Political Instincts, Senator John McCain, and the Republican National Convention

-Richard E. Vatz

Just a few, quick observations on the presidential race and the Republican National Convention, observations I have stated in comparable terms on Maryland radio:

1. The choice of Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin was dispiriting to say the least. Senator John
McCain, for whom I shall be voting in the presidential race, chose a wonderfully
accomplished Governor whose values are exemplary for the vice presidency. She may even
satisfy – I’m not sure here – the criterion of making him more electable. It is the other
issue – how well can the Vice President govern if need be – that worries me.

Unfortunately, Sen. McCain, who has called radical Islam the preeminent
challenge of our time and has stated that his key criterion in selecting his
running mate would be whether the individual is the “most prepared to
take my place at a moment’s notice,” has let his country down. If
experience has any value at all, Gov. Palin’s lack of foreign policy
expertise makes a mockery of the seriousness with which Sen. McCain
has movingly and convincingly contrasted himself with the unready
Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

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2. The difficulties of foreign policy in an age of the war on terror combined with the newly
assertive imperial Russia exacerbates all of the complexity and significance of choosing a
Vice President who is ready at a moment’s notice to take the helm. The public has 2
months to vet Gov. Palin , and she has 2 months to prove her foreign policy mettle. Say it
ain’t so, John.

3. For all of the foregoing disappointment, to have a hyper-liberal, unready, untested man,
Sen. Obama, be elected president on November 4 should be unthinkable. Again, support
here for Sen. McCain — with concern.

Finally, the better half of Sen. McCain’s instincts: political, not governmental: Sen. McCain and the Republicans’ tamping down of the over-exuberance of their convention in the face of Hurricane Gustav reveals exquisite sense, taste, and political understanding. The Senator’s perfect statement is as follows: “This is a time when we have to do away with party politics and act as Americans…I will take off my Republican hat and put on my American hat. We’re going to suspend most of our activities except those that are absolutely necessary. I hope and pray we will be able to resume some of our normal operations as quickly as possible.”

What such reactions reveal about Sen. McCain’s political instincts is what moves those of us who are his political supporters; the V.P. choice is unmoving to say the least.

Richard Vatz is a professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

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