Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What Would It Have Been Like to Have John McCain as President?

TEARS WELLED IN MY EYES as I watched the old men march. It was a poignant sight, but not an unfamiliar one, and I was surprised at my reaction. I have attended Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades in dozens of American cities, watched aging combat veterans—heads high, shoulders back—summon memories of their service and pay homage to friends they had lost. I had always kept my composure. It was the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and I had been invited to the official commemoration...
That day, we watched two thousand Pearl Harbor survivors march to honor their fallen. Most appeared to be in their seventies. Neither the informality of their attire nor the falling rain nor the cheers of the crowd along the parade route detracted from their dignified comportment. A few were unable to walk and rode in Army trucks. All of a sudden I felt overwhelmed. Maybe it was the effect of their straight faces and erect bearing evoking such a hard-won dignity; maybe it was the men riding in trucks managing to match the poise of the marchers; maybe it was the way they turned their heads toward us as they passed and the way Bob and Dan returned their attention. A little embarrassed by my reaction, I confessed to Dan, “I don’t know what comes over me these days. I guess I’m getting sentimental with age.” Without turning his gaze from the marchers, he answered me quietly, “Accumulated memories.” That was it. Accumulated memories. I had reached an age when I had begun to feel the weight of them...

The Restless Wave:
Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights,
  and Other Appreciations

Having spent more than five years of my life in prison, I tend to appreciate even the more mundane exercises of my freedom more than others might.

By John McCain
and Mark Salter

I was curious...after seeing and listening to the rhetoric about this man by the president, I wanted to learn more about him... And by the time I had finished his latest book, I wondered what it would have been like to have John McCain as our President. It was easy to recognize that with McCain's vast experience, education, and basic moral concerns, he was a man I would feel certainly had the credentials to become president of the United States. That he didn't, perhaps only because he didn't have the money to compete in the race, is an important statement in itself.

This is not meant to compare him with others, rather to consider the man, read his own words, see his actions and experience, and recognize that, though there may have been some issues of concern, I would surely have considered him as a strong candidate.

What God and good luck provide we must accept with gratitude. 
Our time is our time. It’s up to us to make the most of it, 
make it amount to more than the sum of our days.

Most of the beginning chapters follow McCain as he travels to foreign lands. As he talked about what he was doing, I began to see and understand his vision of America as an international leader in the world... and the reason why.

We are blessed, and in turn, we have been a blessing to humanity. The world order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land shared its treasures and ideals and shed its blood to help make another, better world. And as we did we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war. 
We have made mistakes. We haven’t always used our power wisely. We have abused it sometimes and we’ve been arrogant. But, as often as not, we recognized those wrongs, debated them openly, and tried to do better. And the good we have done for humanity surpasses the damage caused by our errors. We have sought to make the world more stable and secure, not just our own society. We have advanced norms and rules of international relations that have benefited all. 
We have stood up to tyrants for mistreating their people even when they didn’t threaten us, not always, but often. We don’t steal other people’s wealth. We don’t take their land. We don’t build walls to freedom and opportunity. We tear them down. To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is unpatriotic. American nationalism isn’t the same as in other countries. It isn’t nativist or imperial or xenophobic, or it shouldn’t be. Those attachments belong with other tired dogmas that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history. 
We live in a land made from ideals, not blood and soil. We are custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world because we believed our ideals are the natural aspiration of all mankind, and that the principles, rules, and alliances of the international order we superintended would improve the security and prosperity of all who joined with us. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as well. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we let other powers assume our leadership role, powers that reject our values and resent our influence. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to. I have served that cause all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated that I was serving it. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I was part of something bigger than myself that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by personal interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.

Readers will come across parts in the book that are stunning in their awareness of the America we have all loved. We stop and ponder McCain's words and then we catch a caveat, a warning, that America, as an international leader, has an obligation that goes well beyond any feelings we might have to make nationalism the thrust of our country. Cutting straight to the point of emphasis: To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is unpatriotic...

McCain talks about the many trips into various countries across the world, where it seemed there was always somebody he knew...and who knew and respected McCain. While there were others, it seemed that McCain was the man who had made an impact sometime in the past, and was accepted as somebody who was going to try to help... How disheartening it seemed to have him return, seeking support for this location or another, only to be
turned down for this reason or another...McCain did not see politics as he traveled--he saw people in need and he wanted his America to help those in need... Though he failed often, still readers see the type of man, his character, his moral code, as he fought to serve those in need.

It has been clear to all who watched this past year's activities, that McCain sought and also demanded bipartisan participation--a return to what it once was... 

Readers will surely realize that much of this book undoubtedly had been written earlier and then merged into its final manuscript...It is somewhat of a memoir, but it has little about the man--rather it shares all that he has done in support of the United States, in all of the many roles he has played. I found it informative and educational with the historical perspective, but there is really little added that could be said to have been written since he became ill... Except...readers will surely recognize the potential president that we missed having... We see a man who fought both in the service and later in Congress in support of America. We see a man who acted on what he felt was right for the country, not necessarily right for his political party. But most of all, we see the humanity, the strong desire to help those across the world, in need, and helpless, seeking somebody's help. He thought it should be America... And he took the time to speak to us with might be our last words from him...

My fellow Americans. No association ever mattered more to me. We’re not always right. We’re impetuous and impatient, and rush into things without knowing what we’re really doing. We argue over little differences endlessly, and exaggerate them into lasting breaches. We can be selfish, and quick sometimes to shift the blame for our mistakes to others. But our country “ ’tis of Thee.” What great good we’ve done in the world, so much more good than harm. We served ourselves, of course, but we helped make others free, safe, and prosperous because we weren’t threatened by other people’s liberty and success. We need each other. We need friends in the world, and they need us. The bell tolls for us, my friends. Humanity counts on us, and we ought to take measured pride in that. We have not been an island. We were “involved in mankind.”
Before I leave I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one. Even in times of political turmoil such as these, we share that awesome heritage and the responsibility to embrace it. Whether we think each other right or wrong in our views on the issues of the day, we owe each other our respect, as long as our character merits respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the rancorous debates that enliven and sometimes demean our politics, a mutual devotion to the ideals our nation was conceived to uphold, that all are created equal, and liberty and equal justice are the natural rights of all. Those rights inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be assailed, they can never be wrenched. I want to urge Americans, for as long as I can, to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.

It is that desire, the drive, to do what is right for the world that would have guided him to become one of the greatest presidents we would have had, in my opinion. And as he speaks to us through this, perhaps, last book, he is still urging us to remember the Constitution and the moral imperatives upon which our country was formed. I believe this is a must-read and recommend it to each of you who live in America...


Senator John McCain entered the Naval Academy in June of 1954. He served in the United States Navy until 1981. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from Arizona in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986. He was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in the 2008 election. He is the author of Faith of My FathersWorth Fighting ForWhy Courage MattersCharacter Is DestinyThirteen Soldiers, and The Restless Wave.

Mark Salter has collaborated with John McCain on all seven of their books, including Faith of My Fathers,Worth the Fighting ForWhy Courage MattersCharacter is Destiny, Hard Call, and Thirteen Soldiers. He served on Senator McCain’s staff for eighteen years.

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