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McCain Has Given Enough

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Dear Greg, I've been dating a guy since I was 23. I'm 28 now. We started talking about marriage two years ago, and he said he wasn't 'ready.' So we moved in together to help him get 'ready.' ... Does he need more time, or is he just not that into marrying me?"

The above comes from the self-help book (now a movie) "He's Just Not That Into You." Co-author Greg Behrendt replies:

"Dear Waiting at the Altar, He's right. Why rush? It's only been five years. He's going to know you so much better after 10. ... Yep, my lovely, I know it's hard to hear, but better to hear it now than 10 years from now." In sum, he's just not that into you.

Would someone please send this book to John McCain?

Ever since the religious right slimed him and his family in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary -- thus reviving the candidacy of George W. Bush, whom McCain had just clobbered in New Hampshire -- McCain has been courting the very people he then called "agents of intolerance."

But years of carrying armloads of flowers to religious conservatives have engendered little reciprocation. Listen to the cold response of Lori Viars, an evangelical activist, when asked whether she and her colleagues would work for McCain as they had for Bush:

"I think a lot of us are in a holding pattern."

McCain has sacrificed so much of his moderate image for them, and this is the thanks he gets. Nothing new here. For all his efforts to appease social conservatives, McCain scored dead last out of nine Republicans in the October Values Voter Straw Poll -- right behind pro-choice Rudy Giuliani!

The sad thing about McCain is that he was never into the very people who are not into him, while doing very little for those who might be. New polls show independents evenly split between Barack Obama and McCain, despite their dismal views of the Republican Party.

For starters, McCain should temper his official anti-choice position with a Giuliani-esque declaration that while personally opposed to abortion, he would not want it outlawed. McCain himself said that in 2000.

I happen to believe that as president, McCain would not seek the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a right to abortion (and if he did, Democrats would stop him). But saying that he wouldn't do what he says he will do in his campaign literature is not the most convincing of arguments. The smarter Obama campaign, meanwhile, has the candidate out proclaiming his religiosity before moderate evangelicals -- and without altering his liberal views.

(Note from the Department of Short Memories: One recalls the purple apoplexy when Republican Mike Huckabee ran a Christmastide TV ad that the left insisted featured a cross, which the ad maker said was just the lines of a bookshelf. "Hypocrite Huckabee Leaves His Cross in Iowa," read a headline in The Nation. Five months later, an Obama flyer in Kentucky shows the "committed Christian" at a pulpit before a giant cross -- no ambiguity here -- and there's nary a squeak from stage left.)

McCain has taken baby steps toward winning moderates who would vote for him if only he'd give them something. For instance, he recently reminded Clinton backers that he had voted to confirm two of the Supreme Court's leading liberals, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

But it's time for bolder action from McCain. He should tell religious conservatives, "I've given you what I've got, and it's more than you'll get from the other guy," and then sprint to the center, where so many would appreciate a phone call.

COPYRIGHT 2008 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.

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