McCain Versus the Juggernaut
We stand with him.
Nov 3, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 08 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It's always darkest before it goes totally black. This is one of John McCain's favorite remarks, ascribed (apocryphally, it seems) to Chairman Mao. Well, with 10 days to go before the election, it's getting pretty dark out there.
Still, we hope for a McCain-Palin victory, for the sake of the country. And also for the pleasure of seeing the dejection of the mainstream media, the incredulity of the leftwing triumphalists, and the humiliation of the pathetically opportunistic "conservatives" who've been desperately clambering on board the Obama juggernaut. We're proud to stay off that juggernaut. We're proud, in our modest way, to stand with John McCain and Sarah Palin against it.
An Obama-Biden administration--working with a Democratic Congress--would mean a more debilitating nanny state at home and a weaker nation facing our enemies abroad. We, of course, have confidence that the nation would survive such an interlude, and we would even hope that a President Obama might adjust course from the path he's advertised, especially in foreign policy. But the risk of real damage is great, especially when compared with the prospect of a tough-minded center-right McCain-Palin administration that could lead the country sensibly through these difficult times.
Reading the endorsements of Obama in the liberal media should strengthen the determination of all believers in American self-government and greatness to fight this election campaign to the end. Time magazine's Joe Klein tells us that Obama "seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision." To the contrary, we are a nation of adults. We don't need the "supervision" of a conventionally liberal and totally untested junior senator whose most impressive lifetime achievement has been the construction of an effective narrative about himself.
But wait. Obama does have one great achievement. He's run a good campaign. The New York Times tells us, "After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States." And how has he proved this? "Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change."
The "challenges" Obama has met have been political and electoral. He's met them well, and we'd be the first to pay tribute to his disciplined and effective campaign. Still, is this "proof" of a capacity to be president? Obama has run the most impressive campaign by a non-incumbent since George W. Bush in 2000, and by a non-incumbent Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Do the Obama acolytes want to hold up the Bush or Carter administrations as models for the proposition that a good campaign translates into a good presidency?
We also hear a lot of squeaking from rats deserting the McCain ship about Barack Obama's exemplary temperament. So what? If he'd had his way, Obama would have lost the war in Iraq--with equanimity. He would have been calm, cool, and collected as U.S. interests were sacrificed and U.S. honor besmirched. Neville Chamberlain also had a fine temperament and a good intellect. Joe Biden, by the way, has neither. But he did--much as he now wishes people to forget it--support the Iraq war. These days, he can barely be bothered even to mention Iraq. Oh well, start a war, lose a war. Gotta move on.
John McCain didn't move on. He helped to win the war. In a fine article on National Review Online last week, Byron York reported on a moment at a McCain rally:
"I just gave John McCain my Purple Heart," Marine Sgt. Jack Eubanks told me a few minutes after McCain finished a speech at a campaign rally in Woodbridge, Virginia, Saturday. "I said, 'I want to give this to you, sir, as a reminder that we want you to keep your promise to bring us home in victory and honor, so it will mean something.' "
The 22-year-old Eubanks has been injured twice in Iraq. He's now teaching Marine recruits at Quantico--and walking with a cane. York explains that Eubanks saw remarkable progress in Iraq between his 2005 and 2007 tours and is concerned that it might all be for naught. "I think Obama's just going to pull everyone home as soon as he can, despite what's going on over there," he told York. "I just don't want it to turn into another Vietnam or worse where everything we fought for, and all my buddies who died over there, it was just for nothing."
We would hope that Obama might be more responsible with respect to Iraq as president than he was as senator, now that the surge he opposed and derided has worked. But hope is all anyone can do. And in dealing with other foreign threats, he'd more than likely follow his natural inclination--reflexively liberal, post-nationalist, timid to a fault.
If Obama wins, we wish him well. But for now, we can only echo the words of the 30-year-old Abraham Lincoln. On December 26, 1839, responding to the confident prediction of one of his political opponents "that every State in the Union will vote for Mr. Van Buren at the next Presidential election" and that Lincoln's opposition to the Van Buren forces was therefore bound to be in vain, Lincoln responded:
Address that argument to cowards and to knaves; with the free and the brave it will effect nothing. It may be true; if it must, let it. . . . The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. . . . Let none falter, who thinks he is right, and we may succeed. But if after all, we shall fail, be it so.
As it happens, the Whig ticket Lincoln supported won that 1840 election. So might, against the odds, the party of Lincoln win this year.