Oct/Nov 2008 Salon

American Shame

by Tom Dooley

It's no secret that I intend to vote for Barack Obama. There was, however, one turn of events that could have changed my mind. If John McCain had called for the immediate impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, I swear, I would have voted for him in spite of all other reasons to the contrary. Why, you might ask? Because next to electing Barack Obama, the single greatest step this nation can take in rebuilding itself is to dust off the Constitution and make it the law of the land again.

It's difficult to pay any lip service to the Constitution, though, without first addressing its greatest violators since it was ratified, and the only person who (briefly) possessed the moral authority to make that call was McCain. The time to do it would have been at the Republican National Convention, and instead of kicking off a campaign that has resulted in ever-increasing hatred and division, McCain could have capitalized on the most convincing aspects of his personal narrative—his commitment to reaching across the aisle, bucking the status quo, and putting country first—and he could have demonstrated how truly mavericky he could be.

Earlier this year the Democrats, most notably Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, squelched renewed efforts by people like Dennis Kucinich to impeach Bush and Cheney. I can only conclude they made this decision out of political expediency. They didn't want to jeopardize the Presidential elections in November by, in their estimation, needlessly polarizing the American public. They were right that going after Bush and Cheney would have had such an effect, but the problem is that the people who would have been most outraged were and are already as polarized as they can get. More importantly, our lawmakers should be doing what is right, not what is expedient.

That is why, for a brief period a month or so ago, John McCain was actually leading in the polls, when just a year before everyone had given him up for dead. He may not be on the right side of history, but he did have a history of doing what he thought was right, whether it was expedient or not.

That said, what McCain thinks is right and what I think is right are two very different things, and the only way he could have convinced me that it was worth it to vote against my self-interest was if he really had put country first—and by country first, I mean the Constitution first, because that is what every member of the U.S. Government pledges to uphold. He did not do so. Instead, he had his wife accuse Obama of running "the dirtiest campaign in history" even as he and his running mate Sarah Palin called Obama a liar and a terrorist and worked their crowds into lynch mobs.

To quote Frank Schaeffer, who wrote an open letter in the Balitmore Sun:

John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. You are doing this in wartime. You are doing this as our economy collapses. You are doing this in a country with a history of assassinations.

There's a big difference between meaning well and meaningful change. I believe that Obama is the right choice in this election, but if McCain had stepped up and taken the most meaningful stance—in terms of protecting and even redefining our Constitutional rights—of any politician since Abraham Lincoln, then, yes, I would have voted for him. Instead, he chose not only to court Bush and Cheney's support while cynically distancing himself from them, but he has gone the exact opposite direction from what he supposedly stood for, the exact opposite of what he said he would do through the course of this election, and the exact opposite of what this nation desperately needs, which is healing from partisan bickering and political plundering of our liberties, our treasury, our credibility, our military strength, and our faith in the ideals that the Constitution of the United States of America represents. John McCain has squandered his heroism, his lifetime of service, and his many contributions in the Congress by so clearly abandoning the very principles that made him worth following even if one didn't agree with him.

Shaeffer wrote in his letter that "history will hold (McCain) responsible for all that follows" if the unthinkable happens. I hope with all my heart that the unthinkable doesn't happen. If so, McCain will be spared the judgment of history, but I already hold him responsible for bringing shame to America and to one of America's, and my, former heroes: himself.


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