The EFM Feature

In my brief experience dealing with the MSM on presidential issues, I have learned two lessons. First, those guys really do love John McCain. Second, they seem completely puzzled that evangelicals rejected him so soundly in 2000–blaming most of that in Rovian “dirty tricks” rather than dissatisfaction with the candidate himself.
John McCain has been consistently pro-life (and make no mistake, I applaud him for that), he is unquestionably strong on the war, and the man is an American hero of the first order. It would be difficult for my own service to my country to be 1 percent as effective or courageous as Senator McCain’s, and I will always respect and admire him more than words can convey. Yet there is very little question that when it comes to many of the cultural issues that are so very important to the future of this country, you get the distinct impression that not only is his heart not in that fight, he really, really does not like people like me. If Charles would forgive me, I’m going to quote a slightly longer segment of the interview he highlighted on Monday:

I understand the frustrations a lot of Republicans feel. We’re not representing their hopes and dreams and aspirations. We worry about Ms. Schiavo before we worry about balancing the budget. We’re going to take up this Family Marriage Amendment again. Why? The Republicans will vote one way, and the Democrats will vote another, and everybody knows it! It’s pointless. I’ve never seen Washington as polarized as it is today.
I would never say this publicly, but some of these talk-show hosts–and I’m not saying they should be taken off the air; they have the right to do what they want to do–I don’t think they’re good for America.
I urge my friends who complain about the influence of the religious Right, get out there and get busy. That’s what they do! Now, if we believe in the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, the big-tent party, then we have to get out there and show that. The fact is, some of us have sat idly by while those very active people have basically set the agenda for our party. I get attacked everyday because I’m working with Ted Kennedy. How can I work with Kennedy? Because I want to get something done.

To McCain, it is blindingly obvious that balancing the budget is more important than whether we have a judicial system that allows estranged husbands to starve their wives to death, and the Federal Marriage Amendment is pointless because we all know how people will vote. But isn’t it important to debate the status of our bedrock cultural institutions? To take a day or even a week to debate how our legal system treats issues of life and death? If a debate on a given day doesn’t change a Senate vote, that vote and that debate may move the citizenry to action. On issues of life and family, he acts impatient and ever so slightly condescending…like he’s folding his arms and tapping his foot until he can get on with the truly important business of the country (as if the Senate is exclusively focused on balancing the budget until those pesky cultural issues come up).
So “those very active people” distract the country and prevent people like him from “getting something done.” If we are “those people” now, when he might very well need us to capture the White House, what will we be when/if he is triumphant? When he no longer needs us?
I do like McCain’s reference to Lincoln, however. In fact, it is Lincoln who perhaps more than anyone, despite his now well-known deviations from orthodox Christian theology, showed the critical importance of faith to demonstrating compassion and showing resolve in the face of previous partisan polarization. From Lincoln’s second inaugural address:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

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