McCain and National Security

May 29, 2008

I’m aware of the widely held assumption that John McCain’s path to victory in November requires him to capture a healthy percentage of independents and even Democrats. But his strategy could backfire if he doesn’t restrain his urge to betray conservatives.

Because of his military record, his POW experiences and his pro-defense Senate record, McCain has a decided advantage over Barack Obama on national security, the most important issue for many voters and plenty important for the rest, as well.

Even McCain’s outspoken support of the “unpopular” Iraq war, ironically, adds to his favorable national security image. This despite the Democrats’ propagandizing against the war, their attempt to sever it conceptually from the overall war on terror, and their phony yet persistent argument that we’ve diverted resources away from fighting al-Qaida. The Democratic Party goes into any election with the burden of proving it can be trusted with power during times of war.

Yet for all our talk about McCain’s comparative advantage on national security, many conservatives are nevertheless mystified at some of McCain’s anomalous positions on the war on terror and his penchant for moving to the left here, as in so many other areas. Of all policy areas, you would think McCain could score a 100 percent among conservatives on national security, but his apparent desire for mainstream media approval and his addiction to projecting an image of unpredictability must be overwhelming.

Just this week, The Washington Post reported that McCain appears to be flip-flopping on his earlier position in favor of granting telecoms immunity for cooperating with President Bush in Bush’s warrantless surveillance program to monitor terrorist activities. McCain has always sided with conservatives to deny the liberal trial lawyers their bonanza in going after these companies for rising to the president’s call.

But now “a top lawyer for the McCain campaign” has suggested that the telecoms should be forced to explain their role in the program. This potential policy reversal would pull the rug out from under the Bush administration, which is currently in negotiations with Democratic members of Congress to resurrect this crucial surveillance program, which lapsed in March because of the telecom immunity issue. Just what is McCain thinking?

Even if this story turns out to be false, it is not that surprising to conservatives, who have watched with dismay other McCain positions, such as his denunciation of this nation’s tough interrogation techniques of enemy prisoners as “torture.”

McCain has also said that on his first day as president, he would close the Gitmo detention center and move the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth — all in the interest of improving America’s negative image in the world. But by boarding the Democrats’ propaganda train here, McCain has already done more damage to our image than closing the prison could ever negate.

McCain has wisely offered to take Obama on a tour of Iraq to edify him on the progress we’ve made since the surge. Maybe in turn he should consider having his own eyes opened on other critical aspects of our national security effort.

For example, perhaps Sen. McCain should meet with telecom executives away from the public cameras and learn their true concerns about their sacrificially patriotic contribution to the war effort and their refusal to go forward without immunity. Maybe he should also take another tour of Gitmo and talk with those on our side who have served there, instead of galloping to the politically correct conclusion that this country mistreats enemy prisoners.

For starters, he could interview a former U.S. Army reservist who recently e-mailed me about a story I related in my book “Bankrupt” concerning how our forces at Gitmo had duct-taped a prisoner’s mouth shut to keep him from chanting. The reservist knew I was defending our troops but said the incident was even more defensible than I had described.

He said the prisoner had begun a mini-riot with his chanting and that he — the reservist — was on one of the special response teams that “had to go into the cell blocks with riot gear and basically detain and keep the rest of the population from breaking down their gates.” He continued, “I was drenched with human waste, which was thrown on us as we entered individual cell blocks to detain inmates.”

“It is amazing,” he wrote, “how the liberals tell America that we are torturing (the prisoners). If they only knew the real story behind what happened then maybe they would not degrade me and what I stood for when I was in the Army. If I had to do it all over again, I would without any regret or doubt.”


We conservatives are not demanding purity from McCain, but he sure ought to be more reliable across-the-board on his premier issue of national security.