The Spectacle Blog

Churchillian McCain

By on 1.30.08 | 8:27AM

There's been a lot of McCain bashing on this blog in recent days, and I think it's only fair to give him the credit he deserves. Back when in order to be considered a supporter of the war you had to be a supporter of Bush's policies, John McCain was the only prominent Republican who was both unwavering in his commitment to the mission in Iraq, but convinced that we needed to change the strategy by sending in more troops to accomplish victory. He went on TV, used his platform in the Senate, and did a lot to agitate for what eventually became the surge. While all the leading Republican candidates expressed support for the surge, McCain was most tied to the policy, and for much of last year we were talking about how it was costing him independent voters in New Hampshire, but he didn't waver. When he went to Iraq and said the surge was working, he was ridiculed for it by his so-called allies in the media, but he didn't succumb to their pressure.

During the summer, when his support for the comprehensive immigration reform bill caused him to crash in the polls, left his campaign broke, and forced him to fire much of his staff, he was written off for dead by most wise men. But he said he would keep fighting, and he did. And with little money and much of the conservative establishment ferociously against him, he took his case directly to the voters, and he won.

There's a lot to disagree with McCain on, and I'm not going to sit here and try to convince everybody to forgive him for all the various things that he's done that anger them, but I will say this. We can debate a lot of the other issues such as the Gang of 14 and campaign finance reform, which I'm not trying to dismiss, but we cannot lose sight of the big picture. We have a war going on against a vicious, cunning, and easily adaptable enemy, and we need the right leader to see us through it. Everybody has their own idea of what they look for in a wartime leader, but for me the model has always been Winston Churchill, and this election cycle, I was looking for somebody who demonstrated that type of guts and grit, that strength of conviction, and who shares the following attitude:

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs - Victory in spite of all terrors - Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

For a long time, I thought that Rudy Giuliani was that man. But given the foresight and fortitude McCain showed in his support for the surge, and the "never surrender" attitude he displayed in running his campaign, I would say that he is the most Churchilian leader we have--only as we know, history only gave us one Churchill.

Any regular readers may have wondered why, over the past year, I've been so hard on Mitt Romney for his various shifts on issues. The reason is that, to me, the biggest obstacle we face in fighting terrorism is ourselves, specifically, the idea that after some period without a large terrorist attack, we'll conclude that perhaps its not that big of a threat, and go back to the way things used to be prior to 9/11. Whenever Romney uttered the words "global jihad," it came across to me as something he was saying to check off another box on the conservative issue matrix, rather than a true conviction. I always had the fear that if a few years into his presidency, the anti-terrorism issue wasn't polling too well, he'd be distracted by other things. The recent shift in his campaign focus to the economy as polling changed, and his deemphasis on national security in stump speeches I've seen over the recent weeks, only served to reinforce my position. He has always represented, to me, the anti-Churchill.

Some conservatives will simply never be able to support McCain, and I understand that. But I would urge those who support the war and consider the threat of Islamic terrorism to be the greatest challenge of our time, to consider the big picture, recognize that McCain does deserve some credit for the courage and perseverence he's shown, and at least temper some of the hostility.

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