Betsy Newmark, who blogs at Betsy’s Page, is a charter school history teacher from North Carolina who is a solid and sensible Republican who’s views I rely on to get a sense of what well informed, everyday Republicans think about various issues and candidates. She has previously expressed reservations about John McCain as the 08 Republican presidential candidate. Here she expresses some of her reservations.

[His] approach to government would infuriate many conservatives including me. Then there is McCain’s muscular approach to foreign policy that would appall those who oppose our actions in Iraq. McCain is a firm believer that we need more troops not fewer in Iraq. And he would be willing to consider some sort of compulsory service if necessary. Right now McCain is counting on Republicans viewing him as the ‘sure thing’ who could defeat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But it is not so clear that McCain’s dramatic life story (a story Obama could only dream of) and his appealing public persona is enough to outweigh all the policy divisions that various groups would have with him. When you put together the groups who would oppose McCain’s view of government with those who would oppose his view of foreign policy, you may find enough to defeat his candidacy if he were to win the nomination. And if he doesn’t have the vision of sure success in the general election going for him, I don’t see how he wins the nomination.

Betsy’s post was inspired by an article highly critical of McCain by Matt Welch. He sees a big government interventionist – a paternalist in the mould of Teddy Roosevelt.

Liberals and conservatives alike fail to truly reflect his views, McCain writes, because “neither emphasizes the obligations of a free people to the nation.” His main governmental inspiration is Teddy Roosevelt, the “Eastern swell who became a man of the people,” whose great accomplishment was “to summon the American people to greatness.” In Roosevelt’s code, McCain writes approvingly, it was “absolutely required that every loyal citizen take risks for the country’s sake.” This is an essentially militaristic view of citizenship, one that explains many of McCain’s departures from partisan orthodoxy. Unlike traditional Republicans, he will gladly butt into the affairs of private industry if he perceives them to be undermining Americans’ faith in government; unlike Democrats, he thinks the executive branch generally needs more power, not less………..If his issues line up with yours, and if you’re not overly concerned by an activist federal government, McCain can be a great and sympathetic ally. But chances are he will eventually see a grave national threat in what you consider harmless, or he’ll prescribe a remedy that you consider unconscionable. Nowhere is that more evident than in his ideas about the Iraq war.

I understand the reservations of small government Republicans and I agree with them that the McCain Feingold campaign finance reform has been an undue interference with the democratic process and a potentially dangerous failure. I also sympathize with their frustrations with Bush’s big government programs coupled with a fiscally irresponsible, pork barreling Republican Congress. We elect Democrats for that and what’s more they have been doing it since the 30s and are good at it. That said, I also notice that McCain bears a strong resemblance to John F Kennedy’s when he said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I think America is ready for more emphasis on our collective responsibility and I believe would look favorably on a leader who forthrightly asked us to move in that direction. One of Bush’s biggest mistakes was to try not to disturb Americans with his war. It’s our war too Dubya. We not only face war, we know we face a new kind of war and it will take good leadership to prevail. Of the Western powers, the US is the least in denial over the nature of the enemy and the country with the most power to prosecute and lead such a war. Our effective participation is vital. Bush has not led well and allowed himself to be nearly defeated by a hostile press. Neither America nor her allies can afford that lack luster performance. So I welcome a candidate that calls on us to all make a contribution. War is a collective responsibility and in the absence of Teddy Roosevelt to vote for, I will certainly consider McCain. I started this blog, in part, because of the MSM’s undermining of the war effort and will look to contribute in every way I can to what I see as nothing less than the defense of Western civilization – even if the best I can do doesn’t amount to what a clerk typist on an Army base in the Aleutians contributes.

Evidently unlike most Democrats, I wholeheartedly agree that we need a stronger president having watched in my lifetime LBJ, Nixon and Clinton squander the power and prestige of that office and in the case of Nixon and Clinton do so for appallingly venal and unnecessary reasons. For the record, on pure personal preference I prefer Rudy Gulianai, but agree that he is probably not as electable as McCain and far less likely to be able to sell himself to Republicans. To be fair to McCain and Hillary he doesn’t know Washington and we have seen what can happen when we elect an outsider from our experience with Jimmy Carter. I think Rudy would learn the game quickly and I would take the chance on him, but right now McCain looks like the most likely to succeed Republican candidate.

Here is the way I see the 08 election shaping up. I think that the electorate will be reluctant to give either party a free hand. I think this year’s Congressional elections were not just a referendum on Iraq, but also a referendum on Congress. The Republican congress had lower approval ratings than the president for the good reason that the Republicans have shown themselves to be as corrupt as the Democrats after 12 years in power as the Democrats had after 50 years. Not that I, or many in the electorate trust Congresskunks of either stripe to not abuse their positions financially and sexually.


I can’t tell which one is Foley and which is Condit. Can you?
What I think could well turn out to be a key factor in the 08 elections is that the electorate will not want to trust either party with both the White House and Congress. The path of least resistance to that outcome is to vote Republican for president and keep the Democrats in power in one or both houses of Congress. That outcome requires that the Republicans put up a candidate with broad appeal. In 2010 if the public disapproves of McCain’s performance they can increase the Democrat’s majority. If they approve or the Democrats are perceived as obstructionist, then they can create a Republican majority in Congress. Conversely if Hillary is elected it is unlikely the electorate will be able to put a Republican majority back in Congress. If they don’t like how she handles the war on terror they can only put the Republicans back in Congress in 2010 or 2012. Given their unconvincing and divided position on the war I don’t believe the electorate is about to trust the entire government to the Democrats. Then there is the Hillary problem – the one that is not her fault – Bill. Bill ensures that there will be very few Clinton Republicans. McCain, on the other hand, will get a lot of votes from what used to be called Reagan Democrats. Rudy too. I don’t think Romney – particularly as a Mormon – is going to get many of those Democrat votes. I have heard Newt mentioned and I have no idea if he is a viable candidate or even interested but he does start with name recognition and I have a lot of respect for him. If I am not mistaken he would be very welcome to small government Republicans like Betsy. He might be the best way to advance that domestic agenda while retaining the Republican advantage on national security.
Until the left wing of the Democratic party is defeated and passes into history I will almost certainly vote Republican although I do not agree with all that Republicans represent. I would prefer a choice, and a productive interplay between two parties competently representing different approaches to government. And equally trustworthy on national security.

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