Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Faith of My Fathers.

last night i finally managed to finish John McCain's 2000 family memoir + autogbiography, Faith of My Fathers (thanks for the hookup DB). nothing beats several hours of flight delays to allow one to burn through a book.

several weeks ago i finished Barack Obama's the Audacity of Hope. as i wrote here, i was struck by it's straight forwardness, but more importantly, that it was a clear illustration of Obama's principles and policies. i enjoyed the
fact that it was published in 2006, which means likely written in 2004/2005, well before Obama thought he might be a serious contender for the office of the presidency. i wanted to know more about the man VS the politician. and this is EXACTLY why i sought out McCain's book.

published in 2000, it was written BEFORE his first run at the Republican primaries. i honestly think we would have been in a much different place had he bested Bush to go on to the primaries and narrowly defeated Gore (though McCain did not have the support of the then polarizing right, so this is all idle speculation)

similar to Obama, McCain finds a way to share his principles, but rather than use policy to illustrate them, McCain focuses deeply on the service of not just him, but his father and grandfather to do so.

through the first few chapters, you find this to be more or less a deeply personal story, recounting military service, and the effect it had on McCain, as a child, young man, and later a young officer. he does not spend any time in the book talking about his service as a politician (elected to Congress in 1981, and becoming a Senator soon after), nor should he have.

but by the end of the book you are only partially certain of the principles he's [indirectly] laid out. while they are steeped in personal experience and conviction, it is hard to see them play out in any modern sense.

the first two-thirds of the book focuses on his grandfather John S. "Slew" McCain, Sr., and father, John S. "Jack" McCain, Jr., both four-star admirals. both having served in WW2 (his grandfather as a leading admiral in the Pacific fleet, and father as a submarine captain), and his father rising to lead the Pacific forces during Vietnam. according to author McCain, both were revered officers, who despite their flaws, were well respected by their men, and many leaders, foreign and domestic. the source of such prominence: their commitment to honor and their principles, at all costs, something [author] McCain took to heart early on as a boy, even moreso as an ambitious officer (though he admits to earlier being somewhat of a hellion as an officer candidate and junior officer), and later on as as POW. these personal insights and relations are peppered throughout the account of his grandfather and father's tales.

as expected, the latter third of the book is focused on [author] McCain's early days as a youth, his time at the Naval Academy, his early service, and then a detailed account of his 5 years spent as a POW to the Vietnamese during said conflict. many of these latter descriptions are quite harrowing, though he admits that he likely got treated easier upon the discovery of his status as the son of an admiral.

given much of my point of view on Vietnam was shaped by my crammed travel reading last year, and though museums and experiences while traveling IN Vietnam (funny how opposite sides of history recount the war), McCain's perspective on the conflict, and more importantly the Vietnamese propaganda machine, are somewhat contrary to my own observations. not saying either is right, but it was healthy dose of balanced perspective for ME.

even though my political allegiances in this election are already set (and it should be VERY apparent who i support if you read anything on this bloog), but i would encourage ANYONE who's on the fence this year to more than just follow the speeches, debates and media coverage of the McCain + Obama. much of it is political pandering to win the votes, and as we all know American media largely distorts either candidate into caricatures of themselves.

READ THEIR BOOKS. see what they have to say about themselves, America, and the world. and THEN make your decision. we are sitting on two PHENOMENAL candidates for the land's highest office. you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision.

my objective for reading McCain's book was to learn more about McCain as a man by HIS accounts (which would translate into background on him as a candidate ). i think i accomplished this, and got to read quite a few interesting war stories as i went along. do i agree with McCain's policies? most of the time, NO. but do i think he has the character and moral fortitude to lead the US (better than some recent presidentS), YES.

MY issues with McCain? he's just old. and there's no telling how his time as a POW could have abversely affected him (i kid, and this is merely sci-fi conjecture...similar to that of Obama being a Islamic agent in our midst, as over the years he has more than proven himself about his wits more than most). i stand by my West Wing-inspired reco that either candidate would do damn well to include their opponent in their fledgling candidate (esp Obama including McCain).

honestly though, i WAS upset to find McCain's book stopped short of his political career (of which he wrote another book). so as soon as i'm done with my current set of comics interestingly enough, if i AM going to read McCains LATER book (Worth the Fighting For)about his political careers (and i assume policy), it would only be fair to read Obama's EARLIER book (Dreams from My Father) about his early life and paternal influences. so forthcoming is ANOTHER blog entry contrasting both candidates books.

nobody ever said having more to read was a bad thing. i just have to find the time.

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