I have been on Capitol Hill and haven't had time to watch it. But I have read it and it struck me as a stirring, honest, forthright and properly conservative speech. I am relieved that in the important debate about the war, McCain is unbowed but civil. I'm eager for a McCain-Obama contest this fall in part because I admire the integrity of both men and in part because I think it's vital that this country have a candid, clear, open, factual, empirical debate about the war in Iraq. McCain did not engage in the shameful divisiveness of Romney. He framed the debate in a more responsible and civil fashion:
Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will withdraw our forces from Iraq based on an arbitrary timetable designed for the sake of political expediency, and which recklessly ignores the profound human calamity and dire threats to our security that would ensue.
I intend to win the war, and trust in the proven judgment of our commanders there and the courage and selflessness of the Americans they have the honor to command. I share the grief over the terrible losses we have suffered in its prosecution. There is no other candidate for this office who appreciates more than I do just how awful war is. But I know that the costs in lives and treasure we would incur should we fail in Iraq will be far greater than the heartbreaking losses we have suffered to date. And I will not allow that to happen.
I don't think it's fair to describe Obama's position on the war - which he took when it was unpopular - as a function of political expediency. Despite myself, I actually think Clinton's positions on the war have in general been responsible ones based on the evidence in front of her. Nonetheless, McCain's challenge to his opponents is a lot better than Romney's accusing them of wanting to surrender to terror. And it is always good to hear a conservative invoke Burke. I wonder how many people at CPAC have even heard of him. For me, this was the best passage:
I began by assuring you that we share a conception of liberty that is the bedrock of our beliefs as conservatives. As you know, I was deprived of liberty for a time in my life, and while my love of liberty is no greater than yours, you can be confident that mine is the equal of any American's. It is a deep and unwavering love.
The Republicans are lucky to have a man of McCain's caliber. And it says something about the state of American conservatism that they do not recognize it.
(Photo: Kevin Cox/Getty.)