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McCain at the Manhattan Institute

Over at The New York Sun, Ira Stoll (my old boss) writes up John McCain's visit yesterday to the Manhattan Institute. It's a pretty good roundup of where McCain stands on the current crisis in the Middle East, immigration, government spending, trade, intelligent design and campaign-finance regulation.

I expect we might hear this line on intelligent design a few more times:

"From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution," Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, "When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there."

To hit a few things Stoll didn't ...

On Social Security, McCain reiterated his support for private (he said "personal") accounts. He called for bipartisanship (Can someone put a moratorium on that word?). But he also said we had to deal with "benefit promises that cannot be kept." It's not the first time he's said it, but isn't this a fairly straight-forward call for benefit cuts? And isn't that noteworthy from a presidential candidate?

On energy, McCain endorsed an idea Rudy Giuliani put on the table about a month ago, also addressing the Manhattan Institute: nuclear energy. "It's very rarely I use the French as a model," McCain joked, but their embrace of nuclear power is something to emulate. On ethanol, McCain reiterated his opposition to ethanol subsidies ("That's the first primary state he just attacked," a gentleman leaned over to me and said.) but noted that the higher the price of oil, the more sense ethanol makes economically.

On Israel, I'd just note how much of a given it's become that the Republican candidate will be an unbending supporter of Israel. I'm all for this, of course. But it really is remarkable. As I've said, opposition to Israel -- and calls for "balance" and examining "root causes" -- has migrated entirely to the Left. "What if some terrorist came across our border?" McCain asked. "We would react vigorously."

Asked a question about eminent domain, McCain said he would support a constitutional amendment to strengthen the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, in light of the atrocious Kelo decision from last year. Though, he added, he'd prefer to try to find a legislative solution first.

Lastly, on campaign-finance reform, he deflected a question (no doubt inspired by this George Will column) as to whether as president his desire to find judges who would uphold McCain-Feingold would make it difficult for him to appoint "conservative" (read: pro-life) judges. His answer, that Roberts and Alito are wonderful, wasn't much of an answer. Both justices voted to strike down Vermont's campaign-regulation system recently; and, one might be tempted to speculate, their presence would have led to a somewhat different outcome in the case McCain referred to as "McConnell vs. Whatever" [it's McConnell vs. FEC]. McCain also claimed campaign-finance "reform" is working -- a claim I'd love to see him try to back up with ... anything.

Another couple notes ...

McCain is great off-the-cuff. But man is he bad reading prepared text. Bueller ... Bueller ...

There was also, according to this guest list the Manhattan Institute handed out, a smattering of Giuliani operatives in the house. Keepin' an eye on the big guy.