A longtime reader e-mails with a comment and question about last night’s debate:
It seemed that many of the candidates (Giuliani, Huckabee and Tancredo, specifically) were heaping praise on McCain last night. It seems they may be under the impression that they need to get someone to derail the Mitt train in the New Hampshire polls to stop the steamroll that is lining up as the Caucuses unfold in late December and early January leading up to Super Tuesday on February 5th. They seem to have decided that McCain is their sacrificial lamb knowing that he has no chance of winning the nomination on the grander scale. Just a thought. Let me know your in impressions.
It’s an intriguing observation, but I think its less likely that they’re trying to boost McCain (since they’re the ones who want to fill void caused by his fall from front-runner status) at Governor Romney’s expense than they feel less threatened by his candidacy and thus more free to acknowledge his obvious personal heroism and leadership on the war. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: John McCain is an American hero. The details of his captivity and courage in the face of unimaginable brutality can bring tears to your eyes, and I’m forever in debt to his service in Vietnam and to his leadership since 9/11. For those reasons alone, he deserves to be one of America’s most respected and loved public figures.
The problem has always been his domestic policies. Prior to his stunning fundraising collapse and subsequent staff makeovers, excessive praise of McCain was politically risky for many of his challengers. Elevate him too much for his biography and war leadership, and you risk painting the very picture that makes it most likely that he’ll be elected (by glossing over the very things that make his presidency less attractive). Now that he is more commonly seen as a long shot, publicly praising him appears generous and statesmanlike.
Unless McCain reverses his slide in the polls, it may very well turn out that his campaign turns into something more like a farewell tour, where a true American hero spends his last season in the political limelight fighting a desperate battle to bolster sagging public confidence in the midst of a long and difficult war.
I can think of few efforts more noble and few causes more important for our time.