McCain’s Life vs. Obama’s Story
Written by: Shane Borgess of Political Vindication
Sunday, August 17th, 2008
If you missed the Civil Forum put on by Rick Warren featuring Barack Obama and John McCain this past Saturday night, you ought to take some time to view it. As a voter it’s insightful, but for those of us who are drawn to politics because of what it can tell us about people, it’s was a gold mine. But before we talk results, let’s talk expectations.
First of all, there’s no question that sans teleprompter, Obama is mess. Having to wade through his answers on questions that ought to be standard game for a professional politician is like trudging through Chicago snow. Were they particularly thoughtful for one who tip toes his way through issues like a soldier through land mine infested flatlands? No, and that might have been the most frustrating thing - Obama is not a deep thinker, he’s a deep feeler, and that kind of connection works well with the willing but not very well with the skeptical. One gets the feeling that Barack pauses before each answer to weigh his options, to gauge his crowd and recall the many answers he’s given to the same question before. There’s a hesitancy, and the longer he dithers the more credibility he loses. If I thought he could think on his feet, I might not worry as much about how he will fare in the this most dangerous of jobs he’s auditioning for. His reasons for running seem to spring from his disappointment in how the country has been run so far. All that tells us is that he thinks he could run it better - but how can he know that? His confidence in his ability is admirable, but it will take more than self-esteem to steer this nation through the challenges, both foreign and domestic, that we will face over the next 8 to 10 years.
John McCain is distrusted by his base and abused by his ideological enemies, but he soldiers on with a veracity that is appealing. It’s unseemly watching the Democrats demean his service to his country, his suffering for it, and his subsequent decades in the senate leading America just to protect their woefully inexperienced candidate. But the integrity he earned through those accomplishments shone last night, and he was very charismatic. His grasp of the issues, his joviality, his gravitas - they made Barack Obama appear so young. Long ago the Obama fans told us that experience wasn’t the issue, leadership was about character. Last night’s forum offered us a glimpse of the great gulf between these two candidates on that standard. I can’t wait for the debates if this is how they’re going to stack up against each other.
The most illuminating question was “what the toughest decision you ever had to make?” Barack offered that his vote against the Iraq war, made in Illinois as a state senator (in a rabidly blue state and city) was a profile in courage. He said he was advised not to vote against the Iraq war because the president was too popular, but he insisted that he had questions about the validity of the WMD assumptions (was he being briefed by the CIA?), and concerns about the volatility of the ethnic divisions that plagued Iraq. It seems he wants credit for opposing the war we are now winning.
John McCain was asked about his toughest decision. He said it was an answer to a question from an Viet Cong interrogator as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Would he betray his soldiers to save himself? No. He was told immediately that he would suffer for that answer, and he did, tortured for years. Comparing those two answers tells us that for Barack, courage is a question of risking his political life. For John McCain, he draws upon an experience so life changing that the decision not only reflects upon what his character was before his plane fell from the skies, but how the consequences of these experiences indelibly mark the man he is now. It left me with the impression that we are forced to compare the musings of a child to the wisdom of a man. At that point, I could only shake my head at the surreal world we find ourselves in today as we ponder who might be better equipped to lead America at this time.
It begs a question. Sensing the growing disparity in the resume between these two men, can we trust the American people to choose wisely in November? Recognizing the stakes, pointing out the dangers, sifting through the platitudes and the seductive sound bites, does America understand the growing power of the presidency and the peril we face if we put someone in that office that does not know himself? I do trust them. I don’t have to repeat to you the miracles that twice put George Bush in office when the political odds were against him. He was the right man at the right time. There are new challenges ahead, and there’s little doubt that now is not the time to elect an idealistic Chicago politician who’s slogan is “Trust Me.”