the article -
NR should have refrained from choosing a candidate in Arizona’s GOP primary.
More disappointing, though, is that, of all the candidates on whose behalf this improvident decision might have been made, NR’s prestige has been put on the line for John McCain, the incumbent Arizona senator being challenged from the right by former congressman J. D. Hayworth.
In fact, when it was expedient for him, as a presidential candidate, to try to woo Hillary Clinton supporters disenchanted by Obama’s selection as the Democrats’ nominee, McCain bragged that he had voted for Clinton’s two pro-abortion justices. His confirmation record tells us precious little about his conservative or pro-life credentials.
The senator, moreover, has spent the time since being thrashed in the 2008 election trying to remake the Republican party in his own moderate, centrist image. If he succeeds, we can now foresee the NR editorial in about 2020 that begins, “For a few years at the start of this decade, not an issue went by, it seemed, without our feeling obligated to criticize the Republican party.”
McCain’s irresponsible torture rhetoric has given the Obama administration the political cover it needed to disclose classified information about interrogation tactics and to reopen criminal investigations of CIA interrogators. If you want to know why the intelligence community is now getting virtually no intelligence from interrogations, McCain is a big part of your answer.
The editors’ final point is a trashing of J. D. Hayworth. Having generously discounted McCain’s decades of policy error and intemperate outbursts, they seize on a single Hayworth misstep — his appearance, when he was not a public official, in infomercials instructing people on how to get “free money” from the government. This is bizarre: At the very time Hayworth was doing that, McCain was a public official pushing policies that would actually give people free money from the government. Nevertheless, the editors deduce from this episode that Hayworth is “not obviously a more exemplary statesman than McCain.”
“Statesman” is a pretty vague term. Saying one thing and doing another, changing positions in accordance with the electoral calendar — these are evidently not disqualifying. In the last edition of NR, the editors examine the latest global-warming zig-zag by Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain’s friend and protégé, and pronounce him “a man of fashion — political fashion.” Yet “statesman” is their designation for McCain, who has a prodigious history of just such shenanigans (see, e.g., Rich Lowry’s description of McCain’s dizzying “political shape-shifting” here).
Statesman or not, Hayworth would be with NR on political speech, immigration, interrogations, bailouts, cap-and-trade, tax cuts, keeping Guantanamo Bay open, and embryonic stem-cell research. Can the editors express long-term confidence about McCain on any of these issues, let alone all of them? And if the surge is the thing, Hayworth was in favor of that, too. Hayworth lacks McCain’s gravitas on such matters, you say? Maybe, but as we’ve seen too many times with McCain, gravitas is a double-edged sword.
I’m not arguing that NR needs to love J. D. Hayworth, much less endorse him. Nor do I suggest that the magazine disparage John McCain — it’s done plenty of that over the years. What Arizonans need from NR is what NR has always provided: an explication of principled conservative stands on the issues of the day. Armed with that, Arizonans can figure out which candidate would best serve them. Primary endorsements push us into the spin business, and if we’re going to spin, McCain is not the place to start.