William Kristol notes the dissatisfaction of some Republicans with the idea of John McCain as their presidential standard bearer:
The prospect of John McCain as the likely Republican presidential nominee has produced a squall of anger on the right. Normally reserved columnists and usually ebullient talk-radio hosts vie to express their disgust with McCain, and their disdain for the Republicans who are about to nominate him. The conservative movement as a whole appears disgruntled and dyspeptic.
This is an important moment for the conservative movement. Not because conservatives have some sort of obligation to fall in behind John McCain. They don’t. Those conservatives who can’t abide McCain are free to rally around Mitt Romney. And if McCain does prevail for the nomination, conservatives are free to sit out the election.
But I’d say this to them: When the primaries are over, if McCain has won the day, don’t sulk and don’t sit it out. Don’t pretend there’s no difference between a candidate who’s committed to winning in Iraq and a Democratic nominee who embraces defeat. Don’t tell us that it doesn’t matter if the next president voted to confirm John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, or opposed them. Don’t close your eyes to the difference between pro-life and pro-choice, or between resistance to big government and the embrace of it.
I won’t deny that McCain isn’t a perfect candidate from the standpoint of some Republicans, particularly those with libertarian leanings (who are disproportionately represented in the blogosphere). Rick Moran has produced a pretty good bill of indictment. I think that a good proportion of the reaction against McCain is because they’ve been sold a bill of goods.
I haven’t done the research so I may well be wrong but I don’t remember these charges, i.e. that McCain “isn’t a real conservative” or is a RINO, before he ran against GWB, the anointed candidate of the party establishment, in 2000. If that’s true there are really only three likely explanations, that they’re reacting to things he’s done since 2000, that the party has changed since 2000, or that my speculation is correct and they’re buying a load of propaganda.
Support for my view is that McCain’s voting record post-2000 is virtually identical to Fred Thompson’s and we’re not hearing these same charges made against Thompson.
It also may be personal. McCain can be cantankerous and that may have made some enemies within his own party.
However, as I’ve been saying for some time, the future of the White House may depend on Republicans’ survival instinct. If national Republicans have the same lemming-like urge to self-destruction that Illinois Republican patently have, they’ll nominate Mitt Romney, who’ll be handily defeated by either Clinton or Obama.
From my point of view, McCain is a Republican of a fairly venerable stamp—a defense hawk and a deficit hawk (IMO the most attractive aspects of the old Republican Party) who is otherwise pragmatic rather than ideological and absolutist. I think his positions on, for example, immigration and campaign finance reform are pragmatic, choosing to make lemonade with the lemons at hand. Otherwise he’s a decent, honorable guy on the side of the angels on issues like torture and stabilizing Iraq.