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Friday, April 04, 2008

Yes, America needs a leader of courage

That is how John McCain wants to present himself, as a decisive leader Americans can rely on to keep this country safe. He even penned (or dictated) a book entitled, Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life, which featured accounts of his Vietnam tour as well as anecdotes of those Americans the Senator considers to be true representations of courage. Publisher Weekly said in its review: "Suggesting the definition of courage has been stretched thin in contemporary parlance, where it can be applied to acts as insignificant as cutting or not cutting one's hair, McCain seeks to return to the word's fundamental meaning not just of "the capacity for action despite our fears" but self-sacrifice for the benefit of others as well as for oneself."

Feats of courage are laudable, and I give rightful due to those soldiers who have fought and are fighting for their country at risk of limb or life, including John McCain. But courage isn't always physical; it's moral, as well. Today McCain stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago and spoke to an audience who had come to commemorate the anniversary of King's death. McCain admitted to the audience that he had been wrong 25 years ago when he opposed King's federal holiday:

"We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona... We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans."

In a Los Angeles Times blog post, Mark Silva noted that McCain was also "a little late" in decrying the confederate flag atop the South Carolina state Capitol. During his 2000 run he admitted that he "believed the Confederate flag should be removed from atop the state Capitol but didn't have the guts to say so when it mattered."

In a presidency, you're going to have to make hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. You can't afford to be late with your courage. You have to have the guts to do what must done when it matters. It won't be enough to say sheepishly after the fact that you were wrong for not showing some moral fortitude when it mattered, whether it means vetoing measures by business lobbies asking for more tax concessions that will compromise America's coffers, or denying favorable trade status to China until it tends to its human rights violations.

In today's speech, McCain said basically what amounted to a lame "Oops, I was wrong," long after the controversy was rendered moot and when he was no longer in danger of "self-sacrifice" especially when that sacrifice would have taken the form of lost poll points or uncomfortable moments with his fellow Republican senators.

Still, at least he does show that he can publicly admit that he was wrong - if more than a little late. That shows more "guts" than our present leader has. I don't expect Bush to ever admit in the near or distant future that he knew Wolfowitz and company were wrong in pushing to invade Iraq, but he just didn't have the balls to say no.


Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 4/04/2008 08:24:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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