Hate the Spending, Love the Spenders


Time to check in on the implosion of John McCain's presidential bid. He's explaining to CBN why he dissed a Club for Growth event:

Ronald Reagan taught me the 11th Commandment, and that is you don't speak ill of other Republicans.

That's right—you engage in "straight talk" about other Republicans. A crucial difference!

The reason we don't have a majority in the Senate today was the attacks the Club for Growth made on Lincoln Chafee, the senator from Rhode Island, a liberal Republican senator who would have voted for Mitch McConnell to be majority leader of the Senate.

A week or so ago, McCain had an entirely different explanation for the loss of the Senate.

I think the Republican Party lost because of our failure to control spending and earmarking, which then led to corruption, which then led to members of Congress going to jail.

If that's true, might Chafee have lost support because of his big-spending tendencies—the ones Club for Growth-backed challenger Steve Laffey was challenging? Or might Sen. Conrad Burns, the Montanan who spent the 2006 campaign bragging about his pork-wrangling skills, be a better target for McCain? This "straight talk" thing, it confuses me.

They have continuously attacked Republicans who they don't agree with. I believe in a big tent party. I believe there's room for someone from Rhode Island who may not agree with everything I agree with, but I still want them in the Republican party.

This is bunk; no politician believes this. McCain's goal, if he's honest, would be to produce a large Republican majority that agrees with him. If he doesn't care if apostates on spending and taxes (and from his perspective, war) hold swing votes in the GOP, he must not care very much about spending and taxes.

That's not the case with the Club for Growth. So I'm not sure what the Club for Growth and I have really in common.

Well, McCain claims to have learned from Ronald Reagan. Reagan challenged an incumbent president, Gerald Ford, because he wanted to pivot the direction of the party (and the country) in what he thought was the right direction. The Club for Growth wants to do the same thing. So, yeah, I don't know what the Club and McCain have in common.

That said, this is an interview with CBN. McCain's probably just telling the evangelical audience "I don't hate you guys anymore, my ire is directed elsewhere." Clever.

I profiled the Club late last year.

NEXT: Radicals for Capitalism Hits the Capital: Cato Institute Book Forum, with E.J. Dionne, Thursday March 22

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  1. Dave,

    I think your thesis is bunk.

    I’m glad Heath Schuler and Bob Casey ran and won as Democrats. I’m glad to have them in my party.

    EVEN THOUGH I disagree with them on abortion, I still want people like that to run as and vote for Democrats, not Republicans.

  2. Is it just me, or is the CFG practically these days? Seems like whenever I forget to turn off CNBC at the market close up pops Stephen Moore like clockwork (usually on Larry Kudlow’s show).

    Did they get some massive bequeathed gift? In any case, hooray.

  3. is the CFG practically these days?

    David Rollins,

    Practically what? Everywhere?

  4. As far as I know, Chafee’s stand on taxes and spending was pretty much in line with McCain’s; he believed in a balanced budget and did not want to see tax cuts that would result in a bigger deficit.

    That said, he did not seem to particularly care about offsetting the tax cuts with spending cuts. When I lived in Providence I would regularly get an email from the senator touting all the federal spending he was channeling towards R.I.

  5. “practically everywhere”, I meant to say. Dave had a nice profile of their fundraising efforts; I think CFG will get some of my money this year that would otherwise go to Cato (disclosure: others include Inst. for Justice, Inst. for Humane Studies, ACLU, Cato, Planned Parenthood, and the NRA).

  6. I thought the 11th Commandment was Don’t get caught.

  7. I knew I’d heard that Reagan reference recently – from Cheney’s interview in Newsweek a few weeks back (link in name)
    NW: “So you don’t think Senator Hagel-and now you dodged completely responding to his comments-but they’re not helpful to the cause and to the mission?”

    Cheney: “Let’s say I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But it’s very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved.”

    Why is it that referencing that phrase always seems to precede an attack on a fellow Republican? Does invoking Reagan’s name earn you a moment of blamelessness?

    Also, David, a quick question. (If you’re not a big defender or don’t want to answer, no hard feelings.) I’m looking at charities for the year, and in light of the recent NRA combativeness towards the DC case, I’m really not seeing them being on the list. Did they ever offer up a reason for that? Is there a better case to be made for them than just doubling my money to the ACLU?

  8. Thanks for clarifying, David Rollins.
    Nice list of organizations, btw.

  9. I’m pretty sure that both of McCain’s theories on why the GOP lost are correct. If fact, they seem to be the same thing. If GOP control is the goal of GOP politics, then the CFG picked the wrong election to hack away at the GOP. The CFG took shots at Chafee because they believe he sucks, and they might be right, and they contributed to the downfall of the GOP.

  10. I’m not crazy about funding the NRA vs. Gun Owners of America in light of some of their positions, but in this case I have entirely selfish reasons — my local gun club was the recipient of $4000 worth of shotguns to be used in youth shooting education, courtesy of the NRA Foundation. All of the board members of the gun club were thus urged to chip in $270 to attend the annual “Friends of the NRA” banquet, so I relented.

    Besides, there’s a 1-in-10 chance I’ll win a Kimber .45 auto carry, which I need to replace my Taurus .357 revolver. (The Taurus is my everyday carry gun, but it hurts my hand too much to practice with.)

  11. I wish I had an everyday carry gun.

  12. joe:

    Anything to keep Schuler off the gridiron is jake with me, too. So how do you feel about Webb?

  13. I believe in a big tent party. I believe there’s room for someone from Rhode Island who may not agree with everything I agree with, but I still want them in the Republican party.

    Yeah. And once he’s elected he’ll take care of all those different beliefs by passing laws against following them.

  14. David,

    Thanks for the honesty – I think I’ll hold out for swag myself, too. 🙂

  15. DAR,

    Webb seems to have his head on straight.

  16. Lamar: I think you’re right. McCain seems to be assuming that the Club For Growth is nothing more than an arm of the Republican Party and should raise money, fall into line, and attack whomever the Republican Party points them at. Wouldn’t that be the kind of plausibly-deniable-soft-money-spending he is always claiming to be opposed to?

    It’s just possible the CFG is targeting incumbents for its own reasons, which may or may not dovetail with those of the GOP, and GOP hacks will have to earn their support along with that of any other PAC.

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