Record-setting warm weather is rudely being ushered
out in places today by the last few gasps of winter. It reminds
me of John McCain's less-than-generous remarks following George W. Bush's Super Tuesday primary victories.
If John McCain represents the winter of our discontent, George W. offers
the rebirth of spring, a return to dignity following the eight years
of spin and embarrassment of Clinton-Gore. The trouble is, there will
be no flowers this summer without a Bush-McCain truce. The early blooms
of spring are easily withered and killed by late-winter blasts.
McCain may be considering becoming the Ross Perot of 2000, assuring
an Al Gore win, but he will do just as much damage to the Republican
ticket if he delays his moves toward uniting the party. He is in a powerful
position right now, one that will diminish with time.
We're looking for a leader with character, a patriot, someone who's
unafraid to speak his mind and willing make a commitment without first
filtering it through the spin cycle. Many of us saw that person in John
McCain's early campaign. But where is he now? Where is his straight
talk now? What's all this business about "suspending" a campaign?
Either you're in or you're out.
McCain is clearly buying time to work on his strategy, positioning
himself not so much as a power broker within Republican ranks as a party
buster willing to put his chances, however slim, for a third-party win
over party loyalty and a chance to effect real change within its platform.
Too much positioning, in my mind, became his undoing in his campaign.
If he just would have stuck to the straight talk and left out all that
campaign nastiness, he may have done better. His below-the-belt strikes,
as well as Bush's responses in kind, were unnecessary blows that clearly
left Democrats dancing in the street as their man Al Gore repeats the buzzwords of his campaign to a nation lulled like drones to "join the fight"
of his battle "for America's working families" and against
"risky tax schemes."
Today McCain, even more than Bush in his victories, has a unique opportunity
to lead and unite his party as well as embrace the many independents
with whom his campaign seems to resonate. In league with Bush he could
help define his party. The question is whether he has the will to do
so as he risks offending those who enjoy the comfort of spin and the
luxury of noncommitment over the necessity of compromise.
In Vietnam, McCain proved he had courage and character beyond measure.
If he can demonstrate that once more by revealing a commitment to his
party over political tactics and personal ambition, Americans will respond.
In our town, news of late includes a front page editorial about the
disastrous decline of our city brought on by poor decisions at city
hall, followed by a front page reply by our city manager. Our newspaper
is quick to point fingers and lay blame but had few, if any, solutions
to offer. They may feel a need to stay on the sidelines to avoid bias
in reporting, but in a small town with few hands we need bodies on the committees that
really are starting to make a difference here. Editors, reporters and
publishers are needed just as much as other able-bodied citizens. There
are times when you must put down your reporter's notebook, roll up your
sleeves and participate in your community at its grass roots level.
As it's said, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the
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