Friday, October 17, 2008

Where Did He Go?

John McCain's experience in Vietnam isn't everything about him. He was captured thirty-one years ago and released about six years later in 1973. That was a long time ago. He still carries the scars of that captivity, on both his body and his psyche. How could he not? He learned more about himself in those painful brutal years that anyone ever should. I'm wondering how much of that he's forgotten. He has used his Vietnam experience to bludgeon his opposition when it comes to foreign policy. He, apparently, still believes that Vietnam was a noble cause and that the US could have won that conflict had it not been for the "senseless" and "illogical" actions of the civilian leader at that time. It's no wonder that he wants to stay in Iraq until a "victory" can be constructed. Unfortunately, the situation in the Middle East is more complex that it was in Vietnam. They are different animals. Applying Vietnam logic to Iraq and Afghanistan is like translating a suicide squeeze to a game of tennis. No, Vietnam isn't everything about John McCain, but it is a resounding seventy percent of him.

This, for me, pretty much dispels any notion that Senator McCain would be a better option in "wartime" than Senator Obama. If the tactics he claims to embrace, increase troop numbers, get more aggressive in the streets, and broaden the base of operations, are examined carefully, they just don't hold water. What they hold is blood, of American and Iraqi youngsters both. The successful combatants in a protracted war almost always win by attrition. They spend more than the other side. It is not particle physics. It is continuing to fight until the other side runs out of blood. I'm not sure than can be done in our current national quest. I don't think convening negotiations across a table is a cowardly endeavor. I think it takes more guts to open the mind and negotiate from a position of strength. I'm not sure Senator McCain embraces that notion.

This is not to say that the Iraqis and other Arabs who want us all dead will negotiate in good faith, but there should be some kind of dialog, not just chest pounding and bomb throwing. Our enemies in this conflict are not all bloodthirsty child killers and neither, obviously, are we. Leadership is key. Without it we are all doomed.

I read "Faith of Our Fathers" and was deeply moved by it. But the humility presented in that work seems to have evaporated. The honor of it has been tarnished over the years by his unfortunate involvement in the Keating Five scandal. Every human makes mistakes and forgiveness and understanding should be our watchwords when we find ourselves sitting in judgment. But the man I wanted to be President as early as twenty years ago and as recently as five years ago seems to have disappeared.

And that, for me, is a very sad thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Politics, Palin, and Planning,

I'm not a political guy. Can't stand it. But sometimes a guy's gotta write what a guy's gotta write.

Sarah Palin is an interesting American phenomenon. She is sharp enough to shave with and is as ambitious as anyone has ever been. She has risen from nowhere in American politics to become the lead attack dog in a very contentious and controversial election. She is a very good-looking human and uses that to her advantage, as she should because in our society women are still immediately and irreversibly judged on how they look. Men are too, but not to the extent that women are.

So why does my skin crawl when I see her or hear her voice? Is it that she is an obvious phony, that she has studied disingenuousness and is perfectly capable of writing the definitive treatise on it, that she can't pronounce Iraq, Iran, or nuclear?

Well, yes. But there's more.

She talks down to me. She calls me "Joe Six-pack" and she's not talking about my abs. Palin has an act that was worn thin twenty-five years ago. She's like Don Rickles but better looking and not as funny. I keep waiting to hear the phrase "doncha know" come out of her but have been, thus far, disappointed. But there have been enough "by gollys" and "darn its" and "you betchas" to last me until the end of my days. This is a person who wants desperately to be one heartbeat away from becoming the most powerful Commander-in-Chief in the history of the world. She will say anything to cajole, mislead, or smear anybody. Her handling of the firing of her ex brother-in-law is being investigated in her home state. We will see if her vindictiveness is justified or if she is truly a good-ol' girl with a misguided sense of her own power.

All that being said, she is formidable and is certainly worthy of some respect. She's tough. But I don't care. So was G. Gordon Liddy. Craig Ryan, a good friend and wonderful writer (do a search on him at noted that her name can be used to form the acronym "I Plan." With her in the Presidential race and, at this point in October, it's still anybody's guess who will come out ahead, I think that is very apropos. Those of us in Middle Ground should do some very serious planning on how to live with ourselves should a "pit-bull in lipstick" become Vice President of our country when her president is older than Ronald Reagan was. Right now, she's doing her darndest to be nice and well-liked. My six-pack gut is telling me that is just an artifice, a sham. Ask her ex brother-in-law.

We'll see, by golly. We sure will, doncha know.

Come back soon. The next installment will examine my tortured thoughts and opinions regarding John McCain, a man whose history is disturbingly dichotomous. Ten years ago I would have followed him into Hell because I trusted his vision. Today I wouldn't follow him into a 7-11.