Friday, September 5, 2008

Change You Can Indeed Trust

I have never heard a political speech like the one John McCain delivered tonight. It was powerful. McCain said essentially "If you want change like I want change (and I have always worked for change), you can trust me. I have not changed and so you can trust me to bring the change you want in Washington."

All politicians say, "I will work for you." But coming from John McCain, you know that it is more than just words. His account of his POW experience served as a testimony comparable to how Christians tell the story of their conversion to Christ. He said that his country "saved" him from his youthful arrogance. His brutal captors in Vietnam broke him of his high self-regard and self-centeredness. He explained that much of the partisan rancor in Washington traces back to elected officials putting self before service. That rings true.

Given the military history of honorable service in his family, his own experience in the Vietnam prison, and even the lessons he learned coming out of the Keating Five scandal, it is entirely beyond doubt that John McCain will put service to country before preference for self. What John McCain thinks best serves the public good may not in fact be good, as indeed he has demonstrated--the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and the "Gang of Fourteen" compromise on judicial appointments to name just two. But the remedy for that is in the wisdom of many counselors across the three branches of our government.

Barack Obama crows defensively that we cannot question his patriotism. I don't see why not. If Obama is running on a "change" platform (by now you would think it was his middle name), and if faithful commitment to what is required for genuine reform requires a strong, selfless, patriotic zeal, he has invited us to scrutinze his patriotism. John McCain's is beyond question. In John McCain, if you took away patriotism, there would be nothing left.

Politicians lie. They generate buzz and fabricate public personas that are designed to mask who they really are so that they can get away with using public authority for private advantage. For this reason, wise citizens should assume a politician is guilty of this duplicity until he proves himself otherwise. John McCain has more than proven himself.

Barack Obama on the other hand, a newcomer to the public eye, is shrouded in questions. He has talked endlessly about post-partisanship and yet he has no record of bi-partisan cooperation. He speaks incessantly about change and yet he has no record of having defeated entrenched political interests or of having persuaded them to mend their ways. As for his patriotic zeal, or public spiritedness, the vapor on which his claim to be a reformer stands together with his wife's anti-American statements, his rabidly America hating pastor of 20 years, and his own persistant refusal during the primaries to wear a flag pin invite legitimate scepticism. It would be naive and irresponsible not to scrutinize his character in this matter.

If you have enough natural charm, it is easy to look like the answer we've all been waiting for when you're on stage surrounded by a huge cheering crowd and flanked by Oprah Winfrey and your adoring wife. But when Barack Obama and John McCain stand side by side on the stage for three debates, I cannot imagine how the man whose only accomplishments are his two autobiographies and whose claim to merit our confidence is a fiction will survive the comparison.

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