The soul-searching of the Republican Party has boiled down to a rather simplistic question: to moderate or not to moderate. On Sunday, the man who led the GOP in the 2008 election -- Sen. John McCain -- came down on the side of the latter, telling ABC's "This Week" that, like Dick Cheney, he did not "want to moderate."
"I think we're kind of in a word game here," said McCain, when played a segment of a recent interview in which the former vice president said moderation was not the best course for the GOP. "I don't want to moderate either. I think our policies, the principles of our party, are as viable today as they have been in the past. In all due respect, the previous administration, by letting loose spending get completely, out of control, by betraying some of those principles of our party, cost us a couple of elections. And maybe I didn't do good enough job communicating with the American people. But we have to improve our outreach and our communication, and that doesn't mean betray our principles. I think it means adjusting to the 21st century in communications, in values, in goals, in all the things that American people want."
The remarks, certain to be trumpeted by Democratic opponents, come at a time when even members of McCain's campaign staff and family are calling for a modernized Republican Party. The senator, during Sunday's interview, acknowledged the sentiments held by his campaign manager Steve Schmidt and daughter Meghan -- mainly, that the GOP should be more open to gay rights. And he argued that Republicanism needed to get to a place where those who supported such socially moderate or progressive positions still felt comfortable in the party.
"I think we have to be an inclusive party," he said. "[But] that does not mean betrayal of the fundamental principles." As for the future, he insisted that electoral politics works "in cycles."
"For many years, we have seen parties down and parties up," he said. "That is the great thing about American politics. Having said that, do we have to do a better job of getting our message out? Do we have to do a better job recruiting candidates? Do we have to do a better job at outreach, outreach to many Americans that don't feel that they can be part of our party? Absolutely."