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Limbaugh's McCain Derangement Syndrome

11:19 PM, Feb 4, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Over the past few weeks, Rush Limbaugh has emerged as the conservative movement's most prominent casualty of McCain Derangement Syndrome. Yesterday his condition deteriorated further:

On Mr. Limbaugh's program today, he said people should not be rushing to back Mr. McCain over issues of national security. The talk host said America's direction in Iraq would not be substantially different, even if Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama were elected. "They are not going to surrender the country to Islamic radicalism or the war in Iraq," Mr. Limbaugh said after mentioning the two Democratic senators by name. "They are not going to do that to themselves, despite what their base says."

"The idea that we've only got one person in this whole roster of candidates, either party, who is willing to take on the war on terror is frankly, absurd," Mr. Limbaugh said.

Unfortunately, Limbaugh's personal animus towards the Senator from Arizona seems to be blinding him to the fundamental issue--that this election, first and foremost, is about America's national security. How else to explain this flailing effort to persuade primary voters not to worry so much about what are, in fact, very real and profound difference between the candidates--differences not over how to prosecute this war, but whether to prosecute it at all.

There is no doubt that America's direction in Iraq would be substantially different if a Democrat were elected in November. No well informed person could argue otherwise.

Has Rush been paying attention to what the Democratic Congress tried to do to the war effort this year--and the role McCain played in stopping it? Is he unaware that right now Clinton and Obama are one-upping each other in a game of who could surrender first? That both would withdraw American troops regardless of the recommendations of General Petraeus, regardless of whether we are winning or losing, regardless--in short--of reality? Or is he willing to take the risk that either Clinton and Obama, upon assuming the office, will suddenly settle on a responsible approach to Iraq when they've each been so breathtakingly irresponsible in the past?

I understand that some conservatives are uneasy about a McCain nomination, that he isn't their first choice to carry the party's standard. But there's something truly unhinged--and at times spectacularly disgraceful--about the response of some on the right to this increasingly likely prospect.

On Iraq, and more generally on the war on terror, McCain has never wavered in fighting for complete victory. As Bob Dole put it yesterday in a letter to Rush, McCain has put this country's security first "whatever the cost." Indeed, McCain has repeatedly said that he would rather lose this election than lose the war. Apparently for Rush and some other conservative opponents of McCain, it's the other way around. They say a victory by Clinton or Obama will, in the long run, serve the party and the conservative movement. Apparently they'd rather lose the war than see John McCain win this election.