Reading a news clip this morning about how our Press Secretary is quoted as saying that the comment made by a White House staffer that Sen. McCain is “dying anyway” struck a chord. I lost both parents and a sister to cancer, have beaten it a couple of times myself. The flippancy I read into that remark cannot be adequately expressed. But I will try, in what follows…
I took my required senior government class during summer school before my senior year. Rather than read about how the three branches of government are supposed to function, particularly as checks and balances, we watched the Watergate hearings on tv as they happened, and witnessed the system work as it was designed to work. We survived 1968 and the years that followed, we will survive 2018 and the years that follow. I struggle to understand the big picture of how the government works and how the decisions made in Washington, DC impact both us and the rest of the world, I am confident enough to admit that I have no idea about the nuances, even after having been in a position of senior leadership with a secret level clearance in the Dept of Defense. I was there during the administrations of both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush. Saw first hand how the man in the Oval Office set the tone for the culture of the government. There was a huge sense of relief when Mr. Bush took the reigns of power, optimism and hope returned, it was like a weight was lifted from our shoulders. I certainly didn’t agree with every decision he made during my tenure working under him, or during his eight years, but he remains one of my most admired Presidents. He surrounded himself with brilliant people and listened to them. He was confident enough to be the first to admit that he wasn’t the smartest person in the room at any time, he owned his less than perfect decisions, gave credit to whom it was due for the most successful ones. He represented himself, his family, and our nation with dignity and respect. He is the closest that I can remember that I will refer to as a statesman.
As for the guy there now, he could not give his stump speech, nor most of his addresses since election, in any school where I have worked without violating every aspect of our bullying protocol. He can be correctly described as a bully. We don’t tolerate that behavior with our kids, I cannot respect it coming from him. I’m sorry that the Press Secretary says the comment about Sen. McCain “dying anyway” should not have been leaked, she is right. What she hasn’t addressed is that it should never have been said in the first place. But the man at the top sets the culture, so I guess I am not surprised.
In all fairness, it has become the hallmark of pretty much every campaign today, regardless of party or office being sought. We shouldn’t have to think about when a campaign will turn “negative,” it should never go there. I am looking for a candidate who will tell me why I need to vote “for,” not why I should vote “against.” Which is why I seldom, if ever, vote for an incumbent.
The summer after that senior government class, I was touring Europe with a concert band and choir. We drove through East Germany to perform in West Berlin, a life changing experience for a naive trumpet player from Southwest Kansas. While we were allowed to continue through East Germany into Czechoslovakia for scheduled performances in Prague, our equipment and music were not allowed to accompany us. Also, a life changing experience. Our tour guide while in Prague was an older gentleman who pointed out to us vestiges of the Russian Army’s re-invasion of the country in 1968. He told us of his life growing up in Prague before WW II, during the German occupation, the Russian occupation, the taste of freedom they had briefly experienced before the Russians came back in force in 1968, and life since. He had lived a life that none of us could begin to imagine. His definition of “normal” was nowhere on our radar. He asked us about what was going on with Watergate and Pres. Nixon, he had heard bits and pieces, but was scared about how it would impact his life, and the cause of freedom if the US President were removed from office. We had a fascinating discussion for a couple of hours on our bus about how he needed to put his faith in our system of government, not the person currently sitting in the big chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Another life changing experience. Couple of weeks after I got back, Nixon resigned, and the world survived.
I still have faith in the system to see us through the challenges we face. Sat through many briefings with DOD that scared the crap out of me, there is stuff happening in the world every day that we know nothing about. But the people who do the heavy lifting in our government are seeing to it that we are still here. And will continue to be here. Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree with their party more often than I agree with my wife. Nobody is ever completely right on anything. I will never find a candidate who agrees with everything I hold near and dear. I wouldn’t even vote for myself if I was ever stupid enough to run for anything. But I have faith in US, and just doing my part to leave this mess we call the world better than I found it, for my kids, and their kids, and the generations that will follow.
And so it goes…