In "As McCain Wins, Critics on the Right Look Again," David Kirkpatrick's Friday' Page One story,he looked at conservatives who are taking a wary second lookat moderate Republican and frontrunner John McCain, who has a reasonably conservative voting record but seems to delight in breaking with conservatives on high-profile issues like Abu Ghraib and global warming. Kirkpatrick, who appears to be back on the conservative beat for the paper, provided useful information about how some activists are either taking a second look at McCain's candidacy, or perhaps just bowing to the seemingly inevitable.
It's always fun to count the number of times a form of the term "conservative " is employed in one of Kirkpatrick's stories. This time he gets 13 in (not including quoted material or organization titles) plus four references to those "on the right" (headline included) in an 1,150-word story. That's actually an improvement over his usual ratio.
"Senator John McCain has long aroused almost unanimous opposition from the leaders of the right. Accusing him of crimes against conservative orthodoxy like voting against a big tax cut and opposing a federal ban on same-sex marriage, conservative activists have agitated for months to thwart his Republican presidential primary campaign.
"That, however, was before he emerged this week as the party's front-runner.
"Since his victory in the Florida primary, the growing possibility that Mr. McCain may carry the Republican banner in November is causing anguish to the right. Some, including James C. Dobson and Rush Limbaugh, say it is far too late for forgiveness.
"But others, faced with the prospect of either a Democrat sitting in the White House or a Republican elected without them, are beginning to look at Mr. McCain's record in a new light.
"'He has moved in the right direction strongly and forcefully on taxes,' said Grover Norquist, an antitax organizer who had been the informal leader of conservatives against a McCain nomination, adding that he had been talking to Mr. McCain's 'tax guys' for more than a year.
"Tony Perkins, a prominent Christian conservative who has often denounced Mr. McCain, is warming up to him, too."
"Many on the right, though, say Mr. McCain has a lot of explaining to do. Not only did he vote against President Bush's tax cuts and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Mr. McCain has also supported embryonic stem cell research and stricter environmental regulation. He fought for looser immigration rules. He championed campaign finance rules that many on the right consider a violation of free speech. And he made a deal with Democrats to break a deadlock on judicial nominations that many on the right considered near treasonous."
"Near treasonous"? That might be exaggerating just a bit.
"Anger over that deal flared up again this week when a Wall Street Journal columnist, John Fund, reported that Mr. McCain had privately criticized Mr. Bush's Supreme Court nominee Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. because 'he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.'"
Are conservatives the only folks to get "angry" over issues? The Times' coverage makes it seem that way.
The Times chose a photo of Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land to go above the text in the online version (it's only one of seven photos featured on the jump page of the print edition), and the caption included this crack about Rush Limbaugh.
"When I hear Rush Limbaugh say that a McCain nomination would destroy the Republican Party, what I want to say to Rush is, 'You need to get out of the studio more and talk to real people.'"
Indeed, the favorite part of McCain's rise among much of the liberal media is the implication that if McCain is rising, then Limbaugh's influence must be waning. Kirkpatrick devotes four paragraphs to Limbaugh's criticism of McCain.