LENO: On conservative radio, Rush Limbaugh especially: ‘The Republican Party is dead if John McCain gets elected.’ What do you do there? Do you try to win those guys over? Do you just ignore it, hope they come around? I mean, because the right-wing radio thing is pretty powerful. I mean, would you go on his show if he invited you?
MCCAIN: I’d go on most any show if I was invited —
LENO: Well, obviously.
MCCAIN: I think the important thing is to convince our Republican base, which is a very conservative — one, I’m a conservative; two is that I am the best qualified in taking on their major concern, and that is this struggle against radical Islamic extremism. And I think I can — I’ve been able to do that pretty successfully.
RUSH: You know, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to apologize here up front because reacting to this is going to require me to be repetitive. I like to bring originality to this program, but I guess the repetition is called for. You know, Senator McCain may be conservative on one thing or two things: the war on terror, the struggle against radical Islamic extremism. See, I happen to believe, ladies and gentlemen, that if the Democrats win the White House, they are not going to surrender the country to Islamic radicalism or the war in Iraq. They are not going to do that to themselves, despite what their base says. I do not believe the notion that there’s only one candidate on any side of the aisle here that cares about the war on terror. I know that Huckabee may not be prepared for it, but you can’t convince me that Romney is going to punt the war on terror. The idea that we’ve only got one person in this whole roster of candidates, either party, that is willing to take on the war on terror is frankly absurd.
The Politico today has a piece by Jonathan Martin, and here’s the one line from it that everybody just needs to hear to know what the story is about: ‘Put simply, McCain is winning the character contest. … Conservative unease with John McCain and the Arizona senator’s inability to win support from his party’s right-wing has been much discussed and analyzed. But there is another emerging fault line in the GOP race that may better explain better why, despite his checkered past with the party base, McCain has won consecutive contests and could wrap up the nomination Tuesday.’ And that is he’s winning the character contest. I’d like to know when did character start mattering again? The character apparently didn’t matter in the nineties with Bill Clinton; it didn’t matter with the Drive-By Media, George Bush’s character has come under assault, he’s a liar, he’s this and that, and now all of a sudden character matters? They’re looking for reasons to explain this, but let’s look at the character business for a second.
John McCain has stabbed his own party in the back I can’t tell you how many times. He stabbed his own president in the back on legislation a number of times. He doesn’t support his party or his president when the chips are down. He called people who want to protect the border racists, nativists, protectionists, and worse. What kind of character is it that tries to slide all that through under cover of darkness in a back room, who I think it was McCain who said we gotta get the politics out of this issue to get it passed. Well, what does that mean? It means we can’t let the American people know what’s going on in this amnesty bill; we can’t have the usual debates; we can’t have any committee hearings. (doing McCain impression) ‘This is so important. We gotta get it through before they know what’s happening.’ A lot of character in that, isn’t there? Slides right into bed with the liberal socialists every single time they wink at him. It’s a strange way to define character.
I noticed something else going on, even out there on the right-wing media, the right-wing blogosphere. One of the arguments being made is that we are to blame. We conservatives here are to blame because we didn’t come out and support Romney early enough. Well, now, wait a minute, we can’t win for losing here. I thought we start endorsing people, that means we’re abusing our privilege here. I think what’s going on here, they’re trying to say it’s going to be our fault if McCain beats Romney. They say ‘three crucial weeks went by after January 8th that took McCain’s win in Florida to get a lot of those critics off the sidelines.’ This is happening, this is right-wing commentary, this is conservative commentary from a conservative blog. I think it’s more of the same, people not understanding what happens here, and how it happens, and what the objective of this program is.
RUSH: Yes, it’s McCain’s ‘character’ that is putting him over the top. Well, let me ask you if this is character. I’m asking you. I’m not going to try to define it for you; I’ll just ask you. Is it character when you lie about your opponent’s position on ‘timetables’ for withdrawal from Iraq, are proven to have been wrong about it and yet continue the lie? Now, that’s pretty Clintonesque, and I don’t know that we associate ‘character’ with the Clintons, but I’ll leave the question and its answer to you. Senator McCain has also lied about his reason for opposing the Bush tax cuts, and the Drive-Bys let him get away with this. His original reason was that he didn’t want to support these tax cuts without appropriate budget cuts, spending cuts. That’s not what he said at the time. No less than the Associated Press has gone out and fact-checked this. ‘In 2001, McCain said the tax cuts favored the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. In 2003, he said there should be no tax cuts until the Iraq war costs were known.’ He’s changing his position and his explanation on his position, practically every time he’s asked about this.
Frankly, folks, I don’t find it very conservative — I don’t even find it Republican — to start talking about wealthy people or hardworking entrepreneurs as somehow the problem, as the enemy that need to be punished; which he has been saying throughout this campaign. This character business is up to you to figure out. I know it stems from the prisoner-of-war period and so forth. I’ll tell you, if I could boil this down to something other than McCain and the issues, which trouble me, it is this. Do you folks understand that it is the Drive-By Media selecting our candidate? The Drive-By Media is the entity that is convincing everybody of McCain’s character, of his robust stature, of his supposed greatness in various policy things and so forth. If you want the Drive-By Media to pick your candidate on your side and your party, then fine, but understand that that’s what you’re doing. As far as what we’re being told by people on the right, I read some of our right-wing pundits, and we are being admonished. People like me being told, ‘You just need to be quiet out there. You need to grow up and you need to understand this is the best we can get, and you need to suspend your principles before Super Tuesday so as not to mess all this up.’
My question is this. You know, the Patriots were inevitable until they played the game. We are being told that we should all of a sudden now rally behind McCain, when he’s not even the nominee of the party yet — and may not be after tomorrow — in terms of the delegate count. All these geniuses in our movement and in our party are demanding that people like me announce for McCain today and join Schwarzenegger and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and on and on and on that he’s inevitable before Super Tuesday, that there’s no stopping him. ‘If you guys know what’s good for you, you’ll just suspend your principles and get on board with all of us here.’ Uh, the Patriots were inevitable…until they played the game. I happen to think, in fact, I happen to know, ladies and gentlemen, that the people on my side of this are the ones who are acting rational. The people with Senator McCain are the ones that always have to spin to say that their guy is something he isn’t. They’re always making excuses for the weaknesses that he brings, and saying, ‘They won’t matter. Don’t worry about them. Yeah, that was then; this is now. We gotta go out and beat Hillary. We have to go out and beat the Democrats.’
If some on our side say that they are endorsing Romney or whatever, then they say we’re being intellectually dishonest when we’re not. I think they’re trying to turn lemons into lemonade, and yet we’re all being lectured by people on our side about what we ought to do to come to grips with reality. If none of this matters — if ideology and principle boil down to irrelevance and not mattering — then what’s the point of having principles and ideology anyway? Here’s the difference. There are just some people that don’t hold as reverent and as important, the principles and ideology of conservatism as I do and several on my side of this. So they ask us to compromise with them. They are the establishment. They say we should put our principles and ideology on hold and be quiet and understand the reality that we face and get on board, and stop making fools of ourselves and stop being childlike and so forth and grow up and understand the reality of things. I’m sorry, but it’s just not that easy to just throw principles out the window. I’ve got 20 years in speaking to all of you of adhering to my principles and backing them up and explaining them and informing more and more people about them and bringing more and more people to them. And now all of a sudden for the sake of party unity — which doesn’t matter to me, when compared to my principles — I’m supposed to throw it out the window? Doesn’t work. That’s not me.
RUSH: We know who wants McCain, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the Drive-By Media, a number of liberal independents and moderates — and Senator McCain and those endorsing him are happy to have them join the party, as liberals and moderates. You know, I’m all for expanding the party, too, but not by changing the party into a liberal wing of the Democrat Party or a subset of it or the minor leagues of the Democrat Party. You want to bring some liberals in, some independents? Do it, but not by being like them, and that’s what’s happening out there, and we’re going to rue the day. We’re going to rue the day. David Frum. He’s a blogger. He’s an author, former speechwriter for Bush. He’s aboard on this, but he was on Chatsworth Osborne, Jr.’s show on PMSNBC last week, and he said this about Senator McCain. These are not my words. These are his. ‘McCain has made it very clear over the last half-dozen years: He does not love the Republican Party. He’ll put up with it. He’ll tolerate it. If they will follow him he will consent to lead them. But he does not love this party, and the party knows it. Plus there are the substantive issues, of which immigration is far and away the most important; it is a hugely important issue. …
‘McCain doesn’t just try to explain to the party why he disagrees. His method is to explain to the party why not only does he disagree, but they are racist and wrong and stupid for thinking the way they do, and people never like’ to be told they’re racists when they’re not, and they don’t like to be told they’re stupid when they’re not. And then this: David Frum said, McCain is ‘not interested in the project of saving conservatism in the Republican Party.’ He’s not really trying to save the party. ‘He is really trying to build a personal movement with the Republican Party as its vehicle.’ David Frum. I’d go a little bit farther. I think McCain has an animus toward the Republican Party. I think ever since South Carolina 2000 he’s had it in for the Republican Party, and one of his objectives is to destroy it and change it — and I think this is one of the reasons why so many people in Drive-By Media and so many liberal independents love the guy, because they too hate the Republican Party! He has far more in common with those people than he does with his own party members. (sigh) It’s just the way it is, folks. Up to you to do with it whatever you choose.