Writing at American Thinker today, Steven Warshawsky gave a very good review to John McCain’s victory speech the other night. Warshawsky praises McCain for taking the high road and promising to focus on the issues, which should help middle class voters get past possible guilt about not voting for the woman or the black candidate. Warshawsky also approves of the way McCain discussed what some of us believe, along with McCain, is the nation’s number one problem; namely, the War the Islamic extremists have declared against us. Here’s what McCain had to say:
America is at war in two countries, and involved in a long and difficult fight with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. It is of little use to Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the past. I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime as I criticized the failed tactics that were employed for too long to establish the conditions that will allow us to leave that country with our country’s interests secure and our honor intact. But Americans know that the next President doesn’t get to re-make that decision. We are in Iraq and our most vital security interests are clearly involved there. The next President must explain how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide; destabilizing the entire Middle East; enabling our adversaries in the region to extend their influence and undermine our security there; and emboldening terrorists to attack us elsewhere with weapons we dare not allow them to possess.
Warshawsky sees this as an elegant way for McCain to avoid his Achilles’ heel, which is that he supported the war from the git-go, while the majority of Americans are sick of the war. To this end, McCain doesn’t focus on the past, but promises resolution in the future. Substantively, I agree with both McCain and Warshawsky. This election is about 2008 and the years beyond. It’s not about entering the Way-Back machine and allowing a future Democratic president to change events in 2003.
I happen to like the speech for another reason, though. Purposely or not, it perfectly echoes Winston Churchill’s “finest hour” speech after the Brit’s ignominious defeat against the Germans in 1940, and their disorganized, but miraculous retreat at Dunkirk. Just as McCain did above, Churchill opens by stating the problem, including the fact that past decisions were, to say the least, imperfect. He then goes on to put the focus where it should be — the future. Because each perfectly shaped paragraph is an inevitable prelude to the important points he makes in the subsequent paragraph, I’m not going to shave and snip much. Instead, I ask you to take the time to read the language below and to consider whether that’s not precisely the point McCain is making. (All emphasis placed in the speech below comes from me.)
I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern Armies from Belgium at the moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse. This delay entailed the loss of fifteen or sixteen French divisions and threw out of action for the critical period the whole of the British Expeditionary Force. Our Army and 120,000 French troops were indeed rescued by the British Navy from Dunkirk but only with the loss of their cannon, vehicles and modern equipment. This loss inevitably took some weeks to repair, and in the first two of those weeks the battle in France has been lost. When we consider the heroic resistance made by the French Army against heavy odds in this battle, the enormous losses inflicted upon the enemy and the evident exhaustion of the enemy, it may well be the thought that these 25 divisions of the best-trained and best-equipped troops might have turned the scale. However, General Weygand had to fight without them. Only three British divisions or their equivalent were able to stand in the line with their French comrades. They have suffered severely, but they have fought well. We sent every man we could to France as fast as we could re-equip and transport their formations.
I am not reciting these facts for the purpose of recrimination. That I judge to be utterly futile and even harmful. We cannot afford it. I recite them in order to explain why it was we did not have, as we could have had, between twelve and fourteen British divisions fighting in the line in this great battle instead of only three. Now I put all this aside. I put it on the shelf, from which the historians, when they have time, will select their documents to tell their stories. We have to think of the future and not of the past. This also applies in a small way to our own affairs at home. There are many who would hold an inquest in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Governments-and of Parliaments, for they are in it, too-during the years which led up to this catastrophe. They seek to indict those who were responsible for the guidance of our affairs. This also would be a foolish and pernicious process. There are too many in it. Let each man search his conscience and search his speeches. I frequently search mine.
Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future. Therefore, I cannot accept the drawing of any distinctions between Members of the present Government. It was formed at a moment of crisis in order to unite all the Parties and all sections of opinion. It has received the almost unanimous support of both Houses of Parliament. Its Members are going to stand together, and, subject to the authority of the House of Commons, we are going to govern the country and fight the war. It is absolutely necessary at a time like this that every Minister who tries each day to do his duty shall be respected; and their subordinates must know that their chiefs are not threatened men, men who are here today and gone tomorrow, but that their directions must be punctually and faithfully obeyed. Without this concentrated power we cannot face what lies before us. I should not think it would be very advantageous for the House to prolong this Debate this afternoon under conditions of public stress. Many facts are not clear that will be clear in a short time. We are to have a secret Session on Thursday, and I should think that would be a better opportunity for the many earnest expressions of opinion which Members will desire to make and for the House to discuss vital matters without having everything read the next morning by our dangerous foes.
The disastrous military events which have happened during the past fortnight have not come to me with any sense of surprise. Indeed, I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open; and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on, ‘if necessary for years, if necessary alone.”
What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
We no longer seem to be capable of this kind of soaring rhetoric, but I give McCain credit for fully comprehending the ideas behind Churchill’s magnificent speech.Email This Post To A Friend
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