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Commentary: Conservatives' hatred of McCain makes no sense

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  • Roland S. Martin: Conservative' opposition to Sen. John McCain "silly"
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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(CNN) -- Listening to the irrational and hysterical response of conservatives to the presidential candidacy of Sen. John McCain would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.


Roland S. Martin says some conservatives are opposed to Sen. John McCain's run to the presidency.

During a debate Tuesday on CNN's "The Situation Room," conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck said that the Republican Party has lost its soul, and McCain is indicative of that problem. He even said that if Sen. Hillary Clinton is the nominee, he will ignore McCain and cast a ballot for her.

Now, how silly is that?

Looking at the exit polls from Super Tuesday, McCain did well in some states with conservative voters, but he continues to run strong among moderates and independents. He clearly has a lot of work to do to shore up this important constituent in the party.

Let's be clear -- conservatives don't like McCain. But with conservatives one seat away from having a majority on the Supreme Court and the next president having the power to name up to three justices, do you actually think the folks who've fought two generations to re-take the Court actually want to see three Clinton jurists?

This, folks, is bordering on the irrational.

It all revolves around this desperate desire to find the new Ronald Reagan. He is the conservative icon. However as conservative Bill Bennett told me Tuesday night during one of our breaks in Super Tuesday coverage, Ronald Reagan wasn't always Ronald Reagan. His positions on taxes and gays evolved.

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But don't tell that to conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who have vowed to destroy McCain because he doesn't carry their water on every issue. Most issues? Yes. But they require their politicians to assume a fetal position, not to have a backbone and stand up to them when needed.

McCain is a guy who is fiercely pro-life. That's a pretty important issue for the conservatives. He is strong on the military and being a former Vietnam prisoner of war sure doesn't hurt. When Republicans got weak-kneed over the surge in Iraq, McCain stood tall and proclaimed that it will work.

The guy is a fiscal conservative who abhors the spending that has taken place during the presidency of George W. Bush and the Congress under Republican rule. Yes, he voted against the first two Bush tax cuts. But as he said, when you don't have spending limits with tax cuts, you blow up the federal deficit, and we are a weaker nation today because Republicans acted like a teenager with Mom and Dad's credit card.

What you will hear from conservatives is that he has co-sponsored legislation with several Democrats, including former Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman. Of course, I crack up laughing because conservative talkers have a love affair with Lieberman yet they rip McCain apart for trying to actually accomplish something in a bipartisan manner.

What they seem to be most angry about is that McCain teamed up with Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold to move through a law that severely restricted the dollars in federal elections. This angered conservatives because they viewed the issue as a First Amendment cause. In fact, they really were upset about the GOP losing a major advantage over the Democrats when it came to fundraising. With that window narrowed by the law, they didn't want to see that advantage disappear. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down some parts of the law, but that still hasn't satisfied the money vultures on the right.

Lastly, there's the immigration debate.

In an effort to exercise leadership on a volatile issue, McCain chose not to be a demagogue and work out a compromise bill that would curtail the nation's unsecured borders, while figuring out a way to deal with the 12 million illegal immigrants already here. If you talk to the rabid conservative talk show hosts and their wild and angry listeners, their only option is to throw these immigrants out of the country. In former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, they have a very sympathetic ear.

But we all know the truth. That will never happen. Never.

So instead of drooling at such prospects, McCain worked with Democrats and some Republicans to offer a solution, which included making illegal immigrants learn English, pay a fine, force them to get in line for citizenship while targeting businesses that hire them.

Yet, the anger in America was too great. Whites, blacks, some Hispanics, conservatives, and even liberals couldn't stomach doing this first and not securing the borders.

Folks, McCain is a pragmatic leader trying to solve a difficult situation.

Conservatives will do anything to stop him, with some even suggesting -- especially evangelicals -- that they might run a third-party candidate.

Word to the wise: Shut up, suck it up and deal with it.

If McCain wins the nomination, he is the best option the GOP has to stopping the candidacies of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University, and he is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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