Joe Lieberman is speaking at the Republican National Convention as I write this. He is a “disaffected” Democrat who was hoping to become the vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket. His speech has been like lukewarm milktoast to a hungry person, better than nothing but not fulfilling or nutritious. His speech amazes me as one who met him years ago when he was traversing the country as a liberal Democrat who spoke and worked on behalf of liberal ideals and issues. Once upon a time, he was proud of supporting the underdog. I’m wondering who believed a word of his speech tonight?
Lieberman was preceded by Fred Thompson, a former Republican Senator turned actor. Thompson narrated John McCain’s life with the backdrop of a video of selected portions of the Senator’s life. Of course what stood out was his POW experience. I think we must all admit to respecting McCain’s survival of his concentration camp experience; however, as Thompson said, “being a POW does not qualify him to be president. It does tell us something about the character of the man.” I think it tells us that he was fortunate and survived a horrific experience. I appreciate this as I lived with a father who survived World War II. Although not a POW, he and our family did live with the aftermath of his experiences as a soldier who fought in Germany and France during WWII. He was an ordinary soldier who survived, who remembered the horrors of war and the loss of buddies less fortunate than himelf. He vividly recalled those experiences until he died at 80 years of age. This part of his life is not to be underestimated in formation of his character. It informed his attitudes about those who were our enemies during that war. The experience did not qualify him to become President of the United States. It did undergird much of his anger and many of his fears and prejudices. It did help set up lifelong conflicts of belief for him. It set him apart from generations that followed, generations that he never quite fully understood.
And, then, there was the televised speech of President Bush. The first sitting president to not attend his party’s convention in recent history. Do we really believe that hurricane Gustav was responsible for his absence? I might have come to town on a turnip truck at night, but it didn’t happen last night. President Bush did not appear in person because somehow his absence was to put distance between himself and McCain. There is no political distance between these two men. President Bush supported the nomination of John McCain as we would have expected. His presentation was underwhelming. He mentioned John McCain’s support of the surge in Iraq and how well the war is now going. He mentioned McCain’s status as a war hero. He talked about the character of the man. He described a man who is a maverick, a fighter, a warrior.
I must say that is all I remember because there was a technical problem which was later explained by anchor Brian Williams. During the speech, President Bush paused several times and appeared to be trying to remember what he wanted to say. The pauses were awkward and embarrasing. Williams explained that the pauses were periods during which the conventioneers were applauding and the President (although not the television viewing public) was able to hear them and was therefore reacting. Actually, his face just went alarmingly blank and it was impossible to tell whether he was thinking, reacting or just catatonic.
Now, that brings me to the position that needs to be filled on January 20, 2009. The Presidency of the United States of America must be filled on January 20, 2009. Incumbent is termed out. The job description is for a statesman and world leader. The position requires a knowledge of world diplomacy, executive management skills, understanding of the national and international economies. The successful candidate must have the capacity to deal with complex issues that have no apparant solutions, an ability to understand the interelatedness of the environment, health and welfare. This person must exhibit empathy for all Americans as well as world citizens and (s)he serves concurrently as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The successful candidate is not a soldier but understands the role of a soldier in war and during times of war. This person is expected to understand the role of bearing arms in protecting a democratic society. (S)he must exercise sound judgement and must make every effort to avoid putting American citizens in harms way. This leader will welcome executing the difficult and demanding responsibilities of this highest office of the nation. Statesman preferred, warmonger need not apply.