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McCain = change

Addison Gardner
Aspen, CO Colorado

Recently, during the lunar eclipse, we stood in our driveway and ” like baby owls ” blinked as the moon disappeared and reappeared, first illuminating, then painting with black then illuminating again our tangled landscape of stunted pinion and cedar trees.

These trees have been desiccated by drought, flattened by mountain winds, torn and torqued by heavy snows and baked and frozen in the cruelest of high desert interrogations. Yet, for all their stunted ugliness, they inspire admiration. They’ve staked their heels to the flanks of Basalt Mountain and won’t be moved.

As a longtime admirer of John McCain, it’s easy to see in his scars and wracked frame the tenacity of our twisted trees.



This isn’t a “go-along-to-get-along” guy. McCain isn’t a presidential yes-man ” somebody who can be called on the oval carpet and handed his marching orders.

McCain has butted heads with GOP powerbrokers more often than the Democrats they despise. Conservatives revile him because he won’t stay in formation. He banks away and seeks his own targets. He saves his ordinance for America’s true enemies, not the senator across the aisle.




For me, this is all to the good. I’m a conservative but I’m not tied to the Republican Party, which ” under Bush ” has been an embarrassment of self-interest, corruption, compromised principles and disarray.

Who will stand for fiscal restraint when the winds of expediency produce storms of budget-breaking entitlement programs that threaten my children’s solvency? McCain will be there. Who will refuse to demagogue the immigration mess and stand firm against the stridency of “minutemen” irrationality? Who will resist the urge to score easy political points, painting Hispanic workers as “the other” and stirring up clouds of anger and fear?

Who will, instead “after consulting his own internal compass ” focus his energies on protecting America from her real enemies? That man is John McCain.

McCain isn’t charismatic. He’s not handsome. He’s not young, and his name doesn’t lend itself to Madison Avenue branding. Nor does McCain inspire bouts of fainting when he takes the stage. If you swoon from dehydration, you’ll have to wait for the EMTs. You shouldn’t expect a bottle because he drinks his water from a glass.

History is replete with stories of charismatic leaders who stirred the masses to action, mostly with disastrous results. I’m certain John McCain is not that kind of leader. We won’t be swept up in a wave of McCain rhetoric. He’ll make his case, plainly, and nobody’s going to be struck dumb by wordplay or messianic proclamations.

But McCain will withstand the gusts of malevolent gossip in the New York Times. He’ll withstand the Rush Limbaugh strafing runs, and he’ll continue to speak his mind, without consulting the Republican National Committee.

You’ll hear about his legendary temper, and you’ll have to ask whether you’re afraid to vote for a man who’s capable of anger. You’ll hear about his age, and you’ll weigh whether age in the White house is a greater liability than youth.

Those who supported McCain in the press, when his campaign was on the ropes, are regaining their ideological bearings. Expect a new media wind to buffet him ” one that intensifies as the contest contracts into tighter focus. Journalists who once lionized McCain for his “independence” can be expected to recast this Obama challenger as “difficult,” “hotheaded” and “volatile.”

When my wife and I saw McCain at the Aspen Institute last August, he was traveling light and (as the media loves to point out) “carrying his own suitcases.” He’d arrived in Colorado via Beaufort, S.C., and a tour of pig farms in Iowa: “If it’s Aug. 15, this must be Aspen.” He was hawking his new book, “Hard Call,” and talking almost wistfully about his tattered election bid.

His campaign was dead in the water, so I listened to him the way you’d listen to a deathbed confession, and his words had the clear tone of truth.

I was impressed by his refusal to panic and badmouth the Democrat candidate ” at that point a presumptive Hillary ” and by his efforts to emphasize the commonalties and shared concerns of all Americans: national security; economic opportunity; a foreign policy devoid of brutality and bullying but characterized by steadfast strength.

Look for McCain to bear up well against the approaching squall of Obama-mania. This is a tree with a deep taproot.