About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sen. John McCain for President

Many readers of this blog may know that a year ago, I was a passionate supporter of the Presidential Campaign of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and that I remained a passionate supporter of Sen. Brownback all the way until October 18, 2007, when he was forced by a “lack of funds” to drop out of the race. It was Sen. Brownback’s unflinching integrity in leading his life, both public and private, according to his Catholic faith that drew me to him from start to finish. This could be most clearly seen in his “pro-life, whole-life” stance: not only does he oppose abortion, but he opposes capital punishment, too; he doesn’t just want to shut down the abortion factories run by Planned Parenthood, he wants to replace them with pregnancy resource centers, so that women who thought that abortion was their only option can receive the resources and support they need to actually have the baby; he doesn’t just care about the human rights of the unborn fetus, but he is an enthusiastic, compassionate fighter for the poor and oppressed, the sick and the hungry, the disenfranchised and the downtrodden both at home and around the world.

Unfortunately, Sen. Brownback’s message never seemed to click with conservative voters (who flocked rather to Gov. Huckabee; I suspect that his Catholicism may have frightened them away), and he was unable to continue to carry this banner of true humanitarianism all the way to the White House. When he dropped out the race, most of his supporters made their way to Gov. Hucakbee’s camp; I, however, remained on the fence. And after the Governor’s disastrous response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December (instead of talking about the national security implications of terrorism-induced chaos in a country armed with nuclear weapons, he talked about limiting the flow of immigrants from Pakistan), I got off the fence and threw my support instead to Sen. McCain—just like Sen. Brownback did.

Why, then, did I choose the man who has been decried by the conservative establishment as practically a Democrat? I finally started to see again the reasons why I wanted to vote for him in 2000 (if only I’d been old enough) and in 2004 (if only we hadn’t been beholden, lemming-like, to George W. Bush). He is, in fact, not only a true conservative (despite Rush Limbaugh’s bloviating to the contrary), but an honorable man, one of the last in a Washington which has descended into the bitterest, dirtiest, foulest mire of partisan hatred not for the sake of the issues but simply for the sake of partisanship.

The conservative “establishment” is trying its hardest these days to discredit Sen. McCain. They like to say that he is “pro-tax” because he voted against the Bush tax cuts. This is nonsense—the man’s a Republican, for gosh’s sake! Of course he’s anti-tax; he knew that the Bush tax cuts were going to pass, so he used his vote to lodge a protest against the fact that they didn’t contain any concomitant cuts in spending. In point of fact, Sen. McCain is far more the fiscal conservative than all of the Republicans who voted for the tax cuts without demanding spending cuts to go along with them, to say nothing of Gov. Romney, who actually tried to raise certain taxes while Governor of Massachusetts (though to his credit, he was carrying out the will of the people, for many Massachusetts Dems would prefer the French tax code to the American one).

Indeed, while Gov. Romney was promising to lavish more of the Federal budget on “old-economy” workers in Michigan whose jobs have been sent overseas (one wonders how the Governor will pay for his “job retraining assistance”—will he raise taxes, or will he simply drive us deeper in debt? One thing is certain: he will not show fiscal restraint.), Sen. McCain told them the economic truth: their jobs aren’t coming back. And he lost Michigan because of it. The decision, therefore, is between the Governor whose words will always twist themselves to please his audience, no matter what promises he must make and what positions he must “amend” to do it; and a Senator who tells the truth, even if the truth is not palatable to his audience’s ears. As a lover of the truth, it should be clear to whom my vote goes.

And on that single issue that matters to many of us more than any other because of what it tells us of a man’s whole outlook on the human condition, namely, his view on abortion? Sen. McCain has spent three decades in public service consistently voting and tirelessly fighting for the right to life; meanwhile, Gov. Romney was elected in Massachusetts because he was pro-abortion. He says he’s pro-life now, but how do we know he won’t change his mind again when it is politically expedient to do so? I rather suspect, especially since he’s a Mormon, among which religion's many failings a pro-death stance is not to be numbered, that he’s always been, at least privately, pro-life—and if I’m right, it unfortunately means that winning the governorship of Massachusetts was more important to him than his pro-life values.

What attracted me to Sen. Brownback more than the other “social conservatives” in the early days of the race, however, was not just that he was pro-life, but that he was “whole-life”; that is to say, Sen. Brownback lived out the implications of his belief in the value of human life to their logical conclusions by supporting human life across its whole spectrum, from conception to deathbed, and from poorhouse to mansion. Sen. McCain, though not perhaps always in the same ways or to the same extent, has shown the true compassion that Our Lord asks of us—at least, far more than I have ever seen (publicly, at least, for I dare not judge what is in a man’s heart) from Gov. Romney; and we need look no further than his (much ballyhooed and criticized, at least by the “conservative” pundits) plan to fix the immigration problem in America. Rather than treating illegal immigrants as wholly unworthy of the American Dream that we all so often and wonderfully enjoy (I’m speaking here as a man who has come from a lower middle-class family which has often struggled paycheck to paycheck, who is currently able to spend a year living in Germany and studying medieval literature, all because of the generous support of the American and German governments in the form of the Fulbright program), Sen. McCain recognized their humanity and, out of compassion for all that he shares with them (for in our common humanity, all partisan differences of political opinion become mere drops in the ocean of dignity and love that we share as creatures of God and co-heirs with Christ), he proposed that they be offered a path to citizenship, albeit a long and tough road of waiting periods and steep fines.

Another facet of his plan for immigration, however, is Sen. McCain’s recognition that our economy has become dependent on these men and women. While the rest of the Republican field throws out lofty rhetoric of sending the illegal immigrants packing, he realized that to do so would cripple our economy. So, together with the President, and though it made them unpopular with their own party and in the end failed for that same reason, he offered a plan that actually made sense and faced both the humanitarian and economic reality of immigration. Empty rhetoric that denies reality and abandons at the water’s edge the compassion so wonderfully resonant in the pro-life position, or a firm stance that recognizes our economic situation and extends compassion for human dignity even to those who have broken our laws: the choice should again be clear.

Sen. McCain has also demonstrated that, far from being a partisan and divisive figure, he can also reach across the aisle, while staying true to his conservative principles,; indeed, he is far more interested in effectively governing the country than in the partisan bickering and gridlock that seems to be Washington reality these days. With the President’s job approval ratings in the low 30’s, and with those of Congress usually even lower, it is clear that what the American people want now more than anything is someone who can bring them together and effectively govern the country—not another party hack spewing the same old message of partisan half-truths (or worse, a party hack claiming to be bipartisan, though in reality his bipartisanship is simply another partisan half-truth dressed up to hide that fact). While the “conservative” pundits have been trying to turn Sen. McCain’s bipartisanship into “treason”, it actually represents the fact that more than any other candidate, Sen. McCain will unite this country, if only we let him.

Indeed, the worst thing that could happen to this country in November would be to allow Sen. Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, for there is no more divisive figure in this election cycle than she. Yet, a nominating vote for Gov. Romney is the best thing a Republican voter can do to ensure a Clinton victory—too many Americans are too fed up with the Republican Party as the party of Pres. George W. Bush to vote for Gov. Romney. Sen. McCain, on the other hand, has exactly the broad-based appeal that will bring not only independent voters but even moderate Democrats on board. In short, Sen. McCain is the only Republican candidate who has a realistic chance of winning in November.

Yet, it is not merely for this banal reason of political reality that I am supporting Sen. McCain. Behind the quality of his stances on political issues (consistently conservative) stand his honesty and honor, integrity and humanity. Sen. McCain is a man that demands respect because he has lived a respectful and virtuous life, and it is this honesty and virtue (and not, as for some candidates, the malleable paths of political expediency and polling data) that form the basis for the political decisions he makes everyday; we should expect nothing less from the President of the United States.


1 comment:

Billy Valentine said...

Great post! Welcome to the team.

Billy Valentine
Catholics for McCain