Ransom Notes: McCain is no leader

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After watching John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, and the media fawning over his running mate, Sarah Palin, I get the feeling that John McCain doesn’t want to be president so much as he wants to be accepted,

After watching John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention and the media fawning over his running mate, Sarah Palin, I get the feeling that John McCain doesn’t want to be president so much as he wants to be accepted, to be thanked, to be rewarded for his life’s service. He doesn’t want to lead and may not even be capable of it.

Yeah, he’s going to run, and he’s going to run hard, and he and Palin will make it a close election, and McCain may actually win. But as I listened to him that night, I was struck with the feeling that he doesn’t want it–that he doesn’t want to be president.

During his speech, McCain dwelled upon his military service, and it was a moving story. I felt personally for this man who suffered so much. I heard him say that at one point he was “broken” by the North Vietnamese. That admission alone was startling, for a man who is purporting to be the change America needs. What he sounded like was a man who carries his past with him always, close to the surface. McCain’s speech was stuck in the past and contained precious few visions of the future.

I have no doubt that McCain really believes that he is a maverick (an unorthodox or independent-minded person). His career is marked by instances of him going against the grain, whether it was at Annapolis, or during his time as a Navy pilot or even after his five-year stint in a North Vietnamese prison. However, none of that experience recommends him for leadership.

I haven’t seen any evidence that qualifies John McCain to be a president. I don’t know of any “maverick” presidents. Mavericks don’t lead because they are, as McCain described himself, “marching to the beat of my own drum.” If being “independent minded” was a leading criteria to be president, Ralph Nader would have been elected years ago.

Instead, what is becoming more and more apparent is that McCain, the maverick, is now a follower.

That’s why he has veered sharply to the right, embracing the evangelical fringe. He has eschewed any semblance of being a social moderate, supporting anti-affirmative action legislation and supporting tax cuts for corporations while not providing any tax relief for ordinary citizens. It is also why he reached all the way to the hinterlands of Alaska to tab Palin to be his vice presidential nominee.

During his speech, McCain kept making reference to cleaning out Washington, getting rid of the people who brought bad government. He included Republicans in that equation (in the face of a crowd of Republicans). He was cheered, but it would have been really bad theater for some of those 20,000 attendees to sit on their hands while their nominee said they were part of the problem.

But I’m not sure what McCain wants. It is hard to denigrate a man who spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison, but should voters elevate him to the highest office in the land out of gratitude for his service? And should they elect him knowing that Palin, with no foreign policy or economic experience, is a weak, 72-year-old heartbeat away from being the commander-in-chief of the nation?

Though McCain talked about changing the way Washington operates, he did not say he would change any of the failed policies of the last eight years. He didn’t say he’d do anything different with the economy to lower gas prices, food prices, stem the tide of housing foreclosures, restore trust in the banking industry, make college more affordable and improve the educational system or make affordable health care available to more Americans. He didn’t even mention George Bush by name; as if not speaking the name will make people believe he simply doesn’t exist.

McCain should make the case for why he wants to be president. Republicans have already determined that it is Palin, not McCain, who is carrying the party’s banner. McCain has been shuffled to the side, an afterthought in his own election. It is no wonder if he thinks he isn’t the best candidate for the job, since his party is pushing Palin over him. If he cannot lead his own ticket, how can he lead the country?

Lou Ransom is executive editor of the Chicago Defender. He can be reached at lransom@chicagodefender.com.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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