of NBC News of whether, if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination, he would be willing to run as George W.’s vice president:
“Under no circumstances.”
You would not serve as vice president?
“Under no circumstances.”
You would not accept the nomination?
“Under no circumstances.”
None whatsoever?
“None whatsoever.”
You’re closing it down completely?
“Closing it down.”
But unlike some other Republican candidates, the candidates with no hope at all of actually winning the nomination, the senator has pointedly declined to use a meat ax on George W. He understands that wounding a nominee, as Pat Buchanan wounded George the Elder in 1992, plays into the media eagerness to help anyone who throws sticks and stones at a conservative.
But the senator must be wary. If you don’t play their game, a conservative candidate’s “fans” on the campaign bus will sooner or later extract the pound (and more) of flesh.


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