August 8, 2008
McCain's Country-First Life Is a WinnerBy Kyle-Anne Shiver
If Barack Obama presents a target-rich environment in his inflated balloon of media hype over one non-accomplishment after another, John McCain presents the opposite. No hype. No hot air. No blathering, bloated claims about ethereal change and meaningless hope in government to save us. None of this Hollywood stuff for McCain.
McCain is scrappy. He's a scrounger. He's downright humble. Rather than touting his formidable experience, or the fact that he has had three sons in the military, quietly serving their Country, John McCain presents a true model of decency, self-respect and laudable humility, in the same all-male bundle.
McCain has been a Country-First guy yesterday, today and always.
The more I read about John McCain, the more I realize that he embodies so much of what we Americans regard as our exceptionalism of character, our grit and determination, our willingness to strip down to brass tacks to achieve a worthwhile goal, our utter disdain for royal celebrity accoutrement in our leaders. John McCain is American to the marrow of his bones, going back generations, and evidenced in every sphere of his life.
I sincerely doubt that the word, "quit," is in this guy's vocabulary.
When his political chips were down, McCain created his own surge.
In June 2007, the press were all but writing obituaries on McCain's presidential campaign. The campaign was basically broke, donors were looking elsewhere, and it was a time for reassessment.
On April 19, 2007, Harry Reid, new Senate Majority Leader, had stood upon our Capitol steps and declared for all the world, especially our enemies, that this "war is lost." Congressional Democrats were acting like banshees demanding withdrawal timetables for Iraq, and pronouncing the surge a failure before it ever had a chance to succeed.
When the chips were down, did McCain call his celebrity pals in Hollywood to ask for advice and a quick, fancy prop-up and money, money, money?
Does McCain even have any friends in Hollywood?
John McCain decided to leave the whole mess behind, and embarked on a no-fanfare trip to Iraq to spend the 4th of July with our troops. As one of the most vocal initial backers for the troop surge in Iraq, McCain continued to believe that premature withdrawal would be devastating, not only to the people of Iraq and the Middle East, but to our ability to fight the war on terror around the globe.
John McCain flew to Iraq to celebrate Independence Day in the privileged company of those he has always loved best, his fellow men and women in America's Armed Forces.
A fancy gym? No.
A bunch of Berliners to cheer him on? No, no and heck no.
I love this guy!
Iraq. July 4th 2007.
We were still losing the war. Did our armed forces cry in their blankies and protest McCain, begging to go home to their mommies?
Nope. On that day, McCain watched as 588 men and women re-enlisted to serve their Country even more. On that day in Iraq, as Hollywood's celebs and Washington's Democrats practically spat on America's chances, 161 service personnel became naturalized citizens of the United States of America. Especially poignant that day were the two empty chairs among our new citizenry. Two soldiers had been killed just before they were able to receive formal citizenship for their personal fealty and love for America.
John McCain addressed the assembled troops in the plain straight talk for which he has been known throughout his life. And when he finished, more than 2,000 men and women in uniform stood in line just to shake his hand.
When he returned to the States, he told a Chicago Tribune reporter that seeing and being with our troops in the theater of war reinvigorated him for the surge in his own campaign. Even though he shied from saying so, I would speculate that he felt from these men and women, and their families, the same inner strength that brought him through more than 5 years as a P.O.W. in Hanoi, Vietnam.
McCain's Dark Night of the Soul
Few human beings have life experiences that push them to the absolute brink of surrendering their humanity, especially an experience that lasts such a long time. Through more than a thousand sun-ups and sunsets. Through more than a thousand nights of despair and darkness, when the entire world seems to have deserted and gone on its merry way.
In 1988, I purchased a book written by Ernie Brace about his captivity in North Vietnam. Unknown to me at the time was that Mr. Brace had been the longest held civilian, by an enemy in wartime in history. He was also a one-time cellmate of John McCain, and the foreword of his book, A Code to Keep, was written by Senator McCain.
Senator McCain quoted another man, who had endured horrible captivity and inhumane conditions, Victor Frankl, a prisoner of the Nazis. In Frankl's account, Man's Search for Meaning, McCain, Brace, and so many others discovered that under such conditions, "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
Over the course of five years in a Hanoi prison, two of those years in solitary confinement, John McCain discovered his inner strength, his maverick spirit, and his determined will to never succumb to a loss of what makes us human. Our free will.
Every time I hear John McCain speak now, I am reminded that he has faced this horror. When I see that he walks stiffly, I know it's because his leg was broken in October 1967, and he didn't wind up in an efficient, well-equipped American medical facility. He ended up in a Hanoi prison instead. He was told that if he gave them military information they might fix his leg and his arms. Instead, the "medical treatment" the communists gave him nearly killed him. His body has never properly healed.
Every voter, in my opinion, ought to read Senator McCain's First-Person Account of his captivity, published in May 1973, now available online.
When the North Vietnamese learned they had the son of the naval admiral, who was about to be given command over our entire Forces in the Pacific, they wanted John McCain to accept early release.
When McCain's father took over as CINCPAC on the Fourth of July, the communists tried to persuade John again to accept this favoritism.
Things did indeed get very bad for John McCain, even worse than having panties placed upon his head for photos.
The next day, the guards came for him, took him to another room in the Hanoi Hilton, and asked, "Why are you so disrespectful of guards?" McCain's answer seems not to have been the one for which they were hoping. He cracked in characteristic fashion, "Because the guards treat me like an animal."
McCain's stiffness is a badge of courage and honor; he did not give them what they wanted. The communists wanted him to disparage his Country and to make statements laudatory of the wonderful treatment he was receiving in captivity.
Having been a college student during those days that John McCain was beaten in a Hanoi prison for my liberties, I remember the heralded press coverage given to the anti-war demonstrators wreaking havoc all over. And I remember how Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, David Dellinger and others took big photo-op trips to Hanoi, sitting in the enemy's anti-aircraft apparatuses, and smiling broadly as they embraced our enemies.
I even thought some of them were very heroic. That was before I understood the meaning of the word. John McCain has lived one of the most genuinely heroic lives imaginable. Yet Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden still disparage him for it; they love Barack Obama's idea of patriotism.
As for me, I don't particularly care for the idea of patriotism that the Democratic Party has been selling nonstop since the Sixties.
I prefer John McCain's idea of patriotism. Love of God and Country first. Before personal gain. Before personal glory. Before personal gravitas. Before politics. There are some things upon which there simply can be no compromise. For John McCain, the non-compromising item appears to be personal integrity.
McCain's Country-First life is a winner. I'm not sure we deserve him, but I sure do hope we get him for our next Commander In Chief.
Kyle-Anne Shiver is an independent journalist and a frequent contributor to American Thinker. She welcomes your comments at kyleanneshiver.com.