Cook On Concord: John McCain: the best candidate for president

Not that another endorsement will make a whole lot of difference to any vote other than my own, even at my own house, but after looking at all of the candidates in both parties campaigning for president, I have come to the same conclusion as many newspaper editorial writers: John McCain, Republican of Arizona, should be president.

He is the best candidate for a number of reasons.

First, McCain is the adult in the race. His personal experience is compelling, given his years of service in the military, in the U.S. Senate and in life. It commends him as someone who could reach the Oval Office with the capacity to make appropriate decisions.

Second, McCain appears to have a definite philosophy as a solid conservative not tied to ideology or knee-jerk reactions. While President Bush may have given Republicans a bad reputation on budgetary and foreign policy matters, voters need to consider whether that automatically leads to the conclusion that a liberal Democrat is the answer as a successor. A true, a traditional conservative may be the better antidote. McCain is one. He has taken controversial positions over the years on many issues and, certainly, no one would agree with all of them, but he is willing to face and attempt to solve problems. And in the past, he has shown the ability to select the right option from among those proffered by various intelligent and sophisticated advisers. I believe McCain can do that better than the others running.

Third, his personal experience as a prisoner of war, along with his military strategic training, would make it unlikely that he would get into risky or adventuresome situations lightly. This experience also would make others in the world take him seriously.

In addition to his positions on foreign policy and knowledge of the economy and budgeting, McCain has not been afraid to tackle issues that are politically dangerous, including immigration and campaign finance reform. He has reached across the aisle to enlist Democrats in the effort to find creative, practical and non-ideological solutions to tough problems. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman’s endorsement is telling on this score.

On domestic matters, McCain has a consistent record as a fiscal watchdog wary of wasteful spending and aware of the significant economic challenges facing the United States in the next few years.

Indeed, the fact that Warren Rudman, co-founder of the Concord Coalition and former New Hampshire senator, consistently touts McCain as the best candidate is an endorsement of McCain’s approach toward budgetary and fiscal matters. He has knowledge, experience and the attitude necessary to fix things.

There is a lot to like about other candidates who have persevered and subjected themselves to the rigors of the presidential campaign. Indeed, in the Republican Party, the candidates appear to be high-class, bright, able and, while they have various levels of experience, capable. The minor candidates who put in an appearance to make a point or focus on an issue have accomplished their purpose but are not threatening to win.

The other candidates with the potential to win include Governor Romney, an accomplished, able and bright man, former Mayor Giuliani, who deserves respect for the job he did in New York (although opinions of him there seem to vary), and former Governor Huckabee, who has caught on in some quarters but does not seem to be a major factor in New Hampshire. He is certainly a fine man of faith and integrity.

On the Democratic side, Senator Obama is one of the brightest and most attractive candidates in memory. He is compelling and unique and his nomination by the Democrats would be a fine statement about the United States today. Senator Clinton is knowledgeable, bright, organized and financed well, if controversial. Former Senator Edwards makes a forceful case for his positions and other candidates have demonstrated tremendous knowledge and experience, especially Senators Biden and Dodd and Governor Richardson. All of them could be valuable players in a new administration if the Democrats win.

However, it all comes back to McCain as the best combination of all of these factors in a talented field.

So as people go to the polls, they should perform the same exercise I have — winnowing down the field to the best person to be president, not just the person poised strategically to be nominated. Independents (or, more properly, “unaffiliated” voters) have a special responsibility in that regard, and that is to take the ballot of the party and vote for the person they believe should be president of the United States in 2009.

Happy New Year!

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.