Sunday, August 31, 2008

Once, Shame on You; Twice, Shame on Me

I would like to share a thought or two about John McCain. A couple of weeks ago, McCain impressed me mightily during his interview by Rick Warren, the big time church guy of fundamentalist fame. McCain was asked (as was Obama) about his greatest moral failing and the apparent honesty of his response was to the effect that of the failure of his first marriage. By way of brief review, after he returned to the United States as a war hero he dumped his first wife, the mother of his children, for a younger, thinner and richer woman who was able to fund his start in politics. His first wife had waited stoically and loyally throughout his five years in a North Korean prison only to be shunted aside upon his return for his self-admitted dalliances with any number of women. The word is that his wife had gained a little weight. That tells me something about the character of the man, but given his stated remorse it was impressive to me that he would acknowledge his action for exactly what it was; a failure of morality. The natural sequel of such a human failing, and why I found it so appealing at the time of the Warren presentation, was that it is human to make mistakes and it does take courage to admit them. We are prepared to accept such shortcomings in our potential leaders for several reasons; first, because we tend to makes our own mistakes for which we seek understanding and forgiveness and second, because we expect our leaders to have learned something from their past misdeeds and actions. In so doing, the hope is that history will not repeat itself and both the leader and the nation will be the beneficiaries of the lessons learned.

His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate is the political equivalent of the failure of his first marriage. She is the proverbial trophy wife who asked the question the other day "what does the vice president do?" Well, honey, I will tell you what the vice president does. He or she stands in the wings ready and available to take over as the president of the United States should it be necessary. She has acknowledged that she knows nothing about the Iraq war. While she has impeccable conservative beliefs in such things as creationism (she believes it should be taught alongside evolution) and abortion (it should never be permitted, even in cases of rape and incest) her isolation from mainstream political thought is manifestly obvious. What McCain has done is opt for the beauty queen at his side in making the most superficial decision ever made in vice-presidential candidate selections. He has repeated his failure of the abandonment of his first wife and his morality. Except this time, his moral failure has much greater import. His obligation in selecting a candidate includes the obligation to select someone who is well-qualified to assume the presidency if the need arises. To be perfectly clear, I am not attacking his choice because Palin is a woman. There are many wonderful and well-qualified women in the Republican party, Senator Oympia Snowe as an example, who would be entirely capable of running this country if it came to that. Nor am I attacking Palin at the personal level. She evidently leads an active and vigorous life as a mother of five children and runs a government awash in oil riches. But, the bottom line of McCain's immoral decision is that he would foist on the people of America a person who is utterly and completely unqualified to be the president of the United States. He is doing this for the same reason he abandoned his first wife for someone young and beautiful; to make him look good.

To paraphrase Barack Obama, John McCain doesn't get it. Once, shame on you; Twice, shame on me.

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