Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cincy Enquirer Strongly Endorses McCain

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cincinnati Enquirer endorses McCain as GOP nominee
Last Updated: 8:37 pm Sunday, March 2, 2008

Senator charts his own course, will put campaign focus on foreign policy

With Sen. John McCain already cruising as the presumptive Republican nominee, it might seem a futile exercise to endorse him in Tuesday's Ohio primary. But remember: Just a few short weeks ago, the GOP contest appeared up for grabs, and not long before that, McCain was nowhere in the picture of likely contenders.

So we think it's worthwhile to step back and take a look at why the Arizona senator finds himself in this enviable position, why we believe this is a positive for American voters who face the task of choosing the next president, and what it portends for the fall campaign.

McCain has long enjoyed a reputation, deserved or not, as a "maverick" willing to buck his own party, to take contrarian, lonely positions, and to chart his own political course. And in a presidential year in which virtually nothing has followed the expected script, McCain's departures from the beaten path have proven, perhaps ironically, to be just what his party's mainstream voters were looking for.

This is a primary season in which GOP candidates either peaked early (Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee), didn't peak at all (Rudy Giuliani) or couldn't manage to pique anyone's interest (Fred Thompson).

McCain, in contrast, stumbled badly early in his campaign but has steadily gotten stronger since then. And as they say in sports, politics and a host of other endeavors, it's how you finish that counts.

By opposing key elements in his party on issues such as immigration and campaign reform, he's shown a penchant to tell people not what they want to hear, not what might be politically expedient for him to say, but what he believed needed to be said.

In fact, a large part of the reason his early campaign floundered was his steadfast, outspoken belief that President Bush's "surge" strategy in Iraq was the right one. It was a highly unpopular position to take, but improving situations in Iraq in recent months have at least appeared to vindicate McCain. As a result, Americans may be more willing to consider his views on how he'd handle Iraq and anti-terrorism efforts as president.

More recently, during the primary campaign in Michigan, McCain told the state's voters exactly what they didn't want to hear - that he believed the industrial jobs Michigan has lost aren't coming back, and the state should look to the future. Romney pandered to voters by vowing he'd work to bring the old jobs back, and won the state. But McCain's tough-love approach may bear out in the long run.

McCain not only has the instinct to do the right thing, but to do it with a tactical sense that could serve him well in the White House. Recently, when the New York Times published a story about his alleged relationship with a lobbyist, McCain confronted the issue quickly and strongly. He dealt with it, then moved on. He didn't overplay it.

Likewise, last week's controversial warm-up act by talk radio host Bill Cunningham at a McCain rally here brought a swift, unambiguous denunciation of Cunningham's antics from the candidate, while other GOP leaders did the wink-and-nudge.

The next day, McCain blasted a Tennessee GOP news release that, like Cunningham, was offensively disparaging toward Democratic hopeful Barack Obama.While those actions have given talk-radio circles food for outrage, they were cheered by voters of all political persuasions nationwide. And they sent a clear signal to independents and moderates that McCain believes "this has got to be a respectful debate."

McCain's personal story is compelling, of course, notably his years of unspeakable suffering as a POW in Vietnam. He is the sort of person the terribly overused word "hero" was made for. But his long and substantial career in the Senate is based on much more than that. McCain has become one of the nation's wisest voices on national security, military matters and foreign affairs.That experience should help put the fall campaign's focus right where many observers feel it should be - on the president's vital role in world affairs.

Richard Harknett, associate professor of international relations at the University of Cincinnati, wrote in an Enquirer guest column last week that the "most consequential power of the Oval Office is commander-in-chief," and that no other issue is as central to the debate over who should be president. McCain's presence should help force it to the center.

In his new book, "Hard Call: The Art of Great Decisions," McCain salutes leaders in various fields who - like him - have taken tough, contrarian stands, and he outlines the qualities he believes are present in "the best decisions and in the characters of those who make them": awareness, foresight, timing, confidence, humility and inspiration.

Whether McCain himself sufficiently possesses those qualities or has earned the opportunity to exercise them in the White House will be for the electorate to judge. But the probability that those qualities will be an integral part of the fall debate will be in large part due to the skill and perseverance John McCain has displayed - not just in this campaign, but throughout his career.

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