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April 22, 2008
PJ O'Rourke on America, McCain, and 'The Big Stick'
There are few political authors as successful as PJ O'Rourke. And there are no conservative authors who are as funny or as insightful regarding the foibles of liberalism.
PJ has an absolute must read piece up at The Weekly Standard, reporting on his trip to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and the lessons he learned about America, conservatism and John McCain:
Carrier launches are astonishing events. The plane is moved to within what seems like a bowling alley's length of the bow. A blast shield larger than any government building driveway Khomeini-flipper rises behind the fighter jet, and the jet's twin engines are cranked to maximum thrust. A slot-car slot runs down the middle of the bowling alley. And why John McCain is infinitely more qualified to be president then either Democrat:
The powered-up jet is held at the end of its slot by a steel shear pin smaller than a V-8 can. When the shear pin shears the jet is unleashed and so is a steam catapult that hurls the plane down the slot, from 0 to 130 miles per hour in two seconds. And--if all goes well--the airplane is airborne. This is not a pilot taking off. This is a pilot as cat's eye marble pinched between boundless thumb and infinite forefinger of Heaven's own Wham-O slingshot.
Carrier landings are more astonishing. We were in heavy seas. Spray was coming over the bow onto the flight deck, 60 feet above the waterline. As the ship was pitching, 18 tons of F-18 with a wingspan of 40-odd feet approached at the speed of celebrity sex rumor. Four acres of flight deck has never looked so small. Had it been lawn you'd swear you could do it in 15 minutes with a push mower.
McCain could hardly escape understanding the limits of something huge but hermetic, like a government is, and packed with a madding crowd. It requires organization, needs hierarchies, demands meritocracy, insists upon delegation of authority. An intricate, time-tested system replete with checks and balances is not a plaything to be moved around in a doll house of ideology. It is not a toy bunny serving imaginary sweets at a make-believe political tea party. The captain commands, but his whims do not. He answers to the nation. Read the entire piece for some extraordinary writing delivered in PJ's own inimitable style.
And yet an aircraft carrier is more an example of what people can do than what government can't. Scores of people are all over the flight deck during takeoffs and landings. They wear color-coded T-shirts--yellow for flight-directing, purple for fueling, blue for chocking and tying-down, red for weapon-loading, brown for I-know-not-what, and so on. These people can't hear each other. They use hand signals. And, come night ops, they can't do that. Really, they communicate by "training telepathy." They have absorbed their responsibilities to the point that each knows exactly where to be and when and doing what...
A strange flight it is--from the hard and fast reality of a floating island to the fantasy world of American solid ground. In this never-never land a couple of tinhorn Second City shysters--who, put together, don't have the life experience of the lowest ranking gob-with-a-swab cleaning a head on the Big Stick--presume to run for president of the United States. They're not just running against the hero John McCain, they're running against heroism itself and against almost everything about America that ought to be conserved.