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Week in Politics: Conservatives, Bloomberg, Buckley

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Week in Politics: Conservatives, Bloomberg, Buckley


Week in Politics: Conservatives, Bloomberg, Buckley

Week in Politics: Conservatives, Bloomberg, Buckley

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR News Analyst Juan Williams talks to Renee Montagne about John McCain's challenge to unite the Republican party, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision not to enter the presidential race and the death of conservative commentator William F. Buckley.


And for another view and some analysis of the campaign, we're joined by NPR's Juan Williams. Good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And Juan, we've just heard how the campaign is playing out in parts of Houston. And among these Republican voters, it seems John McCain may win their votes but not their hearts.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think that's right and you just herd Linda talk about the Evangelicals to some extent, the religious community, and clearly that's a group that McCain has not won the embrace of in the past. Remember that he called some of the leadership there intolerant. And on issues like immigration John McCain really has been apart from the base of the party.

He hopes to use the war in Iraq and national security, again echoing some of the voices you heard in Linda's piece, to smooth over those differences and to appeal to people who might, in fact, you know, prefer someone who was more conservative.

Someone more in the mode of let's say Bill Buckley, who died yesterday. You know, the emphasis there being on individualism, support of capitalism, support of orthodox religion. And Buckley used much of that argument to frame - to offer an intellectual framework for conservatism in the last part of the 20th century. McCain is moving away from that framework.

MONTAGNE: And the conservative movement that William F. Buckley founded is, itself, showing signs of age. How is that playing out in this election?

WILLIAMS: Well, after World War II, it was Buckley who really challenged the notion of consensus of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt kind of big government, government providing services for citizens, government intervening in the economic model, by suggesting, of course, that, you know, he would support something like social security but not welfare, not something that would lead to ongoing machinery of services to citizens.

And in this election I think what you see is that right now there's a strong sense of moving to the center, moving away from the Buckley challenge and having more of a consensus, moving back to the idea of Americans, moving away from partisan polarized politics.

I think that whole notion of change is represented in that and you see it in the notion of McCain as a more of a centrist Republican. And you see it in terms of, on the Democratic side, both candidates, really talking about wanting to wear the cloak, the mantle, of being change agents and taking us forward by creating consensus.

MONTAGNE: So is that what you would say the McCain strategy is at this point? Unite and energize conservatives, would - you'd think might be his strategy, but, in fact, he - looking for what he can get from the base and make up the difference among Independents and Democrats?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think that's exactly right, Renee. Look for what he can get from the base, realizing that there are conservatives who will never come to his way of thinking. They want him to them in fact. And then looking and saying but wait a second - and I think this is the way he has triumphed in the primary contest on the Republican side - saying but look I appeal to Independents. I give you the best chance to win and retain control of the White House at a time when Democrats really have so many advantages and the American people, especially those Independent voters, are leaning Democratic.

So he wants to emphasize the national security issue as one in which Republicans have traditionally held an advantage in the minds of voters, willing to protect America, willing to do what's necessary. And then to say let's for the moment calm down on these other issues, the cultural issue, that might divide us.

MONTAGNE: Juan, thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR news analyst Juan Williams.

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