JOHN McCAIN’S IDEAS….Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek today that the reason conservatism seems so tired these days is that conservatives are still fighting the ghosts of the 70s and 80s. But all those hoary old right-wing warhorses, which got cheers when tax rates were high and judges were forcing parents to bus their kids to faraway schools, now seem about as relevant as attacking the tin trust:

Today’s world has a different set of problems. A robust economy has not lifted the median wages of Americans by much. Most workers are insecure about health care, and most corporations are unnerved by its rising costs. Globalization is seen as a threat, bringing fierce competition from dozens of countries. The danger of Islamic militancy remains real and lasting, but few Americans believe they understand the phenomenon or know how best to combat it.

So far, so good. And before I go on, let me say that I like Zakaria. I always wish he didn’t seem to have his finger to the wind quite so much, but he’s a smart guy and an engaging writer. So what explains the final paragraph of his column, which seemingly pops up out of nowhere?

Political ideologies do not exist in a vacuum. They need to meet the problems of the world as it exists. Ordinary conservatives understand this, which may be why — despite the urgings of their ideological gurus — they have voted for McCain. He seems to understand that a new world requires new thinking.

Where did that come from? Whatever else you can say about McCain, “new thinking” pretty clearly isn’t part of his appeal. On foreign policy, he’s for the status quo squared. His only real problem with George Bush is that he hasn’t been militaristic enough. And on domestic policy he’s practically famous for not paying attention to much of anything beyond his two or three pet issues. If running for president requires him to embrace Jerry Falwell, swear fealty to supply-side tax drivel, and repudiate his own immigration plan — well, he’s perfectly willing to do it. As near as I can tell, he really doesn’t care enough about any of this stuff to think it’s worth standing up against.

Personally, I think the Republican electorate did a pretty good job of choosing the least repellent of the candidates they were offered. But they sure didn’t do it because John McCain was the candidate of fresh ideas. Where did Zakaria come up with that?

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