The Speech John McCain Should Give

The Speech John McCain Should Give

By Rod Dreher - October 5, 2008

John McCain is probably going to lose this election. The economic crisis, which he is ill equipped by training and interests to handle, threatens to wipe out his campaign. Though Barack Obama has shown no greater insight or skill in handling the looming disaster, Mr. McCain's personal deficit on economic policy redounds to his opponent's benefit.

But Mr. McCain has gifts that Mr. Obama does not, convictions and leadership traits that the country could very soon need more desperately than a policy expertise. Mr. McCain should risk that Americans don't want to be mollycoddled and manipulated. He would do well to buy commercial time on national television and deliver a speech that goes something like this:

My friends, I am neither young nor eloquent, handsome nor smooth. But I have lived a long life, much of it in service to America in war and in peace. And I have always stood for straight talk. There has been no time in our nation's recent history when the American people more needed to hear the plain truth from their leaders. A fundamental reason our country faces economic catastrophe is that we have built our lives around running from truths about the American way of life.

Washington has run from the truth. Wall Street has run from the truth. And if we're honest with ourselves, all of us have, in one way or another, run from the truth.

We have accepted the lie that we can live exactly as we want to live, with no concern for the consequences. We have taken the blessings of liberty and prosperity and turned them into a curse of debt slavery - bondage that will be visited on our children, and our children's children, if we don't change.

Everybody has a theory about how we got into this mess, and it's usually one that absolves them and their party from blame. My friends, I'm here to tell you that this crisis is the Republicans' fault. It's the Democrats' fault. It's the fault of every one of us who believed in the fairy tale of a free lunch.

It's time for all Americans to take responsibility for what we've done. It's time for all Americans to pull together to help our families, our neighbors and our country through hard times.

I will not lie to you and tell you that the road ahead will be easy. I will not insult you by giving you simple villains, simple heroes or simplistic solutions. As the song says, everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die. My fellow Americans, all of us must sacrifice to endure the trials that history sends our way and to rebuild our nation on a solid foundation of honor, truth and plainspoken virtue.

I know something about sacrifice. And I know something about the way life can break your pride. I was a cocky Navy aviator who thought he was invulnerable. Then I was shot out of the sky and spent five years in prison. That experience did not kill me. It made me stronger. It taught me how much I loved my God, my family and my country - and what trials I could endure for the sake of that love.

I am a patriot. I believe we are a nation of patriots, of men and women who are ready and willing to put country first. But over the years, our leaders, Republican and Democratic, have asked us to do little more than to go shopping, to vote for them and to blame other people for what's wrong with America. Anything to keep us from facing the truth and changing our ways.

As your president, I will ask you to do hard things. I, too, will do hard things for the good of this great nation. Serious times call for serious leadership. In his first speech as prime minister, with his free nation facing the might of Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill refused to mislead the British people about the gravity of their situation. We remember today his words to them: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Churchill did not give cheap optimism. He, too, had fought and suffered for his nation, both on the battlefield and in Parliament. He had known the joy of victory and the humiliation of defeat. What Churchill, from his incomparable experience, could offer his people was the gold standard of hope. Hope is the conviction that whatever suffering we must go through, goodness and right shall prevail.

Today, when I survey the gathering storm, I am certain that if we, the people, stand together without fear or favor, victory will be ours. I ask you to give me the privilege of leading this great nation in a time when heroes will be made, and all good men and women must come to the aid of their country.

Thank you, and God bless America.

Rod Dreher is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist. His e-mail address is

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