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Faux Conservatism Will Backfire

March 3, 2008

Coming as absolutely no surprise to real conservatives, the breaking New York Times story on Republican candidate John McCain's questionable relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman in 2000 is a telling harbinger of the nature of the upcoming election cycle. Perhaps McCain is surprised to find himself in the crosshairs of his fickle former media allies. But if so, he is virtually alone in such a reaction.

Furthermore, it matters little that the story thus far appears to be absolutely baseless. John McCain, once considered by the liberal press to be their "darling" among Republicans, can be confident that between now and November he will be getting more of the same, both real and contrived. It is reasonable to anticipate that the Times might eventually invoke some version of a "stained blue dress," whether authentic or concocted, to corroborate their allegations.

In any case, McCain carries an enormous load of past baggage, from dubious political alliances to rash and provocative declarations, which liberals in the media fully intend to expose at the most strategically inopportune moments of his campaign. This has been their plan all along, and if their mudslinging bears elements of validity even only occasionally, the strategy will be effective.

Yet John McCain faces an even bigger threat to his political viability, and that is the actualities of his political philosophy, when inconveniently revealed by those who consider themselves his friends and allies. The more they talk, the worse they make it for their chosen candidate. Former "Bush 41" Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, the latest of these, loudly proved this point last week on MSNBC when attacking conservative talk radio.

Eagleburger understands that in order for McCain to win, it is essential to bring grassroots conservatives into the fold. Yet these are the very people whom John McCain has most diligently betrayed over the years in his efforts to exploit closely divided political situations for his own aggrandizement.

Having so thoroughly cast himself in the mold of turncoat, the only remaining intellectually honest case for choosing him over Hillary or Obama is that, as bad as a McCain presidency promises to be, either of the two Democrats would be worse.

No doubt, behind closed doors, McCain campaign operatives realize that this approach will work no better for the Arizona Senator than it did for the senior George Bush in 1992, or Bob Dole in '96. But aside from this insipid argument, which hardly constitutes a political platform, Senator McCain has by his own malicious actions and words thoroughly neutralized any other basis on which to support his candidacy.

Since it is impossible at this late juncture to prove to conservatives that McCain is really one of them, the only alternative is to press them to abandon their own convictions and principles and concede the inherent superiority of those beliefs held by McCain.

So, the task ahead for Lawrence Eagleburger and his political class is nothing less than the eradication of real conservatism, or at least the political marginalization of its most prominent advocates. Thus, the necessity to demean the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his relationship to true conservatism.

To be sure, Limbaugh has on rare occasions found himself at odds with many of his listeners. He tends to regard market driven capitalism as the progenitor of a free and moral society, rather than being its inevitable byproduct. As a result, he sometimes draws odd boundaries around the definition of "conservatism." For example, by his characterization of Rudy Giuliani as a "conservative," he seems willing to ignore or at least minimize the symbiosis that exists between the malignancies of moral/social collapse and bigger government.

Yet overall, he can rightfully claim deep loyalty from his vast audience, based not on his likeability or charisma (which are both evident in abundance) but because his thinking and his words overwhelmingly validate real America's recognition and understanding of why the nation works, and which of its virtues require diligent guarding and protection.

Notwithstanding, in Eagleburger's world, Rush does not represent real "conservatism." Or perhaps he has simply failed to "evolve" with it as it has been reinvented by the Establishment Republicans. On this basis, Eagleburger contends that he is no less a "conservative" than Limbaugh or Hannity, and as such counts himself among those on the right who adamantly support John McCain.

Hardly a bastion of conservative principle, by attempting to impute such "flexibility" to the very definition of conservatism, Eagleburger is gravitating dangerously close to those who claim right and wrong be fundamentally altered by mere consensus, patriotism can mean virtually anything including the overt support of terrorists, and life exists only whenever the Supreme Court says it does.

Eagleburger further offers the flimsy argument that his case is strengthened by concurrence from other principle-starved pragmatists and open borders opportunists who have long been working like termites to erode the GOP from within and ensure that it remains politically impotent as a force for real conservatism.

Within this realm, no room for real debate or consideration exists. Total allegiance is an imperative, which requires that McCain's supporters drink the Kool-aid and accept "conservatism" on whatever terms McCain offers it. Ultimately, this desperate and ill-begotten effort holds the potential to do much more harm to him than any pointed questions from his conservative critics.

By their stridency, the Establishment Republicans focus attention like a laser on McCain's Achilles' heel, which is his irrefutable affinity for Democrat ideology and visceral disdain for true conservatism. And if it continues, this tack will backfire to an enormous degree.

The icons of conservative talk radio connect with grassroots conservatives where Establishment Republicans, with all of their money and pretense of status, only generate cynicism and disgust. And this means that the more the Establishment Republicans tout McCain as one of their own, the less popular he will be.

Hardly qualifying as rock-ribbed "purists," Limbaugh, Hannity, and their cohorts have often made creditable efforts to support candidates who are far less than absolutely conservative. But it is simply not within their nature to go to the extremes necessary to support McCain on such a basis. And the more they are squeezed to do so, the more vocally they will assert the reasons why McCain does not qualify.

Eagleburger and those of his political stripe are only rubbing salt in the wounds that McCain has created over the years. They would do far better to simply revert to the "lesser of two evils" mantra. It may not be much, but it is all they have. Yet let them wrest control of the current debate and warp it into a referendum on their version of "conservatism," and Republican defeat this November will be decisive.

Meanwhile, newly emboldened Republican "moderates" and closet liberals be warned. Your moment in this current "spotlight" is fleeting. And conservatives are taking names.

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Copyright ©2008 Christopher G. Adamo

Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, and has written for regional and national magazines. He is currently the Chief Editorial Writer for The Proud Americans, an advocacy group for America’s seniors, and for all Americans. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.