In 2000 Jack Kemp (former congressman and Bob Dole's vice presidential candidate) told me, "McCain is a war maker, and I'm a peacemaker, so is George Bush. McCain would be too dangerous as President." (By the way, I noted this conversation in my book Crazy For God long before McCain was running for President in 2008 -- and therefore before Kemp's statement was topical.)Link.
Jack and I were arguing on the phone about the then Republican primaries. I still had Jack's home number from back in the 80s when I was a right wing activist and regular guest in his home. In 2000 I liked McCain -- in contrast to Bush -- so I had briefly jumped back into some Republican political activism, something I'd gotten rusty at after I bailed because of what might be called post right-wing-nut stress disorder, i.e., burnout. Trying to stop Bush seemed like a patriotic duty, so I dusted off old phone books and sallied forth to no avail. Bush not only won, Bush soon sent my Marine son to a war of choice.
These days Jack Kemp (just like the rest of the Republican establishment) is supporting McCain. But in 2000 the Republican establishment's suspicion of McCain was overt. McCain -- went the word in the insider's Republican network -- was "unstable."
Now that McCain is the Republican's man of the hour, Republican heavy hitters are conveniently forgetting that for years they have regarded McCain as mentally unfit for the presidency. Back in 2000 I thought they were wrong and just didn't like McCain because of his "maverick" label.
I changed my mind because McCain has confirmed the worst possible take on his character. He's done this by blindly parroting Bush on the war in Iraq, and now he's even attacking Senator Obama in lock step with Bush's slander about Obama being an "appeaser" of Iran.
McCain has done this even though it is President Bush who has (though the Iraq War) empowered Iran to become the power that most threatens Israel and Middle Eastern stability.
McCain wants to not only stay in Iraq, he promises "victory." As the father of a Marine who served in the Bush/McCain war, this sounds plain nuts to me. How do you define victory in Iraq? Apparently by lying about Senator Obama, denouncing diplomacy and embracing stupid unwinnable wars -- forever.
McCain is more dangerous to America than Bush ever was -- hard to imagine, but true. Bush turned out to be nothing more than an empty suit easily manipulated and terminally obstinate. But there was a certain sense to his foolishness.
There was a business template to hold Bush's actions up to that made them intelligible, even while they were horribly wrong. So we understood (in a grim sort of way) what Bush was doing by feeding billions of our dollars to Halliburton, Blackwater, Boeing et al. It was ugly and he squandered American lives, he made the world a more dangerous place, he coddled and set Iran up as a regional power, thus betraying Israel. Yet there was a sort of ugly logic nonetheless. Bush wasn't a Dr. Strangelove, just the defense and oil business community's lap dog.
Not McCain. McCain isn't a civilian. He sees himself as in tune with a higher calling. He sees himself as a military man first and everything else comes second, including our economic interests.
It is no accident that McCain's memoir is titled Faith of My Fathers. Faith is the operative word here, faith as in religion, faith as in blind belief in things that reason might refute.
On the cover of McCain's memoir are pictures of McCain's military ancestors and of course Senator McCain as a young military man. To McCain and his family, military service is a religion, a self-defining way of life, the question and the answer.
McCain's reasons for keeping America at war in Iraq are religious, the expression of the cult of the warrior -- the liturgy of combat. No matter what war we were in right now McCain would say "stay the course" and "on to victory!" He'd do this in the same way that any priest would want to finish a liturgy, mass or service once begun, no matter what disturbances might threaten to interrupt it.
McCain is dangerous because he wants to do what is "honorable" according to voices the rest of us -- including ordinary sane men and women in uniform -- don't hear. McCain isn't driven to do what is good for America, or even good for our military men and women. For instance, he is against the new GI Bill that would give fair educational benefits to our men and women. McCain doesn't want to give them anything that might entice them to do anything but go to war, again and again and again. McCain serves the warrior god of his warrior ancestors, not America's best interests or even the interests of our soldiers.
McCain doesn't want to let down his grandfather, John Sidney McCain or his father, the admiral. Morality has nothing to do with it. America has nothing to do with it. Iraq as nothing to do with it. McCain is keeping faith with ghosts.
A New Guinea tribesman on a revenge ambush mission, a soldier in Agamemnon's army, a German general in 1944 would all "get" McCain's faith--and recognize a true brother. On the other hand George Washington and our founders would be appalled. McCain is no Washingtonian American citizen soldier. McCain is a lifetime (and very un-American) militarist.
McCain concludes his memoir as follows:"...My father and grandfather had their last conversation. Near the end of his life, my father recalled their final moments together: 'My father said to me, son, there is no greater thing than to die for the principles -- for the country and the principles that you believe in...' I had remembered a dying man's legacy to his son, and when I needed it most... I held on to the memory."What are "the principles" McCain's father, grandfather (and he) agreed they needed to "die for," or send others to die for? They are the "principles" of the warrior: victory or death, a cult as old (and Old World) and destructive as human history itself.
A McCain presidency would essentially be a militarist coup. Don't get me wrong, most actual military people I know despise McCain-style notions of death, victory and sacrifice for sacrifice's sake, let alone "victory" and "glory" held up as a sentimental family religion. They know that this is the BS that gets people klled for no reason.
Jack Kemp was right: McCain is too dangerous to make President.