Call it "McCain Derangement Syndrome": The conservative blogosphere is devouring itself over the increasingly likely prospect of a John McCain nomination. Party-line righties dislike the Arizona senator for his heretical views on immigration, campaign-finance laws and banning torture, while more moderate conservatives see his prescience about the surge, and his hawkishness in general, as true selling points.
Roger L. Simon has dubbed it "McCain Derangement Syndrome," and thinks that archconservatives have lost sight of their priorities: "One of the raps against McCain by traditional conservatives is that he opposes waterboarding and Gitmo. On the other hand, he was one of the earliest, strongest and most influential backers of The Surge. I think by any rational comparison the importance of The Surge vs. waterboarding and Gitmo isn't remotely close. The Surge is responsible for the vastly improved situation in Iraq and for our consequentially improved situation globally. The other two are of marginal importance by comparison."
John Derbyshire of the National Review's Corner says he "will stay home rather than vote for John McCain." And Ramesh Ponnuru submits: "If he's the nominee, I actually don't think repairing relations with conservatives is going to be his biggest problem. His biggest problem is going to be the one that Romney has identified over the last few weeks—he doesn't seem to care about economics enough to have developed and internalized a compelling message on it, and he isn't a particularly credible messenger either. He may have a weakness on domestic policy as a whole. He has played a big role on some issues, but typically his interventions have not required a great deal of study. I'm not sure he can pull that off all year."
Romney supporter Hugh Hewitt thinks McCain showed his real flaws during last night's GOP debate: "McCain's best part of the day was when Rudy was talking about him, and it went down hill from there. McCain will get another assist from Arnold tomorrow or Friday, but it is hard to hide the fact that this would be a second Bob Dole campaign, with less energy and fewer conservative principles." Karl at Protein Wisdom replies that McCain bashing is nothing new; the senator's unconservative record is what cost him the GOP nomination in 2000. "On one level, I cannot help but respect McCain for not wanting to change his positions to align himself with the conservative base," he writes. "It is undoubtedly the same defiant streak that got him through the hell of the Hanoi Hilton. On the other hand, many people wish that he would at least reserve his most harsh, sneering, morally arrogant and childish rhetoric for liberals, Democrats and their subset in the media, rather than for those with whom he purports to agree with most of the time."
Uncle Jimbo at BLACKFIVE isn't a conservative or a Republican but has a word of fraternal caution to the frothing McCain haters: "So time to decide what's important to you, ideological purity or making sure we are not subjected to 8 years of President Obama. You can complain all you want about McCain's shortcomings, but how does he shape up against a true movement progressive. Obama's policies would be right at home here in the Mad City and unless Republicans field a candidate who can beat him, we will watch the socialism train travel around the country." But The Other McCain—first name Robert—responds to Uncle Jimbo, saying he doesn't think Mac is electable, and even if he were, sucks to him: "John McCain has repeatedly betrayed his loyalty to the Republican Party, disparaging its voters, its activists, its leaders, and its policies. How, then, is it possible for John McCain to turn to Republican voters and say, 'Vote for me, out of loyalty to the party?' " Bill Quick at Daily Pundit resents "the implication that those of us who don't choose to give our imprimatur to people we don't wish to see representing us are somehow 'not calm.' … I think all of the folks who get so exercised at even the notion of some of us not choosing to vote for somebody we can't abide need to chill out … Demanding a vote for is no less dictatorial than preventing a vote."
Sniper One at PA Pundits says: "If I wanted to vote for a pro-Victory democrat, I might consider McCain; however I am not voting for a democrat. I am here to vote for a Republican (capital R). McCain's latest lies about Romney have not done anything to endear McCain to me. All it proves is that he is still the same grumpy ol' man I thought he was. I've said from the beginning (pre-Surge) that I would not vote for McCain. Is this 'derangement'? I don't think so."
Michelle Malkin is pissed: "Conservatives have core concerns about McCain's trustworthiness, adherence to conservative ideology, and commitment to sovereignty that can't easily be brushed off with glib answers about being the 'straight talk' candidate. The problem is that the media chuckleheads who get to question the GOP candidates are as hostile and out of touch with the conservative base as McCain is. This monumental deficiency has been exposed repeatedly during the election-year 'debates.' "
Ross Douthat, hardly a McCain fan, points out that "one irony of the talk-radio right's antipathy to McCain is that despite all his years of deviationism, if you look at the issues he's emphasized since comprehensive immigration reform blew up in his face last year, he's actually hewed as closely as any of his rivals to the 'back to basics' line that many movement conservatives have insisted (wrongly, in my view) represents the GOP's best path forward in the wake of the '06 debacle."