Campaign 2008: Legendary lives, interesting people
Historians are fascinated by the “first causes” of a chain of events. The life of John Sidney McCain III offers an example. What if President John K. Kennedy, with the backing of a Democrat-controlled Congress, had not ordered U.S. Special Forces and hundreds of military advisers to shore up the faltering South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem? What if President Lyndon B. Johnson, also backed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, had not sent an additional 500,000 U.S. troops into South Vietnam? What if LBJ had not ordered the bombing of North Vietnam?
You can see where this is going: Chances are, Lt. Commander John McCain would never have been shot down over North Vietnam, would never have been captured and tortured. But since that is what happened, here’s another what if? What if LBJ had not nominated and what if a Democrat-controlled Congress had not confirmed the appointment of four-star Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. to be Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces, Pacific, during the Vietnam War?
When Lt. Commander McCain fell (literally) into their lap, the North Vietnamese saw an enormous propaganda opportunity. If they could induce the son to denounce his father and the war, the North Vietnamese would be closer to the objective they admitted to after the war was over – not to defeat the U.S. military – but to win over Walter Cronkite and the U.S. media.
In an attempt to gain his cooperation, the North Vietnamese offered to end Lt. Commander McCain’s torture by sending him home right away. McCain refused to cooperate. He served five-and-one-half years as a POW, two years in solitary confinement. If John McCain’s father had not held such a high position, would the younger McCain have been treated so severely? Well, he was treated severely, and that created an authentic American hero.
But what about the resume of Barack Hussein Obama? Is it fair to characterize this race as Hero vs. Zero? No, it is not. A careful reading of Obama’s resume reveals a life of upward striving, scholarship, lawyerly achievement and community organizing.
In fact, McCain and Obama share a certain disrupted background. As the son of a naval officer, McCain attended 20 different public schools before attending Episcopal Prep School in Alexandria, VA. Born in Hawaii, Obama lived and was schooled until age 10 in Indonesia before returning to live alternately in Hawaii and Kansas. In Hawaii, Obama attended Punahou Prep School, still considered one of America’s elite prep schools. McCain attended the U.S. Naval Academy. Obama attended Occidental College in California, then Columbia University, followed by Harvard Law School.
Moreover, McCain and Obama agree that Washington needs fixing. In fact, 89-percent of Americans polled disapprove of the Democrat-controlled Congress. But who is better suited to do the fixing? Also, which vice-presidential candidate would be the better back-up?
Given Joseph Robinette Biden’s 36 years in the U.S. Senate, even his transplanted hairline is familiar. But Sarah Heath Palin’s face is not. Here’s what former Bill Clinton adviser, Dick Morris, says about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:
“Palin is a godsend to McCain. She injects charisma and novelty into what would otherwise have been a deadly dull ticket. She has a compelling record of battling corruption in Alaska — uncovering misconduct by fellow Republicans and beating a GOP pork-king governor in a primary election.”
Writing about Palin in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan says, “…she is a woman who in style, moxie and femininity is exactly like a normal American feminist and not an Abstract Theory feminist…she wears makeup and heels and eats moose burgers and is Alaska Tough as Time Magazine puts it…she is conservative, and pro-2d amendment and pro-life and because conservatives can smell… that she is really one of them…she is a real and present danger to the American left and to the Obama candidacy.”
Irrespective of political leanings, this race offers some wonderfully interesting people.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2008. William Hamilton.