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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Legacy of John McCain

McCain's concession speech last night was vintage McCain.

When John McCain says the country must come together, he is one of the few politicians out there that really does mean it. McCain will never hold the highest office in the land, but I believe that when history is written it will be much kinder to him than many that have.

Few folks in the history of this nation have ever been greater patriots than John McCain. From the moment he entered the U.S. Naval academy all John McCain has done is serve this nation and serve it with honor. He went to war. He spent time as a P.O.W. Then, he spent the rest of his life in public service and he continues to do it into his seventies. Very few in the history of this nation have given so much of themselves back to it. For this, I believe John McCain's legacy will stand the test of time and like a fine wine only get better with age.

John McCain will win no favors in the legacy of any ideology. He was in some ways a cross between Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt, however he could never decide which to follow on any given issue. He was generally a tax cutter. He fought long and hard against wasteful spending. (even helping to create the group Citizens Against Government Waste) Yet, at the same time, he wasn't afraid of stiff and harsh regulations against the likes of big tobacco. His campaign finance reform bill, McCain/Feingold is an aversion to most true blue Conservatives. He cemented his legacy as the Conservative scourge when he got into bed with Teddy Kennedy on illegal immigration. Of course, all the liberals that so championed him for years also now have their problems after he supported the surge and fought Obama so hard in this election.

Where history will be most kind to him, I believe, is on the issue of the Iraq War. His steadfast support of the surge in the spring of 2007 was one of those thankless principled stances that won him absolutely no favors or political gain, in the present. Yet, it is on the issue of war where legacies are made. Despite the insistence of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, McCain was the most right politician on Iraq. He immediately observed that we didn't have enough troops and he called for the surge as early as 2004. Then, when supporting increasing operations in Iraq was near political suiciden, he proclaimed that he would be the last man standing if necessary in support of the surge. His support of the surge is best characterized by this brillian speech he gave at VMI.

In my opinion, only General Petraeus himself will be given more credit for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq. There is no more important thing than being on the right side of history in war. John McCain's legacy will endure as the politician most singularly responsible for bringing that victory to Iraq.

Legislatively, John McCain's legacy will be as a doer. Especially in the last ten years, John McCain has been in the middle of nearly every single important piece of legislation. The aformentioned McCain/Feingold will certainly irk conservatives however they won't be the only ones contributing to his legacy. The gang of 14 was one prime example of McCain's ability to bring a coalition of legislators from both sides together to get things done. McCain always more firmly believed in the spirit of bipartisanship than he ever did a particular ideology. That may have done him in as a Presidential candidate, but I do believe it will enhance his legacy as time goes on.

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