John McCain has ambitious goals. His speech on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, outlining
what he hopes America
and the world look like after his first term as president, was outstanding in
The war in Iraq would be essentially settled, Afghanistan would
be under control, the genocide in Darfur would be ended, Iran and North Korea
would have given up their nuclear ambitions with the help of China and Russia,
public education would be vastly improved, health care would be more
accessible, our border would be secure, entitlement reform would be well under
way, a flat tax option would have been implemented, and childhood obesity would
be on the decline as a result of healthier foods in our schools. And this is
just the half of it.
If President McCain achieves the vision he laid out in Ohio, it is very likely there will be many McCain
monuments in Washington
to honor the man. In fact, McCain won't serve his second term in Washington
D.C. Term two will be served in McCain, D.C. Politicians of both parties will immediately
begin chattering excitedly about McCain's third term made possible by a
constitutional amendment eliminating presidential term limits so John McCain
can be President-for-life.
Now, I think McCain will make a very good president with the
potential of being a great one. Still, to achieve half of what he laid out
seems not only improbable, but closer to impossible. His Pollyannaish speech
was rich on vision but lacking in crucial detail.
The truth is presidents usually can only accomplish a few
major projects during their presidency. This will be especially true for John
McCain since he will likely face a hostile House and Senate overwhelmingly
controlled by Democrats. As McCain correctly noted in the speech, he has proved
he can reach across the aisle to get things done during his time in the Senate,
but there is only so much aisle crossing one can do in pursuit of their goals
without sacrificing their key principles. One suspects that President McCain
will find that out quickly.
But any president has a grace period and political capital
they can use, which gives them the ability to get a few key projects
implemented. The three issues McCain should focus on are defeating (or greatly
setting back) radical Islam, setting America on the path to energy
independence and creating entitlement reform to make our future sustainable. If
McCain can accomplish these three tasks during his presidency, Mount Rushmore may have to make room for one more face.
most pressing foreign policy challenge is the threat posed by radical Islam.
Defeating this threat (or greatly setting it back) actually entails a subset of
challenges, each of which arguably could be a major goal in and of itself.
These include bringing the Iraq War to a successful conclusion, preventing Iran from creating a nuclear weapon, stabilizing
Al-Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan
and preventing it from setting up any new safe havens.
must also continue to actively capture and kill as many terrorists as possible
and target terrorist financing around the world. These are momentous challenges
for sure. But so was the idea of winning the Cold War in the 1980s before
Ronald Reagan accomplished it.
There is much support, at least rhetorically, on Capitol
Hill for the idea of American energy independence. Unfortunately, Democrats
stymie progress by preventing American oil companies from exploring for oil off
America's coasts and in Alaska. Whether or not
such exploration will do much to make us energy-independent is a serious
question. Nonetheless, if American companies want to invest in energy
exploration in America,
our policy should be supportive of their efforts.
What we really need is some great technological innovation
that will allow us to lessen our dependence on oil. It's been said many times
before, but becoming energy independent should be our generation's "man on
the moon" goal. We need to make this national priority number one not just
rhetorically, but substantively.
Finally, entitlement reform is crucial for the well being of
We simply cannot sustain our commitments to Social Security and Medicare as
they currently stand. It is a difficult issue with powerful interests for
maintaining the status quo. President McCain must explain to the American
people the situation we are in and why modifications are necessary for our
Of course, before President McCain can start working on
these issues he actually has to be elected president. This entails promising
many things on the campaign trail that he as president likely will not be able
to accomplish, even if his intentions are pure.
But if John McCain is elected president and works
assiduously to successfully accomplish the three objectives outlined above –
or, at least, put us on the path to accomplishing those goals – Americans will
owe him a great debt of gratitude and forever remember him as one of our