The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Over the past six months, I’ve written a wide-ranging series of posts on Barack Obama. Admittedly, none have been complementary. The problem with Obama, I think, isn’t so much his inexperience (which is breathtaking in its lack of depth) or his ideology (which is the farthest Left of any candidate in history), or his lack of bipartisanship (not one important piece of bipartisan legislation bears his name) or his judgment (his associations with unsavory characters like Bill Ayers and Tony Resko indicate questionable judgement or worse), or his ‘adaptability’ (a.k.a., flip flops) that allow him to change position when it is politically expedient), or his disingenuousness (“I was unaware that Rev. Wright talked that way”). Rather it’s little bits of all of these things that when taken in sum amount to a lack in the key ingredient for the President of the United States—character.

Abraham Katsman discusses character when he writes:
Character matters. In a president-and particularly in a commander-in-chief, that kind of character arguably counts more than any particular political orientation or policy. From character flows leadership, as it is character which dictates morally grounded direction and engenders public trust.

Character is critical to determining how a leader will respond to crisis. Will he reach deep within himself and in the traditions that shaped him and find the courage and grace to inspire strength and greatness? Will soldiers trust the wisdom and integrity of his decision when he orders them to war? Will he truly understand the terrible toll of war, as well as the price of appeasement? Will he make decisions based on considerations greater than cheap political expediency?

I think there one other element of character that Katsman alludes to, but does not explicitly describe—the willingness to stick to your principles and deliver an opposing view to an audience that will not like or agree with the opposing view.

I’ve followed John McCain’s career over the past 20 years, and although I don’t agree with him on all things, the man does exhibit character. Whether you use Katsman’s description or my addendum, John McCain has repeated put his political life in jeopardy to stand for the principles he believes in.

I often hear those on the Left suggest that those “who support the war” should send their own sons to fight it. Although McCain never discusses it (something unique among politicians) he has done exactly that. Katsman notes:
Anyone can talk about "supporting our troops"; the McCains serve. McCain's father and grandfather were respected American admirals. Of McCain's four sons, three have gone the military route. One was a Navy pilot like his father, one enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and recently completed a tour in Iraq, and one is completing his education at the Naval Academy (raising the strong possibility that, for the first time in half a century, the United States will have a president with a son at war).

Yet, likely because of those same values, McCain maintains a strict code of silence about his sons' military service, no matter how legitimate his pride or politically useful their military status. Through 2007, McCain was the strongest Senate advocate of vastly increasing troop levels in Iraq, strongly influencing the administration's wildly successful "surge" strategy.

Yet McCain never brought up his own son's service in some of the roughest areas of Iraq. His principled refusal of political advantage from his son's Iraq service extends to refusal even to be interviewed on the subject, or to introduce his son to campaign audiences.

The MSM swoons about Barack Obama’s path toward the nomination, imparting every positive detail about his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters. They have been strangely silent about McCain’s family. Again from Katsman:
How aware is the public that McCain has raised seven children? Or that he adopted his two oldest sons as small boys (children from his wife's prior marriage)? Or that he has raised a Bangladeshi girl with severe health problems adopted from Mother Theresa's orphanage? …

So, it turns out that McCain, standard-bearer of the party constantly slandered as racist, has, without fanfare, raised as his own a Bengali daughter of color. But the character demonstrations regarding his daughter are even more impressive: during his 2000 presidential run, as he was on the verge of becoming the front-runner, rogue staffers of other candidates reportedly conducted a whisper campaign in South Carolina disparaging the McCains for having a "black baby."

Yet, with every justification to unload with both barrels for such nasty politicking, and with as great an opportunity to set the record straight and tell the world about the heroics of being an adoptive father, McCain chose to shield his child by ignoring the smear. Some analysts believe that move may have ultimately cost him the nomination. But McCain has never questioned his choice. It says a lot about the man that he would readily sacrifice the pinnacle of personal political achievement to protect his family's feelings and privacy.

That, my friends, is character. It’s hard not to admire a man who exhibits it. But sadly, character can be McCain’s undoing. There is much about Barack Obama that can be legitimately criticized, much that is cause for concern among those of us in the Center. Yet McCain appears to be reticent to take the gloves off (Obama surely isn’t) and really engage his inexperienced and ideologically extreme opponent. It’s time to begin.