Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Today and yesterday all the rightwing talk radio hosts that I listen to were going on and on about Wesley Clark, a retired government worker. So I heard the clip a fair bit, over the course of the day. What's the problem? Well Clark was obviously sent out as Obama's "inartful" pitbull, from which Obama can now very slightly distance himself. But it was said. It was said. What? Clark opined that McCain had never "held executive responsibility" and had not commanded troops in wartime. I'll come back to that. Clark also said, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

So tonight, as I was running at the Y -- oh yes, I seem to have started running again -- Alan Colmes, a regular guest on Hannity's Fox show, made a big deal of pointing out that, indeed, military service was not a qualification. And all the rightwingers are indignant, and all the lefties are exasperated. So let's get it straight in our own heads.

There are two operative qualifications for being president. They are right there, in the Constitution, Art. II sec. 1, so there really shouldn't be any controversy or confusion at all over the matter. To be qualified to be president of the United States, one must be a native-born citizen, aged 35 or over. Period. One needn't be intelligent, or honest, or articulate, or pretty to look at. Think of any nice or good thing you like, and then remind yourself that it does not qualify anyone to be president.

The silly gooses who are yammering about all this fell into the inartful trap of WC, getting all hung up on the word qualify. But it's a high school skill, to define our terms. Why haven't they done that? Like that silly word, patriotism. It's not about the pretty words that we put together in our heads and then utter so that people can hear them. It's not about symbols and their display, like standing for the anthem or wearing a pin. Patriotism is about sacrifice. Anything less is just theory. Same thing with qualify. It's about what we do, and have done. That's the only thing we have to judge by, regarding what we will do.

Clark, in his obvious and inartful way, did indeed diminish, attempt to diminish McCain's military career. Of course he did: "riding around in a plane" like a passenger ... "getting shot down" like an incompetent loser. And if his war record were the only thing, or even the main thing, that McCain were running on, Clark's tactic might have some theoretical merit ... if it were used against some slick poseur -- you know, like some hack pol who paraded himself as a hero because he was in a country while there was a war a long time ago. Not actually a phony hero -- just a loudmouth exaggerator who reported for duty, as long as it was easy duty, with lots of admiration and power. We'd all really hate to have someone like that get elected. I'm sure.

Did Clark give a fair summary of McCain's service? In so far as it went, no honest person could ever suppose so. Let's cut to the heart of his service, then. What is it that stands out? What is always somewhere in our minds, when we think of McCain's service? Yes. Of course. Tortured prisoner of war who refused his freedom ... refused his freedom ... because those imprisoned with him would not also be freed. Clark, who did such an excellent job a few years ago in ordering the bombing of passenger trains and hospitals, supposes that McCain never held "executive responsibility" and had never "commanded troops in wartime."

I suggest, without respect, that Clark is in error. I suggest that being the commanding officer of men being tortured by the VC qualifies McCain as having had "executive responsibility," and I suggest that it is nothing less, and even more, than commanding troops in wartime. Clark doesn't understand the meaning of the phrase, executive responsibility. He must think it has to do with paperwork. It has to do with leadership, which has to do with example. [This is where I edited myself, for my more sensitive readers.] There is no finer man conceivable, in this regard, than John McCain. Clark is whatever he is. But to me, for his failure to understand this and his eagerness to score points here, he is contemptible.

The age requirement, and the natural-born citizenship requirement -- these are petty. If there is any actual requirement for the job, what fair-minded person would deny that McCain has met it? And surpassed it? We might like to think of ourselves as brave and noble. Mostly, we're never tested for it. Someone dies, that we love. It's hard. It's a test. But it's a test that comes to everyone. Nothing unusual, for all that it is special. McCain had many people he loved die. But more than this, he volunteered for the suffering.

If there is a single qualification to be president, it must be what we call character, manifesting here as a sense of duty. Character manifests in all sorts of ways. Clark and his mouth have demonstrated his character. Obama is demonstrating his, with his mouth. McCain demonstrated who he was four decades ago, and he remains the man he always has been. We may not agree with all his positions. But these things are all relative, and by comparison, McCain is a giant among pipsqueaks.

So let's return again to that word, qualify. Let's step outside of the narrow confines of the Constitution -- such an easy thing to do, nowadays -- and ask ourselves what it really takes to be a good, a great president. We'd like all of those things I've already listed and dismissed. But in a wide field of attributes, might there be some special thing, some certain quality, that stands out even more brightly than a handsome smile or a pleasing voice or an ability to craft pretty speeches? What is it that a president should actually do? Inspire? Negotiate? Well, yes. But he must lead. For those six years, that's what McCain did. The last three, he did voluntarily. He didn't lead men through hell. He led them in hell.

How can there be any disagreement, here? Why is there a controversy? The only controversy should be about what unpleasant fate should overtake Clark, for being an inartful, guileful, unqualified fool.



Anonymous said...

Good post, Jack. I wanted to let you know that we received an e-mail recently discussing bloggers who write anonymously and how that, at least to some degree, lessens their credibility. It made sense to us and we have changed policy a bit and are not linking to anonymous-authored pieces anymore.

Might I remind you of both The Anchoress and Dirty Harry who have both recently come out with their identities? Anyway, I know you have your reasons for leaving your last name off your posts or you wouldn't do it, but should you change your mind in the future ...

Thanks again for not only your writings, but your comments as well. They have been helpful.:)


Jack H said...

Under no circumstances will the specific policy under question be changing. I certainly accept the policies of other sites. Regarding credibility and anonymity, I find the idea amusing, and the reasoning poor. Names are easy to invent, and who would know otherwise? I've done it plenty. Jack Haytch has made his appearance in these pages, and Jack Hell and Jack Hammer. Credibility lies not in a brand name, but in quality, which should justify the name, or the nom de plume.

The question isn't about anonymity. It's about accountability. For my part, in matters of quotation or debatable fact I generally provide links. Everything else is opinion, and we all surely have learned to question opinion, regardless of who holds it. As for accountability, in this medium that would be a fiction, its only reality manifesting as lost readers, or readers gained. My credibility should reside here in nearly three years of consistency.

There are several people with whom I have had private email contact, for whom I believed a last name would be a courtesy I could not neglect. But as vulnerable as I have made myself here, and as ugly as the world is ... well, a few months ago I lost some anonymity here, and the result was bizarre and unpleasant. One would hope it might be a one-off shot. Experience has led me to believe such hope is false.

That's my policy.


Anonymous said...

That's fine Jack. I really didn't mean to pressure or question or anything else. Sometimes it's difficult to write comments with the proper inflection?!?


Jack H said...

I understand that a long answer may sound defensive. I've been accused of that before. See? "Accused". I took the tone of your comment as I think you meant it. I trust I will be understood in the same way.



Jack H said...

I hardly know what to do with myself. I suppose I'll exercise the function of this blog, and express myself. Regarding J's comment on anonymity. If you follow her link, you see she runs a site linking to various articles on items of interest to the religious right. She will of course be concerned about the quality of content at such links. It reflects on her own site.

First, this isn't meant to be taken as emotional. It's just some further thinking on the matter. So, I ask myself, is the quality of the Anchoress -- whom I've read, or of Dirty Harry, whom I haven't -- any less, for their (former) anonymity? Should they not have been linked to, because of it? And they should be linked now, because they put a name to the face? The reasoning escapes me. The worth of such thinkers is not found in, or supported by, the name on their tax forms. The power of their ideas is found in their quality. They are known quantities on the web, because of the identity they have constructed. They are accountable because their address is known, as a URL.

The objection to anonymity isn't about a blog site, but about those who leave comments. It is they who are unaccountable. Trolls and poseurs and I don't know the appropriate internet terms, but my meaning is clear.

My ego is heroically apparent, in this blog. In real life, I pretend I'm modest, and balanced, and suchlike. The same with vulnerability: I display it here. I self-talk about being mature and secure. But I have abandonment and betrayal issues. We all have issues. And while it certainly isn't rational, and has nothing at all to do with J, who is gracious, and her site, which seems diligent, there is still that part of my ego that reacts emotionally to her opinion. I note this fact here, because this is where I note such facts. If you don't like hearing it, such occasional pathetic honesty, this isn't the place for you.

My point is that while I say I'm not defensive, I feel like my blog has been diminished. Its worth is less, it's not worthy of being linked to, because I have protected the syllable or syllables of my last name. "Worth" is an emotional word. But emotion is what this blog is all about. Did you think something else?

So there it is. An emotional subtext, expressed only as a further attempt to understand and be understood, and an examination of rationality -- the reasons we give, and their power to justify and convince. I have too few readers here to sustain a symposium on the question. But I can't help but think my reasoning is more convincing than that which might counter it. I'd take a vote, but it wouldn't reach a quorum.