This presidential campaign has clearly become one of moral contrasts. To take hold of this concept is to gain a better understanding of just what’s at stake.
What stood out most and garnered the greatest reaction during John McCain’s acceptance speech was when he recounted the story of his capture and how it factors in to why he wants to serve as president of the United States: “I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. … I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it,” Mr. McCain said to thunderous applause.
The mention of service throughout the Republican’s campaign and convention is no mistake. Neither is the oft-repeated phrase of a “servant’s heart,” and its significance should not be lost. Great leaders recognize the importance of humility in service.
Mr. McCain acknowledged that “I’ve been an imperfect servant,” but a servant nonetheless. “I’ve never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn’t thank God for the privilege.” It’s not enough that Mr. McCain “believes in faith … and a culture of life,” but how he walks out his faith, which is with humility and regard for others above self. His act of heroism in the Hanoi Hilton is but one example.
There is also a moral contrast in how our leaders handle war and our enemies. Just as Mr. McCain declared: “I hate war,” he recognizes the evil that exists and how it should be dealt with. “We face many threats in this dangerous world. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it,” Mr. McCain said.
And Mr. McCain’s vice presidential pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is another example in moral contrasts. Mrs. Palin, echoing the theme of humility, made this moral declaration during her acceptance speech: “We are expected to govern with integrity, good will, clear convictions and a servant’s heart.”
In contrast are the mounting criticisms from the left that couldn’t be more condescending, divisive, cynical, downright arrogant and anything but humble.
In making contrasts between Barack Obama and Mrs. Palin, Democrats and campaign surrogates have not only attacked Mrs. Palin’s parenting skills, but by questioning the number of people she served as mayor of a small town and diminishing her role as governor of a state, have suggested that she’s too small-town, too rural (code for: hick), for anyone to really take her seriously. Democratic strategist James Carville on CNN’s “Late Edition” quipped on Sunday: “Senator Obama was president of Harvard Law Review.” (That is a point Mr. Obama and Mrs. Obama conveniently failed to point out when waxing on about their humble upbringings.) Mr. Carville continued: “So - that town [Wasilla, Alaska] has, according to its Web site, 7,025 people … I would point out that she’s been governor of Alaska which has 667,000 people which is like being mayor of Memphis, Tennessee.”
The condescension is sickening and the height of elitism. And how many people has the one-term senator, Mr. Obama, governed Mr. Carville? I’m sure it is nowhere near 600,000. Not to mention, the slap in the face you just gave to the people of these communities whose problems and concerns are no different than the rest of America. And whether she served two people, 7,000 or 600,000, she represents a constituency that not only elected her to office, but has given her the highest approval rating of any elected official (including Mr. Obama) at present.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault the Democrats for attempting to drum up whatever rhetoric they can. After all, Mrs. Palin is just as dynamic a candidate as Mr. Obama, mirroring his charisma, personality and appeal. In fact, she is the Obama anti-venom for the McCain campaign. And while the Obama campaign is doing all it can to come up with its own anti-Palin concoction, creating class warfare is not the answer. Taking the moral high road is. One that does not pit Americans from one side of the country against those from another (i.e. those who cling to guns and religion). Has the Obama campaign not learned this lesson yet?
Arrogance is the direct opposite of humility. When it is used to diminish one’s opponent in this way, it diminishes John Q. Public.
While Mr. Obama often speaks openly about his faith and Mr. McCain walks out a more “private” religious experience, it is in Mr. McCain’s “doing” rather than simply speaking, that one gets a glimpse of this humility that serves as judgment. “Serve a cause greater than yourself,” Mr. McCain has insisted. Because in doing so, you are serving the least among us. It is why Mr. McCain was able to compliment his opponent on his historical accomplishment, when his opponent could only criticize his.
Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times. E-mail Tara Wall.