THE ROBERT W. WHITAKER ARCHIVE

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FIFTH COLUMN CONSERVATISM | 2001-03-31

For younger readers, let me explain that the "fifth column" refers to enemies within the gates, those who help the enemy from inside the country or the party or whatever.

The fifth column must be more subtle than the ones doing the outright attacking from outside. In the 1970's, for example, terrorists who were called "freedom fighters" were slaughtering whole villages of black people in Rhodesia. Every group was supported and run by Marxists. The World Council of Churches, as always, wanted to support the Reds.

But even the leftists found it hard to swallow that a religious body would be supplying arms to terrorists. So the WCC gave the money for "medical supplies." With their medical supplies paid for, the terrorist groups could spend all their money on weapons. John McCain is loved so fanatically by liberals that during the campaign they had to repeat that they were for Gore, not McCain. The liberal media swooned over him. Yet McCain gains liberal support without going all out for avowedly liberal causes. What he does is exactly what the WCC did for the leftist terrorists.

McCain provides support for causes leftists all favor, but which don't sound liberal. That allows liberals to spend all their time on more liberal issues. So we see McCain cosponsoring liberal Democrats' version of "campaign finance reform," the one which leaves unions free to use union dues to support liberal Democrats.

We see McCain side by side with Ted Kennedy sponsoring Kennedy's version of a patient's bill of rights. And we see McCain taking the lead in getting all loopholes in gun sales closed, something which liberals would otherwise have to do.

In other words, McCain is able to devote himself entirely to liberal causes while claiming to represent his conservative constituency.

We saw the same sort of fifth column Republicanism each time the Republican Congress took on President Clinton. Each time you would see Gerald Ford and George Bush, Senior, hold a press conference to back Clinton, and add to the Democrat's resources.

The media call it bipartisanship or moderation. We should call it what it is.