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The Big Stuff, The Small Stuff, and John McCain

I’ll try not to begin my endorsement of Senator John McCain with the hero’s epic that seems to physically trail the man wherever he goes. It’s become such a commonplace that to contribute another McCain hagiography spotted with "brave," "proud," … Read More

By / January 4, 2008

I’ll try not to begin my endorsement of Senator John McCain with the hero’s epic that seems to physically trail the man wherever he goes. It’s become such a commonplace that to contribute another McCain hagiography spotted with "brave," "proud," and "strong" is to mindlessly shortcut your way into dismissing the Senator’s achievements. Besides, at this point anyone unaware of John McCain’s service is beyond my reach. So. In 2002, John McCain turned in the most successful comedic turn of any politician ever to do Saturday Night Live. Which only has to mean he wasn’t painful to watch. In fact, his “McCain Sings Streisand” sketch was damned funny and he seemed to put some genuine effort into his John Ashcroft imitation. When (portraying the Attorney General) he said, “We've got some really great stuff in the works. There's one plan that would make the Arabic language – or anything that sounds like it – illegal," McCain demonstrated at least two kinds of—yes—bravery that had disappeared amongst politicians by 2002: the bravery to wildly criticize a member of your own party, and the bravery to be perceived as politically incorrect. Humor, confrontation, and risky allusions are the vibrant stuff of youth—are they not? Yet the sixtyish-and-under candidates blow scripted one-liners and speak of pacifying enemies, while the man who’s supposedly too old for the White House sets the “bomb Iran” question to the Beach Boys. And I like it. Everyone in the world tells you not to sweat the small stuff and then goes off to catastrophize the minute nonsense of their lives. At this stage of his career, all that needs tastefully to be observed about John McCain’s record is that no living American is better equipped to discriminate between the small stuff and the big stuff. The Senator spots the difference effortlessly while rest of the pack won’t even acknowledge there is one. Jokes, song parodies – small stuff. War, terror, freedom, victory – big stuff. In talking about McCain’s heroism, one doesn’t need to mention Vietnam. Simply consider Iraq. Senator McCain has the distinction on Capital Hill of being both the most energetic supporter of the Iraq War and the first, most vocal critic of the Rumsfeld strategy. He actually believed in the importance of the cause, and therefore the necessity of victory. A liberated state is not a goal to be scrapped when things go wrong; it’s a principle worthy of unwavering stamina and ingenuity. It’s easy to spew bromides about bringing the troops home, but much harder to take the risk of a new strategy. As Senator McCain has recently pointed out, while the frontrunners boast about being “agents of change,” no other candidate can rightfully claim agency in the life-saving (and nation-saving) changes brought about by the troop surge in Iraq. In taking my cue from the Senator, I’ve expanded my list of small stuff. The McCain-Feingold finance reform, dissent on the Bush tax cuts, and certain details of immigration reform all fall under that heading. John McCain shares my idea of the big stuff and he has my vote.

 

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