I was pondering whether to post about Wesley Clark’s latest inanity, to the effect that McCain’s experience as a POW does not prove his leadership abilities. A conversation I had today with a beloved liberal (that would be my dear, dear mother) made me decide to do so. A lot of people have gotten embroiled in discussing the substance of Clark’s remark, without recognizing that it is a mere straw man. Certainly my mother got mired in that swamp.
First, here’s what Clark said:
“[McCain] hasn’t held executive responsibility,” Clark said on “Face the Nation” yesterday. “That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn’t a wartime squadron. I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”
One could argue whether being in command of a squadron, whether in peace time or war, cultivates leadership experience, but I won’t. I also won’t be foolish enough to say that the mere fact of getting shot down turns one into a leader. I’ll even concede that spending six years in a POW camp being tortured on a daily basis doesn’t turn one into a leader. But none of that is the point.
The point is that the primary reason Republicans have pointed to those experiences is not to establish McCain’s leadership ability but to point to his character. This is a man of incredible strength who not only survived an experience that would have killed many people, but who survived it with his soul intact. He emerged a strong and capable human being, deeply respected by his fellow captives. In other words, Clark’s argument was a straw man: he set up a principle that most conservatives never espoused, and then proceeded to shoot it down as if it mattered.
Sadly, though, although Clark’s argument shouldn’t matter, since it functions in its own hermetically sealed little universe, in the bizarre world of liberal illogical thought, it does matter. My Mom bought into it entirely: “You see,” she said to me, “McCain has no leadership ability.” That was her conclusion and she was sticking with it.
Perhaps because she’s very elderly and her thinking is no longer very flexible, that conclusion was, for her, unalterable. When I pointed out that, in addition to his military training (which must count for something), McCain had an active military career through 1982, and then spent the next 26 years in increasingly high level politics, she simply swatted those facts away. They were all irrelevant to her MSM fed conclusion that it’s for Republicans dishonest to argue that McCain’s a leader because of his Vietnam experiences. (Even though that isn’t what all or most Republicans have argued.)
Nor was she able to step back and acknowledge that, no matter how one slices it, Obama has substantially less experience. As compared to McCain’s pre-war and wartime military training and experience (which must count for something towards leadership and competence); his six years as a captive (showing character); and his subsequent 36 year long career in the military and government (which shows experience and leadership, even if you don’t agree with how he used those attributes), Obama is a blank: a student; a two year stint as a community activist for Leftist organizations; a brief period as a professor; a short term as a junior senator in a local Legislature; and an even shorter term as a junior Senator in Congress.
If this were the ordinary business world, all of us would recognize that Obama’s resume items are insufficient to develop many leadership skills, nor to establish character. That’s entirely separate from the fact that Obama may actually be a born leader, or that his character may be stellar. It’s sufficient to say that, unlike McCain’s resume, Obama’s doesn’t hint at either leadership or character qualities. One would need external proof of those qualities (and I don’t believe such proof exists, but that may just be me).
My mother — and let me reiterate again that she is a truly wonderful human being, whom I love dearly — seems to exemplify something I see with increasing regularity on the Left: people starting with the conclusion, and then jettisoning, not just contrary facts, but any facts at all. I prefer to start with facts and at least see if they extend to a factual conclusion . I can be wrong in my conclusion, but that’s at least where I’m trying to head. Everything is going to lead to an opinion anyway, but at least I’ve got my factual ducks in a row to defend whatever opinion I land on. Liberals don’t seem to be bothering with those factual ducks any more. They’ve become irrelevant.
I guess this is just one more example of Dennis Prager’s point that liberals care about emotion and feelings. Even gals like my Mom, who were already too old to be affected by the hippy era, seem to have absorbed as their political mantra the concept that “if it feels good, do it.”
Speaking of Dennis Prager, you may find interesting his steadfast defense of a McCain presidency, despite his strong opposition to McCain during the primaries. I especially like this bit:
My bottom line is this: The gulf between John McCain and conservatives is miniscule compared to the gulf between John McCain and Barack Obama. This is true regarding virtually every issue of significance to America. The America that a President Barack Obama would shape, with the help of a Democratic Congress and a liberal Supreme Court, would be very dissimilar from the America shaped by a President John McCain.
Conservatives who will not vote for McCain are well-intentioned utopians. They are comparing McCain to a consistently conservative candidate. The reality, however, is that McCain is not running against a consistently conservative candidate. He is running against a consistently left-wing candidate. And America cannot afford to have its first leftist president ever. It can afford liberal presidents — such as Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter (who governed as a liberal but became a leftist after leaving the White House), or John F. Kennedy, or Lyndon Johnson, or Harry Truman — i.e., all the Democrats who have been president since World War II. But the Democratic Party has moved well to the left of liberalism. And Barack Obama is at the left of that left-wing party.
Furthermore, given the strong possibility of a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and a liberal Supreme Court for decades to come, given the number of Supreme Court appointments a Democratic president will be able to make, an Obama victory will move America more radically leftward than ever in its history.
That is why the argument that an Obama administration will be so destructive that Americans will reject the left and then elect a real conservative to undo the damage done in an Obama presidency is deeply flawed.
UPDATE: Ocean Guy explains why Weasley Clark may be prone to idiotic pronouncements that he, in his own mind, believes are both sagacious and perspicacious. It makes for a read that is simultaneously enlightening and depressing.