Fighting Words

10/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

With John McCain, it's always fighting words. The words that come out of his mouth and the words used to describe him: aggressive, scrappy, a combatant, prepared to take out his opponent, instincts of a fighter.

It's his debate style, his persona, his character. He used the word "fight" more than 40 times in his acceptance speech -- and got the loudest cheers. Even his vice presidential pick comes from a fighter pilot strategy -- "operate at a faster tempo than the enemy... get inside the mind and decision cycle of the adversary."

When you are 72 years old with a history of cancer, picking the person a heartbeat away from the presidency calls for statesmanship, not military strategy. But that's the fighter mentality. And his VP choice also has a warrior mentality , and has proven herself to be the kind of fighter who fights dirty -- looks in your eyes and tells lies with a smug smile. Just like our current president, who has looked the American people in the eye and lied to us -- over and over and over again.

The McCain campaign feels familiar because Bush, the armchair warrior, also loves those fighting words. We've been hearing them for years. "Bring it on," "Mission accomplished." We know where that got us.

Having a tough-talking, swaggering, trigger-happy president -- again --is a scary concept. Because having a president who sees the world that way, and uses those fighting words is why we're in such a mess right now:

We have more enemies and less friends. Our economy is bruised and broken. Our health care system is bruised and broken. Our army is bruised and broken. Even our planet is bruised and broken.

We've heard more than enough fighting words. We need a president who can handle himself in a fight but doesn't start them. We need a president with vision, not battle scars. We need a president who thinks first, not one who shoots from the hip. We need a president who can help us heal the deep divisions in our own country. Who can help us "bind the nation's wounds."

We need a president like Abraham Lincoln.

For those who think McCain's warrior experience is so valuable, I thought I could find out how Lincoln managed without any warrior experience -- during the worst war in our history. Earlier I had googled "McCain" and "fight" -- and you can imagine the list I got back. So I googled "Abraham Lincoln" and "fight." There isn't much. Even though Lincoln presided over the country during a war, he wasn't known as a fighter. Nor did he use fighting words. Come to think of it, he used mostly healing words.

But my little experiment on Google did turn up something surprising. I learned that as a young man, Abraham Lincoln actually was involved in a duel.

He didn't pick the fight of course; he was challenged -- by a type of guy who sounded more like McCain. Lincoln felt bound to accept the challenge, but ultimately he used his other skills, wits and brains, to finesse the duel, with honor. So Lincoln, who could spar with words when necessary, avoided swordplay and death and lived to lead a country in desperate need of healing. As we are right now.

Some think Obama doesn't have the toughness to be president. Ironic considering he was a mixed race kid from an impoverished background who was tough enough to make it to Harvard Law and the United States Senate. Not to mention emerging victorious from bitter primary battles with the former world heavy weight champs: the Clintons. Obama has plenty of fight, he just doesn't wear it on his sleeve. Or throw it in your face.

Although I admire fighter pilots like McCain for their cockiness and bravery, I think they serve us best in their fighter jets, in the skies, keeping us safe.

We don't need Top Gun in the White House. We need someone whose quickness is in his mind, not in his trigger finger. We need someone who thinks before he throws a punch. Someone who won't always use his fists, but will use his wits and wisdom. If we are lucky, as we were during our nation's darkest hour, we have found the right man at the right time, who also comes to Washington from Illinois. Another president with the capacity to be not a fighter, but a healer.