Matthew d'Ancona summarises the merits that our government perceives in John McCain:
In fact, the more closely ministers look at the Republican nominee, the more they are thinking: what's not to like? He is relaxed about the European Union (an area where he disagrees with Mr Cameron). His positions on gay marriage, stem cell research and immigration over the years have been comparatively liberal. On the war on terror, he is more hawkish than Brown. But he believes absolutely in the urgent need for the West to reclaim the moral high ground - no more Guantanamos, no more water-boarding - and the absolute importance of what Brown calls "the battle for hearts and minds". McCain's language on "ideological struggle" in the battle against Islamism is almost identical to the PM's.
With Senator Joe Lieberman - Al Gore's running mate in 2000 and now one of McCain's staunchest supporters, who will accompany him to London - he co-sponsored legislation in 2000 to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and voted against Bush's plan to allow oil drilling in the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So great, indeed, is his cross-party appeal that in 2004 John Kerry even sounded him out as a potential vice-presidential running mate. A McCain cabinet really would be, to borrow Brown's phrase, a 'ministry of all the talents.'
Two points about McCain stand out. He's not a conservative and he's been right all along about Iraq. These are the reasons I favoured him from the outset for the Republican nomination. Indeed McCain has been more right than anyone on Iraq. He's stuck to that position despite his conviction, (expressed in Seattle just over a year ago) that, like Tony Blair, he might have sacrificed his political career for Iraq. In The Sunday Times today, Sarah Baxter reports a gracious remark of McCain that "I do miss Tony Blair".
It's worth spending time on a long interview McCain gave last April to CBS, when his campaign appeared finished. This exchange in particular gives me confidence that the Western alliance would be well led in the event of a McCain presidency:
[INTERVIEWER]: In all of the polls, the majority of the American people say it's time to begin withdrawing the troops. The House is on record saying it's time to begin withdrawing. The Senate now on the record. You say more troops are the answer. Why?
MCCAIN: Well, I think the surge is a new strategy. It's not just more troops. It's a new strategy. The second thing is, polls are interesting. If you ask the American people, "If we can show you a path to success, a way that you can have a government that's functioning and the military situation under control," of course they'll support it. They're frustrated, and understandably, by the lack of progress in Iraq. And that's because of the terrible mismanagement of this war that went on for nearly four years.
When I had a rather less elevated exchange last week with Tony Benn, he kept on about the anti-war views of the British people. But the British electorate, like the American electorate, is not opposed to war: it's opposed to defeat. McCain has been clear on the Bush administration's grotesque incompetence and mismanagement of the war, and its abrasive and gratuitous unilateralism. He's also been clear on the means and necessity of turning round our side's strategy in Iraq. An important task remains to him in turning now to his left and not to his right in selecting a running mate: Lieberman for Vice-President, not the Creationist and foreign policy naïf Huckabee. In any event, McCain's nomination is an asset for the transatlantic alliance, on which Europe's security depends.