During the convention speeches by Barack Obama and John McCain, I grew bored with their promises. No way either man can accomplish half of what he said.
The Democrat is going to change the tax code and cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, end dependence on Middle Eastern oil in 10 years, provide every child a world-class education, guarantee affordable health care for every American, save Social Security, guarantee equal pay for equal work, end the war in Iraq responsibly … and cure our energy problems.
Sure he is.
The Republican is going to keep taxes low and cut them where he can, cut government spending, open new markets, shake up failed school bureaucracies, provide school choice, create millions of new jobs, change government assistance for unemployed workers, secure peace, keep America safe … and cure our energy problems.
Hand those guys magic wands, they’re going to need them.
But the speech that moved me to tears was McCain’s.
Not the part where as president he’s going to change the culture of Washington. Definitely not the part where he touted his belief in “the culture of life” — code words for restricting abortion rights. But the part when he explained in detail how being shot down in Hanoi made him the imperfect man he is.
Now if you didn’t know about his five and a half years in a North Vietnam prison, you are either a reincarnation of Robinson Crusoe or you wear tinfoil on your head to prevent aliens from taking over your body.
The basics are well known: In 1967, McCain’s plane was shot down over Hanoi, he was tortured and imprisoned. Offered the chance to be released, he refused, knowing it would be used as a propaganda tool because he was the son of an admiral.
While accepting his party’s nomination Thursday, McCain revealed his evolution from a cocky pilot starting his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam to the 72-year-old man running for president. When he started his mission that day, McCain said: “I hadn’t any worry I wouldn’t come back safe and sound. I thought I was tougher than anyone. I was pretty independent then, too. I liked to bend a few rules, and pick a few fights for the fun of it. But I did it for my own pleasure, my own pride. I didn’t think there was a cause more important than me.”
When he parachuted into a lake, a mob beat him. With two broken arms and one broken leg, he was dumped in a prison cell and left to die.
“I didn’t feel so tough anymore.”
When he was down to 100 pounds and they put him in a cell with two other Americans, “I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even feed myself. They did it for me. I was beginning to learn the limits of my selfish independence.”
That’s when I cried. And kept crying when he spoke of his shame when the North Vietnamese finally broke his spirit. But Bob Craner, in the cell next door, saved McCain.
“Through taps on a wall, he told me I had fought as hard as I could. … then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day, they fought for me.”
McCain said he was never the same after that.
(He didn’t mention, although he’s said it before, that twice he attempted suicide while in prison.)
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s,” he said.
At that moment, he was the man I respected when he was a presidential contender eight years ago. He didn’t have me at “hello.”
Aspects of his judgment, past and present, remain a concern — such as whom he might appoint to the Supreme Court.
Yes, he was awkward rather than smooth, but he showed why his experience then is relevant now.
The all-knowing polls will tell us soon enough, but I’m guessing McCain won more than a few votes with that speech, at least if people listened to the end, past all the promises.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.