BUT... DID JOHN McCAIN DO
WHAT HE HAD TO DO?
What the Republican
Convention did, and
did not, accomplish
Saturday, September 6, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
So, now that the Republicans have finished their get-together, how did Senator McCain and Governor Palin actually do?
Going into this week's Convention, there were three things the McCain/Palin ticket in particular and the Republican Party US in general had to, at the very minimum do in order to remain competitive at this point in the presidential election "season":
1. Sarah Palin, largely unknown to most Americans (and even most Republicans nationwide), had to introduce herself effectively to the Nation as a viable vice-presidential possibility (which is to say: also a viable potential [though ever potential, unless- God forbid!- something actually happens to the top of the ticket] presidential possibility: even though, as I have said many times before on this website, no one actually votes for Vice President in a national election);
2. The Republican Party had to unite around Senator McCain's presidential candidacy once and for all.
3. John McCain had to well reclaim his "maverick" status- the maverick status that the Democrats spent the previous week, at their own Convention, claiming doesn't really actually exist- and, at the same time, begin to distance himself at least somewhat from many of the more problematic policies of the Bush/Cheney years (though only where McCain honestly believes the Administration itself has been wrong-- where he agrees with a Bush Administration policy, he has to admit so).
As for 1., Governor Palin generally seemed to acquit herself well in her Acceptance Speech. Her fellow female Republican Governor of that other State of the American Union that is not one of what Alaskans call the "Lower 48" and Hawaiians call "the Mainland"- Linda Lingle of Hawaii- assured her Party that she is genuine and she's comfortable in her own skin- truly authentic. Well, that certainly came across this past Wednesday evening... but it also comes with a rather steep political price tag.
Governor Palin made a reference (which I did not quote in my own excerpts from her speech) about how the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick. No question about it: Mrs. Palin is going to be the "attack dog" for her ticket (though it yet remains to be seen whether she attacks first or waits for a volley from Obama/Biden).
As for her declaiming that here's a little newsflash for those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion- I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this great country, it certainly, somewhere beyond the vales of Karma, put a smile on the face of the late Vice President Spiro Agnew who so often scored those he himself once called "nattering nabobs of negativism"; but- while, as Governor Lingle told everyone, Palin will not try to reinvent herself during this campaign : just as it is often complained that "New York (and, by extension, 'the East' [that is, the Northeast Corridor: 'BosWash'- or what I would call 'NorPort' (for 'Norfolk, VA to Portland, ME')]) is not America", neither is Alaska (this is a theme I will come back to later on in this piece, by the way) and what might well fly, politically, in Alaska will not necessarily fly all across the "lower 48"- even in areas far removed from New York City and its environs- even for a reformer who will, if Governor Lingle is to be believed, not at all compromise.
Going into the GOP Convention, the mainstream media tended to see Sarah Palin as 'Dan Quayle, version 2.0' but that is not at all what was presented in Palin's own Acceptance Speech and it will be most unfair to make that comparison (unless, of course, somewhere along the campaign trail- or in the single Vice Presidential debate next month- she should stumble rather badly [and, even then, keep in mind that- while, perhaps, "no Jack Kennedy"- J. Danforth Quayle's name is forever enshrined in the chronological list of Vice Presidents of the United States and the late Lloyd Bentsen's is not])-- in any event, the real test of Sarah Palin as a viable national political figure (regardless of how the McCain/Palin ticket might actually fare come this November) is yet to come and will last nearly 60 grueling days from the time I now type this.
Having said all this, a "hockey mom/pit bull" like Sarah Palin does run the risk of becoming 'Bob Dole as 1976 vice-presidential candidate, version 2.0' (I can still recall watching the one vice-presidential debate in '76 where Fritz Mondale looked more like a deer [that's "moose" to you Alaskans ;-)] in the headlights while Bob Dole kept throwing out asides like "well, of course, Fritz here is still going to be in the Senate after this coming January"-- not good!)... but we'll all have to wait and see... for now, however, Governor Palin did what she had to do at her Party's Convention.
Regarding 2., if the former 2008 Republican presidential contenders who came to the podium during the Convention are any good indication, then this seems pretty much successfully done-- certainly those who, early in the Primary/Caucus "season", emerged as McCain's two main rivals for the nomination- Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, both former Governors- spoke most eloquently on his behalf and there was no serious rancor in evidence within the breakout of delegate votes as cast during the Roll Call of the States (votes not cast for McCain were quite scattered, mostly for Congressman Ron Paul [a far different kind of maverick who was, clearly, persona non grata]: Mitt Romney got 2 in Mormon Utah- Mike Huckabee not a single one).
As for 3., Senator McCain reclaiming his "maverick" status: grading that is a bit more problematic.
Certainly John McCain "out-mavericked" everybody this past week- with his choice of Governor Palin to be his running mate in the first place; with the way he handled his Party's Convention opening on the same day the country was facing a potentially serious natural disaster (first of all, he properly suspended all "partying for the Party" for at least a day- but, at the same time, he didn't simply do all the essential business, shut the whole thing down and get out of town either [though, to be fair, one does fairly wonder how things would have transpired in Minnesota had 'Gustav' actually been a lot worse than it turned out to be along the Gulf]).
At the same time, having an incumbent President- still struggling with his own approval ratings- telling everyone how Senator McCain is an independent man, who thinks for himself right after reciting a litany of where McCain does agree with him merely illustrates the very difficulty involved.
McCain himself, in his Acceptance Speech, well explained the source of his "maverick"-ness in his love of country that is so deep it requires him- indeed, emboldens him- to challenge even the most heartfelt political dogma of his own conservatism... but, to quote the sage American philosopher, the late 'Godfather of Soul', James Brown: "Sayin' it- doin' it- are two different things: there's just as much difference in it as night and day". In a strange way, Senator McCain- although far better known nationally, even now, than his running mate- will face his own test during the Fall campaign: he can't simply say he's a maverick, he has to actually- again, when (and only when) it seems, to himself, to be most appropriate- be a maverick.
And, speaking of mavericks, despite all the rhetoric in St. Paul, Sarah Palin is not a maverick- at least, not on the level that Senator McCain is! Yes, she took on the Republican establishment in her home State and beat them (think about it: both United States Senators from her State- one the daughter of the incumbent Governor she defeated in her Party's Primary- so "thrown under the bus")-- but her politics and ideology are not at all out of place in Alaska: the very fact that she is so popular a Governor (cited repeatedly in St. Paul) undermines the very argument that she is, at heart, a maverick- for mavericks so often walk a rather lonely road (if only in the psychological sense: for they are not necessarily friendless). McCain has walked that road many, many times-- the same cannot be said for Palin.
There are many test yet to come for Senator McCain leading up to the upcoming Presidential Election and many of them spring from within his own Party, as evidenced in the rhetoric we heard in St. Paul this past week.
To start with, there was all the Establishment/Eastern elite-bashing that is, in and of itself, not at all atypical of a Republican Convention (not all that long ago, it would also have been heard from the more populist wings of the Democratic Party: George Wallace decrying "pointy-headed intellectuals" or William Jennings Bryan- by then an "old lion" soon to die- coming out fiercely against the so-called "Wet" plank of the Democratic Platform at that infamous 103-ballots-to-nominate Convention of 1924)-- but, with this being the first Major Party ticket in American History to contain two candidates who both hail from (if the reader will here pardon my own Northeast Corridor/BosWash or NorPort/Metro New York perspective) beyond the Continental Divide (yes, indeed-- I am well aware that- to Alaskans and Arizonans alike- my home State of New Jersey is that which is actually "beyond the Continental Divide"! [;-)]), all of this takes a more noticeably acute turn.
In his seminal work America as a Civilization, Max Lerner touched upon the very core of the problem. At the time he was writing (1957), New York City was even more of a driving force- perhaps, the main driving force- in at least the outward expressions of American culture than it is now, a half century later (for- although yes, it remains a quite potent such "bulge" [the equivalent of a warp in space-time caused by an excess of gravitation] when it comes to cultural influence [much to the consternation of those who grew up much like Sarah Palin herself]- still, the kinds of, for example, television entertainment shows produced in New York [if only because- of necessity in the so-called "golden age" of 'live' TV- Broadway-based actors, musicians were so readily available, and so close at hand] have long since taken off for Hollywood, where they joined the film industry that, itself, had abandoned New York a whole generation earlier: though the one network broadcast arena in which New York still plays a larger-than-itself [where not also "larger than life"] role- and we heard quite a bit about this during the so recently concluded Republican Convention- is the news media).
Lerner wrote: The familiar warning that "New York is not America" is doubtless true, but neither is any other regional culture. The fact that this obvious proposition has to be asserted is more than an index of the common hostilities to New York: it shows the extent to which New York's culture has impinged on the imagination of America and the world... if New York gets its productive forces from the nation, as is so often asserted, then the finished products- art and the theater, radio and TV, newspapers, magazines, advertising, books, ideas, managerial patterns, trade-union techniques, intellectual movements- make their way all over the nation. It is because of this power and fertility that New York is suspected, feared and not a little hated by the rest of America. The greatest bitterness comes from the South, Midwest and Southwest... [b]ut one must add that part of this hostility is repayment for the attacks [on predominant cultural traits- real or imagined- within these other regions] made by the liberal intellectuals of New York and the East.
What Lerner observed 50 years back is, in its essence, no less true today. John McCain, far more the product of a military family upbringing- in which regularly moving from place to place is more the norm- than one nurtured in the soil of a given region of the country (although his wife, Cindy, is- as she herself pointed out at the Convention- purely a product of the Southwest), is more likely to be able to overcome this (for one gets the distinct sense that, as he himself implied in his Acceptance Speech, the idea of 'America' is the more his country than the actual place known as the United States of America, including the actual places that make up America)... the jury, however, is still out as to whether Sarah Palin can do so: and how well, or even if, she can reach out to potential voters who are not so anti-Eastern establishment as her most ardent supporters will play a role (albeit a small one: after all, and once again, very few Americans- if any- go to the polls to vote for Vice President: just ask 'President' Dukakis [;-)]) in the success or failure of the Republican national ticket in now less than two months.
No, New York is not America- and, thus, a Mitt Romney may well complain that, as he put it at the Convention, Washington has been looking to the eastern elites- to the editorial pages of the Times and the Post and to the broadcasters from the coast: yet, at the same time, it should never at all be forgotten that it was these two cities- New York and Washington- which were the ones actually attacked on 11 September 2001 and that the reason they were attacked was precisely because of their respective higher-than-otherwise positions within the overall American culture (Washington, of course, being the political capital of the actual place known as America; New York being the economic- and, yes, cultural [though, again, not nearly so much as in decades past]- capital of the idea known as America).
No, indeed: New York (or, if you will, the East) is not America... but neither is anywhere else in the United States!
And, thus, there is ever a rather thin line between one's saying, simply: " 'They' are not America- 'they' do not represent us, our aspirations and our values" and one's saying, instead: " 'They' are not America- but we are!" If Senator McCain truly believes that being an American is, indeed, far more important than being a Democrat or a Republican and wishes to well utilize this to galvanize the American voters to then propel him into the White House, he is going to have to- in the course of this Fall's presidential campaign- show that he can remain above the latter of the two versions of " 'They' are not America" I just outlined.
If, however, this presidential election contest degenerates into a " 'They' versus 'We' " tussle (despite John McCain's best efforts), then it's 'Advantage Obama'- if for no other reason than that Barack Obama's very DNA, as well as his experience, is itself a combination of the very 'They' and 'We' we are here talking about: the product of an African father (thus, Obama is an ultimate African-American) and a white, Lower Midwestern/Great Plains mother, who was born in Hawaii but ended up on the South Side of Chicago...
which brings me to another, at least somewhat related point:
In an introduction to the second, post-1964 Presidential Election, edition of his The Price of Union (originally published after the 1948 Presidential Election), Herbert Agar noted how the reaction of the national press to '64 GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater- the first Major Party presidential nominee to hail from Arizona (John McCain being the second: interestingly, McCain is also Goldwater's direct successor in the United States Senate)- was rather similar to that accorded by the national press of its time (the late 19th century equivalent of Mike Huckabee's "elite media", I reckon) to Democrat William Jennings Bryan when Bryan was first nominated for President in 1896.
Quoting from the original edition of his work, Agar noted that, as regarded 1896, [t]he Eastern press talked as if the Democrats had chosen a man from Mars, thus showing its ignorance of the rest of the country... [Bryan's] triumph at [his Party's Convention] in Chicago was neither sudden nor accidental. Agar then went on, in his newer introduction, to note, as regarded 1964, that one could replace 'Democrats' with 'Republicans' and also [p]ut San Francisco for Chicago, Goldwater for Bryan... and the paragraph stands.
Much the same could be said for Sarah Palin's having been chosen by Senator McCain to be his running mate: replace 'Democrats' with 'Republicans' and 'man' with 'woman', 'Palin' for 'Bryan' and 'St. Paul' for 'Chicago' and- except for the fact that it was, indeed, "sudden" (for no one at all suspected she would be the actual choice)- the paragraph also stands... for Governor Palin's place as #2 on the ticket is, in the end, not really all that accidental: in retrospect, once the "usual suspects" (those whose names were being the more bandied about as John McCain's potential running mates just prior to 29 August) were finally eliminated from consideration, it seems that it was- all along- far more likely that someone very like Sarah Palin would have been chosen than any such "usual suspect"!
But, in relation to this, Governor Palin remains a pick fraught with at least a few political minefields for Senator McCain down the road. Agar noted- in that same introduction- that both Bryan and Goldwater were both beaten for the same reason: they both, in their rash enthusiasm, forgot that a successful American political party must be a non-ideological affair, accommodating many points of view and speaking at times with many voices, a true federation and thus a true accommodator of all the interests of a continent. Such parties should never allow themselves to feel, and preach, that the opposition is not only mistaken, but wicked.
In his Acceptance Speech, Senator McCain seemed to be making most clear that he does not necessarily so feel- and, therefore, does not so preach- but what about his running mate? After all, being a reformer can be, in and of itself, the very definition of "rash enthusiasm": for there is always the temptation for a highly motivated reformer to be so willing to so quickly classify just who might be a 'saint' and who is most clearly a 'sinner'- thus there is always the risk of failure thereby.
For William Jennings Bryan was seeking populist reform of his Party in the wake of Grover Cleveland's predominance (keep in mind that Cleveland was a three-time presidential nominee of the Democrats before Bryan himself was) and Barry Goldwater was attempting a conservative reform (some called it a revolution) within the Republican Party that immediately faltered- that is: until Ronald Reagan came along. If the 1960s era "Movement"- with all its influence, as well as all of its excess- was my lifetime's equivalent of the "Protestant Reformation', then Reagan's updated version of Goldwater's reform/revolution was my lifetime's 'Council of Trent', one which begat the 'Contract with America' which, in turn, begat-- well-- conservative reformers such as Sarah Palin!
And, speaking of "saints" versus "sinners"- another potential political problem coming out of the GOP Convention:
Like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, I- too- believe in "American exceptionalism"; but, if one is so going to put one's self forth as exceptional, there is a concomitant obligation to then actually be exceptional!
Back on 11 May 2004, in the wake of the horrific and altogether sickening webcasted beheading of American Nick Berg by extremists in Iraq, I wrote a commentary entitled 'WE ANSWER TO A HIGHER AUTHORITY' (the title of which was a play on a television ad for a popular brand of kosher hot dogs here in the United States). I fairly well got my head handed to me- for varying reasons- by at least a couple providers of 'vox Populi' (our 'Letters to the Editor') on this website over that one!
One 'vox Populi'er asked: "What principle underlies the Higher Authority argument? Is the American acclaimed Creator greater than the Muslim acclaimed Allah? That sounds like religious bigotry. Has American civilization achieved a superior sense of rights, of which Middle East savages are ignorant? That reeks of racism."
But the author of that 'vox Populi' had missed my entire point: for, in the original Commentary, I had written the following (in direct answer to those who- if only out of misguided [though not necessarily misbegotten] anger [for I, too, was immediately angry at what had taken place]- wondered why we Americans had to worry so much about treating Iraqi insurgent/extremist prisoners so fairly [this was not at all long after the admittedly far milder abuse -albeit abuse, nonetheless- of prisoners held by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib prison, remember] when the insurgents/extremists themselves were doing things such as that which was done to Mr. Berg):
We Americans are held to a higher standard of conduct because we (to quote the old Hebrew National television ad) have to answer to a higher authority. For we are the very People who once declared, as a self-evident truth, that all "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" and we, these same People, once ordained- and continue to maintain- a Constitution intended to, among other things, "establish Justice" and "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". The simple fact is that we Americans can't deny Justice, Liberty and unalienable Rights to others, even if they happen to be the most scurrilous malcontents picked up by our troops halfway around the globe.
To the 'vox Populi'er's question that the above statement by me had engendered, I answered- in my response thereto:
I, of course, reject such a claim that the "Creator" of Thomas Jefferson and the others in the Continental Congress of mid-Summer 1776 who tweaked and otherwise modified Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence is, in any way, superior to the Muslim's "Allah". In one of the sections of my 11 May Commentary... I noted how Nick Berg's "unalienable Rights endowed by that very God" (yes, the "very God" to whom his murderer and accomplices to same showed praise- in the phrase Allahu akbar- as Mr. Berg was being killed) had been "so openly den[ied]"; clearly, my use of the language of the Declaration ("unalienable Rights") in that sentence shows that I strongly agree that "the Creator" of Thomas Jefferson et al. is, indeed, the "Allah" of Islam!
In other words, I wasn't at all saying America was better than any other Nation-State or culture or Civilization: I was, instead, saying that America had to be at least as good as the best possible Nation-State, culture or Civilization other than America precisely because we Americans were the ones who first declared the self-evident truths found in our Declaration of Independence- or, to put it another way: we Americans were the ones ever claiming- to use Senator Brownback's own words at the Convention- a God-given destiny which we ourselves then feel a burden (an, admittedly, self-imposed burden) to fulfill. I was certainly not saying the United States of America was the only nation that might be answering to such "higher authority" (and I certainly was not saying the USofA was the only nation that could answer it) but, instead, was saying that- if one is going to continually declaim and declare one's so answering- one, then, had better well actually answer it!
In other words, my comments of May into June 2004 were not at all a challenge to the rest of the World; they were, instead, a challenge to my own Nation- to here borrow the language of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech- to "live out the true meaning of its creed".
But, when I hear the # 2 on the 2008 Republican ticket score the Democrats' standard-bearer for, when Al Qa'eda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, being worried that someone won't read them their rights, I am left to wonder whether or not, for Sarah Palin, reform- her serv[ing] the common good and... leav[ing] this Nation better than we found it- might, perhaps often as not, only come at the price of, to here use a well-worn phrase that came out of the very Vietnam War in which the Republican standard-bearer once fought at the cost of sacrificing his own personal freedom, "destroying the village in order to save it"---
the "village", in this case, being the very Constitution of the United States...
and I cannot possibly be the only (at least, I hope I am not the only) American who might so wonder!
As I have so often pointed out on this website, every officer of government- Federal, State and local, elected or appointed- and every person who serves in the military- whether regular Armed Forces, Reserves or National Guard- takes a solemn Oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States"... but only the President of the United States- alone among all officers of government and those who serve same- takes, in addition, an Oath to also "preserve" and "protect" said Constitution (not even the Vice President does so [so Governor Palin is "safe", for now, should she be elected Vice President this November ;-)]).
No, indeed: the President- and only the President- is required to "solemnly swear" to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"... and note well, gentle reader, that it's "and"-- not "or"!
A President cannot 'protect and defend, but not preserve' the American Constitution; instead, a President must- "to the best of [his or her] ability"- "preserve, protect and defend" that Constitution--- and someone like Governor Palin who wishes to be that proverbial "heartbeat away" from the Nation's Highest Office had better be willing to make most clear he or she understands at least that!
There is another potential political problem lurking here, however-- an at least somewhat related one that also springs from at least some of the rhetoric at the recently concluded Republican Convention:
Ten days after the 9/11 attacks themselves, I wrote a Commentary about President George W. Bush's first speech before a Joint Session of Congress since those attacks, delivered the evening previous to the date of my Commentary. In that piece, I wrote the following:
[One] major question that President Bush's speech left unanswered is suggested by his statement that our crusade against international terrorism will not end until every terrorist group with global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. That is certainly a pretty broad basis on which to define Victory! But can it be true that only Islamic extremist terrorists have such "global reach"?
I then noted how I had once lived in a neighborhood in New York City's Borough of Queens that was well known to be something of a hotbed of support for the Irish Republican Army, along with other groups that would be so easily defined as "terrorists", all seeking to pry the remainder of Ulster that remained a constituent 'Northern Ireland' of the United Kingdom from British hands. I noted- of my erstwhile neighbors who might have been involved in so supporting these activities- that
[t]hese people would want the new war to concentrate on the "bad" terrorists who attacked their city instead of their own "good" terrorists; however, in a true crusade against international terrorism, there- of course- can be NO "good" terrorists and, no matter how just an American might feel is the cause of a terrorist group he/she supports, this new war is not going to work all that well if some Americans expect some terrorists to be exempt.
In other words: a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist!
At the Republican Convention recently concluded, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani scored the Democrats for hav[ing] been afraid to use the words 'Islamic Terrorism'.
Who are they insulting if they use the words 'Islamic Terrorism'?, Giuliani cried: They are insulting terrorists!
Putting aside the fact that I, myself, would rather defeat the terrorists than at all even bother to engage in the "action confused with accomplishment" of insulting them (in other words: why insult them at all when that, in fact, is not even the principal, nor ultimate, goal?): it is abundantly clear the term 'Islamic Terrorist' also unnecessarily insults Muslims by painting an entire religious community with an altogether broad brush...
now, a statement such as that I just made is so very often painted, where not also derided, as just so much so-called "political correctness" (evidently, at least such evidence as is produced by my own experience and observation, most always by those who seem to rather enjoy insulting those who look or believe differently than they themselves might do)-- but, in reality, it is not such "political correctness": rather, it is simply good, old-fashioned Common Sense- that ethereal entity known as Good Judgment (the very same common sense and good judgment that has we who speak English saying "It's me" instead of the more grammatically correct "It is I" [;-)])
For example: in the news, we don't (or, at least, shouldn't) hear or read (sadly) about a Black burglar or a White burglar, we hear about a burglar-- period! The headline in the paper reads 'Burglar Has Entire Neighborhood On Edge' without any reference to the burglar's race or ethnicity, religion or gender--
yes, 'tis true we might read a police-provided description in the article itself that might well mention a "light-skinned Hispanic, 20 to 30 years old- around 5 feet, 7 inches tall", etc. but none of this is either the headline or the lead!
Because a burglar is a burglar is a burglar--- just as, again, a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.
Burglary is illegal- it is a crime: regardless of the personal background of the perpetrator...
the very same is true of terrorism.
If a Jihadist group should fund a group of, say, European secular political terrorists (though a mix of Muslim and non-Muslim, let's say) who then recruit a young, politically radical American non-Muslim to carry out a terrorist act on our soil (in which case the American might have absolutely no idea that this is ultimately being driven by adherents to a radical Islam), is this hypothetical blonde-haired/blue-eyed "Jimmy Smith" or "Janie Jones"- this criminal- an "Islamic terrorist"?
Or, rather, is "Jimmy" or "Janie", simply, a terrorist?
The issue here is that the War on Terror which- in its initial stages in the immediate aftermath of 9/11- was painted as an overarching effort to rid the world of all terrorism (however specifically we were, for obvious reasons at the time, going after Jihadist groups such as Al Qa'eda)- is ever in danger of devolving into a War between the Civilizations.
I'm not at all suggesting that John McCain is so thinking: indeed, I honestly believe he is the one Republican who ran for President this time round- moreso, perhaps, than any of the other GOP contenders in 2008- who can best avoid so thinking! Nor am I at all suggesting that the Republicans- as a Party- are the least bit anti-Islam per se:
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina- a man no one can at all accuse of having any tolerance for terrorists- made it quite clear, at the GOP Convention, that he considers a post-Saddam Iraq a Muslim nation in the heart of the Arab World that rejects Al Qa'eda: a nation where the Rule of Law replaces the rule of the gun. This should well put pay to any notion that, somehow, only liberals in general and Democrats in particular can actually figure out that there is such a thing as a good, law-abiding Muslim!
But, the sad fact is, that there have been far too many out there who have been treating our military involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq as some kind of 'Ninth Crusade'- the bright light of Christendom against the perceived darkness of the Saracen- "Onward, Christian soldiers" and all that. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have to make clear, in the course of this campaign, that they're not getting sucked into this kind of thinking: for, whichever of these men is elected President, they will (so obviously that it need not be stated, but I'll here state it anyway) inherit the mantle of overall commander of the War on Terror, a war that has to be conducted both constitutionally, as well as non-ideologically (and that includes religious ideology) in order to both be successful in the long run and- in so doing- yet preserve, as well as protect and defend, our Constitution-- but the "burden of proof" here is much more on Senator McCain, if only because he happens to be the presidential nominee of the Party whose previous presidential nominee, in turn, happens to be the incumbent President.
This may well be at least somewhat unfair-- but it is part and parcel of that very "political tightrope" John McCain now walks: the "tightrope" between being tied too closely to Bush Administration policies the average American might come to see, in this election, as at least problematic, if not downright useless, and truly being his own man (even if McCain himself would opine- as he implied in his Acceptance Speech- that he is only his own man because he is, above all, his country's man) and reclaiming the mantle of "maverick". In any event, it will be no easy walk!
Of course, Senator McCain knows full well- no less than Senator Obama (some would, of course, argue McCain knows it even better than Obama, though I think this also would be most unfair)- that there are American Muslims who have bled and died for our country, with honor, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But he has to let the Nation know what should otherwise be so very obvious and not let his campaign for the Presidency be distracted by those who are so anti-Obama that they act as the type who argue about whether, for example, a Muslim Congressman should even be allowed to take his Oath of Office on a Qur'an and the like.
For this is the very kind of "ground noise and static" that could well divert John McCain away from the High Office he now seeks.
So, in summary, I give Sarah Palin a "Most satisfactory" as regards her own "coming-out party" as a national candidate this past week; regarding Party unity: "Excellent"; as for John McCain himself--"Needs some improvement" (in showing himself to be a maverick as the Fall campaign progresses, that is).
Overall: I give McCain/Palin a B, a slightly higher grade than that which I gave the Democratic ticket the week before, coming out of the Republican National Convention--
but, of course, the "degree" itself can only be conferred by the Electoral College!