UPDATED: Do you support Obama’s approach to foreign policy? VOTE HERE.
We’ll always have Berlin…. the days when it was all “Hope” and “Change” and governance was just a word. The cheering throngs, the coordinated signs, the events and emotions and condescension palpable. If the atheists could suspend their values for a moment, surely they too would acknowledge that last summer – in Berlin – that from the hereafter, Leni Riefenstahl looked upon Obama’s European debut with great pride in his stagecraft. (something she knew a little about after filming “Triumph of the Will“)
Okay, maybe not. And certainly not now. President Barack Obama was for many Americans and Europeans and Africans a welcome change from the presidency of George W. Bush. After all, War is hard. No one likes to be inconvenienced by terrorism, bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, hijackings, and fights with OPEC over oil, and with Ghaddafi over their stash of WMDs, and Iran over nukes, and seriously – who isn’t tired of the Palestinian problem? Like, Hamas? It’s like – we’re tired, man. We want some hope-n-change.
War is hard. Of course, to be honest – it’s not like America – or George W. Bush picked this fight. Poverty is not a motivator for Usama bin Ladin. He’s got a few hundred million dollars in liquid assets. I don’t think he’s losing sleep over Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. And he’s probably laughing that President Obama actually believes there are “two” Talibans. One that we can work with, and one we can’t. My guess is that the ones we can work with were the spectators in the soccer stadiumback in the pre-9/11 days when they beheaded women and stoned them to death for having an ankle exposed. But hey, they were just watching. So, compared to the guy with the machete – they were pretty moderate.
Anyway, that’s an uncomfortable topic. Let’s refocus on Europe for a minute. July 2008 – Obama was gaining steam, kicking Hillary Clinton’s arse, and readying to take the world by storm. Or, as Der Spiegel put it: “People of the world, Look at me.”
Obama began his speech with sentences about what he claimed not to be — at least for this one Thursday in Berlin: He was neither appearing here as a candidate nor a typical American. Instead, he claimed to be a “proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.” He added: “I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father, my grandfather, was a cook for the British.” It’s a life story that would not have been possible without the freedom of the West.
And then he elegantly turned to the theme of Berlin. He had been heavily criticized for only wanting nice TV images in front of the Brandenburg Gate. In Obama’s words, however, the choice of the city seemed completely logical. “This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. … In the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up,” he said. Obama called upon the people of the world to look at this city. That bit was lifted from Ernst Reuter, the former mayor of West Berlin, but it was a good quote to steal — and it applies well to trans-Atlantic relations. “Berlin is where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other.”
Trust. Hmm. Trust implies the relationship between America & Germany – or America and any of her European allies is special. That was then.
Further confirmation that the Obama administration may be downgrading the Special Relationship with Great Britain is provided by a State Department official in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.
Asked about the underwhelming reception given to Gordon Brown when he visited the White House last week, the “furious” unnamed official, who was involved in the planning of the meeting, declared:
There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.
Alrighty then. So, the Brits can basically stuff it. Nothing special. My guess is that France and Germany should not expect anything different. This kind of commentary won’t go unnoticed at the G20 meeting in London next month. However – don’t expect Obama to be snubbed. Instead, expect him to be showered with the good graces of his hosts. Because PM Gordon Brown isn’t a tacky fellow. To the contrary – he is an extraordinary man who will simply outclass Obama at every turn.
PM Brown’s visit was the icing on a rancid cake in my opinion. What cake? Ah, well – after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 – then PM Tony Blair offered a bust of Winston Churchill as a loan, as a sign of solidarity with the American people and our President. It remained in the Oval Office for the duration of W’s tenure as President.
From the Times: (updated for those requesting additional data)
Shortly before Mr Obama’s inauguration, the Jacob Epstein bronze is understood to have been removed and placed in storage by White House curators. Recent photographs show that a bust of Abraham Lincoln, one of the new President’s heroes, has been moved to take the position once occupied by Churchill.
Obama summoned an official from the British embassy to retrieve the artifact. No war on terror. No acknowledgement of the gracious spirit in which it was given. And then, when it came time for the current Prime Minister to visit… things got even uglier.
Protocol. Manners. Etiquette. These are things that matter. They communicate who we are as a people to our counterparts across the globe. The White House protocol folks, the State Department protocolfolks, and the masters of protocol (in my not so humble, used to be one of them snarky way) at Military District Washington, MDW, would never advise, under any circumstance the wholesale tackiness that was to ensue.
MDW manages the arrivals ceremonies – at Andrews Air Force Base. At the White House. At the Pentagon. And pretty much anywhere else inside the National Capitol Region. They oversee the Presidential Honor Guard, a joint-service group that act as the President’s Official Escort. And in some ways, they act as his proxy. They also manage every burial at Arlington National Ceremony. They are the faces you see in solemnity presiding over state funerals – think Reagan, Kennedy, Ford. Those folks KNOW protocol. It is their job. They are dedicated and assigned full time to protocol on behalf of the State. And they are the President’s own for Inaugurals… these folks have been doing this since the beginning. The Old Guard, the 3rd ID at Fort Myer – well, they harken back to General George Washington’s days. So, it’s not like they – nor any of the protocol professionals that advise a president – are new at their jobs.
When PM Brown arrived, there was no presence. No arrival at Andrews AFB. No arrival on the South Lawn at the White House. No State & Territorial flags with a cordon along the White House driveway. No formal press conference in the Rose Garden, or the East Room. No State Dinner. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Not special enough I guess. But it didn’t end there. Presidents and their counterparts offfer gifts to each other. Thoughtful, meaningful gifts are exchanged to symbolize the “special relationship” between our people. President Obama must not agree because he gave PM Gordon Brown a boxed set of 25 DVDs showcasing American classic films. No, I am not kidding.
From the Daily Mail:
As he headed back home from Washington, Gordon Brown must have rummaged through his party bag with disappointment.
Because all he got was a set of DVDs. Barack Obama, the leader of the world’s richest country, gave the Prime Minister a box set of 25 classic American films – a gift about as exciting as a pair of socks.
While the Daily Mail was a bit cheeky in their response, Toby Harnden of the Telegraph was straightforward in his piece “No need for DVDs: Gifts Obama Could Have Given Gordon Brown.” My favorite on his list:
A pewter flagonfrom the site of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. The flagon, which dates from before 1620, bears the initials P, R and E on its thumbrest, may have belonged to Richard and Elizabeth Pierce, who arrived at Jamestown on board “a faire ship, the Neptune”, which set sail from London in 1618.
While perhaps not as grand, I would certainly have taken a quick drive from my new house out to my old neighborhood and asked for advice on behalf of the stumbling Obama White House from Civil Rights icon Myrlie Evers, widow of Medgar Evers who was slain on his own doorstep. Certainly, Mr. Obama could have found something from the Civil Rights era… or anything on Mr. Harnden’s list. But DVDs? It is truly unconscionable.
What did PM Gordon Brown offer? Well, in addition to a first edition seven-volume set biography of Winston Churchill (ahem) he brought a penholder carved from the Oak timbers of the HMS Gannet. Why is that significant? Well, the Gannet participated in anti-slavery missions, and was the sister ship to the HMS Resolute, from which two desks were carved. One sits in Queen Elizabeth’s study, the other resides in the Oval Office. To say Gordon Brown ‘thought it through’ is a great understatement. It was a kind, thoughtful acknowledgement from our greatest ally of the true accomplishment that America is leaving the stain of the Middle Passage behind her.
Of course, the insult continued. With First Lady Michelle Obama. Her detractors are having “I told you so” moments from sea to shining sea. In a stroke of complete ignorance, she gave Prime Minister Brown’s wife Sarah couple of toy plastic Marine One helicopters for their sons. Seriously.
From the Times:
Mrs Brown may have two boys but she certainly knows the way to a little girl’s heart. These were gifts chosen in the true spirit of present-giving: to please the recipient, not the giver.
In return Mrs Obama gave the Brown children, Fraser and John, two toy models of Marine One, the Presidential helicopter. Fair enough on the helicopter part, always a popular choice with small boys; but Marine One? It’s not as though anyone needs reminding that Barack Obama is President or that he has his own helicopter. Short of giving the boys Action Man models of her own husband smiting the evil forces of neoconservatism, Mrs Obama’s gesture could not have been more solipsistic or more inherently dismissive of Mrs Brown. ot only did she demonstrate that she spent approximately three seconds contemplating the needs of the Brown boys (having an aide pop to the White House gift shop for a piece of merchandising does not imply a great deal of thought), she appeared to show a most uncharacteristic lapse of judgment.
It might have been possible to overlook the incident were it not for the official photograph.
The White House released one picture of the two women and it does not appear to have been selected with any kind of special relationship in mind. There is a menacing bunch of pink peonies in the foreground and the angle is most unflattering to Mrs Brown, who has the air of a woman very much in need of a stiff drink.
Whether deliberate or not, the whole thing feels like a snub.
Like her husband, Sarah Brown brought thougtful books, dresses and jewelry from London’s Top Shop, for Sasha and Malia. What made the plastic helicopters so insulting was they came from the White House gift shop, downstairs in the OEOB. The gifts were clearly a rush, an afterthought, and not of any significant importance.
As an American, I am embarrassed. Unfortunately, it’s not just protocol that is the problem. It’s policy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made some curious remarks about Human Rights, leading some to believe that closing Guantanamo was about appeasing the American anti-war Left, while doing nothing to really make a stand on Human Rights.
Nowhere are these basic needs more under assault than in Darfur. Obama promised “unstinting resolve” in 2008. But, to date, he has done nothing. Not even mentioned it as a priority. Every president has a huge portfolio. So, bad economy or not – he doesn’t get a pass. Hiring a couple of staffers, appointing an envoy, and getting engaged is cheap, easy, and effective.
Why does Darfur matter? There are many, many reasons. Not the least of which is our own national security. In 1993, when our troops were in Somalia delivering humanitarian aid to the Somali people – who suffering because of a horrible famine… something happened. A little known anti-Saudi, anti-US terrorist was just getting his sea legs. Spurned by the Saudis, his citizenship revoked, and humiliated in front of his family and followers – Usama bin Ladin cowered in the Sudan and Afghanistan. He funneled his millions through construction and other projects to dirty warlords, like Mohammad Farah Aidid. He provided Aidid with cash, weapons, missiles, food, and other staples — in October 1993, Aidid’s men – armed by bin Ladin – struck back against our troops. Creating the “Blackhawk Down” incident.
Had Clinton stayed, fought, and taken down Aidid – and a much weaker bin Ladin – instead of an aspirin factory, we would be living in a much different world. (note link to NYT piece, utilizing Peter Bergen & Mark Bowden’s research on the topic)
What we do in Africa, and what we don’t do, matters. Darfur is not only terrorized by the Islamic militant Janjaweed – who rape, torture, and murder – but also by the shadow of Rwanda. When America, also on Bill Clinton’s watch, turned a blind eye to a genocide.
Now, the International Criminal Court at the Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir, who is in bed with the Janjaweed, he has expelled humanitarian aid organizations. Kicking out the very people who provide food, potable water, and medical care – but also the witnesses who would tell the story of Darfuris being mowed down.
From Save Darfur on March 11, 2009:
The Save Darfur Coalition today called on President Obama to press the Sudanese government to immediately reinstate the licenses of 13 international humanitarian groups expelled from Darfur last week. In a letter cosigned by 54 coalition partners, the groups said that the administration should urgently undertake a sustained diplomatic effort to resolve the Darfur crisis and restore peace to all of Sudan.
“We know from your commitment to Darfur as a senator and your campaign pledge of ‘unstinting resolve’ to end the Darfur genocide that you believe the United States and its citizens cannot stand by while civilians are unjustly targeted by their own government,” the groups wrote in the letter. “Now, with millions of lives hanging in the balance, we must act immediately. Any delay will lead to even greater loss of life in Darfur.”
The organizations expelled from Darfur are a part of a humanitarian apparatus that provides relief to 4.7 million Darfuri civilians. It is estimated by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance that their expulsion will leave 1.1 million Darfuris without food aid, 1.5 million without access to healthcare and more than one million without potable water.
“The denial of life-saving food, water and medical care in Darfur is a human rights violation that endangers health and threatens lives,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights. “The recent outbreak of meningitis in Darfur’s Kalma Camp is just the beginning of the widespread suffering that the expulsion of humanitarian aid groups will cause.”
And Obama remains silent.
PS: I’ve updated this post with links to source articles, and additional excerpts to provide those seeking clarity more of it.
THE PRESIDENT: Fellow citizens: For eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your President. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence — a time set apart. Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey that we have traveled together, and the future of our nation.
Five days from now, the world will witness the vitality of American democracy. In a tradition dating back to our founding, the presidency will pass to a successor chosen by you, the American people. Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation. And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-Elect Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.
Tonight I am filled with gratitude — to Vice President Cheney and members of my administration; to Laura, who brought joy to this house and love to my life; to our wonderful daughters, Barbara and Jenna; to my parents, whose examples have provided strength for a lifetime. And above all, I thank the American people for the trust you have given me. I thank you for the prayers that have lifted my spirits. And I thank you for the countless acts of courage, generosity, and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years.
This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house — September the 11th, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor. I remember standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center three days later, surrounded by rescuers who had been working around the clock. I remember talking to brave souls who charged through smoke-filled corridors at the Pentagon, and to husbands and wives whose loved ones became heroes aboard Flight 93. I remember Arlene Howard, who gave me her fallen son’s police shield as a reminder of all that was lost. And I still carry his badge.
As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists’ movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil night and day to keep us safe — law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude. And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight: There has been no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.
The battles waged by our troops are part of a broader struggle between two dramatically different systems. Under one, a small band of fanatics demands total obedience to an oppressive ideology, condemns women to subservience, and marks unbelievers for murder. The other system is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God, and that liberty and justice light the path to peace.
This is the belief that gave birth to our nation. And in the long run, advancing this belief is the only practical way to protect our citizens. When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We’re standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to dying patients — to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
For eight years, we’ve also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes. The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith-based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America’s air and water and lands are measurably cleaner. And the federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them. Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard our economy. These are very tough times for hardworking families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted. All Americans are in this together. And together, with determination and hard work, we will restore our economy to the path of growth. We will show the world once again the resilience of America’s free enterprise system.
Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I’ve always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.
The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country, and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course.
While our nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again. America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict. But we have been given solemn responsibilities, and we must meet them. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.
At the same time, we must continue to engage the world with confidence and clear purpose. In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.
As we address these challenges — and others we cannot foresee tonight — America must maintain our moral clarity. I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.
President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead.
I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a nation where citizens show calm in times of danger, and compassion in the face of suffering. We see examples of America’s character all around us. And Laura and I have invited some of them to join us in the White House this evening.
We see America’s character in Dr. Tony Rehcasner, a principal who opened a new charter school from the ruins of Hurricane Katrina. We see it in Julio Medina, a former inmate who leads a faith-based program to help prisoners returning to society. We’ve seen it in Staff Sergeant Aubrey McDade, who charged into an ambush in Iraq and rescued three of his fellow Marines.
We see America’s character in Bill Krissoff — a surgeon from California. His son, Nathan — a Marine — gave his life in Iraq. When I met Dr. Krissoff and his family, he delivered some surprising news: He told me he wanted to join the Navy Medical Corps in honor of his son. This good man was 60 years old — 18 years above the age limit. But his petition for a waiver was granted, and for the past year he has trained in battlefield medicine. Lieutenant Commander Krissoff could not be here tonight, because he will soon deploy to Iraq, where he will help save America’s wounded warriors — and uphold the legacy of his fallen son.
In citizens like these, we see the best of our country – resilient and hopeful, caring and strong. These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there’s more ahead. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country, and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other – citizen of the United States of America.
And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next President. And may God bless you and our wonderful country. Thank you. (Applause.)
So you know that you’re getting old when your high-school calls and asks if you’d be a speaker for their political section at Career Day. Well, that’s what I’m doing tomorrow. So in preparation, I started thinking about the role of partisanship in today’s political climate.
Today, so many people talk about life in a post-partisan world, like it’s some kind destination beyond the “final frontier” – like American political community will “ascend” to a “higher” or more “civilized” discourse. A time and place where political parties will not drive the priorities that dictate the actions of our lawmakers. A quasi-nirvana state where elected officials will be free to make the “right” decisions to save America.
And being a student of history, my response? I think not.
This nation, like the rest of western civilization really, is constantly engaged in a struggle over two different philosophical ideas – whether or not “power” should be vested in the individual or the collective. Some policy issues function better on one side, and others with the opposite.
So what is the difference between a partisan change versus a “post-partisan” change? Well…the only time you would use the term “post-partisan” is when a lot of people don’t participate in the Party system, ie: voters.
Today, Fox & Hounds commentator Pete Peterson pens an article discussing low civic engagement in California (which is symptomatic of the rest of America). One of his conclusions that I strongly agree with is that so many Americans have just abdicated their responsibility as participatory citizens in the process and see themselves more as “customers” and thus just “deal with” the system instead of working to “change” the system.
It would certainly explain a host of issues with the political structure and disenfranchisement from the two main parties which unfortunately results in nothing but political ideologues running the show. And the worst part is that when someone leaves the Party in disgust instead of trying to change it from within, it only makes the extremists stronger – making the problem even worse. A little bird told me that just last week Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger here in California is planning on launching a special election to reintroduce open primaries in California. While I don’t believe in the constitutionality of open primaries, I am acutely aware of the partisan gridlock that has prompted such a move.
Individuals who act in partisan best interests before America’s best interests have already pushed political parties to the point of obstructionism – and if this measure passes in California – will eliminate their breed for the time to come.
Happy Wednesday, all.
Below are the remarks, as prepared for delivery, by former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee:
Tonight our thoughts are still with our friends and fellow citizens in the Gulf Coast area, and our thanks go to those who have worked so hard to keep them safe. There can be no more important work than this.
But what we are doing at this convention is also important to our country.
We are going to nominate the next President and Vice President of the United States of America.
We do so while taking a different view of our country than that of the other party.
Listening to them you’d think that we were in the middle of a great depression; that we are down, disrespected and incapable of prevailing against challenges facing us.
We know that we have challenges … always have, always will.
But we also know that we live in the freest, strongest, most generous and prosperous nation in the history of the world and we are thankful.
Speaking of the vice presidential nominee, what a breath of fresh air Governor Sarah Palin is.
She is from a small town, with small town values, but that’s not good enough for those folks who are attacking her and her family.
Some Washington pundits and media big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit. Well, give me a tough Alaskan Governor who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the Union — and won — over the beltway business-as-usual crowd any day of the week.
Let’s be clear … the selection of Governor Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic. She is a courageous, successful, reformer, who is not afraid to take on the establishment.
Sound like anyone else we know?
She has run a municipality and she has run a state.
And I can say without fear of contradiction that she is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose … with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt.
She and John McCain are not going to care how much the alligators get irritated when they get to Washington, they’re going to drain that swamp.
But tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the remarkable story of John McCain.
It’s a story about character.
John McCain’s character has been tested like no other presidential candidate in the history of this nation.
He comes from a military family whose service to our country goes back to the Revolutionary War.
The tradition continues.
As I speak, John and Cindy McCain have one son who’s just finished his first tour in Iraq.
Another son is putting “Country First” and is attending the Naval Academy. We have a number of McCains in the audience tonight.
Also here tonight is John’s 96-year-old mother, Roberta. All I’ve got to say is that if Roberta McCain had been the McCain captured by the North Vietnamese, they would have surrendered.
Now, John’s father was a bit of a rebel, too.
In his first two semesters at the Naval Academy, he managed to earn 333 demerits.
Unfortunately, John later saw that as a record to be beaten.
A rebellious mother and a rebellious father – I guess you can see where this is going.
In high school and the Naval Academy, he earned a reputation as a troublemaker.
But as John points out, he wasn’t just a troublemaker. He was the leader of the troublemakers.
Although loaded with demerits like his father, John was principled even in rebellion.
He never violated the honor code.
However, in flight school in Pensacola, he did drive a Corvette and date a girl who worked in a bar as an exotic dancer under the name of Marie, the Flame of Florida.
And the reason I’m telling you these things, is that, apparently, this mixture of rebellion and honor helped John McCain survive the next chapter of his life:
John McCain was preparing to take off from the USS Forrestal for his sixth mission over Vietnam, when a missile from another plane accidentally fired and hit his plane.
The flight deck burst into a fireball of jet fuel.
John’s flight suit caught fire.
He was hit by shrapnel.
It was a scene of horrible human devastation.
Men sacrificed their lives to save others that day. One kid, who John couldn’t identify because he was burned beyond recognition, called out to John to ask if a certain pilot was OK.
John replied that, yes, he was.
The young sailor said, “Thank God”… and then he died.
These are the kind of men John McCain served with.
These are the men and women John McCain knows and understands and loves.
If you want to know who John McCain is, if you want to know what John McCain values, look to the men and women who wear America’s uniform today.
The fire on the Forrestal burned for two days.
20 planes were destroyed.
134 sailors died.
John himself barely dodged death in the inferno and could’ve returned to the States with his ship.
Instead, he volunteered for combat on another carrier that was undermanned from losing so many pilots.
Putting his “Country First.”
Three months later John McCain was a Prisoner of War.
On October 26, 1967, on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam, a surface-to-air missile slammed into John’s A-4 Skyhawk jet, blowing it out of the sky.
When John ejected, part of the plane hit him — breaking his right knee, his left arm, his right arm in three places.
An angry mob got to him.
A rifle butt broke his shoulder.
A bayonet pierced his ankle and his groin.
They took him to the Hanoi Hilton, where he lapsed in and out of consciousness for days. He was offered medical care for his injuries if he would give up military information in return.
John McCain said “No”.
After days of neglect, covered in grime, lying in his own waste in a filthy room, a doctor attempted to set John’s right arm without success … and without anesthesia.
His other broken bones and injuries were not treated. John developed a high fever, dysentery. He weighed barely a hundred pounds.
Expecting him to die, his captors placed him in a cell with two other POWs who also expected him to die.
But with their help, John McCain fought on.
So then they put him in solitary confinement…for over two years.
Isolation … incredible heat beating on a tin roof. A light bulb in his cell burning 24 hours a day.
Boarded-up cell windows blocking any breath of fresh air.
The oppressive heat causing boils the size of baseballs under his arms.
The outside world limited to what he could see through a crack in a door.
We hear a lot of talk about hope.
John McCain knows about hope. That’s all he had to survive on. For propaganda purposes, his captors offered to let him go home.
John McCain refused.
He refused to leave ahead of men who’d been there longer.
He refused to abandon his conscience and his honor, even for his freedom.
He refused, even though his captors warned him, “It will be very bad for you.”
They were right.
The guards cracked ribs, broke teeth off at the gums. They cinched a rope around his arms and painfully drew his shoulders back.
Over four days, every two to three hours, the beatings resumed. During one especially fierce beating, he fell, again breaking his arm.
John was beaten for communicating with other prisoners.
He was beaten for NOT communicating with so-called “peace delegations.”
He was beaten for not giving information during interrogations.
When his captors wanted the names of other pilots in his squadron, John gave them the names of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers.
Whenever John was returned to his cell — walking if he could, dragged if he couldn’t — as he passed his fellow POWs, he would call out to them.
He’d smile … and give them a thumbs-up.
For five-and-a-half years this went on.
John McCain’s bones may have been broken but his spirit never was.
Now, being a POW certainly doesn’t qualify anyone to be President.
But it does reveal character.
This is the kind of character that civilizations from the beginning of history have sought in their leaders.
It’s pretty clear there are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, “Who is this man?” and “Can we trust this man with the Presidency?”
He has been to Iraq eight times since 2003.
He went seeking truth, not publicity.
When he travels abroad, he prefers quietly speaking to the troops amidst the heat and hardship of their daily lives.
And the same character that marked John McCain’s military career has also marked his political career.
This man, John McCain is not intimidated by what the polls say or by what is politically safe or popular.
At a point when the war in Iraq was going badly and the public lost confidence, John stood up and called for more troops.
And now we are winning.
Ronald Reagan was John McCain’s hero.
And President Reagan admired John tremendously.
But when the President proposed putting U.S. troops in Beirut, John McCain, a freshman Congressman, stood up and cast a vote against his hero because he thought the deployment was a mistake.
My friends … that is character you can believe in.
For years, members of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, have gouged the taxpayer with secret earmark spending.
Well, he has never sought an earmark.
I’ve experienced John’s character first hand.
In 1993, when I was thinking of running for the Senate, I went to John for advice. He convinced me I could help make a difference for our country.
I won that election, and with Republican control of Congress, we reformed welfare.
We balanced the budget.
And we began rebuilding our military.
What I remember most about those years is sitting next to John on the Senate floor as he led battle after battle to change the acrimonious, pork barreling, self serving ways of Washington.
The Senate has always had more than its share of smooth talkers.
And big talkers.
It still has.
But while others were talking reform, John McCain led the effort to make reform happen — always pressing, always moving for what he believed was right and necessary to restore the people’s faith in their government.
Confronting when necessary, reaching across the aisle when possible, John personified why we came to Washington in the first place.
It didn’t always set too well with some of his colleagues.
Some of those fights were losing efforts.
Some were not.
But a man who never quits is never defeated.
Because John McCain stood up our country is better off.
The respect he is given around the world is not because of a teleprompter speech designed to appeal to American critics abroad, but because of decades of clearly demonstrated character and statesmanship.
There has been no time in our nation’s history, since we first pledged allegiance to the American flag, when the character, judgment and leadership of our President was more important.
Terrorists, rogue nations developing nuclear weapons, an increasingly belligerent Russia.
Intensifying competition from China.
Spending at home that threatens to bankrupt future generations. For decades an expanding government … increasingly wasteful and too often incompetent.
To deal with these challenges the Democrats present a history making nominee for president.
History making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for President. Apparently they believe that he would match up well with the history making, Democrat controlled Congress. History making because it’s the least accomplished and most unpopular Congress in our nation’s history.
Together, they would take on these urgent challenges with protectionism, higher taxes and an even bigger bureaucracy.
And a Supreme Court that could be lost to liberalism for a generation.
This is not reform.
And it’s certainly not change.
It is basically the same old stuff they’ve been peddling for years. America needs a President who understands the nature of the world we live in.
A President who feels no need to apologize for the United States of America.
We need a President who understands that you don’t make citizens prosperous by making Washington richer, and you don’t lift an economic downturn by imposing one of the largest tax increases in American history.
Now our opponents tell you not to worry about their tax increases.
They tell you they are not going to tax your family.
No, they’re just going to tax “businesses”! So unless you buy something from a “business”, like groceries or clothes or gasoline … or unless you get a paycheck from a big or a small “business”, don’t worry … it’s not going to affect you.
They say they are not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the “other” side of the bucket! That’s their idea of tax reform.
My friends, we need a leader who stands on principle.
We need a President, and Vice President, who will take the federal bureaucracy by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking.
And we need a President who doesn’t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.
The man who will be that President is John McCain.
In the days ahead at this convention, you will hear much more about what John will do as president — what he will do on the economy, on energy, on health care, the environment… It is not my role tonight to explain that vision.
My role is to help remind you of the man behind the vision. Because tonight our country is calling to all of us to step up, stand up, and put “Country First” with John McCain.
Tonight we are being called upon to do what is right for our country.
Tonight we are being called upon to stand up for a strong military … a mature foreign policy … a free and growing economy and for the values that bind us together and keep our nation free.
Tonight, we are being called upon to step up and stand up with John just as he has stood up for our country.
Our country is calling.
John McCain cannot raise his arms above his shoulders.
He cannot salute the flag of the country for which he sacrificed so much. Tonight, as we begin this convention week, yes, we stand with him.
And we salute him.
We salute his character and his courage.
His spirit of independence, and his drive for reform.
His vision to bring security and peace in our time, and continued prosperity for America and all her citizens.
For our own good and our children’s, let us celebrate that vision, that belief, that faith so we can keep America the greatest country the world has ever seen.
God bless John McCain and God bless America.
Alright, ladies and gentlemen. I am finally excited about 2008 in a way I never dreamed imaginable. Senator John McCain has given the Republican party a fresh cool drink from the Gen X pool. After a very long leadership dry spell, our thirst is quenched. Country First indeed.
Senator John McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin demonstrates a keen insight. She is every woman. Let’s set aside the issues for just a moment. Let’s just think about our society and pop culture – then ponder how this former mayor and mother of five will win the hearts of America.
I am 36. Gold Star Wife. Mother of one. It has not always been easy but it has always been an honor. I am a very fortunate woman, have a wonderful daughter, a lovely and rewarding career, a great extended family that I love, and my urban family – collected in my political journeys around the country – in Atlanta, Denver, Salt Lake, Los Angeles, New York, and especially the handful of folks from Richmond who enrich my life daily. Every political consultant and every candidate begins building those relationships on day one. Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska, her friends and admirers are numerous.
In conservative circles, the great news of a solid political soulmate travels fast. You can bet that Governor Sarah Palin has her own political family – look at the record $4 million raised overnight when she was announced as McCain’s running mate. This woman is not a newbie. She will spend some time with Steve Schmidt to get up to speed. But when she meets Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate, for the Vice Presidential Debate in — I promise she will be ready. She might not be the long winded Washington insider, but she darn sure knows how to balance the family budget. She stood up to corruption – and won’t be afraid to point out to Biden that many of his colleagues skirt the law.
The spectacular decision of John McCain to choose Alaska’s first term Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate brings it home. America is OUR nation. All of us. We are all equal. Sarah Palin may not be a Washington insider, but she’s made far more difficult decisions than whether or not to vote “present” when something real is at stake. You can’t vote “present” when you are a Governor. You can’t vote “present” when you are a mayor. You can’t vote “present” when a corrupt party leadership deserves a direct challenge. You can’t vote “present” when the doctor tells you your unborn child has Down Syndrome. That is a life or death decision, and Sarah Palin chose LIFE.
America was built by a few mavericks. We are a unique people. And our Representative Republic should just that: representative of We the People. With McCain’s choice of Governor Sarah Palin – it will be.