Monday, January 7, 2008

Sen. McCain would make strongest GOP nominee

Eight years ago, endorsing U.S. Sen. John McCain in the Michigan Republican presidential primary, the Free Press said he was “an articulate hardliner on how the United States should lead the world” and the best candidate in a GOP field that included George W. Bush. McCain won Michigan, but that proved to be the high-water mark of a campaign that collapsed shortly thereafter, outspent and outmaneuvered by the Bush forces.

Eight years later, he is running again, and JOHN McCAIN is, again, the best candidate to carry the GOP banner into the fall. While the Free Press differs with McCain on a number of issues, the Arizona senator is a smarter, more tested and pragmatic leader who has shown since 2000 that he knows how to build bipartisan alliances around issues. He’s a straight shooter, sometimes to his detriment in the political world, where McCain also loses points for persistently championing needed campaign reforms and criticizing pork-barrel spending that benefits special interests.

McCain’s latest campaign faltered early in this overextended election season. But he had regrouped, and while polls do not show him as the GOP front-runner, they do consistently show that he fares best against any of the leading Democrats. That has to be a consideration for Republican voters with the party expected to lose more ground in Congress next year. McCain, with his appeal to independent voters, looks at this time like the best bet to keep the White House in GOP hands.

A former Navy pilot and Vietnam War prisoner of war whose personal ordeal and triumph make him the most inspiring candidate on either side, McCain is a passionate advocate for national service and volunteerism, and critical of the Bush administration for failing to rally Americans around their country after the horrors of 9/11. McCain said his decision to run again for president was driven by America’s need for stronger, more effective leadership against the threat of radical Islamic terrorists.

Also a vocal critic of the Bush war strategy in Iraq, McCain is alone among the candidates in calling for an increase in U.S. forces there to stop the violence and a long-term American presence to keep the peace. That’s not what the American people want to hear, but McCain’s assessment of the situation in Iraq appears to be the most realistic of anyone running.

McCain would close the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo and move them into the military justice system. He has offered legislation with explicit bans on torture, an issue McCain is uniquely qualified among the candidates to address, and speaks eloquently about the importance of the United States regaining its moral leadership around the world.

McCain comes at health care first from a cost-cutting vantage; he is not an advocate for a national single-payer system. He supports more choice in education and favors federal subsidies to help displaced industrial workers maintain their standard of living while in retraining for new jobs. McCain said he would oppose any federal effort to divert Great Lakes water to growing or dry parts of the country.

As for the rest of the GOP field, Michigan-born former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has morphed into what he seems to believe is the perfect conservative Republican in pursuit of the presidential nomination. He says his positions have changed with knowledge and experience — or perhaps with a sense of opportunity in this first election since 1952 with neither an incumbent president nor vice president in the field.

Certainly Romney has been a capable manager of every challenge he has ever faced, and his Michigan roots might help a state that surely needs more friends in Washington, but who knows what Romney might morph into in the White House?

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has the right ideas on health care — streamlining the system, tax credits for low-income households, deductions for insurance costs — but his “fair tax” plan to replace income and payroll taxes with a national sales tax of 23% portends fiscal chaos. The sales tax rate would likely have to be far higher, too, to maintain the government.

Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is a thinking person’s conservative, but he flatly fails to inspire at a time when the nation needs some inspiration. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani seems temperamentally ill-suited to the White House. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the former Libertarian presidential candidate, may rock the GOP boat with his Internet-based support but would be a disaster as the standard-bearer for the party.

Although he would be 72 on Inauguration Day and the oldest man ever to take the oath, John McCain appears vigorous and up to the enormous challenges facing the next president. He would be a formidable candidate for a party that needs one, and voters in the Jan. 15 Michigan Republican presidential primary should say so by casting a ballot for John McCain.

original post cited from the Detroit Free Press at this link.

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