- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

Advice for McCain

“Democrats think they have John McCain in a trap,” Kate O’Beirne and Ramesh Ponnuru write at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“He is going to have to spend the time immediately following his clinching of the nomination trying to win over Republican voters to his right. That’s time he won’t spend appealing to independent voters. He could even alienate those independents while courting conservatives,” the writers said.

“McCain should prove this theory wrong, and he should do it starting at [the annual Conservative Political Action Conference today]. There are two temptations to resist. The first is for McCain to spend the bulk of the speech burnishing his conservative credentials. He has tried doing that, and a lot of conservatives are still left cold. Besides, what they want to hear isn’t that McCain has a conservative voting record but that he will fight for conservative ideas. The second temptation is to provoke bitter-end conservative resistance and triangulate against it. That would be a dangerous strategy, one that could make fence-sitting conservatives turn against him.

“What McCain should do instead is to take the fight to the Democrats, explaining why he’s against Harry Reid’s defeatism, Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan, Nancy Pelosi’s obstructionism on intelligence gathering, Barack Obama’s tax increases, and even Dennis Kucinich’s Department of Peace. Conservatives know that McCain can be a tough political combatant. They want to see him turn those skills on the Democrats. They’re tired of being on the defensive. Even McCain’s opponents in the CPAC crowd will have to applaud as he lays into the Democrats.

“There is a risk of being seen as too partisan. But he is safer following this course than trying to pretend to be more conservative than he is. At some point this year he is going to have to make the case against the Democrats — respectfully and civilly, of course, but also forcefully. Why not start now?”

‘Wildly fearful’

“Running as a conservative, John McCain rolled up huge victories [Tuesday] night in New York, New Jersey and beyond,” the New York Post’s Charles Hurt writes.

“But if history is any guide, the McCain we’ve seen of late on the campaign trail is the most conservative McCain we’ll ever see,” Mr. Hurt said.

“He has taken a commanding lead in the GOP primary by packaging himself as the ‘true conservative’ committed to limited government, to slashed federal spending and to an avowedly conservative Supreme Court.

“He claims the mantle of Ronald Reagan. He even claims the mantle of Barry Goldwater, conservatism’s crack version of Reagan. But as McCain clinches the GOP nomination, he will begin his usual leftward lurch.

“He will return to his lifelong positions as soft on illegal immigration, skeptical of tax cuts and favoring strong federal control over things like campaign financing.

“McCain’s appeal to independents and even the left is what makes him such a powerhouse in the general election.

“It is also precisely what has so many in the Republican base so wildly fearful of handing him the keys to the kingdom.”

Muscle-flexing

The 3.2 million-member National Education Association still hasn’t endorsed a candidate for president, and NEA officials yesterday said their group is uniquely poised to make a big difference for either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the two battle for the Democratic nomination.

NEA President Reg Weaver said neither candidate has yet made the case that would earn the nod from the powerful teachers union.

“We want to know how America s public schools fit into this culture of change they talk so much about. And we want to hear them talk about it now — often — and loud,” he said.

Both Mr. Obama of Illinois and Mrs. Clinton of New York spoke at the NEA’s conference last year and echoed much of the NEA’s positions, especially regarding the No Child Left Behind law, which NEA leaders denounce as onerous, vastly underfunded and in need of an overhaul.

Mr. Weaver said that both candidates have “strong records on education” but that NEA members want to know about “their plans for the future, and we haven’t really heard that yet.”

Finally, the facts

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri planned the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Abu Zubaydah was the mastermind of the foiled millennium terrorist attacks, which had Los Angeles airport as one of its targets. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed directed the September 11 attacks, and has claimed to have personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl,” the Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial.

“All three men were captured by the CIA in 2002 and waterboarded in the course of their interrogations. They are also the only U.S. detainees to have been waterboarded. That fact, publicly confirmed yesterday by CIA Director Michael Hayden, shreds whatever is left to the so-called torture narrative, according to which the Bush Administration has engaged in widespread, needless and systematic torture of detainees,” the newspaper said.

“Instead, we have sworn public testimony that the waterboarding was conducted against the three individuals best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities. The interrogations took place when a second major terrorist attack was widely seen as inevitable. And we know that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah helped lead to the capture of [Mohammed], and to the foiling of an active terrorist plot against the United States.”

Hollywood helper

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, who until recently spent most of his time as a gadfly presidential candidate, has turned to left-wing actor Sean Penn to help him raise money to fend off a primary challenge for his U.S. House seat.

Mr. Penn will host a “We Love Dennis” fundraiser on Feb. 17 in Cleveland, Roll Call reports.

Tickets for a special reception with the actor will cost $1,000 each. Those with less cash on hand can attend a general reception for $25 or $100.

Mr. Kucinich apparently is seen as vulnerable in the March 4 primary, as he now faces competition from four fellow Democrats — Cleveland City Council member Joe Cimperman, North Olmstead Mayor Tom O’Grady, antiwar activist Rosemary Palmer and 2006 candidate Barbara Ferris.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@ washingtontimes.com.

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