I like John McCain. I'd love to buy him lunch and talk about the country and the world, and about his life. He seems like a good and decent man. If he were the Republican nominee for president, I'd vote for him without hesitation, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.
But as the old adage goes, it's better to be trusted than loved. I don't want to have to vote for McCain. I don't trust him. As Hugh Hewitt often says, McCain is a great American, a lousy senator, and a terrible Republican.
McCain loves to posture as a maverick. To me he's just a loose cannon. Example after example supports this. Here are but two:
1. McCain's opposition to President Bush's plan for treatment of captured enemy combatants in the war on terror. After months of Democrat yammering about the issue, the Supreme Court said Bush needed Congressional approval of the rules for interrogating imprisoned jihad warriors. Bush happily proposed a plan to Congress. The Democrats' feet were to the fire; now they had to say what they thought should be done with the combatants, instead of simply likening American soldiers to Nazis and the prisons to Soviet gulags.
Enter John McCain, who opposed Bush's plan from within the president's own party, and with his moral authority as a former POW, gave the Democrats absolute political cover in also opposing Bush's plan. Could McCain not have quietly discussed his concerns with the White House and then gotten behind a modified plan? Or does he simply enjoy grandstanding?
2. The Gang of 14 deal. My co-blogger Ralph thinks the deal was just fine, and enabled Alito and Roberts to be nominated and confirmed. I'm not so sure. If nothing else, the unprecedented filibuster of judicial nominees is still on the table as an option, and that is not a good thing. Among other things, a fine example of McCain sticking a finger in the eye of conservatives everywhere.
So I like John McCain but do not trust him. I think he is mercurial, willful, and loves to grandstand. Perhaps more damning, he seems to have a mean streak. This is a time when we need presidents who can be great, and when I go down my list of greats -- Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan-- I don't see McCain's defects in any of them.
Hugh Hewitt today quotes from the Vanity Fair piece in McCain that is just now coming out. If you think John McCain should be the GOP standard-bearer in 2008, read that article, and Hugh's comments, first.
Update: More at Power Line and Hugh Hewitt (regarding his Mark Steyn interview today).