WASHINGTON -- Though I cannot recall ever endorsing a presidential candidate I am going to do so in this column. In this, I am following the lead of the dean of conservative columnists, the excellent Charles Krauthammer. Last week he endorsed Sen. John McCain. Count me for McCain, too.
Our country is at war with terrorists. It faces a grave financial crisis. On both issues McCain is infinitely more experienced than his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama. Perhaps it is because McCain is a retired naval officer and a gentleman, but he remains disappointingly reticent about his personal achievements. Sure, he modestly declares that throughout his adult life he has never flinched from answering his country's call, but there is much more to his life's accomplishment than that. I wish he had allowed his campaign to air more of the videos showing him in that cruel North Vietnamese prison. And there is also footage of his leaping out of a burning fighter on the deck of an aircraft carrier, the back of his flight suit aflame. People who have seen these videos have understood that McCain's commitment to duty is more substantial than the inflated claims of the average campaigning pol.
McCain might have made more of the fact that he rebuilt his broken body after being tortured in prison, defied the pessimistic medical prognostications, and flew combat aircraft again. Then he took command of the Navy's largest air squadron, which he revived to flight readiness. That is an act of executive prowess no one else in this presidential race can claim. Next, he became naval liaison to the Senate and helped rebuild the American military by working with senators on both sides of the aisle. As a congressman and a senator, he has continued this sort of bipartisan reform. Some of the reforms I have opposed, but no other candidate in this race has his record of constructive legislation and leadership.
In the area of national security, he has demonstrated that he knows things that Obama, a novice with but four years on the national stage, can only imagine. McCain knew the surge in Iraq would work, and he had the grit to support it when few would. Once again he was putting his country before his own political ambitions. Nonetheless, McCain is no soft touch for the military. Over the years he has demanded efficiency and economy at the Pentagon and throughout the federal budget. Now in a time of financial crisis he has opted for a proven strategy for economic recovery: low taxes, free trade, and budgetary prudence. Obama's alternatives are the proven recipe for protracted recession. On health care McCain's policies promise expanded coverage with costs under control. Obama's alternative promises the efficiencies of the Post Office, with the citizenry standing in long lines and costs spiraling ever upwards.
McCain then is a true American hero, probably the most heroic to come this close to the presidency. He is a seasoned political leader. He is the model for good citizenship.
Alternatively, there is Obama's record. People who have worked with him tell me he is a decent man. Yet, all he has ever done is run for office, though he has only held two: a seat in the Illinois senate and the U.S. Senate seat he won in 2004. Though he is new to politics, his policies are not as new as he boasts. They are a rerun of the failed Great Society with some latter-day left-wing extravagances thrown in.
That he has not been honest about this is disturbing, and he has established a pattern of deceit in this election that is still more disturbing. His claim that he offers a tax cut for "95 percent" of the citizenry is an obvious deceit. So far as I can ascertain it means sending government checks to some 40 percent of the citizenry who pay no taxes and raising taxes on the rest of us -- yes, tax increases in the midst of recession! More disturbing is that Obama has not been honest about the radical figures he has associated with. William Ayers is an unrepentant left-wing radical who actually bombed government facilities and caused the injury and death of fellow Americans. That is a cold fact. Obama's association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger put him in company with angry anti-American fringe figures, who, were they on the far right, would have ended Obama's political career long ago. Again, he has not been honest about these associations, and McCain -- officer and gentleman that he is -- has not held Obama to account.
Now we hear that there is at least audio of a 2003 dinner held for Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi (a spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization when it was recognized by Washington as a terrorist organization) with Obama in attendance. Reportedly the Illinois state senator was praising Khalidi. Though the audio is being withheld by the Los Angeles Times, Americans ought to hear it before the election. At this dinner speakers allegedly denounced the United States and Israel. By 2003, Khalidi was a neighbor and friend of Obama at the University of Chicago. Again Obama has been deceptive about this dinner and his relationship with this former spokesman for Yasir Arafat.
I actually know a good bit about people such as Ayers, Pfleger, Wright, and now Khalidi. They are the kind of anti-Americans who thrive on the outer fringes of the left. Whether they really hate America as they boast or are just attitudinizing, I do not know. But the consequence of their behavior has endangered this country. By 2003, Obama, green as he is, should have known this. More to the point, he should have been forthright when these friendships were revealed.
At best an Obama presidency would be a return to the Carter years. At worst it would place this country in a condition of peril that we have never experienced in modern times. McCain will protect the country and put it on the road to recovery. He has protected America all his adult life and deserves another tour of service.