This political season, like other Republicans, I have been mildly enthused about some qualities of each of the various leading Republican presidential candidates. Having served in Congress with some of them and known them all, there were aspects of each campaign that I liked, but without much energy.
But on May 13, John McCain came to Seattle, rich in delegates and possessed of the pre-convention Republican nomination. Listening to his vision for America, and reflecting on the superb credentials he brings to the race, convinced me that he is clearly the most principled and qualified candidate to lead our country for the next four years. I am therefore a McCain convert. He deserves election most importantly because he is a man of conviction. And I certainly don't mean the kind that has landed too many politicians of both parties in jail, but the kind that gives us confidence that he personifies enduring, honorable principles of leadership.
Republicans these days, frustrated by a lack of winning ideas in Congress, are now facing the most important test of our patriotism and our commitment to be a relevant part of the American government to be installed next January. Many Republicans are lukewarm about Sen. McCain — not conservative enough, they say; too close to Senate Democrats; wrong on campaign finance; wrong on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; compromises too much. They may be right to have those feelings, but to what end? This year, presidential politics should not be about sending a conservative Republican message by omission or be a payback moment to the moderate wing of the party. It should worry Republicans and conservative Democrats that the Democratic candidate will represent the far left side of the political spectrum, one that has nothing to offer conservatives.
So the choices for Republicans are clear: be grouchy about McCain's unconventional conservative credentials, sit out the election, and lose; or get behind a man whose courage, competence, convictions, and compassion are worthy of support.
The 44th president sworn in next Jan. 20 must be courageous enough to face the serious threats of imminent foreign relations — Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and other countries all present life-changing challenges to the prominence of America as leader of the free world. Of all the candidates, only John McCain's courage, under real, life-threatening pressure, has been tested and proven strong. No one has ever questioned McCain's commitment to America.
We expect the leader of the free world to be competent. After 26 years in public life and a recognized leader on most of the important issues that have faced our country over his lifetime, no one can question John McCain's competence or his resolve to do what is right for our country, no matter the political consequences.
McCain's policy convictions have caused heartburn for some Republicans on current issues like immigration, global climate change, energy policy, and congressional overspending. But why wouldn't all Americans want a president who is definitive and decisive on tough issues? McCain isn't tone deaf on current issues — he's just got an opinion and wants to solve problems that need attention — and straight talk. Unlike his opponents, he won't try to be all things to all people — and he won't govern from the left wing. A windsock he is not. He would be a president who listens — and acts.
In Seattle, John McCain received the military bracelet of a young soldier who was killed recently in Iraq — from the soldier's mother, in tears, who praised McCain's war stance and commitment to supporting our soldiers. He received the bracelet with the dignity, grace, compassion, and tenderness that this deeply emotional moment deserved.
This gentleman senator, whose heroic past and principled present are a testament to the wisdom that comes with experience born of tribulation, may be one of the most qualified people to ever seek the presidency. American citizenship requires voters to think carefully about the kind of person — the human characteristics, the soul, the experience — we choose in November. The world is too dangerous, the issues too complicated, the stakes too high for this election choice to be made only on the basis of empty calls for change or blind hope. No, citizenship requires each of us to choose a leader who will be worthy of leading America with the bravery of a Washington, the knowledge of a Jefferson, the determination of an Adams, and the wisdom of a Franklin.
John McCain is that leader.