Wednesday, April 09, 2008


This commentary appeared in The Fargo Forum on April 9, 2008.

Ed Schultz, Fargo’s liberal talk radio host, ignited a political brushfire when he called John McCain a “warmonger” during a passionate warm-up of hundreds of Barack Obama’s enthused supporters at a fundraiser prior to the political rock star’s speech at the North Dakota Democratic Convention (April 6, 2008).

Is McCain a warmonger?

McCain went on a “biography tour” the previous week and shared his life story with America. He proudly (as he should) outlined his family’s martial heritage going back to the Revolutionary War; he described his high school years when a chip on his shoulder led him to respond, “aggressively and sometimes irresponsibly to anyone whom I perceived to have questioned my sense of honor and self-respect.” McCain described his four years at the Naval Academy, “were not notable for exemplary virtue or academic achievement but, rather, for the impressive catalogue of demerits I managed to accumulate;” he beautifully described the horror of war and the aliveness fighting for a cause greater than self can evoke as only one who has been there can: “The combat veteran knows what great loss and great joy feel like when they occur in the same moment, the same experience. It can be transforming.”

Clearly McCain’s life and worldview were framed and formed by wars, preparation for wars, and the losses of war. He is a true, noble, flawed, and courageous warrior.

Has his recent military judgment manifested his vast and honorable experience?

McCain supported the war in Iraq—the wrong war, against the wrong country, at the wrong time—a war based on lies and ideology that will go down in history as this nation’s greatest strategic blunder--a decision that took our eyes off the real enemy: al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

McCain called for and supported the surge. The purpose of additional troops in Iraq was to quell violence so political reconciliation could take place. Violence, until recently, went down; political reconciliation—the goal--has been minimal.

A paper written by some of the same experts who advised the Iraq Study Group concluded that political progress has been “so slow, halting and superficial, and social and political fragmentation so pronounced, that the US is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago.”

In addition McCain threatens a war with Iran to prevent it from having nuclear weapons, expresses willingness to occupy Iraq for 100 years if necessary, and promises Americans that there “will be more wars.”

Is John McCain a warmonger: One who advocates or attempts to stir up war? Make your own decision. Consider two other issues that may impact McCain’s judgment as president as you do.

McCain recently repeated three times the false assertion that Sunni al-Qaeda was leaving Iraq to retool and regroup in Shiite Iran. Conservative commentator Brit Hume described McCain’s confusion—which happens often--as a “senior moment.”

A recent study shows that one out of every three Americans over 70 has some cognitive decline. Laura Carstensen, head of Stanford’s Center on Longevity, said, “I see better reason to know about someone’s cognitive health than medical health.” Listen when McCain’s doctors publicly discuss his health soon—do they talk about cognitive function?

Add his famous temper to McCain’s war worldview, judgment about Iraq, and advanced age. Republican Senator Thad Cochran wrote, “The thought of his being President sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper, and he worries me.”

With McCain there is no need to worry about domestic programs—there will be no money. Our recession is impacted directly by the $400 million/day spent in Iraq. The money would be better spent achieving energy independence from the Middle East and improving our economy. McCain admits that he doesn’t understand economics and conservative columnist George Will said McCain’s economic proposals are “adolescent.”

John McCain is a noble man, however, the times are too perilous, the problems too complex, and the stresses too great for us to elect as our next president a man who is one dimensional and whose time, sadly, has passed.