December 26, 2007


No ordinary candidate (Jeff Jacoby, December 26, 2007, Boston Globe)

WHEN HE ran for president eight years ago, John McCain was asked by an interviewer what he thought of the Confederate flag - a touchy topic in South Carolina, where at the time a debate was raging over whether the banner should continue to fly above the state capitol.

McCain answered from the heart: "As we all know, it's a symbol of racism and slavery." But his reply infuriated many South Carolina voters, and after the interview McCain's aides pushed him to undo the damage. So he let them draft a statement "clarifying" his position, and when reporters asked him about the flag in the days that followed, he made a show of pulling the paper from his pocket and reading his revised remarks. "As to how I view the flag," it began, "I understand both sides." It went on to acknowledge that some people may deem the flag "a symbol of slavery" - McCain's original, authentic opinion - but that "personally, I see the battle flag as a symbol of heritage."

By the fourth or fifth time the question came up, McCain later wrote in his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For" (coauthored with Mark Salter), he could have delivered the new response from memory.

"But I persisted with the theatrics of unfolding the paper and reading it as if I were making a hostage statement. I wanted to telegraph reporters that I really didn't mean to suggest I supported flying the flag, but political imperatives required a little evasiveness on my part. I wanted them to think me still an honest man, who simply had to cut a corner a little here and there so that I could go on to be an honest president. I think that made the offense worse. Acknowledging my dishonesty with a wink didn't make it less a lie. It compounded the offense. . . .

"I had not just been dishonest. I had been a coward, and I had severed my own interests from my country's. That was what made the lie unforgivable. All my heroes, fictional and real, would have been ashamed of me."

Now try, if you can, to imagine Hillary Clinton writing those words. Or Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee. Is it conceivable that John Edwards, who fiercely indicts the moral shortcomings of others, would ever speak so bluntly and harshly about his own? Would Ron Paul? Would Barack Obama? Among America's leading politicians, I cannot think of any who is so forthright about his own failings, or so willing to let the world see him struggle with his conscience.

Now McCain's second presidential campaign is in the midst of a remarkable revival.

Never underestimate the value--especially on the GOP side--of having run before.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2007 1:32 PM


This is apropos of nothing but sooner or later you will just have to post the hysterical McCain Sings Barbra Streisand skit around here. Perhaps when he wins NH?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 26, 2007 2:58 PM

I wanted them to think me still an honest man, who simply had to cut a corner a little here and there so that I could go on to be an honest president.

He may have run before, but this proves he didn't learn anything about dealing with MSM.

Posted by: Chris B at December 26, 2007 4:56 PM