Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

'Presidential Courage,' and where to find it

It's so freeing to be an Independent now... I can finally toss all partisanship to the wind and just look at personal character.

I don't agree completely with either party's platform - nor do I trust the current batch of candidates, on either side, to be 'as advertised.' The only candidate who seems authentic (true to himself) is Dennis Kucinich. That said, the media ignores him and his own party doesn't give him much support.

Mike Gravel also seems to be the real deal. By the way, this is the same Mike Gravel who released the Pentagon Papers during the Nixon Administration! Seems he's been here before. Courage demonstrated; and during a similar, war-torn era. Gravel has already proven that he is willing to take risks for his convictions - and on behalf of the nation - so I consider him a good risk when it comes to potentially demonstrating 'Presidential Courage' if the need should arise.

Our biggest problem is the media; and of course, behind them in the shadows, corporate America. I have no idea how a Kucinich or a Mike Gravel can get elected in this age where candidates are picked on the basis of how much money they can raise (from 'big money' sources with big money agendas.) Its not about us anymore... its about money. Its not even about issues. Candidates tap dance around the issues whenever possible, so as to never offend anyone or any corporation that might be ready to pony up and donate that 'big money.'

Based on our current system of picking candidates, I don't know how Abraham Lincoln could have been elected - so Kucinich and Gravel are in good company. What would possess any serious candidate to take risks (or tell the truth) if they are continually pandering to big money interests? Gravel spoke out in the first Democratic debate, and brought some life to the drone of predictably canned answers by speaking out against the use of nukes.

Imagine that we are now to an age where speaking out against nukes is seen as 'taking a risk.' My God - President Reagan was against nukes.

Ironically, in a time when GOP candidates are falling all over themselves to compare favorably with the Gipper, they seem to have forgotten that the Gipper actually reduced our nuclear arsenal. Yes, the Gipper didn't want all of those nukes lying around - and he certainly didn't plan to actually USE them. He also didn't condone or utilize torture, and he was willing to engage in diplomacy to make peace with the Soviets and end the Cold War. Amazing, in hindsight. Actually guys, I'm not sure he'd really approve of you. Maybe McCain, but the rest of you? Doubt it. Of course he's dead, and so unavailable to defend his name, or your cheap abduction of his image.

Speaking of cheap... words are damn cheap, in a GOP debate. Romney drew huge applause from an apparently sadistic audience when he bragged that he would actually increase the size of Gitmo. And I loved his creation of a new word - "enhanced interrogation techniques" (meaning torture) - while saying he would 'never condone torture,' just make 'greater use of enhanced interrogation techniques.' It all sounded so strangely corporate, didn't it? So slick. Enhanced interrogation techniques. Is Rove helping you with your campaign spin, Mitt?

As I start scanning potential candidates for 2008, I'm looking for someone with presidential character - never mind that a guy like that could probably never get elected. Its my job to look for he or she and to desire this. I'm looking for a potential president who will tell the truth, even if it isn't politically advantageous. I want a president that can write his or her own speeches the way Abraham Lincoln labored over his; and who will mean the words he or she has penned.

I want a leader who will inspire me to be a better citizen, as in 'ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' I want a president that will make sound, rational decisions - decisions that will take into account the best interests of all citizens of this nation, not just cater to the interests of the highest bidders.

I want someone who isn't blinded by - or worse - completely ruled by partisan politics. We desperately need a leader that will put the interests of the nation as a whole over the interests of his or her own party. I'd prefer a candidate that surrounds him or herself with intelligent and progressive thinkers from both parties... a candidate who can draw the best out of everyone, and create bridges between opposing viewpoints. I want a president that will represent all Americans, of every economic status, race, religion and region. I want a president that will restore dignity and honor to our nation.

Is that asking too much? A better question might be, do we really dare ask for any less?

I just finished reading the Newsweek article with an excerpt from the new book "Presidential Courage," by Michael R. Beschloss, and it made me think once again about the truly great presidents I have admired over the years. Some have risked and lost, others have risked and saved the nation. Those who risked nothing, slipped into obscurity. So far, no president has lost our democracy or our freedom - yet, although this one is certainly trying. There has always been that risk. Its time we took it a little more seriously.

In this day, when money dictates who receives each party's nod, it is questionable whether we the citizen voters can even choose an ethical president from between the two candidates finally offered to us by these corporate-subsidized parties. As Beschloss writes:

The way we choose presidents now can penalize the courageous. As early as 1955, Sen. John F. Kennedy complained that politics had become "so expensive, so mechanized and so dominated by professional politicians and public-relations men" that "any unpopular or unorthodox course arouses a storm of protests." This was long before presidential candidates were compelled to show their seriousness by raising $50 million or $100 million each. It is hard to imagine Andrew Jackson going after Biddle's bank if Jackson had to raise that kind of money to become president.

Somehow, some way, we must find a leader who can meet the standards set by the courageous presidents of our past.

Thus the third party option.

Right now, I believe our best bet for a real choice is Unity08. Delegates to the Unity08 online convention will actually choose the candidates that will run on the party ticket. Imagine that. The people choosing the candidate rather than corporations and bankers. Yes, I'm liking this 'Unity08' party more every day.

But there is still the question of Hagel.

Republicans scream that he hasn't been loyal to his party, because he has taken such a strong stand against the war. Democrats scream about his conservative voting record. I look at him and see a man who speaks from conviction first, partisan 'political correctness' a distant second.

That is exactly the kind of guy I want in the White House.

is your demonstration of 'presidential courage' - as if his days as a foot soldier in Vietnam weren't indication enough.

When I look at Hagel, I see a man who thinks for himself and carries the weight of a real conscience; a man who fought in and survived Vietnam (those with real combat experience are much less likely to start a war unless every other option has failed. They've seen enough bloodshed.) I see a man marked by the controversy of that war, and one who has learned the searing lessons of that conflict, as well as the politics that led to its escalation. I see a man who believes in democracy, and appears to have actually read the Constitution.

Hagel appears to be the embodiment of everything McCain has claimed to be: an honest politician - a 'people's' representative in a world crawling with lobbyist lapdogs. McCain has changed, in ways I still can't quite grasp. He seems to be flipping and flopping all over the place - he's not at all the man he was in 2000. McCain 'version 2000' would be leading every poll today. Today's voters crave authenticity. I guess he was ahead of his time.

And that leaves Hagel.

Hagel is the man who could pick up the 'McCain v 2000' mantle and wear it straight into the White House. He has demonstrated that he has courage and patriotism - the real kind, not empty words on flag-draped stages. He is more than willing to use diplomacy (he has been advocating for discussions with Iran and Syria since the beginning of the Iraq war.)

Most encouraging to me, Hagel is a student of history.

If you read enough history, it is impossible to escape the realization that there is truly nothing new under the sun. If it happened once, it will happen again. If you learn what came before you, you will have a much better chance of heading off the bad outcomes and facilitating the good ones. This is simple logic. Forewarned is fore-armed.

Those who don't know history are 'doomed to repeat it.' Everyone has heard the saying, but nobody really thinks about it - the dire implications of putting your faith in a leader who doesn't read, and doesn't really care about history. A president who doesn't grasp history, will doom the entire nation to repeating it right along with him.

Thanks to our current president and vice president - who obviously learned nothing from Vietnam - we are entangled in the same kind of mess in Iraq. Not only are we there: we're even escalating.

Nothing new under the sun. You'd think a lesson this harsh could have been learned, at least within one generation. I imagine this has been excruciating for our Congressional Vietnam vets to watch, after everything they have been through in their own lives.

Hagel has something else... something I can't quite put my finger on (actually I can, but I can't explain to you how I sense it.) Hagel still believes in honor. Hagel didn't grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth, he went through the kinds of life challenges that build real character. His character is etched on his face, and his eyes are sad in a way you often see in people who think a lot, and think deeply. They remind me a bit of the eyes staring out of Lincoln photos from around the end of the war. With battle, time and struggle comes wisdom... to some anyway.

I don't know that he won't change, the way McCain has changed, or that he will even run. But there is something different about this guy.

For example, while Democrats shuddered at the very thought of 'putting impeachment on the table,' Hagel - conservative Republican - brought it up himself during an interview with Esquire magazine:

"The president says, 'I don't care.' He's not accountable anymore," Hagel says, measuring his words by the syllable and his syllables almost by the letter. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends how this goes."

The conversation beaches itself for a moment on that word -- impeachment -- spoken by a conservative Republican from a safe Senate seat in a reddish state. It's barely even whispered among the serious set in Washington, and it rings like a gong in the middle of the sentence, even though it flowed quite naturally out of the conversation he was having about how everybody had abandoned their responsibility to the country, and now there was a war going bad because of it.

"Congress abdicated its oversight responsibility," he says. "The press abdicated its responsibility, and the American people abdicated their responsibilities. Terror was on the minds of everyone, and nobody questioned anything, quite frankly."
Refreshing, hearing 'truth' from the mouth of a politician.

And so the wait goes on. Will Hagel run? If he does, he has my vote. There are times in life when you have to go on gut instinct alone, because talk is cheap (and talk is everywhere these days.) My gut instinct says 'Hagel' every time.

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