The Keene Sentinel Tuesday, January 25, 2000
In choosing among political candidates, it doesn't pay to focus too much on similarities; it's the differences that count. On that basis, we endorse John McCain for the Republican nomination for president.
On many matters of public policy, McCain is not the moderate Republican maverick some voters may assume. His prescriptions for reform of the health-insurance system are spotty and insufficient. He thinks expanded trade will
foster human rights in China, but he refuses to consider the same prescription for Cuba. He supports private-school vouchers. He believes Roe vs. Wade should be overturned, and says his favorite Supreme Court justice is Antonin Scalia, who, among many other unappealing positions, believes there is no constitutional basis either for any abortion rights or for considering newly discovered evidence of innocence after a person's criminal conviction.
Where McCain distinguishes himself from the Republican pack is on one overarching issue - campaign-finance reform - and in the less tangible areas of life experience and force of character.
Much of McCain's campaign has revolved around the way political campaigns are paid for these days - and rightly so. Campaign finance is not a technical matter to be
worked out in the interest of politicians; it's a scandal that crawls into almost every area of American life. When the people who make the laws take large amounts of money from special interests, those interests end up calling the shots. McCain may not be able to resolve that problem entirely, but as president he would certainly raise enough righteous hell in Washington to expose and embarrass the most egregious offenders.
"My first priority" as president, McCain says, "would be the men and women in the military." But, he adds, the military can't be streamlined and its personnel properly compensated when Congress dips so heavily into the public purse to reward private interests whose contributions make politicians beholden to them. The same dynamic is at work in the at work in the shaping of policies to deal with health care, taxes, education, telecommunications, even foreign affairs.
McCain has evolved a great deal from the brittle politician who was first elected to Congress in 1976. He was, and remains, a staunch defender of gun ownership, yet he broke with the gun lobby last year, voting to require background checks for people buying weapons at gun shows. "No one could help but be impacted by this violence-in-the-school issue,'' he explained in an interview with The Sentinel.
In the early 1980s, he opposed the establishment of a Martin Luther King Day in his state of Arizona because, he now says, he didn't understand the holiday's deep significance. He has since "become more aware of the obligation of all of us ... to try to ensure that every American has an equal opportunity."
Much to his current chagrin, McCain was involved in the Keating Five influence-peddling scandal in the early 1990s. Although he was cleared of wrongdoing, the experience helped shape his current position on campaign contributions. "We are all tainted by this system," he now concludes, a position underscored by the flap over his own recent letters urging the Federal Communications Commission to act one way or another on a contributor's petition involving radio-station ownership.
Judging from the campaign McCain is running, we expect he would be a president dedicated to principle, yet open to differing points of view; a man who is firm in his beliefs, yet forthright about his shortcomings. To lead a nation as large and diverse as ours, a president must be pensive as well as persuasive. McCain does not give the impression of a man reading cue cards written by others, or trying to curry favor with winks to voters and policies geared to well-heeled supporters. Rather, we see a man who has thought long and hard about the problems a president must address and who would continue to reflect on them as president.
Of more immediate importance in this primary season, we believe that, with John McCain as the Republican nominee, Americans will be assured of a substantive presidential contest in the fall that is worthy of the nation and its finest aspirations.
Reprinted by Permission of The Keene Sentinel.