Respect the man and be clear to all who may hear you that his policies DO NOT respect the average citizen anywhere near as much as claimed.
You know the drill. You got it beaten into your head in junior high English classes: A tragedy involves a person with some stature or nobility who nonetheless suffers a bad end because of a fateful flaw in their belief or character. People who simply screw up or are just in the wrong place at the wrong time or get a horrible disease are sad and unlucky cases. Pathos is present then but not tragedy. [And yes "tragic" is diluted in MSM usage to the point of synonymity with "pathetic"...but the editors* only let people like Bill O'Reilly or Rush or Coulter use "pathetic"]
And then there is crime. A person without nobility who comes to a bad end because they lack a sense of fairness and do not care what harms they do others in quest of their own satisfactions and objectives lives out a drama with no tragic status. Situations that fit that template may be falsely mapped to tragedies by those who share the criminal's numbness to victims. The more important difference, to me, between the fateful flaw of a noble character and the callus selfishness of criminal is the matter of intention. The tragic character does not plan the harms that befall but acts according to mistaken principles. The criminal knows the principles but does not abide by them nor care much that harm is likely to result from their violation. So is the Bush/Cheney cabal a tragic consortium as the Neoconmen would like us to believe? Or are they criminals as most progressives who blog on this side of the blogosphere might claim?
It is too late to save many of the victims of this administration and we have not the congressional leadership to bring Bush and Cheney to justice so maybe energies are better spent on preventing further degradation of our nation and the conditions of working people.
Have you been trying to figure out why the standard news outlets seem to ignore McCain's inconsistencies and obvious short temper? Some of the best minds in media analysis are pondering this problem. I think the reporters, the listeners and most emphatically, that candidate himself are making a humanly understandable but terrible mistake...
A dreadful choice looms. And a disturbingly large portion of our electorate profess to pollsters that they are not sure which decision to take. I append a concise list that MoveOn.org provides of contradictions between positions Sen. McCain states and actual votes he has cast or advisors and supporters he has embraced. These appended matters are factual so far as I know and amply supported by references. But they are only the bad things about Sen McCain and you can be sure that over at TownHall.com, equally stacked decks of "information" are being provided to readers concerning the evils of Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. Who sees any middle ground this way? Who is actually in the middle ground and at any stage of fruitful indecision? [I say fruitful because few who read here and fewer who read at townhall.com are apt to budge from current voting intentions...it is the middle that matters.]
I am not in middle but what, if I try, can I see or imagine that would tug a person from both directions, leaving them in that contested category?
What have I liked or do like about the man?
For one thing, as little as three years ago, I was very favorably disposed to the man because he said the right things and tried to put up legislation to go with his words in defending the integrity of elections from the uniformly damaging effects of the flood of corporate money spent to influence voting. At one time, I thought he really saw the problem as I saw it and weighed it as I weigh it. McCain has compromised himself on campaign reform blatantly and unapologetically. Too bad. He loses me there.
There is a second consideration not easily dismissed: Mustn't McCain the war hero have the right stuff to be McCain the war president?
Though the current war is unpopular and more widely regarded as a disaster than at any time in the past, I do not and never have confused the soldier with the war. We need from time to time, men and women willing to suffer and die for our safety. Viet Nam was not about to attack us and neither was Iraq. But you have to judge the soldier by their willingness to fight as much as by their ability to question the need of fighting or to be better informed then their leaders. John McCain has shown with his very life that he believes in what he fights for and does not shrink from the difficult or the risky parts that fall on the path he's taken. That alone raises him by a vast moral distance from the gaggle of draft dodging chickens that promoted and profited from the war against Iraqis. Being a liberal does not excuse one from seeing that part of McCain's resume as an unmovable foundation of his popularity in the estimation of many Americans. But that is perception. That is what a lot of people believe because his suffering as a POW is well known. I admire the combatants if only for their willingness to serve. The failure of the war campaign they lent themselves to is not their fault, far from it. And when and if they come home, they and the Senator from Arizona will have my support for all the medical treatment and rehabilitation to a state of fitness to live in peace and get a job among their neighbors. I just won't buy their indoctrination about the justifications of the fighting that might have taken their lives. I understand those justifications as humanly necessary for their personal sanity but hogwash all just the same. And I will not waste time trying to disabuse the willing soldier of their willingness...the day could come when Mexico tries to invade the US, you just never know. I sound sarcastic here but do not mistake me: my appreciation of their sacrifice is simple and sincere...just bring them home before more sacrifices occur.
As the POW, as the man who was willing to suffer when he felt his country called, I admire him just as I admire and am grateful for the thousands who have died in a vain attempt to fulfill Cheney's wish to possess or have access to Iraqi oilfields. But the role McCain plays now and the role he bids for are no longer that of combatant. He is no longer the soldier. He is the war. The confusion of the two works against the conservatives in a different way than it works against the liberals. The liberals should honor the soldier. The conservatives should disavow and dismantle the war. The rabidly partisan of either extreme will mistake your attempts to do both of those things as a failure to do the one thing they deem orthodox. But by god, a fair person should do both.
Having got to a point where I can see some daylight between the strength and valor that will face the sacrifices of war and the mentality that ordains warfare, where does that leave my regard for Senator McCain? Candidacy invites, begs, our judgment. I have argued myself some vantage from which to judge the man without judging his wars. Quite simply, he is a tragic character where, for instance Cheney is plainly a criminal. While many of his principles are latter day findings of his political career and have been corrupted by the "realities" of his political service, his patriotism seems uncomplicated and unwavering. What is that patriotism to us? What good is it? Is it too great a propensity to see enemies? That rap fits Cheney better than McCain. Is it too great a willingness to use armed forces? I think so. McCain will pursue the same failed course as Bush, even more aggressively if possible. He has said so plainly. But unlike the careless Bush, McCain is seen as a man who knows what the soldiers, sailors and airmen are in for and he cannot be accused so easily of cynicism or disregard. But so what? With the policy unchanged, the outcome is still going to be political isolation, military stalemate and a financial hemorrhage that ruins the nation That is what goes on now and our worst enemies cheer for its continuation...how is THAT patriotic? Then we must all divorce our respect for the prisoner of war from our attitude toward the president of war.
Liberals who do not understand this very real aspect of McCain's character and perception will waste time and money offending folks in the middle who do feel like McCain is on their side...that would be a tragedy, a calamity flowing from firm principles and flawed perceptions: McCain misguiding from his deepest beliefs and his detractors throwing out the good with the bad because of their deepest beliefs. Liberals can have a field day with all the things McCain does NOT understand about domestic needs and the economy. They should hammer him on these issues. The war and foreign policy [which should not be so entwined as in bushdom] are presumed to be McCain's strong suit but a nuanced treatment of the topic takes his advantage away. Speak respectfully of the man, pity him if you wish, but speak up about the tragic course he is on. You are not a news person whose salary hinges on avoiding the knee jerk "how dare you insult a great war hero". But more important, you don't have to insult the war hero.
And as an aside, I find it interesting that Kerry DID serve and with a misguided zeal McCain would be proud to claim. Though Kerry finally resolved his conflicted attitudes toward the war to regret his actions, he willingly went where the bullets were flying. That made him an ideal candidate in my mind. But Republican millions were spent to smear his record and a few millions is all it takes to buy the American electorate's disapproval or disbelief.
UPDATE: I just came across Garrison Keillor's essay in Salon describing the fidelity-to-mission and suspension-of-criticism that kick in when some, maybe most, people put on a uniform. He describes it as human nature. Keillor may not be your ideal progressive but I pretty much agree with the man on this one topic. A liberal outlook, per my high regard for that view of life, ought to be one that can appreciate where people are coming from even when you'd never hold their view yourself. That capacity for understanding the other side is where you begin reaching common ground and changing other's opinions...and it ought to be a liberal's biggest advantage in political life.
*just a suggestion. It is not clear the named personalities have ever had the benefit of an editor.
That MO list:
> 10 things you should know about John McCain (but probably don't):
> 1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of
> Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet
> he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1
> 2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq,
> Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will
> make Cheney look like Gandhi."2
> 3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted
> against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for
> vetoing that ban.3
> 4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support
> Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."4
> 5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in
> Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill
> last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.5
> 6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires.
> The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet
> McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing
> foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.6
> 7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be
> commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being
> president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded.
> He loses his temper and he worries me."7
> 8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign
> manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog
> group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his
> campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8
> 9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent
> years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley,
> believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a
> "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing
> preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment
> for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a
> "false cult."9
> 10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0--yes,
> zero--from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10
> John McCain is not who the Washington press corps make him out to be.
> Please help get the word out--forward this email to your personal network.
> And if you want us to keep you posted on MoveOn's work to get the truth
> out about John McCain, sign up here:
> Thank you for all you do.
> --Eli, Justin, Noah, Laura, and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
> Saturday, April 5th, 2008
> 1. "The Complicated History of John McCain and MLK Day," ABC News, April
> 3, 2008
> "McCain Facts," ColorOfChange.org, April 4, 2008
> 2. "McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq," Bloomberg News,
> March 12, 2008
> "Buchanan: John McCain 'Will Make Cheney Look Like Gandhi,'"
> ThinkProgress, February 6, 2008
> 3. "McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again, Supports Veto Of
> Anti-Waterboarding Bill," ThinkProgress, February 20, 2008
> 4. "McCain says Roe v. Wade should be overturned," MSNBC, February 18,
> 5. "2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council(R) Nonpartisan
> Congressional Scorecard," February 2008
> "McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion," CNN, October
> 3, 2007
> 6. "Beer Executive Could Be Next First Lady," Associated Press, April 3,
> "McCain Says Bank Bailout Should End `Systemic Risk,'" Bloomberg News,
> March 25, 2008
> 7. "Will McCain's Temper Be a Liability?," Associated Press, February 16,
> "Famed McCain temper is tamed," Boston Globe, January 27, 2008
> 8. "Black Claims McCain's Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: 'I Don't
> Know What The Criticism Is,'" ThinkProgress, April 2, 2008
> "McCain's Lobbyist Friends Rally 'Round Their Man," ABC News, January 29,
> 9. "McCain's Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam," Mother Jones Magazine, March
> 12, 2008
> "Will McCain Specifically 'Repudiate' Hagee's Anti-Gay Comments?,"
> ThinkProgress, March 12, 2008
> "McCain 'Very Honored' By Support Of Pastor Preaching 'End-Time
> Confrontation With Iran,'" ThinkProgress, February 28, 2008
> 10. "John McCain Gets a Zero Rating for His Environmental Record," Sierra
> Club, February 28, 2008