Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Regarding a McCain speech on judges, The Hill says:

McCain courts right wing

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will launch a new push Tuesday to ingratiate himself with social conservatives....

Seeking to overcome the right’s persistent mistrust, McCain will speak Tuesday on the importance of nominating conservative jurists to the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

Er, OK -- except for one thing:

Conservatives ... are ... upset over his role in the bipartisan Gang of 14 senators who struck a deal in 2005 that was seen on the right to preserve Democrats’ power to filibuster judicial nominees.

So what was McCain saying ijust before delivering the speech?

McCain brought up the "Gang of 14" saga unprompted at a town hall here, in advance of a major speech on judicial appointments he is set to deliver tomorrow in Winston-Salem.

"I know what bipartisanship is," McCain said. "I am going to talk tomorrow again about our Gang of 14: seven Republicans, seven Democrats that got together rather than blow up the Senate, and we confirmed so many federal judges."

And then what was the speech about?

There is no mention of abortion, or of same-sex marriage, or of most any particular question that the court has had to decide (two exceptions: the Kelo decision and Newdow.) Instead, McCain casts himself as a defender of judicial nominee and the Democratic presidential candidates as advocates of "judicial activism." The only backdating McCain engages is in when he defends his votes in favor of justices Breyer and Ginsberg (they were qualified; no need to throw food at Democrats just for the sake of throwing food) and then the Gang of 14 (which resulted in the confirmation of Roberts and Alito).

So it sounds as if he isn't courting the right wing. Or he's courting the right wing in a very odd way, by invoking the Gang of 14 (which they hate even though it helped accomplish a right-wing goal), and by invoking Breyer and Ginsberg (whom they also presumably hate), and by not throwing right-wingers all the red meat they crave.

No, he's not talking to conservatives. And he's not really talking to swing voters. (Judicial nominations? If there's such a thing as a "cold-button issue" for swing voters, one that really doesn't motivate them at all, this is it.)

He's talking (of course) to his base -- the press. He wants the press to ask Barack Obama, "If you're so darn post-partisan, why weren't you in the Gang of 14 like that nice bipartisan maverick John McCain?" He's not expecting voters to care about the issue per se -- he's expecting them to react to, say, Tim Russert calling Obama a big liberal phony.

I'm not sure he'll get the public reaction he's hoping for -- but I do think the press will do just what he wants, like an obedient dog.

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