The Pandering Must Go On!

As he was listing off his right-wing promises to the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, John McCain said he would continue to “seek the counsel of my fellow conservatives.” For Human Events editor Jed Babbin, that isn’t enough: “This is vintage McCain. He promises to hear, not to listen. He promises to seek counsel, but not to respect it. … That is less than we require of our leaders. We require them to adhere to our basic principles, and that those principles be the basis for their decisions.”

Take heart, Mr. Babbin: McCain has all but secured the Republican nomination, and yet he is still reaching out to the fringe:

The Brody File has been talking to some influential social conservative leaders around the country and they tell me that they’ve been talking to John McCain for months. As a matter of fact, one leader told me John McCain called him after Super Tuesday this week. While details of the phone call remain secret, I can tell you that McCain was reaching out to this particular leader and emphasizing the common ground he has with social conservatives on the life issue, judges and defeating Islamic fascists.

Another social conservative leader told me McCain called him to discuss specifics on social conservative causes. I’m told McCain wanted to be more up to speed on the issues that are important to social conservatives. This leader told me that McCain hasn’t been focused on their issues before so he’s trying to become more aware of all the details.

Still, we can expect right-wing leaders to keep leveling demands at their presumptive candidate, following the principle that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. McCain needs them, they say: “He cannot rely on some Democrats and a lot of independents to become president of the United States,” Tom DeLay said. “He’s got to have a base, and hopefully he will understand that.”

 “To get the enthusiastic support of conservatives – support he must have, to win – Senator McCain must make his case with deeds, not just words,” said Richard Viguerie. Ralph Reed, no friend of McCain’s, put it this way:

“This is fired-up Democratic Party, and it is not enough to simply define the differences between the parties,” said Reed, who advised McCain to “choose a running mate with street cred on the right” and devote his nominating convention and fall campaign to “striking conservative themes.”

What kind of “conservative themes”? How about judges: While McCain has already bent over backwards to the Right on Supreme Court nominations, with a cooing letter to the Federalist Society this week and his promise at CPAC to appoint judges like Roberts and Alito—Quin Hillyer of Confirm Them wants even more:

McCain pledged to appoint judges like Roberts and Alito. Great. I am a fan of both. But I am even more of a fan of Scalia, and even more than that a fan of Clarence Thomas. I would have been happier if McCain, speaking to this conservative audience, had forthrightly said he would appoint judges like Clarence Thomas.

Of course, McCain voted in favor of confirming Thomas. (He wasn’t in the Senate yet for Scalia’s confirmation. However, he was among a minority of senators to vote for Robert Bork the following year.) But, as he will find out, the Right’s appetite for pandering can be bottomless.