Friday, July 13, 2007

In the Clearing Stands A Fighter

You’ve got to be a hard person to be president. You need brains, nerves of steel, and a hard shell shielding your sensibilities. I think Bill Clinton was a tough guy deep down. It's too bad that he couldn't carry his "bad self" over into the foreign policy area. I can almost cop to it that Bill was a decent domestic president but he turned to mush when it came to foreign affairs. Bill Clinton was more interested in being loved by everyone than he was in setting foreign policy precedents. He seemed not to care two beans about foreign affairs (and I won’t make any bad jokes about domestic “affairs”) judging by his choices of Madeline Albright and Warren Christopher to head the State Department. His many choices for Secretaries of Defense were ill-fated too.

Les Aspin turned down General Colin Powell’s request for tanks, armored vehicles and AC-130 Spectre gunships for American forces in Mogadishu, Somalia and we all know the sorry result.

The next defense secretary, William Perry, was chiefly known for downsizing the military and engaging in international diplomacy. A psychologist would describe the condition as "role and identity confusion."

Clinton’s third guy was a little better and it happens that he was a Republican. When Clinton announced his policy of “regime change” in Iraq, Secretary of Defense William Cohen was in charge of operation Desert Fox. Desert Fox was Bill Clinton’s 1998 four-day bombing campaign of Iraqi targets designed to loosen Saddam Hussein’s grip on his government. Too bad, the administration was afflicted with the governmental form of attention deficit disorder. It’s understandable, after all. We all want to feel secure and what’s the best way to feel secure and happy? Why to be told that we are secure and happy and to have our attention drawn away from life’s ugly facets.

Looking at the current crop of presidential candidates, I wonder if any of them have the deep-down toughness and strength of will and charactger the job requires. I guess John McCain's not a perfect human, but there's a tremendous strength of character which goes beyond what most folks call "patriotism".

Shot down in Vietnam in 1967, McCain was stripped, spat upon, bayoneted, gouged, kicked, ripped and left to rot in a Viet prison camp with broken arms, legs, and a shoulder. Regular daily beatings and torture over a five and a half year period is proof enough of McCain's character strength and his ability to measure up to challenges.

McCain’s a bit like the soft speaking normal guy who tossed off the hero’s robes to get down with the rest of us. I've know for a long time that McCain’s a boxing fan. Recently, I saw McCain and his wife (on TV) ringside at the much ballyhooed Mayweather-De La Hoya fight. Boxing's not the sport of the elite. I doubt you'll find John Kerry or Hilary Clinton at ringside, nor Nancy Pelosi. I guess they're wind-surfer, tennis, and golfing types and certainly there's nothing wrong with that. I imagine their handlers are hard-pressed to find an image connection that will humanize them to voters. I suggest Hilary and Pelosi go arm-in-arm to a boxing match with their pal Harry Reid, the senator from Nevada.

Like McCain, I’m a boxing fan. I'm also a registered amateur boxing coach. It's very rewarding though it can be wild and even a little bit dangerous. I spend about one-fifth of my time hanging around steamy gyms with gangsta kids from tough streets waving bad attitudes like battle flags. You know the kind? The ones the politicians are always promising to save. Boxing is a language that ties people together even better than religion.

And yeah, you don't have to tell me, it's a brutal and ugly sport, the nearest one can get to death in life without being shot out of a perfectly good airplane and captured by enemy torturers.

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