Monday, February 4, 2008

McCain vs. Romney, and Flip-Flopping

I know this is a blog about legal and constitutional issues, but sometimes, I just can't help it. I am a political junkie, after all.

Tonight, on the eve of Super Tuesday 2008, angst continues on the conservative right about our front-runner, John McCain. Bloggers, Rush, Hannity and others have been harping on McCain for his feckless conservatism, and with good reason. McCain-Feingold, opposition to the Bush tax cuts, anti-corporate populism and open borders are McCain issues which vex purebreds.

Those who support McCain against Mitt Romney, his only serious remaining competitor in these primaries, have been arguing in various forums that it would be better to support McCain, with all of his faults, than a flip-flopper of such magnitude as Mitt Romney.

Such folks point to Romney's 1994 positions on social issues such as homosexuality and Roe v. Wade as evidence that Romney's views have changed over time. Romney admits as much. Sceptics among this crowd further contend that the changes are born of politics, rather than conviction. We shall talk about this in a moment.

Let me say right now, however, that a political philosophy which is internally consistent at any given time, but whose orientation might have drifted over time, is vastly superior to one which displays absolutely no internal consistency at any time.

Many great thinkers have arrived at their opinions or political convictions over time. No less than the revered Judge Bork dabbled with a curious libertarianism in his early days only to settle on a most conservative and originalist position in his later years. I would not compare this to the rightward drift of Romney, but only suggest it as one example to prove that deeply considered thought may change over time. Indeed, is it not something to be celebrated, rather than decried, that someone's thought might move right, and attain more internal consistency over time? When asked about the changes in his positions, Mitt Romney states something like (I'm paraphrasing), "As I've gotten older, Ronald Reagan certainly has gotten smarter..."

Contrast this, then, with McCain, whose views right now display such inconsistencies as to be an affront to conservatism, the rule of law, the Constitution and good, reasoned thought. How can one defend McCain Feingold, with its attack on first amendment liberties and claim to be a conservative? How can one rail against the "rich get richer" aspect of the Bush tax cuts and claim to be a small government conservative? How could one possibly talk about the life-saving drug companies the way McCain does, and still claim to be a conservative?

Now, it's possible that Romney is just playing us all so that he will get elected. I don't think so, but it's possible. However, what I do know, is that if we elect John McCain, there will be no question: we will be forced to deal with his bizarre, inconsistent, maverick beliefs for four years while he offends us from the highest position of authority in the land. Sorry, but I'll take the former.