As the two major party presidential choices get closer to announcing their Vice Presidential selections, John McCain is coming under a lot of fire from various quarters about his possible choices and allegiances. McCain has always been suspected of being less conservative than his record would indicate, and recent actions have made the far right and religious conservatives increasingly nervous about his intentions.
First he enraged pro-life conservatives by letting his staff leak the news that pro-choice moderate Tom Ridge was a top contender for the VP slot. This prompted the reprehensible Richard Viguerie to issue a an open letter to McCain which said:
Your apparent interest in selecting a running mate who is out of sync ideologically with the vast majority of conservatives reinforces the image of the Republican Party as a party without principle and dedicated to one proposition above all others – the seeking, acquiring, obtaining, and holding onto power.
Making very clear as a self-appointed spokesman for moralistic conservatives that any more moderate running mate would be unacceptable to at least his small faction, even if his grandiose claim that the vast majority of conservatives share his views may be overstated.
In his letter, Viguerie also restates the fear that McCain might pick his politically confused ally, Senator Joe Lieberman, as a running mate to expand his centrist base. McCain has given very little indication that he would do this, but he has certainly been accepting of Lieberman's support and has now gone even further by offering Lieberman a speaking slot at the Republican Convention, presumably hoping to repeat the devastating impact of Zell Miller's appearance four years ago.
These developments raise a lot of questions about McCain's choices and allegiances, not just for extremists like Viguerie, but also for mainstream Republicans who want to see McCain make a good choice for the Vice Presidency. McCain's continued reliance on Joe Lieberman may be excusable, so long as it is purely a case of using Lieberman for political advantage to suck up as many Democrat and independent votes as possible and then throwing him away. Almost everyone in the Republican party hates Lieberman. He's too conservative for Republican moderates, too much of a statist and imperialist for libertarian Republicans, and apparently Viguerie and his friends on the religious right hate him too, though I can't figure out exactly why. Lieberman's main value is that he really irritates the far left, and that makes him a rallying point for political moderates who are more reactive than analytical. Yet, any reliance on Lieberman raises the ever-present specter that Lieberman might have some ongoing role in a McCain administration and no one finds that idea very appealing.