David Harsanyi has an excellent OpEd in the Denver Post:
Republicans have no candidate
By David Harsanyi
Article Last Updated: 10/09/2008 09:02:51 PM MDT
This election has never been about John McCain — though his candidacy is sure to revive a debate about the worst presidential candidates of all time.
No, this is a referendum on Barack Obama. And many Republicans are exuding the confidence of a hopelessly quixotic sports fan — a person who watches his atrocious team struggle for three quarters with the false expectation that some miraculous comeback is imminent in the fourth.
It rarely is.
McCain has consistently remained inconsistent, vacillating between promises and populism. From his support of cap-and-trade to his actions during the bailout, McCain's positions seem entirely focused on winning the middle- of-the-road vote.
No modern Republican has ever won the presidency solely focused on the ambivalent squishy inattentive center. These people don't care enough to name their political party, much less pay attention.
But he's a maverick. One of McCain's central arguments has been his uncompromising valor in opposing the Bush administration.
Here's a newsbreak: Disagreeing with the Bush administration on a handful of issues (often the wrong ones, in McCain's case) doesn't make you a maverick, it makes you an average American. And, sadly, the second debate proved that McCain would be incapable of making his party's philosophical or political case even if he genuinely tried.
When Obama claims, as he did during the second debate, that raising taxes on the rich is the equivalent of giving them a "break," McCain, terrified of defending anyone in a Lexus, failed to make an assertive case that economic freedom helps everyone.
When Obama claimed he would lower income taxes for 95 percent of Americans even though nearly 40 percent of households don't pay a single cent in income taxes, McCain just smiled.
When Obama continued his absurd insistence that our financial mess was caused only by Bush-era "deregulation," McCain struggled to place the blame where it belongs: on government meddling.
And when Obama contended his economic plan would be a "net" cut in spending, McCain should have spit the water out of his mouth like a character on a TV sitcom — because that's exactly what the senior senator from Arizona is starring in.
Those Republicans anticipating a fourth-quarter comeback during the debate were instead hit with a wet fish. Did the putative Republican candidate just propose that the U.S. Treasury renegotiate millions of mortgages at a better price?
Was McCain simply unable to articulate a more complex position? It sounded a lot like a comprehensive nationalization of the mortgage industry. It sounded a lot like hundreds of billions of additional tax dollars.
Yep, he meant it. It's called the American Homeownership Resurgence. It will stabilize the economy. And Obama will stop global warming. And McCain will find bin Laden, even if he has to do it with his bare hands. And . . . well, at this pace, we're about two debates away from being promised free lemonade and snicker doodles.
None of these promises have worked. So now the McCain campaign will set its sights on Bill Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko and other members of the Legion of Doom. All of them are legitimate topics for conversation, but with less than a month to go, the conversation reeks of desperation.
In fact, the entire campaign has been one big act of publicity stunts. McCain's shining moment this campaign, as far as I can tell, was a funny ad comparing Obama to Paris Hilton.
What McCain's candidacy does tell us is that the Republican Party — even if it somehow miraculously pulls this one out — is in need of some creative destruction. Not ideological purity but ideological renewal.
Because being a "maverick" is a political slogan, not a political philosophy.
The campaign has been laughable... and unfortunately, I think the only people that may have had a better chance at beating Obama (of those that ran in the primary) would be Huckabee or Romney. But even they would be hard-pressed to provide free-market policies in response to major issues - both had instances where they argued for activist government as solutions to our problems.
The only GOP candidate who would consistently offer free-market solutions and ask the first question of whether the government should be involved at all was Ron Paul. Unfortunately, Paul's whining style and lack of charisma doomed him before he even announced.
But, I'd like to point out that not only is McCain not a true representation of a free-market conservative candidate, George W. Bush hasn't exactly been a poster child for what many of us believe.
And this is the crux of the problem that we find ourselves in today. When someone labeled as a "free-market conservative" wins the White House, it's important that they govern as a free-market conservative. If they don't, they damage the brand and push voters to consider more radical forms of policy.
George W. Bush kept Democrats in key positions, too often adopted their policies or compromised with them. He and the GOP didn't push harder for Fannie & Freddie to be more tightly regulated. He pushed for the expansion of Medicare. He allowed the GOP Congress to spend like drunk sailors on shore leave...
But for tax cuts and the War On Terror, there has been little for free-market conservatives to support in the Bush administration.
ARC: St Wendeler