The latest clown to dance through the hall is Senator John McCain of Arizona, who entertained the nation and quite befuddled much of its political class with his antics during the presidential primaries last winter. Prior to his victory in New Hampshire over Texas Governor George W. Bush, most observers predicted he would indeed win there but nowhere else, though no one anticipated a McCain victory as smashing as the one he actually pulled off. But no sooner had the Arizona solon won in New Hampshire than an entire regiment of journalists and commentators fell into a swoon. Mr. McCain beat Mr. Bush by an impressive 18 percentage points in New Hampshire, and by the following day, some pundits -- namely neo-conservative chatterbox Bill Kristol -- had glimpsed nothing less than the bright dawn of political revolution.- Sam Francis. "A New Majority?" Chronicles June, 2000.
Writing in The Washington Post the very day after the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Kristol announced that "It is John McCain and Bill Bradley who each now have a chance that occurs only once a generation -- to articulate a new governing agenda for a potential new majority." So much for the prophetic insights of Mr. Kristol, but while he was almost unique in thinking Bill Bradley could shatter the Clinton-Gore juggernaut, he was by no means alone in trumpeting what Mr. McCain was about to accomplish. A few days later his fellow neo-conservative Charles Krauthammer also started booming Mr. McCain, assuring us that although Mr. Bush was "more reliably conservative," it was Mr. McCain who was the sure winner. To the neo-con mind, of course, that pretty much clinched it. Why the hell would anyone support a candidate he actually agrees with on principles when he can go with an alternative who's sure to grab the power? "The question for Republicans," the intrepid Krauthammer assured us, "is not who will make the better president but who is more likely to be president." The sentence perfectly reveals the immense gulf that gapes between the different mentalities of conservatives and neo-conservatives. I, of course, cannot speak for Republicans, but for most serious people on the political right, (and indeed most who are serious on the left) the real question is how to turn the man who would make the better president into the man most likely to be president.