Gergen: Supporting Bush Could Make McCain Look Like A "Hard-Core Conservative"

March 13th, 2006 4:09 PM

On CNN’s American Morning, U.S. News & World Report Editor-At-Large David Gergen fretted that Republican Senator John McCain may be transforming into a "hard-core conservative" after McCain expressed his support for President Bush at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tennessee on March 10. Responding to a question from co-host Miles O’Brien on the conference’s straw poll of potential Republican 2008 presidential candidates, Gergen worried that McCain’s support of the President may threaten his image as a "straight-talking" moderate.

David Gergen: "But the big news out of, out of Memphis was also John McCain swinging so forcefully behind President Bush. And he’s, he’s clearly making a move now to become the heir apparent to President Bush. The big question over John McCain right now is in moving behind President Bush, does he threaten to blur the, the portrait of him as a, as a maverick, independent, straight-talking, moderate conservative? Or does he become, begin to become another Bush hard-core conservative?"

Earlier in the interview, Miles O’Brien seemed to cast doubt on the credibility of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, for being too positive in his assessment of the progress in Iraq.

Miles O’Brien: "Is it time to strip a little bit of the varnish off, you know? I’m thinking, in particular, a week ago Sunday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, on, on Meet The Press, offered an extremely sanguine view of the situation, to say the least. And I think at, at a certain point people tune that out because they feel like it has very little credibility."

Gergen expressed surprise at the tone of Pace’s comments, which he said was in conflict with news reports from Iraq and repeated the charge that "we may be on the edge of a civil war." While he scolded the Bush administration for offering "far more optimistic" rhetoric than former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill did during World War II, Gergen did acknowledge that the American public views the media as being "overly negative."

Gergen: "One of Churchill’s most famous speeches started out, you know, when, when things were going really badly in Europe, his first line was the news from France is very bad...And in this case we’ve had so much rhetoric that has been wide of the mark, you know, far more optimistic, very panglossian, if I may use that term, and it’s left people sort of saying they, they don’t know who to believe anymore. They don’t–they think the press is overly, overly negative, by the way, and so they don’t particularly believe everything they hear from the press."