Keene Sentinel

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In the Republican primary, John McCain
Sentinel staff

John McCain has been traveling around New Hampshire telling potential Republican primary voters that they might not always agree with him if he’s elected president, but that they can at least be sure he will always do what he believes is right for the country. That’s a reasonable summation of McCain’s political appeal.

This newspaper does not agree with McCain on many issues.

We are concerned about his opposition to abortion rights, although we are somewhat reassured by his assurance that he does not advocate putting people in jail over the issue.

We were disappointed by his advocacy of the invasion of Iraq, but we understand his arguments that the state of U.S. intelligence in 2003 made the idea seem more appealing than it does in retrospect, and that the United States now has a national obligation to make the best of the mess we created.

As we have noted before in this space, McCain has never been the thoroughgoing Republican maverick that some people assume. Yet he is independent enough to impress.

Consider his efforts at campaign-finance reform — efforts that have not yet been successful, but that someday will be the key to putting the interests of the American people ahead of the special interests that grease the palms of shameless members of Congress. McCain’s passion on that issue no doubt grew out of his involvement in the Keating Five influence-peddling scandal in the early 1990s. Although he was cleared of wrongdoing, he once noted: “We are all tainted by this system.” That’s not an admission you’ll likely hear very many places on the campaign trail.

Recently, we have been impressed by McCain’s attitude toward illegal immigration, expressed at considerable political cost in a bill that was defeated earlier in the year. He now notes that any improvement in the situation will have to begin by better policing of the borders, but he continues to speak with humane concern of the people, and the families of people, who have put down roots here.

We are also intrigued, although not fully persuaded by, McCain’s recent venture into health-care reform. Like many other Republicans, he puts a lot of faith in private insurance companies, and he rejects the idea of health-insurance mandates. But he is proposing an end to restrictions on insurance availability from out of state providers, as well as significant tax relief for people who negotiate their own insurance arrangements. He has a quiver of proposals for reducing the cost of health care. And he wants to create a federal insurance fund to insure people who are turned down — or priced out of the market — by private insurers. “And it’ll be expensive,” he volunteers, with typical candor.

Where McCain most distinguishes himself from the rest of this year’s Republican pack is in the areas of life experience and force of character. He is not a single-issue candidate off on a frantic ideological jag. Although his political ideology has evolved through experience over the years, he has not changed his previous political positions en masse to appeal to the presumed prejudices and preferences of voters. Nor has he tried to craft a candidacy around an artificial persona who promises to save us all from terrorists, or from the devil. And, perhaps most important, he campaigns with decency.

What we see in McCain is a grown-up; a known quantity with a 30-year record of public service; a conservative who is confident in his abilities and yet smart enough to seek counsel. If he becomes the Republican nominee in 2008, the country has a chance of enjoying a substantive presidential contest, unburdened by fear-mongering and irrelevancies. The major candidates will differ sharply in their approaches to the many challenges we face, but their passion is likely to be tempered by civility.

By selecting John McCain on January 8, New Hampshire Republicans and independents have an opportunity to put the presidential contest on a constructive path that’s worthy of the nation and its finest aspirations, at a time when a sharp course correction is severely needed.

© 2007 The Keene Sentinel.  Reprinted by permission (Jim Rousmaniere Dec. 24, 2007 e-mail).

Editor and president Jim Rousmaniere wrote that:

...we put a lot of video on the primary site, one aim being to help the public get a sense of the interview process:

You’ll find only one prominent Republican (McCain) in the video collection.  Despite being invited to the newspaper, the other major Republican candidates did not show up, which is unusual.  There is, however, considerable information about their backgrounds and policy preferences on the site.

Further, Rousmaniere wrote that:
The Sentinel’s editorial board currently consists of the following:

Tom Ewing (Publisher and owner)

Jim Rousmaniere (Editor and president)

Paul Miller (Managing editor)

Guy MacMillin (Opinion page editor)

The Sentinel traditionally endorses in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. Our choice on the Republican side was arrived at fairly quickly this time. The editorial endorsement of McCain is pretty clear about his comparative appeal.
The Democratic endorsement took a couple of meetings. You’ll note from the structure of the editorial that we think highly of a great many of the contenders. One of the strengths of this particular editorial, the first draft of which was written by Guy, is its identification of the wide range of responsibilities that face a president.  We tend to regard editorials as having an educational purpose, in addition to being expressions of preference; in the 2008 Democratic primary the leading Democratic candidates agree substantially on the order of priorities and the nature of solutions, which makes it all the important to brush up on the post they are all seeking.