I read about this a few days ago from John Fund, but it was so stunning at the time, and seemed a little lacking in original sourcing, that I held off on saying anything.
But now Robert Novak has come out and said pretty much the same thing.
Here's what Fund said on Jan. 28:
Mr. McCain bruised his standing with conservatives on the issue when in 2005 he became a key player in the so-called gang of 14, which derailed an effort to end Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees. More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because "he wore his conservatism on his sleeve."
McCain, of course, denied this; it doesn't fit well with his new "conservative" motif.
But Novak apparently walked the cat back to a first hand source:
I found what McCain could not remember: a private, informal chat with conservative Republican lawyers shortly after he announced his candidacy in April 2007. I talked to two lawyers who were present whom I have known for years and who have never misled me. One is neutral in the presidential race, and the other recently endorsed Mitt Romney. Both said they were not Fund's source, and neither knew I was talking to the other. They gave me nearly identical accounts, as follows:
"Wouldn't it be great if you get a chance to name somebody like Roberts and Alito?" one lawyer commented. McCain replied, "Well, certainly Roberts." Jaws were described as dropping. My sources cannot remember exactly what McCain said next, but their recollection is that he described Alito as too conservative.
Rush Limbaugh has been making a lot to do the past couple of days about how, though NONE of the remaining GOP contenders are solid conservatives, the state of conservatism is fine and dandy. Limbaugh says so on the basis that all of these guys are claiming to be conservative; in other words, they acknowledge what the GOP standard is, they want to claim that mantle, they acknowledge what they should be...even if they aren't.
There is some validity to Rush's analysis here, but I'm afraid I can't be as optimistic about the state and future of conservatism as he.
What does it say about the GOP and/or conservative voter base if they can be so easily fooled by charlatans like McCain, Huckabee, and even the lately-converted Romney? What does that say about the powers of observation, or the powers of discernment, or the informed status of GOP voters?
To me, it's a sad state of affairs when all the conservatives drop out of the GOP primary first, and with the exception of Giuliani, all the front runners are liberals, suspiciously "recent converts" to conservatism, or, in the case of Ron Paul (who isn't a front-runner, but a hanger-on), so liberal on Iraq and the war on terrorism that he'd be dangerous in the White House.
That tells me either the average GOP voter has lost a few dozen IQ points in recent years, or they're supporting candidates out of blind ignorance, or they are so scared of Hillary Clinton that they'll abandon their principles if that's what it takes to beat her.
If I'm right about any or all of those, it doesn't bode well for the future of conservatism. Conservatism as a philosophy or ideology remains intact and unrefuted, but if the adherents and defenders of conservatism are incapable of defending and propelling the philosophy, it doesn't have much of a future in a culture where the elites and media apparatus have it vastly outgunned.
HT to the American Spectator blog.