Taking the High Road: How John McCain Could Still Win

John McCain could hit this thing out of the park. But he probably won’t. This week the Arizona senator’s inner light flashed giving him a glimpse of the leader he could be. He called his opponent, Barack Obama, “decent” and “a family man.” His audience jeered but McCain took the high road. He betrayed himself as a leader.

Voters are flocking to the Obama campaign because not only does he have 6, 7, or 8 point plans for exiting Iraq, quelling the sectarian violence in Afghanistan, righting the economy and extending healthcare to all Americans – he articulates them clearly. Obama can separate the strategic steps from soaring rhetoric. A year ago many of us wondered if he had that in him.

But John McCain took that early version of Obama (the soaring rhetoric, the inspiring turn, the lack of substance) and like an embittered, desperate Golum steered his entire campaign – the hallmark of almost 30 years in the Senate – into nasty, shallow and very dangerous hate-fest. He ought to know better and he does. It’s why he hangs his head and can’t say these things to Obama’s face. Not many of us could.

Let’s face it some of us don’t mind the hate-mongering. In fact, some enjoy it. I’d show you pictures or provide you links but I can’t bear to help its distribution. But the films of blond blue-eyed Ohioians sneering at Sen. Obama’s strange name and board colleagues is a devastating indictment of McCain’s campaign and ourselves. There’s comfort in community and a mob. These are frightening, spine-tingling times. Attending faith services, being engrossed in a story in a darkened theatre with strangers, cheering and jeering in a hockey stadium, or going to a concert give comfort and soothe the tension. You get the comfort of knowing you’re not alone and they all go home with somebody else. The trap though is a declining tenor or tone that soon removes any space for generosity, honor, integrity or respect. Shouting violent epithets is hate-speech and certainly Palin & Co. ought to be careful. She and her boss wouldn’t want to be brought up on charges of breaking federal law by supporting hate crimes. That said, monsters hide in a crowd. And, every one of us has a monster inside of us. Our identity swallowed by a crowd, who is going to hold us accountable? There’s a freedom in that. We can almost get away with….

But is ‘getting away with’ it leadership? Is it moving our country toward recovery, can it help us make better decisions? No. It delays the reckoning of actually having to do something, of actually having to take responsibility and of being held accountable. Leaders embrace accountability. John McCain apologized and held himself accountable for the Keating 5 and S & L crisis calling it the worst decision of his life. Speaking of the Keating scandal, McCain admitted,“… my sense of honor was tested in prison, it was not questioned. During the Keating inquiry, it was, and I regretted that very much.” That’s leadership.

When our community impulses go bad, leaders shine a light to show us the way. To remind us of our most vibrant and virtuous impulses. Or they stand silent, head hung. Sarah Palin, Cindy McCain and the senator have not taken responsibility for the rhetoric they are inciting. They have not offered leadership but rather have encouraged Americans to hate-speech. They have encouraged us, instead, to chain ourselves to a rapidly depleted energy source (endorsed by so-called energy expert, Gov. Palin) while choking an already suffocating federal government and national economy. The contradiction between buying up all of those failing mortgages in the midst of their proposed spending freeze isn’t even worth the digital imprint it would take to describe it. Nope, the McCain campaign’s road to salvation is pointing the finger.

Two days ago, though, the Arizona senator gave us a glimmer of what he could be and of what we could be. Something that came instinctively for Obama and that Americans recognized as salve for a very raw national skin. McCain reached for his own, and therefore our own, highest impulses. Americans are desperate for leaders and are defeated by spin. Putting Country First means putting yourself second. Now, to be fair, neither candidate is being wholly truthful about pieces of their plans or the course of current events. Barack Obama’s healthcare savings ($2,500 for every family) is actually the share of total savings throughout the economy if his plan is implemented – not a $2,500 reduction in premiums or a check in the mail. I haven’t heard either candidate talk about the War on Drugs, the prison-industrial complex or the stunning lack of affordable housing in (what used to be) the richest country in the world. So, citizens and voters have to keep our eyes on the prize. But that said, my bones are chilled by the deafening vacuum of consistent leadership coming from John McCain.

Virtuous leadership, or even the rhetoric thereof, could swing this whole darned election back into his favor. His handlers and campaign experts, though, will never tell or advise him of this. But his own light, and ours, just might.

~ by Thom on October 11, 2008.

One Response to “Taking the High Road: How John McCain Could Still Win”

  1. Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at gmail.com”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.


    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator

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