In an editorial back on April 8th, George Will, decries the fact that "many at CPAC seemed depressed by the fact, as they see it, that the top three Republican candidates -- John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani -- are flawed."
I'll grant there is wisdom in Will's caution that "the axiom is as old as human striving: The perfect is the enemy of the good. In politics this means that insisting on perfection in a candidate interferes with selecting a satisfactory one."
Fair enough, but without insisting on perfection, are these three candidates even good?
The bulk of the article is Will highlighting the various conservative credentials of the candidates - McCain on the Iraq War and fiscal discipline; Romney for being right where McCain is wrong ("denouncing the 'McCain-Kennedy' immigration bill and promising to seek repeal of the McCain-Feingold law regulating campaign speech") and claiming support of social conservative positions; and Giuliani for school choice and opposition for bilingual education.
That's all very nice. Yes, they certainly aren't liberals. But I'm not enthused about the prospect of voting for any of them. Perhaps when the choice is one of them or Hillary of Obama my enthusiasm will spike, but not right now.
Giuliani, as Will freely notes, "is comprehensively out of step with social conservative." Social conservatism is half the conservative platform. If you abandon half the platform, how you a "good" candidate?
Likewise, McCain ditches about half the platform, but in a more complex way. He's for small government conservatism by being fiscally conservative, but that's balanced (or overpowered) by "McCain-Feingold". And he's all over the map on social conservatism too. Pro-gun-control. Exceedingly moderate on abortion. It's no wonder The John Birch Society has rated him as high as a 90 and as low as a 38.
Finally Romney. He's saying all the right things for social conservatism. But here's the thing about evangelicals like myself: we want our social conservative candidate to be one of us, not just say the right things. In the 2000 debates, when Bush answered the question on his favorite philosopher with "Christ, because he changed my heart", we, well, we really liked that. There's already a challenge for some evangelicals with Romney because he's a Mormon. That makes it hard to put him in the "he's one of us" category. If his record was filled with championing social conservative causes, most evangelicals could probably bridge that gap though thinking "it appears dedicated Mormons govern a lot like dedicated evangelicals." But his record is decidedly the opposite of socially conservative. We want deeds, not words, and Romney hasn't delivered on deeds.
Will is correct that none of these three are perfect. But in my by judgment (and that of a lot of other conservatives), candidates that are only conservative half the time shouldn't even be deemed "good".
Gingrich; Thompson: We're waiting...