John McCain, the imperfect servant, stands waiting outside the door
A British writer commenting on the US election should be ever conscious of the damage the Guardian did to John Kerry’s abortive bid for the presidency in 2004 by sending out an ‘Open Letter to America’s Voters’. Nevertheless, it seems that the greatest nation on earth as seems ready in 2008 to take one of the greatest gambles in her infant history. Senator Barack Obama’s seemingly unstoppable candidacy is yet more evidence of the power of a good talker in American public life, but little else.
Whoever wins tonight will face a hugely powerful Democratic Congress, come January 2009. On one side there is a candidate, John McCain, with a proven track record of standing up to such big power blocks. This man pursued compensatory legislation for victims of tobacco companies, reached across the aisle with Ted Kennedy to pass the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’, and worked with an even more liberal lawmaker, Russ Feingold, to pass a campaign finance act that incensed the wealthy ‘Wall Street Journal conservatives’ in the Republican Party. What is more, Senator McCain showed the courage of this last conviction by standing by his pledge to take only public money to finance the final leg of his campaign. Senator Obama, on the other hand, reneged on the agreement he had with McCain to do the same.
We all know John McCain is seventy-two but the above goes to show how much more maturity his advantage in years has bestowed upon him. Having spent five years being tortured by the Vietcong, this man wasn’t about to pass up on his chance to show the nation, and the Republican Party, that elections are there to be won, not bought. Would that we could have said the same about Senator Obama as he splashed out on thirty minutes of unnecessary prime time TV, showing off his mocked up Oval Office and Obama ’08 presidential seal? I think not.
One theme McCain has repeatedly stressed in this campaign has been his role, whether in the navy, the House of Representatives, or the Senate, as an ‘imperfect servant of my country’. As we mark the eighth anniversary of the election that gave America one of the most disastrously arrogant presidents in history, we would do well to remember the importance of humility in politics. For Senator Barack Obama has done and said little to suggest that, as he stands in front of those throngs of adoring fans, he thinks the world cannot be remade in his image.