It's amazing what passes for courage these days. The newest hero in the Left's pantheon is 21-year-old Jean Sara Rohe, who gave a self-indulgent little tirade against Sen. John McCain on Friday when he spoke at graduation ceremonies for the New School in New York. Miss Rohe no doubt thought she was speaking truth to power when she said, "The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded," but what she really demonstrated was appalling conceit.
You can agree or disagree with Sen. McCain's politics, but the man is one of the few genuine heroes in public life. Although the official biography on his website doesn't even mention it, John McCain spent five and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison camp after his plane was shot down in 1967. He suffered terrible injuries, which were not properly treated, and was beaten and tortured repeatedly. He refused early release, choosing to stay with his fellow captives until all came home together in 1973. He has spent his entire life in public service ever since, first continuing his career as a Navy officer and then as an elected official.
Rohe could have chosen to give a substantive speech detailing why she believes "pre-emptive war is dangerous and wrong" -- or as she so categorically put it, how she "knows" that it is. Instead she took the easy way out by insulting the speaker and throwing out some leftist chestnuts about the still missing Osama bin Laden and weapons of mass destruction. But the former would have required her to grapple with ideas; she chose to take potshots.
Rohe has now decided to explain her decision to forego a speech she'd written for the occasion, one that would have talked about music and her work with children in the New York City public schools. In a posting to Arianna Huffington's blog, Rohe writes, "A certain not-so-dynamic duo of 'centrist' politicians foiled my standard graduation speech and forced me to act. Until just the day before commencement I really hadn't understood the gravity of the situation," she writes.
Meeting up with some students who planned to protest the speech, she got this brilliant idea: "I checked the schedule for the ceremony and realized that I would be speaking just before the senator got his award. And that's when the idea for a preemptive strike began to brew in my little stressed-out brain. What if I tore McCain's speech apart before he even opened his mouth? After reading his speech a couple of times I picked out a few particularly loathsome sections -- and believe it or not, none of these actually came from the extensive section where he defends his position on the war in Iraq -- and I began planning an attack against him using his own words."
Just before the moment finally arrived, Rohe found herself in the Green Room with McCain. She introduced herself, "I almost wanted to warn the guy that I was about to make him look like an idiot so that he would at least have a fighting chance and an extra moment to change his speech to save himself. But he didn't even make eye contact when we shook hands, so I figured I didn't owe him anything."
She couldn't be more wrong. She and the others who jeered not just Sen. McCain but the president of their university, former Senator and fellow decorated Vietnam veteran Bob Kerrey, owe them their very way of life. Men like McCain and Kerrey have endured more than Miss Rohe and her fellow protesters can even imagine so that all of us might enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Rohe said that the commencement was "an occasion that is supposed to honor us above all." Maybe that's the problem. Sen. McCain was addressing a bunch of spoiled kids who think they deserve "honor" for having made it through college.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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