John McCain, Navy pilot

P. J. O’Rourke is a satirist–a very funny guy–who got to ride on an aircraft carrier recently. He applies that experience, including witnesses the pilots’ courage and skill, to former carrier pilot John McCain. From 24 Hours on the ‘Big Stick’:

Some people say John McCain isn’t conservative enough. But there’s more to conservatism than low taxes, Jesus, and waterboarding at Gitmo. Conservatism is also a matter of honor, duty, valor, patriotism, self-discipline, responsibility, good order, respect for our national institutions, reverence for the traditions of civilization, and adherence to the political honesty upon which all principles of democracy are based. Given what screw-ups we humans are in these respects, conservatism is also a matter of sense of humor. Heard any good quips lately from Hillary or Barack?

A one-day visit to an aircraft carrier is a lifelong lesson in conservatism. The ship is immense, going seven decks down from the flight deck and ten levels up in the tower. But it’s full, with some 5,500 people aboard. Living space is as cramped as steerage on the way to Ellis Island. Even the pilots live in three-bunk cabins as small and windowless as hall closets. A warship is a sort of giant Sherman tank upon the water. Once below deck you’re sealed inside. There are no cheery portholes to wave from.

McCain could hardly escape understanding the limits of something huge but hermetic, like a government is, and packed with a madding crowd. It requires organization, needs hierarchies, demands meritocracy, insists upon delegation of authority. An intricate, time-tested system replete with checks and balances is not a plaything to be moved around in a doll house of ideology. It is not a toy bunny serving imaginary sweets at a make-believe political tea party. The captain commands, but his whims do not. He answers to the nation.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I’m so glad you made reference to that article. I just read it and passed it on to a few friends as a must-read.
    I’m beginning to think that most of the courage, character, and honor in this country rests–or is is hard at work–among confessional pastors and the military.
    Yes he allowed the light gleaned from his carrier experience to shine on McCain, but what he said about the crew–average age, officers and all 24 years!–but without mentioning any names (only shirt-colors, inherent dangers, and awesome tasks) was even more profound, to me at least.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I’m so glad you made reference to that article. I just read it and passed it on to a few friends as a must-read.
    I’m beginning to think that most of the courage, character, and honor in this country rests–or is is hard at work–among confessional pastors and the military.
    Yes he allowed the light gleaned from his carrier experience to shine on McCain, but what he said about the crew–average age, officers and all 24 years!–but without mentioning any names (only shirt-colors, inherent dangers, and awesome tasks) was even more profound, to me at least.

  • kerner

    This is a good example of why P.J. O’Rourke is one of my favorite writers. And the article states more clearly than I could why I believe all the conservative angst over McCain is unwarranted. I don’t believe that McCain is necessarily a deep thinker; rather, he is a man of action. But it takes a real conservative, with the courage of his convictions, to strap himself into a jet and go shoot communists (as they shoot back).

    Of all the Republican presidential nominees of my lifetime:

    Eisenhower
    Nixon
    Goldwater
    Ford
    Reagan
    Bush I
    Dole
    Bush II

    I dare say only Goldwater and Reagan were more conservative than McCain. And Goldwater once said something to the effect that all true conservatives should want to kick Jerry Falwell in the a**. Conservatives need to work with McCain and not against him.

  • kerner

    This is a good example of why P.J. O’Rourke is one of my favorite writers. And the article states more clearly than I could why I believe all the conservative angst over McCain is unwarranted. I don’t believe that McCain is necessarily a deep thinker; rather, he is a man of action. But it takes a real conservative, with the courage of his convictions, to strap himself into a jet and go shoot communists (as they shoot back).

    Of all the Republican presidential nominees of my lifetime:

    Eisenhower
    Nixon
    Goldwater
    Ford
    Reagan
    Bush I
    Dole
    Bush II

    I dare say only Goldwater and Reagan were more conservative than McCain. And Goldwater once said something to the effect that all true conservatives should want to kick Jerry Falwell in the a**. Conservatives need to work with McCain and not against him.

  • Joe

    So because the Republican party generally picks lousy candidates, conservatives should just keep our mouths shut? I really have trouble with that logic.

    I also find the assertion that only a conservative would go to war against commies less than persuasive. I am pretty sure we would find lots of examples of non-conservatives who have served our country in war. We can start with Former Senator Bob Kerrey.

    I admire and respect McCain for his service to the country. I also believe he will be a strong leader and he is pretty solid on foriegn policy. In terms of his domestic policy ideas, I am less than thrilled. He wins my vote by default.

  • Joe

    So because the Republican party generally picks lousy candidates, conservatives should just keep our mouths shut? I really have trouble with that logic.

    I also find the assertion that only a conservative would go to war against commies less than persuasive. I am pretty sure we would find lots of examples of non-conservatives who have served our country in war. We can start with Former Senator Bob Kerrey.

    I admire and respect McCain for his service to the country. I also believe he will be a strong leader and he is pretty solid on foriegn policy. In terms of his domestic policy ideas, I am less than thrilled. He wins my vote by default.

  • kerner

    I didn’t say conservatives should keep their mouths shut. I guess my problem is the difference in the way some conservatives react to different candidates. For example, when George W. Bush was running in 2000, conservative leaders decided that he was the “conservative” candidate and got behind him. When those of us who worried that he might not be as conservative as he was being portrayed, conservative media outlets loudly reassured us that he was our guy and everything would be okay.

    Well, I’m sorry, but George W. Bush has not been a particularly conservative president, especially on the issue of restraining the growth of government spending and power. On this domestic issue, McCain is a lot more conservative than George W. Bush, but McCain never gets credit for it. There are other examples of this.

    (And don’t get me started on Mitt Romney. There’s a guy who really is NOT conservative, but conservatives were backing him.)

    All I am saying is that McCain is probably, on balance, just as conservative or more so than a lot of candidates that conservatives have backed to the hilt. This does not mean that conservatives ought to shut up; constructive criticism from conservatives ought to be forthcoming to McCain in plenty of areas. But I see no good reason for the hostility McCain was getting a few months ago.

  • kerner

    I didn’t say conservatives should keep their mouths shut. I guess my problem is the difference in the way some conservatives react to different candidates. For example, when George W. Bush was running in 2000, conservative leaders decided that he was the “conservative” candidate and got behind him. When those of us who worried that he might not be as conservative as he was being portrayed, conservative media outlets loudly reassured us that he was our guy and everything would be okay.

    Well, I’m sorry, but George W. Bush has not been a particularly conservative president, especially on the issue of restraining the growth of government spending and power. On this domestic issue, McCain is a lot more conservative than George W. Bush, but McCain never gets credit for it. There are other examples of this.

    (And don’t get me started on Mitt Romney. There’s a guy who really is NOT conservative, but conservatives were backing him.)

    All I am saying is that McCain is probably, on balance, just as conservative or more so than a lot of candidates that conservatives have backed to the hilt. This does not mean that conservatives ought to shut up; constructive criticism from conservatives ought to be forthcoming to McCain in plenty of areas. But I see no good reason for the hostility McCain was getting a few months ago.

  • Joe

    “But I see no good reason for the hostility McCain was getting a few months ago.” I do. McCain must be made to understand that his position with conservatives is not solid and that he can not take us for granted. I think W. is the perfect example of this. As you stated, conservatives for whatever reason decided he was the guy (I never did and I did not vote for him in the 2000 primary) and he has taken the conservative wing of the Republican party for granted everyday since.

    McCain must be made to realize that he is not our first choice and that he is our guy by default and that we will bail on him if he gets out of line. The hostility of a few months ago has done some good in the many of the positions he is taking and that is a positive.

    btw – you are spot on about Mitt he is a poser.

  • Joe

    “But I see no good reason for the hostility McCain was getting a few months ago.” I do. McCain must be made to understand that his position with conservatives is not solid and that he can not take us for granted. I think W. is the perfect example of this. As you stated, conservatives for whatever reason decided he was the guy (I never did and I did not vote for him in the 2000 primary) and he has taken the conservative wing of the Republican party for granted everyday since.

    McCain must be made to realize that he is not our first choice and that he is our guy by default and that we will bail on him if he gets out of line. The hostility of a few months ago has done some good in the many of the positions he is taking and that is a positive.

    btw – you are spot on about Mitt he is a poser.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X