Monday, October 24, 2005


GOP Frontrunner...

For all his faults -- and goodness knows, there are many -- John McCain should be considered the current frontrunner for the '08 presidential nomination. This speech he delivered at the Al Smith dinner last Thursday shows why. Yes, he has a great speechwriter in Mark Salter, but the best speeches are a marriage of the wordsmith's talent with the biography and conviction of the person delivering them:

WE are free here to pursue our own interests with out regard to any cause more important than our own comfort, pleasure or self-promotion. We are a free people, and among our freedoms is the right not to sacrifice for our birthright. Yet those who claim their liberty — but not the duty to the civilization that ensures it — live a half-life, having indulged their self-interest at the cost of their self-respect.

Should we claim our rights and leave to others the duty that protects them, whatever we gain for ourselves will be of little lasting value. It will build no monuments to virtue, claim no honored place in the memory of posterity, offer no worthy summons to other nations.

Success, wealth, celebrity, gained and kept for private interest, is a small thing. It makes us comfortable, eases the hardships our children will bear, purchases a fleeting regard for our lives, yet not the self-respect that in the end matters most. But sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause, your self-respect assured.

Riayen Tejada was not a celebrated or wealthy man. He wasn't even — technically — a U.S. citizen. He was, however, a New Yorker. Born in the Dominican Republic, he emigrated here as a boy. He had two dreams, he said: to become a citizen and to serve in the United States Marine Corps. He accepted his duties to his new country before he possessed all the rights of an American citizen.

Staff Sgt. Tejada, the father of two young daughters, a proud New Yorker from Washington Heights who loved the Yankees almost as much as he loved his adopted country, died in an ambush in Baghdad on May 14, 2004. His grieving father hoped that "the United States will remember that my son died for this country." We do, Mr. Tejada. And shame on us if we ever forget.
McCain will forever confound a great number of Republicans who assess him on ideological grounds. However, he may be the only Republican candidate who can present his platform in the context of visionary ideals -- not ideological lists. McCain will have a broad message that could unite both the pro-Iraq War and war-skeptic parts of the Republican coalition. He has led the fight to demand congressional oversight and accountability in addressing the excess of that war -- Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, detainees, etc.

As the above passage shows, McCain can rhetorically connect the war to the historical ideals of shared American sacrifice in a way that the administration hasn't.

Domestically, his long-standing opposition to pork and deficits makes him the perfect person to be the voice of sound fiscal performance. And, of course, the cronyism of the Bush team makes McCain's good-government view perfectly apt for the times.

UPDATE: To disabuse me of the notion that McCain is the likely frontrunner, a DC Republican sends along an excerpt from the Beltway political tipsheet, The Hotline:
Green Tea Leaves
They can say whatever they want about '08. But new FEC numbers let us do what Mark Felt (fictitiously) told Bob Woodward to do during Watergate: Follow the money.-- The Q3 reports, out this week, strip away months of spin and give us a clear read on who's up, down, in and out of the early '08 money chase.--
Some quick notes:-- Kerry and HRC hold huge $$ leads, in money raised and [cash on hand]. But both spent lots as well (Kerry actually spent more than he raised this quarter).-- Bayh is raising like crazy (through his Senate [committee] and PAC). Biden and Feingold, not up in '06, are doing pretty well too.-- NONE of the GOPers are raising much, except Allen, who's in cycle. Next to him, Giuliani has the most CoH, but that's been true for awhile. Frist closed his Senate [committee] with zilch on hand. But his PAC has more than $1M, the largest sum of any would-be '08er.-- Dodd has $2M in the bank, but he did no fundraising this quarter.-- Also, notice how Tancredo ($104K) outraised Brownback ($41K), McCain ($38K), and Hagel ($13K) -- COMBINED for the quarter?

The Tancredo figure is interesting because he is the GOPer most to the right on the increasing hot-button issue of immigration. Money isn't the only electoral bellwhether, but it is an interesting sign on certain sentiments among the Republican grassroots. Make of it what you will.

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