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On judges, don't doubt McCain's conservatism

He pledges to appoint clones of Alito and Roberts.

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Now that John McCain is all but assured of being the Republican nominee for president, conservatives are struggling to unite behind the man they consider, at best, a maverick – and, at worst, a traitor.

He promoted amnesty for illegal immigrants. He worked with liberal Democrats. He panders to the mainstream media. Those are just some of the charges conservatives throw at Senator McCain.

A particularly sore point has involved McCain's alleged liberal perspective on selecting federal judges, especially for the Supreme Court. But on this score, conservative fear is misplaced. A careful reading of his statements and his Senate record shows that McCain's "maverick" approach bodes quite well for those who cherish a conservative judiciary.

The senator has carefully repeated the conservative Republican Party mantras regarding federal judicial appointments demanded of all viable GOP candidates. For instance, McCain has praised President Bush for selecting justices "who strictly interpret the Constitution." And he observed that "one of our greatest problems in America today is justices that legislate from the bench."

He has pledged to appoint jurists who construe the Constitution and legislation, rather than make social policy or assume the role of judicial "activists." Indeed, one critical line of McCain's Super Tuesday speech was a clear, direct appeal to the GOP base: "I am a Republican because I believe the judges we appoint to the federal bench must understand that enforcing our laws, not making them, is their only responsibility."

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