What is your informed opinion of McCain? Personally, I think that for a Republican, he’s not that bad. He has reputedly said that Democrats are OK and that he can do business with Democrats – which I personally think is a good thing, because you guys must all be tired of having an essentially divisive president. How would the internal political climate of the States develop under McCain, in your opinion? Would this undeclared Dem-Rep civil war stop?
 
–Panu Petteri Höglund
Anyone hated by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, James Dobson, and Rick Santorum can’t be all bad.  McCain is definitely a grown-up and he’d certainly be a huge improvement on Bush.
 
 On the plus side, he voted against Bush’s first two sets of tax cuts, he’s squarely against torture and has vowed to shut down Guantanamo, he’s known for trying to reform campaign financing, he has a reasonable position on immigration, and he worked closely with John Kerry to normalize relations with Vietnam.
 
How conservative (pink line) or liberal (blue line) McCain has been
 
The graph (from Wikipedia) shows an interesting change in the mid-1990s; McCain moved substantially to the left.  However, I think moderates and liberals may be easily deceived, because they personally like the guy, as to how centrist he really is.
 
On the minus side, he served quite happily as Bush’s pit dog on the Iraq war, voted to extend Bush’s tax cuts, tried hard to court the religious right, supports banning abortion, and opposes universal health care. 
 
I lost a lot of respect for him when he started cheerleading for Bush, because he’s smart enough to know better.  It was obviously politically expedient as a Republican for him to court the base, but his reputation was precisely as a maverick who didn’t bow to political expediency.
 
At this point McCain has painted himself into a corner with Iraq.  He’s recognized that things have gone wrong, but I don’t see any evidence that he has a plan to make things any better.  I can’t see him getting elected by promising to ramp up the war, but I can’t see his projected decades-long occupation working without such a ramp-up. 
 
As for political acrimony– it would lessen if the White House wasn’t orchestrating it.  But the right was noisy and nasty all through Clinton’s presidency without being in power, and they haven’t gone away or mellowed out.  If anything they may get nastier, since raging and ranting are easier to do when you’re out of power and don’t actually have to run anything.  If the Democrats keep control of Congress, which seems likely, however, their ability to influence events will be much smaller, and McCain will, like it or not, have to govern more from the center– he’d probably look more like Bush I or Nixon than like Reagan or Bush II.  I’d guess we’d get smaller deficits, more civil rights, incremental progress on the environment, maybe some agreements on immigration and campaign finance reform, and no health reform.
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