Saturday, November 05, 2005

John McCain for President: America’s Gray Champion

Just prior to the first Bush term one of Washington’s wisest columnists voiced the opinion that what a Bush Jr. presidency would do was return the country back to normalcy after some turmoil created by childish disgrace in the Oval Office by the former President, Bill Clinton. In a reverse kind of way the Jimmy Carter Presidency did the same thing. At that time, the country did well to have a decent and honest man – a Southern Sunday-school teacher – bring us out of the duplicity of Watergate and the lying, deception and crippling march of poorly conceived foreign policy that was Vietnam. The Carter Presidency did just that and for the first time brought the South out of shadow to the mainstream of events in our country.

Perhaps the more recent thought was that a Connecticut Yankee, even one costumed in cowboy suit and swinging his arms like a boy not fully matured, would have the same stabilizing effect. What a good notion, but how tragically misplaced. There is something troubling about a man like George W. Bush who appears to have no male friends his own age and has participated in the life and times of the American Republic only as an agent of a generation not his own. And one who appeared in early life, even to live in opposition to his own generation. And furthermore, there is something strange and oppositional about a son who hires the men to run his life – men like Perle and Wolfowitz – that his father tossed out of his office as two dangerous and misguided to conduct foreign policy ten years before.

And men like Dick Cheney who, like Bush, aspires to a vision of warfare as a moral tool in the world. I don’t disagree with that in principal but it depends who is doing the talking, as this was surely Eisenhower’s vision and Lee’s as well as Grant’s. But ‘tis not so much that these men never fired a shot in anger – neither did Lincoln - but when they were called to serve they actually ducked out at a time when people their age and my own age found it nearly impossible to avoid the draft without duplicity – Cheney, playing the exemption card all the way almost to mid-life, with five draft exemption. With these men at the helm it is not surprise that virtually everything they put their hand to in these past five years has gone tragically wrong.

We did need correction and new direction from the Clinton period, but now we need it more than ever. Last night Larry King asked John McCain if he was running for President. He said that he thinks every Senator would like to be President, but he wouldn’t make an announcement before the 2006 election. One problem he faces; the unsavory lot which still holds sway in the Republican Party, featuring Pat Robertson and his millennialist religious zealots, hate McCain and would perhaps not grant him the nomination. McCain would win today hands down in a Republican primary in New Hampshire. But even the most entrenched Democrats up here speak well of him. And I know Yellow Dog Democrats in the South who still today have never voted for a Republican yet are actually looking forward to his candidacy.

My fellow New England countryman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote in 1835 of an earlier time in our history when the population of our country was cowed in the face of tyranny and complacent after years of fat, until an old veteran stepped forward from the multitude and “displaying a face of antique majesty,” made only a gesture at once of encouragement and warning, and with that, the crowd awakened. John McCain, is our Gray Champion, his manner kind and encouraging like the Virginia old school of Washington’s day, from which his ancestor hails. After years of torture and imprisonment in a POW camp he stands up to weak and cowardly men like Cheney who seeks today to legalize torture in the name of our Republic.

My family and McCain’s share the same old-time prayer book,The Book of Common Prayer, and on Thanksgiving we annually recite the same prayer from it. The prayer For Quiet Confidence tells us that in returning and rest we shall be saved and in quietness and confidence we shall find strength.

When we in our country return to ourselves, we will return to John McCain.


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