John McCain: The Good, The Bad, And The Really, Really Ugly

Cato’s Michael Tanner takes a look at the guy who will, barring something truly extraordinary, be the Republican nominee for President:

While Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity sometimes portray McCain as a virtual clone of Ted Kennedy, the fact is that he is a true fiscal conservative—certainly more of a fiscal conservative than, say, Mitt Romney. He is well known as an opponent of earmarks and pork barrel spending. But perhaps more importantly, he has long been an advocate of entitlement reform. He was early an ardent support of personal accounts for Social Security, and has pushed for serious Medicare reform, including means-testing. Almost alone among Republicans, he opposed the disastrous Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Tanner also argues that McCain has good proposals, from a free market perspective, on health care and taxes and that, unlike guys like Mike Huckabee, he’s a free trader.

But it’s not all rosy:

John McCain frequently makes Dr. Strangelove look like a peacenik. Its not just his desire to remain in Iraq “for a hundred years.” It’s his bellicosity toward every enemy and perceived enemy from Iran to North Korea. He’s a true believer in the neoconservative goal of remaking the world to fit our desires and beliefs. At best on foreign policy he would be a competent Bush. At worst, he appears a recipe for perpetual conflict.

On domestic policy, he has shown a disturbing predilection for elevating every personal pet peeve, from steroids in baseball to airplane service quality, to a federal issue. And, he has embraced heavily regulatory environmental policies and compulsory national service

And then you get to the fact that McCain seems to view the First Amendment as optional and that he is, Tanner notes, a friend of government:

Most worrisome of all appears to be McCain’s basic philosophy, which is unapologetically statist, as Matt Welch points out in his new book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. McCain once said “each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest.” McCain believes that cause to be the good of the collective, often defined as the nation or the national community.

Tanner ends up saying that McCain is, at best, a “mixed bag” but I think it’s worse than that. As I noted back in March 2007, John McCain is not a friend of liberty. Unfortunately, he’s got a very good shot at being the next President of the United States.

  • Rob

    I will NEVER vote for McAmnesty. Here in Southern California we can see America going away… I spent a lot of time on the phone to defeat McAmnesty and his shamnisty bill. I am a conservative that would rather see a demoncrat in office than John McAmnesty! McCain?? NEVER!

  • UCrawford

    One of the few things I find good about McCain is his acceptance of more open borders. Of course, I disagree with him on just about everything else (Iraq, free speech, campaign finance, the MCA, executive power) so I’m still not voting for him.

  • UCrawford

    Here in Southern California we can see America going away

    What, did SoCal finally break off and sink into the ocean? I need to go buy myself some land in Arizona Bay then :)

    Oh wait, you mean the immigrants who come here to work and find a better life. Yeah, rotten immigrants. Worst thing that ever happened to this country was open borders that allowed that Pilgrim filth in. It’s been all downhill since 1620.

  • oilnwater

    accepting of open borders and the federal entitlement that is linked with both citizenship and legal and illegal immigration. it’s a no-go when taken in its proper context.

  • Doug Mataconis

    eIt’s been all downhill since 1620.

    Those damn Pilgrims ruined it for everybody ;)

  • oilnwater

    also accepting of open borders while being a diehard GWOT hawk at the same time. this is actually more of an outright joke. spend a truckload of money propping up society and fighting GWOT in southwest and central Asia, but have a lax immigration policy is a cruel laugh. it really accentuates the joke that is the GWOT.

  • UCrawford


    If I had my druthers we’d keep open immigration and end the GWOT everywhere except the Afghanistan/Pakistan border (and put the emphasis there on capturing/killing bin Laden like Bush was fucking supposed to). You’re right, the GWOT has become a massive joke, and I don’t see a rationale behind hurting our economy (by restricting immigrant labor) to keep supporting it.

  • Craig

    McCain, like Bush, is a collectivist, also known as a “communitarian.” Like the Democrats, they believe that the role of government isn’t just to protect life and liberty, but to make us all better people (under their guidance, of course), and to take care of the disadvantaged (as if we couldn’t do that ourselves.)

    Interestingly, the National Taxpayers Union says McCain has proposed fewer spending increases than Romney or Huckabee. Here are their numbers, from adding up specific proposals:

    Mike Huckabee: + $54.2 billion
    Mitt Romney: + $19.5 billion
    John McCain: + $6.9 billion
    Rudy Giuliani: – $1.4 billion
    Ron Paul: – $150.1 billion

    I think they underestimate Paul’s cuts, since ending the Iraq war and bringing our troops home from the UK, Korea, Germany, Japan, and Italy would probably save 2 or 3 hundred billion by itself. Ending the Dept. of Education, the Dept. of Energy, and all foreign aid comes in over $100 billion.

    Here are the NTU’s numbers on the Democrats:

    Barack Obama: + $287.0 billion
    Hillary Clinton: + $218.2 billion

    No numbers for Edwards. I guess their calculators didn’t go that high.