Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Shriveled Up Old Nuts Syndrome

Jesse Jackson's recent comments regarding his opinion that Barack Obama had been talking down to the black community are similar in tone to the remarks made by the Reverend Wright at the National Press Club a few months ago.

It is clear to me that some in the old generation of black leadership in America have their shorts in a bunch about Barack Obama. Those shriveled up old nuts want to cut Barack's nuts off. Of course they do.

They struggled through the civil rights era of the 1950's and 1960's. They were in the trenches and earned their stripes the hard way. They ascended to leadership in the black community out of the street and the churches of those black neighborhoods. Their leadership was grounded in the black community. On occasion, they would make a move into the broader community. Jesse Jackson is an example, with his two runs for the Presidency.

Now that the next generation, untested in the trench warfare of the civil rights movement, is coming to the fore, the old guard is upset. Moreover, this next generation of young black politicians have a broad base of support. Their support is not grounded in the black community but in the broader base of enlightened voters.

"Who do they think they are? We have been running the show for the last forty years. We aren't dead yet. They need to pay us more respect. Who are they to tell us what to do? We may be shriveled up old nuts Barack, but we want to cut your nuts off."

There is nothing quite like the angst of the aging individual who history has passed by.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

War Hero

Wesley Clark's comments about John McCain are insightful. No doubt they have been mangled and misrepresented by the press. His comments cause me to think about a variation off an issue I posted about several months ago.

Clark said that McCain's military experience was not a qualifier for leading the country. He explained that McCain did not have command experience while in the military. Everything that Clark said was absolutely true. McCain never commanded a large group of men in the military. He was a pilot. Clark, ultimately head of the NATO command, knows about the role of the military executive. Clark, with 38 years of service in the military, knows what leadership looks like when he sees it.

I suspect there is another underlying issue at play in Clark's comments. Clark experienced the Vietnam War on the ground and came home on a stretcher. McCain's Vietnam War experience was very different. He flew in the sky's and then spent five years in a Hanoi prison. Indeed, his experience was a brutal one, but it was not a Vietnam War experience that included bullets, chaos, and buddies being shot on the ground. McCain did not experience the political tug and pull of the Vietnam War as it was lived by people like Clark who saw the prevarication of the likes of McNamera, Kissinger, Nixon and others. I have read recently of the divide in the US Senate between those Senators, Vietnam veterans who served on the ground, and McCain. They had very different experiences and as a consequence, have very different views.

Most all descriptions of McCain begin with the phrase, "John McCain, War Hero." Clark's comments cause me to think about that and wonder. What constitutes a war hero? Historically, how do you become a war hero? Does McCain qualify, when juxtaposed to those who have previously been called war heroes, for the title?

As a young man in the 1950's I was fascinated by a war hero from World War II. Audie Murphy was a true war hero. Of course, he became a movie star and even played himself in that 1950's movie of his autobiography, To Hell and Back. Murphy was undeniably a war hero. He won every medal for valor the military could grant.

McCain's heroism derives from his endurance while incarcerated. He was not a hero on the battlefield. He is honored for standing up to his captors. I see his behavior as nothing more than his lifelong rejection of authority figures, all of which is well portrayed in the great book The Nightingale's Song, Timberg's book on five Annapolis grads: McFarland, Poindexter, McCain, Ollie North and Jim Webb. I commend it to you for its insight on the historic McCain.

At the same time, I suggest that to question McCain's service and its relevance to be commander in chief is akin to questioning any of the actions of the Bush administration after 9/11. It is a sacred cow and to raise questions about a war hero is to cross some sacred line.
Clark had the courage to cross that line. Doesn't everything that has to do with leadership and governance become fair game in selecting a President?