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Why McCain Needs to Be Stopped

By Robert Tracinski

Will John McCain save Republicans?

McCain's South Carolina victory raises the possibility that he could save Republicans from a drawn-out primary battle by giving them a clear front-runner to rally behind, unifying the party well in advance of this summer's convention. And although it's still a bit early for these polls to mean very much, McCain does well in match-ups against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, so he offers Republicans the possibility that he could save them from defeat in November by attracting independents and winning against the Democratic nominee.

Many voters seem to be attracted to McCain because of his strong stance on the War on Terrorism, reinforced by his war-hero biography. This is part of the reason, for example, that Rudy Giuliani's poll numbers have declined precisely as McCain's have risen: both candidates are competing for the support of pro-war voters.

But that raises another, far more important question: if John McCain saves Republicans, who will save Republicans from John McCain?

The voters who support McCain over Giuliani are making a dangerously short-sighted trade. McCain is a suicidal choice for Republicans, because on every issue other than the war, he stands for capitulation to the left.

There are three big domestic issues that will be decided by the 2008 election: socialized medicine, higher taxes, and global warming regulations. The Democrats are in favor of all three--and John McCain won't stop them.

On health care, McCain has attacked pharmaceutical companies as "bad guys" who are using corrupt political influence to profit at the expense of the little guy--campaign rhetoric borrowed straight from one of John Edwards's "two Americas" tirades. McCain uses this rhetoric to support the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada. The drugs are cheaper in Canada, but that's because Canada has a system of socialized medicine that imposes price controls. So importing drugs from Canada is just an indirect way of importing socialist price controls.

But every student of economics knows that price controls tend to choke off the supply of new drugs. Why should pharmaceutical companies invest billions of dollars in research and testing over a period of decades, if the government is going to steal their profits by dictating arbitrary prices?

Apparently, John McCain doesn't understand free-market economics and won't stand up for the principle of economic freedom. So how is he supposed to stand up to the Democrats on any part of their socialized medicine agenda?

In addition to fighting the Democrats on socialized medicine, a Republican president would also have to fight in Congress for the extension of President Bush's tax cuts, which are set to begin expiring in 2009 and 2010. A failure to extend these tax cuts (or to make them permanent) would mean a massive de facto tax increase. Yet McCain was opposed to the Bush tax cuts when they were first passed.

But the biggest problem for Republicans with McCain's candidacy is his stance on global warming. McCain has been an active promoter of the global warming hysteria--for which he has been lauded by radical environmentalists--and he is a co-sponsor of a leftist scheme for energy rationing. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act would impose an arbitrary cap on America's main sources of energy production, to be enforced by a huge network of federal taxes and regulations.

The irony is that McCain won in South Carolina among voters whose top concern is the economy. Don't these voters realize what a whole new regime of energy taxes and regulations would do to the economy?

No matter what happens, there is likely to be a huge debate in the coming years over global warming--whether it's really happening, whether it's actually caused by human beings, and what to do about it. But if the Republicans nominate McCain, that political debate will be over, and Al Gore and the left will have won it--thanks to John McCain.

And speaking of political debate, McCain is against it. The most notorious piece of legislation McCain has co-sponsored with the left is McCain-Feingold, which has the evil distinction of being the nation's first direct attack on the freedom of political speech during an election campaign, precisely when such speech is most important.

For Republicans, there is one form of suicide worse than losing the 2008 presidential election--and that is winning it with a candidate who will put the pro-welfare-state, pro-regulation left in the driver's seat of American politics. Yet that is precisely what Republican primary voters are unwittingly supporting when they vote for McCain.

So who will save Republicans from John McCain? In the early primaries, he has already shown he can beat Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, and--at least some of the time--Mitt Romney. And there's good reason why none of these candidates has been successful against McCain. None of them can match his appeal on foreign policy, and most of them offer their own major examples of capitulation to the left.

No, the best hope to save Republicans from McCain is the one candidate who hasn't yet fully entered the race--but who will finally have his chance against McCain in Florida: Rudy Giuliani.

As the one Republican running on both a strong foreign policy and a staunch pro-free-market platform, Giuliani may be the last hope to prevent a Republican suicide in 2008.

Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist and

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