- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

The next presidential election is about two-and-a-half years away. But an air of desperation already infuses Democratic Party circles. It isn't only because President Bush's approval ratings remain extremely high, or because those ratings, over time, demonstrate the politically important quality of sustainability. It seems to be much more than that.
In fact, judging from the comments attributed to unnamed Democratic politicians and strategists in two magazine articles published last month, more than a few Democratic partisans dread the prospect of taking on an incumbent President Bush with the likes of those Democrats appearing on the party's short list of presidential aspirants. To identify them is to understand why Democrats are wincing. Al Sharpton? John Kerry? Tom Daschle? Joe Lieberman? John Edwards? Dick Gephardt? Joe Biden? Al Gore? If then-Vice President Gore could not retain the White House for his party in a year when the economy grew by 5 percent, how could any of the above-named Democratic lightweights regain it from Mr. Bush?
So, it is a measure of Democratic desperation that liberal writers Joshua Green of the Washington Monthly and Jonathan Chait of the New Republic have each penned lengthy essays essentially begging Republican Sen. John McCain to defect to the Democratic Party and contest its 2004 presidential nomination. Now, say what you want about Mr. McCain. And, as readers of this page know all too well, we have said an awful lot ourselves most of it, in recent years, critical, especially regarding the senator's ill-advised obsession with campaign-finance "reform" and his regrettable opposition to last year's tax cut. But for all the disagreements that conservatives have had with Mr. McCain in recent years, one simple fact remains: Mr. McCain, who holds Barry Goldwater's seat in the Senate, would have to utterly forswear two decades of conservative politics in order to defect to the Democratic Party. Such a defection John McCain is no Jim Jeffords would constitute a self-obsessed, opportunistic, megalomaniacal act of unimaginable proportions.
To understand why, merely consider how Mr. McCain might appeal to the Democrats' traditional allies. The pro-choice crowd will not appreciate Mr. McCain's career-long opposition to abortion. The trial lawyers will not like his votes to limit product-liability damage awards and to reform product-liability litigation. Mr. McCain has been one of the Senate's staunchest free traders, which included his votes to ratify NAFTA and to grant Permanent Normal Trading Relations to China. Labor will be further upset by the fact that Mr. McCain is just as likely to receive a zero rating from the AFL-CIO for his votes as he is to receive a 100 rating from the Chamber of Commerce. While Mr. McCain recently voted against oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it will hardly make up for the zero ratings the League of Conservation Voters gave him in 1998 and 2000. Remember when Michael Dukakis successfully campaigned for the 1988 Democratic nomination in part by claiming to be "a card-carrying member of the ACLU"? Well, Mr. McCain earned a goose egg from the American Civil Liberties Union for his 1999-2000 voting record. On the national security front, Mr. McCain strongly supports a national missile defense system; and he voted against ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Oh, he opposes affirmative action. And, in 2000, he voted against broadening coverage of federal hate crimes. Mr. McCain also voted to convict Bill Clinton of perjuring himself before a federal grand jury and obstructing justice, while not a single Democratic senator voted to convict on either of the two articles of impeachment.
To get yet another perspective of Mr. McCain's politics, consider the annual voting ratings that the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the American Conservative Union (ACU) gave to the Arizona Republican from 1991 through 2000. The ADA average annual rating was a paltry 8.5 percent. Meanwhile, the average annual rating from the ACU was a robust 85 percent. And, for all the rebellious votes Mr. McCain cast last year, it remains true, according to Congressional Quarterly, that he still supported the position of President Bush on 91 percent of his votes, a level of support that was significantly higher than the support the president received from any Democrat.
Mr. McCain has, of course, repeatedly stated that he has no intention of abandoning the Republican Party. Asked recently by The Washington Post about his boomlet in the Democratic Party, Mr. McCain replied, "I'm pro-life. A total free trader. I'm for deregulation. I'm for missile defense. I'm for school vouchers and privatization of Social Security. If the Democratic Party wants me with those conditions, I'd be surprised."
Yes, and so should the New Republic, the Washington Monthly and card-carrying Democrats, who instead will apparently have to content themselves with the likes of Al Sharpton, Al Gore, et al. No wonder liberal writers are searching high and low for an "al"-ternative.


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