I’ve always admired former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum as a stand-up champion for conservative values. That’s why I was so disappointed in his over-the-top denunciation of Sen. John McCain during the primary season as “very, very dangerous” for conservatives, even indicating he could support any Republican who won the nomination with the exception of McCain.
Now that McCain will be the nominee, Santorum is singing a different tune and has even written a column explaining why conservatives should support McCain. (Ironically, one of the issues he complains about is McCain being too conservative on spending — he says McCain was a “thorn in the side” of his efforts to get “earmarks” for Pennsylvania!)
Santorum is right to strongly support McCain now. I have already made the case why it is in the best interest of our cause to enthusiastically support McCain.
But that conclusion was available to Santorum and others during the primary season, which is why conservatives who favored other primary candidates should never have said the things they were saying about McCain at that time. I never had any problem with conservative critiques of McCain or other candidates on the issues. As I’ve stated before, I agree with many of those critiques (although I thought McCain critics often turned a blind eye to the conservative failings of their own favored candidates.)
But here’s the problem — when you argue that someone is “dangerous” and would “destroy the party” and then come around later to support him, you end up looking foolish and damaging your own credibility. It has to be possible in a Republican primary to argue that your candidate is better without going to such damaging rhetorical excesses against your opponents. And we now have proof that they were in fact rhetorical excesses, because the people who launched some of these blistering attacks are now coming to the conclusion that there are some pretty good reasons to get behind Sen. McCain.
Hopefully the Santorum endorsement is a sign that conservatives are finally realizing that on our core issues of national security, the sanctity of life, judges, taxes and cutting wasteful government spending, Sen. McCain is not merely the lesser of two evils, but will in fact advance the conservative agenda in significant ways.