Mark Salter, a longtime aide and chief of staff to Senator John McCain, posted a response to Jean Rohe's blog entry on the Huffington Post, writing that her speech at the New School university's graduation ceremony last Friday "succeeded in making [herself] look like an idiot." Salter writes, of Rohe and her graduating class, that it's "unlikely any of you will ever posses the [sic] one small fraction of the character of John McCain."
As discussed in the New York Times and a column by Maureen Dowd, Rohe, one of two student commencement speakers, discarded her originally prepared remarks and instead delivered a speech that questioned the university's decision to extend its invitation to McCain, and referenced several passages of McCain's prepared remarks before he delivered them (the same speech having been given at both Columbia and Liberty Universities the week prior) -- a decision she discusses at length on the Huffington Post.
In the comment submitted on Rohe's Huffington Post entry, the longtime McCain aide and co-author of several of the Senator's books derided Rohe's remarks as "an act of vanity and nothing more," and suggests that her fellow New School graduates "could learn a thing or two about tolerance and respect from the students of Liberty University."
The following is Mr. Salter's posted comment, in full:
I am employed by Senator McCain and I helped draft his remarks for the New School commencement ceremony. Ms. Rohe takes exception to the fact that the speech was written with all four commencements he has been invited to address. The Senator's intention was to discuss with Americans, not any particular subset of Americans, but his fellow countrymen, the things that he feels are important to remember in our political debates: that we owe each other our respect just as we owe each other our best advocacy for the things we believe are important for our country. He did not feel that the students of Liberty University were a more appropriate audience for his address than the New School's graduates. It was an act of respect. Although it is quite clear that part of his audience at Madison Square Garden had no intention of reciprocating.
Evidently, the Senator's regard for his audience was misplaced. Ms. Rohe and those of her fellow graduates who hailed their school's President as a war criminal and who greeted the Senator's reference to a friend's death with laughter proved only one thing, one sad thing, that they could learn a thing or two about tolerance and respect from the students of Liberty University. Like the protestors at the Garden, many in the audience at Liberty University disagreed with various of the Senator's views. Some disagreed with his support for campaign finance reform. Some disagreed with his support for comprehensive immigration reform with a path toward legalization for undocumented workers. Some disagreed with his position of climate change. Some disagreed with his opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Whatever their differences with him they listened to him attentively and respectfully, as one American to another, divided in some respects, united in much more important ones.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Senator, the man you dismiss so derisively. Once upon time, even among the young, the words courage and hero were used more sparingly, more precisely. It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. And please don't worry about the Senator's discomfort with you. He has managed to endure much worse. McCain was once offered release from imprisonment and torture because of his father's position as a senior military officer. He declined because he would not leave his comrades behind, and thus, willingly, accepted four more years of hardships life will spare almost all of us from. In his political career he has shown the same character he showed as a Navy officer all those years ago. He has, over and over again, risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interests of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself.
You took exception to the paragraph in which he lightly deprecated the vanity of youth. Well, Ms. Rohe, and your fellow graduates's comical self-importance deserves a rebuke far stronger than the gentle suggestions he offered you. So, let me leave you with this. Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it very unlikely any of you will ever posses the one small fraction of the character of John McCain.
By: salter on May 20, 2006 at 10:28pm
The comment can be found in its original location here (scroll down).