View From Lodi, CA: The Internet Could Defeat McCain In November
February 08, 2008, 04:00 AM
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Super Tuesday was a rough day for Lodi Republicans.

The News-Sentinel reported that turn out was sparse. In the early afternoon at my polling place, I was the only voter in sight. [Voting Is Smooth but Sparse In Lodi, By Layla Bohm, Lodi News-Sentinel, February 6, 2008]

As I see it, the problem is that Lodi, a Republican stronghold, faced a tough choice. A vote for the frontrunner and eventual California primary winner John McCain is an endorsement for President George W. Bush.

McCain supports the Iraq War and promises to stay in Iraq for a hundred years if necessary. And McCain, on domestic policy, agrees with Bush that illegal aliens should be amnestied.

But no matter how staunchly Lodians may have supported Bush in 2000 and 2004, the Republican faithful who now disagree with him on the war and immigration have slowly but surely fallen away.

Voters like to support winners. But what are they to do when the probable winner endorses policies they don't agree with? The best thing is to stay home.

The Republican conservative wing—the largest portion of the party—has no love lost for McCain.

Among its complaints are that McCain has little regard for his fellow Republicans as demonstrated in his vulgarity-laced exchange this summer with fellow Senator John Cornyn during a debate about immigration.

As Jessica Echard, executive director of the conservative organization Eagle Forum said about the enigma that McCain represents: "We're in a political dilemma, as well as a personal dilemma. What will we do? What can be done?" [McCain Gets His Party's Cold Shoulder, By Stephanie Simon and DeeDee Correll, Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2008]

Republican options include uniting behind McCain, pressuring him to change his policies, demanding that he immediately name an unquestionably conservative running mate or, as Lodians may have done on in the primary, sit it out.

Assuming that McCain gets the Republican nomination, things will quickly turn from interesting to fascinating. The Democrats have the war issue on their side. But its leading candidate, Hillary Clinton, has more negatives than any other contender—with the possible exception of McCain.

One of the tools McCain uses most effectively to promote himself is his status as a "war hero." But many, including fellow Vietnam veterans, challenge that. And a whole host of other documented McCain negatives are widely reported on the World Wide Web but ignored in the print media.

The Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, a site organized and managed by Vietnam veteran and POW/MIA advocate Jerry Kiley, has accumulated background material from unimpeachable sources that could affect the outcome of November's election.

Among the most surprising charge against McCain is that his fellow Vietnam veterans do not universally respect him. Col. David H. Hackworth, who won 78 combat awards during his 25 years of military service including three Silver Stars for his service in Korea and another seven Silver Stars for action in Vietnam, was skeptical as to the merits of McCain's war hero status. While not questioning McCain's capture and torture, Hackworth wondered if the media has spun it beyond what it really is.[ Are McCain's Handlers Playing The Wrong Card?, January 25, 2008]

McCain's success or failure may depend on the internet's effectiveness in getting out the Senator's full but largely undisclosed story to the electorate.

Republicans will have to sort out for themselves which McCain is the real one.

But on a political level, as voters debate whether McCain is a conservative or not, the answer may lie in McCain's endorsement by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, two of the nation's most liberal newspapers.

No conservative Republican could ever get the backing of such Democratic-leaning sources.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.