September 18, 2008
A Portrait of American Wisdom: John McCainBy Kyle-Anne Shiver
The more I read about John McCain, the more I admire him. And to be perfectly honest, it is sometimes what others refer to as his "rougher edges" that I admire the most.
I found a little anecdote in Paul Alexander's biography of McCain, Man of the People (p. 315), and must admit that if I had witnessed it with my own eyes, I would have stood up and cheered, saluted, waved Old Glory, and done every other act of patriotism I could think of at the moment.
After I voted for Senator McCain in my own state's primary on Super Tuesday 2000, I stopped keeping track of him, as did the press. So, when I read Alexander's account of McCain's trip in April to Vietnam, to be on hand for the 25th anniversary of the end of the war, it was completely new to me. During the trip, the Vietnamese communists gave John McCain a tour of Hoa Lo Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton, the place where McCain had been a POW for 5 ½ years.
According to Alexander's telling, Senator McCain seemed rather stoic, calm and unemotional during the tour, even upon entering his own former cell. Of course, the communists had their little band of eager propagandists at the ready to record McCain's statements that day, but were apparently not very happy with his responses.
Oh, I would love to have seen this!
When asked about his feelings that day, McCain answered unemotionally, "I put the war behind me when I left. The memories I have are of the wonderful people I had the privilege of serving with."
The communists, true to form, pushed the envelope and asked him outright how he felt about his former prison guards. This, of course, is the moment where polished politicians are expected to lie so that international relations remain happily unencumbered by bitter truths.
John McCain, however, is an American leader.
A leader should never be confused with its counterfeit, a politician.
McCain refused the bait offered by the propagandists that day, and replied, "I still bear them ill-will, not because of what they did to me but because of what they did to some of my friends, including killing some of them."
No communist propaganda here. But the little weasels simply could not let it go. After all they had their "Crown Prince" captive back on their ground, and they were still in charge. They pushed the envelope a bit further the next day, hoping for the politician's response, so they could exploit it to the hilt in their "free" press.
McCain, the American leader, gave them no fodder. Instead he told his Vietnamese hosts that the "wrong guys" won the war - a response that would have become truly famous if America had an unbiased press:
Bring out Old Glory, pledge allegiance and salute that man, a true American leader.
I've got the goose bumps.
One can only imagine what Barack Obama or Joe Biden would have said to the Vietnamese communists under the same circumstances.
If the word, "Blink" comes to mind, I wouldn't blame you, though.
Intelligence is silver, wisdom pure gold.
I really like old Cicero's definition of wisdom. Knowing the difference between inherent "good" and "evil" is a far cry from native intelligence. Intelligence is a gift; wisdom must be earned. Intelligence is like silver; wisdom is pure gold.
John McCain started out as an intelligent man. One simply does not graduate from the United States Naval Academy without a keen native intelligence. That's a given.
But John McCain's life took a detour of the sort that separates the boys from the men, and mere intelligence from character. In the dire circumstance of war, imprisonment, torture and severe deprivation over a long period, one's character either survives and grows wise, or it withers and dies.
McCain's character was transformed by the tortuous fires of the Hanoi Hilton into a kind of wisdom that has become more rare than a gold-backed currency.
Is there even a single gold-backed currency these days?
McCain's hard-earned wisdom is not the kind that easily inflates or deflates. It is a steady-hand kind of wisdom that knows.
McCain's wisdom knows that Iran is not a "tiny country" incapable of rendering grievous harm. He knows that difficult decisions are never made with the benefit of hindsight, and that once we went to war in Iraq with the full backing of Congress, there was no way we could retreat and surrender without putting our people and our way of life more at the mercy of terrorists the world over. It was wisdom that informed McCain's support of the surge before there was ever the real and present need of a surge. And it was this same wisdom that bade McCain to declare at the height of the war's unpopularity at home, "I would rather lose an election than have my Country lose a war."
It was McCain wisdom that urged his declaration to our IslamoFascist enemies, "We will never surrender. They will." It was even McCain's wisdom at work, when he publicly parried his Beach-Boys' takeoff in the eye of Ahmadinejad: "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Keeping one's enemies off-balance and not certain of what one might do is a hallmark of wisdom, in my opinion.
In a Commander in Chief, is there a more highly desirable human trait than wisdom?
Not for my money, there isn't.
Grand proposals are not the fruit of wisdom; real accomplishment is.
With each passing day, the defining difference between Barack Obama and John McCain becomes more and more evident. It's wisdom. McCain has it; Obama doesn't.
Barack Obama's entire life has been marked by grand plans and designs, with not a single accomplishment on his real-life ledger. His has been a life marked by great promise, but no delivery. Continually seeking higher office and more power does not equate to rolling up one's sleeves day after day and working hard to accomplish anything. This is a miss a mile wide.
The entire five decades of John McCain's adult life, on the other hand, have resulted in a ledger plum full of genuine accomplishment and real bi-partisanship in the interests of this Country.
Even when one disagrees with John McCain, one can never accuse him of talking more than doing. One can never accuse him of putting himself above this Country.
And if anyone cares to understand how McCain's wisdom was forged into gold for the United States of America, then he must look back to that Vietnam experience. That experience not only rendered McCain unable to do simple things like comb his own hair, tie his own shoes, or use a keyboard without real pain, it also was the impetus for his deep love for this Country.
When John McCain was only 37 years old, he had already barely survived death in the service of his Country numerous times, with six near-miraculous escapes among them. When McCain was still a young naval aviator, he crashed into Corpus Christi Bay, then experienced an in-plane fiery explosion on the deck of the Forrestal, another last-second ejection over the Eastern shore, an entanglement with live power lines in Spain, and finally his crash into the Hanoi lake that resulted in his POW test of fire.
The first five near-misses resulted in his volunteering for more hazardous duty. None were his fault, as determined by the examinations of record that occur after every single mishap in our military. And none made a dent in the young McCain’s determination to serve his Country in the heat of war’s kitchen.
McCain's last near-miss with death, however, resulted in a test of his character that not many among us would wish upon our worst enemy.
At 37, shortly after his return to America's shores, McCain wrote of the POW experience for U.S. News and World Report. He didn't yet know what he would do with the rest of his life. He was still in the Navy and would remain there until his retirement in 1981.
But immediately upon his return from captivity in Vietnam, McCain did know one thing for certain.
Contrary to what some have surmised in partisan zealotry, John McCain has never specifically questioned Obama's patriotism. However, if McCain were to lob a rhetorical stone at Barack Obama's patriotism and love for America, he would not be doing so from a glass house. He would, rather, be questioning the demonstrable deeds of a silver-tongued politician from his own patriotic house of pure-gold American wisdom. A wisdom that was neither gift nor inheritance, but that was earned with own blood, sweat, tears and toil.
In this regard, Barack Obama looks more every day like Dukakis in a tank.
And John McCain looks like George Washington in a boat on the Delaware River.
Kyle-Anne Shiver is an independent journalist and a frequent contributor to American Thinker. She blogs at kyleanneshiver.com/.