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Michael Russnow

Michael Russnow

Posted: September 27, 2008 12:00 AM

McCain Pulls Out the Heartstrings: Pity He Didn't Use a Violin Instead of a Kazoo


John McCain shamefully resorted to emotional buzzwords when he didn't have a proper response to Barack Obama's keen ripostes. Whether it was a reference to the mothers or widows of our recent war dead or pledging to defend Israel against all costs. In all instances McCain acted as if he was the only one running who felt sorry for those who'd lost loved ones. He was apparently the only one in the presidential race in support of Israel's protection against Arab Terrorists, such as those funded by Iran.

When he didn't have a legitimate rebuttal to Obama's charge that McCain's $18 billion earmark obsession paled compared to McCain's intended tax cuts for the wealthy amounting to $300 billion, the Republican nominee kept repeating Obama's support for $900 million in earmarks for his home state. However, even in this naked attempt to deflect attention from the big picture that clearly cast aspersion on whether he supported a cost-effective national policy, McCain never took the trouble to itemize any of the Obama earmarks that he thought weren't deserving.

I felt bad for Barack Obama, who treated McCain with a level of respect, even as McCain often had a frozen condescending grin while the Democrat spoke. I was outraged when McCain kept repeating false or misleading charges about Obama or tried to put him down as to who truly knew the difference between military tactics and strategy. However, McCain's smile soon faded when Obama handily retorted McCain's misrepresentations, particularly when he reminded him and, more importantly, the viewing audience about the lies that led us to attack Iraq while essentially dropping the ball on Afghanistan, from whose borders came the 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

McCain then veered again, talking about a bracelet he wore given to him by a loved one of an American who fell in Iraq. He related how he'd been asked to promise that the deceased military man had not died for naught. Obama quickly came back with a bracelet of his own, given to him by a mother who'd lost her son in the same conflict, who made him promise that he wouldn't send more men and women to die for an ill-advised cause.

That's the difference between the two. The Republican philosophy, if a military policy is set forth -- however wrong and misguided in the first place -- is that we continue it at all costs simply because unfortunate folks have died or been seriously maimed.

The smart position would be to cut your losses as you would if your stocks kept falling, not let our military continue to go over a cliff like lemmings just because others had done likewise. That's the creative and sound wisdom we need in our nation's leadership, not one that continues to repeat the same old refrain, as if the very repetition itself would solve the enormous problems we've endured in Iraq.

And regarding this continuing talk about how well the surge is working, I have one question that might seem relevant. How has the surge worked so well when I continue to read almost daily about suicide bombings occurring in Iraq? It appears that you can't go anywhere in Baghdad or most Iraqi areas without some sort of fear that a nut case with a bunch of bombs strapped to his or her waist will set off an explosion that will sadly end a lot of innocent folks lives.

Why doesn't anyone talk about this? Why is there persistent applause for General Petraeus and the added military? How many of us would want to take a very well paying job in Iraq now, helping in hospitals and schools and the so-called free elections that have been touted? Is it really safe to do so? That's the only thing I wish Obama had said, even though discussing the armed forces on any level is like walking on eggshells, and so I understand why he might be reluctant to talk about our military personnel in any manner other than total success.

Otherwise, I was very pleased with Obama's performance in the debate, the subject matter of which convinced many that he would fare poorly in comparison to the supposedly worldly and experienced foreign affairs expert, John McCain. But McCain showed himself to be a stick-in-the-mud, more concerned with pulling our heartstrings with emotional and mostly irrelevant statements such as his determination to "take care" of veterans and reminding everyone that he had been one after Obama pledged to support their funding. Perhaps McCain forgot the dismal display that recently came to light under a Republican administration concerning miserable medical treatment and conditions for those same veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.

And this led to his old stand-by, a reminder of his having been a prisoner of war. I'd actually thought, hey, for once he didn't mention it, but at the closing moments he pulled it out as he has done on so many occasions. Most people are reluctant to say anything other than hosannas about his wartime service, because he did go through a harrowing ordeal. But it was no more so than many others in that war and in previous ones, with the singular difference that most of those veterans had the dignity and selflessness to let others do the talking instead of blowing their own horn to cash in as McCain has done regarding an extremely distressing life experience.