The long-awaited meeting between Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and Arizona Sen. John McCain will finally take place today in Pittsburgh. Indeed, the meeting occurs precisely two months since Mr. McCain suspended his campaign on March 9. While Mr. McCain will not likely officially endorse Mr. Bush at today’s meeting, the Arizona senator has promised to issue a “strong statement” in support of Mr. Bush. Mr. McCain has also let it be known that an endorsement will surely be forthcoming at a later date. The sooner, of course, the better. What happens at today’s meeting, however, could go a long way toward determining not only how enthusiastic Mr. McCain’s eventual endorsement might be. It will also help determine, according to Mr. McCain, to what degree he will actively campaign for Mr. Bush in the fall. Mr. Bush wants and needs the support of Mr. McCain, who has pledged to campaign vigorously for Republican congressional candidates. So there will be a lot at stake at today’s meeting. It is time to bury the hatchet.
Despite Mr. McCain’s repeated insistence that he would not consider an offer to be the Republican vice presidential candidate, the subject will undoubtedly come up. Hardly inclined to make an offer at the meeting, Mr. Bush, who may well dread the idea of forming a ticket with the prickly Arizona senator, is more likely to go through the pro forma process of merely asking Mr. McCain if he would like to be “on the list.” Mr. McCain has recently said he will “categorically state to Mr. Bush that I do not wish to be asked.”
Still, should Mr. Bush eventually decide Mr. McCain is the best candidate for the ticket the case is not being made here today for such a decision Mr. McCain may find that rejecting the official standard bearer’s intense entreaties is far more difficult than talking about hypotheticals. For all the bitterness that engulfed the nomination fight from both camps, it’s worth recalling how the Kennedy brothers cast aside their undisguised antipathy for Lyndon Johnson. It’s also worth noting that Ronald Reagan managed to forgive Gov. Bush’s father for characterizing the Gipper’s economic program as “voodoo economics.”
While Mr. McCain’s liabilities are clear his intemperate attacks on Christian conservatives, for instance, or his ill-advised unconstitutional campaign-finance proposal his assets are formidable. Mr. McCain observed over the weekend that there are “more things that we agree on than we disagree on.” And having won seven primaries, he demonstrated appeal amongst independent voters, moderate Democrats, veterans and anti-establishment Republicans, all of whom will be important target groups for the Bush-led ticket in November.
Mr. McCain says he has approached today’s meeting with the idea of “not making any demands, nor doing any negotiating.” He has said he intends to begin campaigning for Mr. Bush “sooner rather than later.” Indeed, regardless of how he might feel about the outcome of the Republican nomination battle, Mr. McCain surely knows that the choice between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore is a no-brainer. Mr. McCain was fond of saying he would “beat Al Gore like a drum.” Whether or not his name is on the Republican ticket, the time to begin making good on that promise is now.