McCain to Social Conservatives: No Soup for You!


John McCain today gave a big speech to describe what the United States would look like in 2013, after four years of a McCain presidency. Boldly and confidently peering into that future, McCain sees that “the Iraq war has been won” and that “Iraq is a functioning democracy.” The threat from the Taliban has been “greatly reduced,” and Osama bin Laden has been captured or killed. Iran and North Korea no longer hold nuclear ambitions. Sudan is at peace. The United States economy is growing robustly. Government spending has been cut. New free trade agreements have led to prosperity at home and abroad. Public education is “much improved.” Health care “has become more accessible to more Americans.” The threat from global warming has declined. The border is secured. There have been no terrorist attacks against the United States.

In other words, a fairy tale.

In this address, McCain does not explain how he has managed to orchestrate all these miracles. It’s nothing but a wish list. And in the news coverage of the speech, the media have focused on McCain’s quasi-promise to win the Iraq war and withdraw most U.S. troops by 2013–which is certainly easier said than done. But what’s most interesting about this speech is what’s not in it: abortion and gay marriage.

Regarding these two top issues for social conservatives–many of whom have long been wary of McCain–the presumptive Republican nominee says nary a word. Looking into his crystal ball, he envisions no outlawing of abortion or gay marriage during his years in the White House. He doesn’t even foresee an effort to do anything on these fronts. The closest he comes to addressing the priorities of the fundamentalist right is to note the appointment (and confirmation!) of federal judges “who understand that they were not sent there to write our laws but to enforce them.” This is, of course, code language for judges willing to overturn Roe v. Wade and to hold the line against gay marriage. But McCain’s de rigueur right-wing boilerplate hardly substitutes for a vision of a McCain-governed America in which abortion is criminalized and gay marriage banned across the land.

Any self-respecting social conservative should be enraged. On a day when the California Supreme Court has overturned the gay marriage ban, McCain’s speech is insult added to injury. It goes to show that those leaders of the religious right who were suspicious of McCain were right to fret that McCain was only a fair-weather–that is, primary season–friend. In his future, their chief concerns are not even worth mentioning.

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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.