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McCain’s Bookshelf And A President Day’s Thought

Monday, February 18, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Ryan Lizza has a detailed profile of the resurgent McCain in The New Yorker, (HT: PrimeTimePolitics), including a glimpse at his reading habits that ought to encourage every conservative (and push a few more into open and sustained support of the campaign to keep the conduct of the war in serious hands):

One day on the Straight Talk, McCain discussed what he was reading. It is safe to say that Gingrich, Norquist, Gerson, and Frum were not on his nightstand; McCain is almost always looking at military histories or political biographies. In the 2000 campaign, he seemed to be reading a lot about Theodore Roosevelt, and he frequently worked T.R. anecdotes into his conversations. These days, he often cites William Manchester, a former marine and a Second World War veteran, who has written biographies of Winston Churchill and General Douglas MacArthur. When a reporter asked McCain what would happen if he lost the Florida primary, he went off on a Manchester tangent. “The first thing is that Schmidt would be court-martialled,” he said. “And although we abandoned flogging as a tradition in the British Navy we would reinstate flogging, and he would be tied to the yardarm and flogged.” Schmidt did not look up from his BlackBerry. McCain continued, “Did you ever hear the story about Winston Churchill when he became the first Lord of the Admiralty and did away with all the old British naval regulations which had been in effect since Lord Nelson, including flogging, which was still in the naval regulations of the British Royal Navy? He was at a reception-like all Churchill stories, this may or may not be true-and a retired British admiral came up to him and said, ‘Sir Winston, you have destroyed British naval traditions.’ And Churchill said, ‘Sir, the British Royal Navy only has three traditions: rum, sodomy, and the lash.’ I think it’s in Manchester’s book, ‘The Last Lion.’ “

Recently, McCain said, he had read “The Coldest Winter,” David Halberstam’s account of the Korean War and its era. “I strongly recommend it,” he told the reporters. “It’s beautifully done. It’s not just about the war, but it’s a very good description, whether you agree with it or not, of the political climate at that time-the split in the Republican Party between the Taft wing”-Senator Robert Taft, of Ohio-“and the Eisenhower wing, and Harry Truman’s incredible relationship with MacArthur.” He added, “At least half the book is about the political situation in the United States during that period-the isolationism, who lost China, the whole political dynamic. That’s what I think makes it well worth reading.”

John McCain has been preparing his whole life to be Commander-in-Chief in wartime, and his reading continues to be the sort one expects of a C-in-C in waiting. I don’t think any serious conservative can compare Senator McCain to either Senator Clinton or Senator Barack and say the war would be in better hands with either of the Democrats. In fact, any supporter of victory has to shudder at the prospect of turning the American military over to either of those two as this conflict rages.

I am replaying my President’s Day show today, an extended interview with Richard Norton Smith where we march through all 43 of the presidents (some get a lot more time than others.) I hope you listen throughout with the choice ahead of the country fixed firmly in your mind. The conservatives who wanted someone else have to get over it, quickly. This isn’t 1992 or 1996 (and 1992 and 1996 weren’t really the time of peace they appeared to be.)

The U.S. isn’t guaranteed the ability to recover from four years of disasters in the war. The war’s got to be conducted by a president committed to victory, and that means supporting McCain. Now.

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