John McCain clearly the best in GOP primary

January 12, 2008 

State of State

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pauses while speaking to reporters during a visit to a polling station in St. Petersburg, Fla.,Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, on the morning of Florida's Republican Presidential Primary. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

CHARLES DHARAPAK — AP

- The State editorial board's GOP presidential primary endorsement

FOR SOUTH CAROLINA, and to some extent for the nation, the choice among Republican candidates for president has come down to two men.

First Rudy Giuliani, then Mitt Romney looked at political realities and fled the Palmetto State, deciding their priorities lay elsewhere. Fred Thompson seems to be running in this first-in-the-South primary just to say he did. Ron Paul keeps on being Ron Paul, former nominee of the Libertarian Party.

The two remaining contenders here happen to be the two strongest candidates — Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Gov. Huckabee is an exciting newcomer who shows a wonderful ability to connect with voters’ concerns, and Republicans could do far worse than to choose him. But his utter lack of knowledge of foreign affairs is unsettling.

It’s not just about Iraq and Afghanistan. As freshly demonstrated by the incident involving U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz last week and the assassination earlier of the opposition leader in the world’s most volatile democracy (which possesses nuclear weapons, and shelters Osama bin Laden), our commander in chief will need a far broader and deeper understanding of our relationship to the world than on-the-job training can adequately provide.

Clearly, the best Republican candidate to lead our nation at this time is U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He has the necessary experience, not just in time served, but in the quality of understanding he exhibits across the board.

The value of his experience is multiplied by his integrity and independence. He is a slave to no ideology or faction. Not only will he work with anyone who wants to do the right thing anytime, he is usually the driving force at the head of coalitions to get the job done — from the Gang of 14 that broke Senate gridlock and paved the way for the confirmation of conservative judges to his principled leadership on campaign finance reform. He knew the political risk he took leading the quest for a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration, but he believed securing our borders was too important a priority not to try.

He is deeply respected by his colleagues in both parties, despite the fact that, as he jokes, he has never sought the “Miss Congeniality” title. No one is as likely as he to fight, expose and defeat waste, fraud or corruption.

Experience, certainly. Integrity, even more so. But John McCain’s most conspicuous virtue is courage. He is a brave and tough man who unlike some candidates has no need to bluster, but is able to speak with humility and generosity to those with whom he disagrees. A McCain presidency would do much to restore confidence in American leadership, at home and abroad.

There is of course the extraordinary physical and moral courage that he displayed as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, where he withstood nightmarish torture for years rather than let his country or his comrades down. But he also possesses the kind of political fortitude that keeps him from giving up on any worthwhile quest. He evinces a wisdom born in pain, a confidence earned in many battles. When others despair, John McCain knows he has seen worse, and keeps striding forward.

For much of the past year, his candidacy was dismissed, his support depleted, his coffers empty. He kept on, and gradually won the doubters back to his cause.

More to the point, consider the wisdom and courage he has displayed with regard to our nation’s struggle in Iraq. For four years, he was nearly alone in his insistent criticism of the Bush administration for sending too few troops to quell the violence. When the president finally adopted the McCain approach a year ago, the senator lent Gen. David Petraeus his unwavering support at a time when so many in both major parties either thought he was wrong, or simply lacked the courage to stand with him. He was right all along.

John McCain has shown more clearly than anyone on the American political scene today that he loves his country, and would never mislead or dishonor it. He is almost unique in his determination to do what is right, whatever the cost. And he usually has a clear vision of what’s right.

So it is that we confidently and enthusiastically endorse John McCain for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

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