‘That is char­ac­ter you can be­lieve in’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

The fol­low­ing are from re­marks as pre­pared for de­liv­ery to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion on Sept. 2 by for­mer Sen. Fred Thomp­son, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can:

Speak­ing of the vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, what a breath of fresh air Gov­er­nor Sarah Palin is.

She is from a small town, with small town val­ues, but that’s not good enough for those folks who are at­tack­ing her and her fam­ily.

Some Wash­ing­ton pun­dits and me­dia big shots are in a frenzy over the se­lec­tion of a woman who has ac­tu­ally gov­erned rather than just talked a good game on the Sun­day talk shows and hit the Wash­ing­ton cock­tail cir­cuit. Well, give me a tough Alaskan gov­er­nor who has taken on the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment in the largest state in the Union – and won – over the belt­way busi­ness-as-usual crowd any day of the week.

Let’s be clear . . . the se­lec­tion of Gov­er­nor Palin has the other side and their friends in the me­dia in a state of panic. She is a coura­geous, suc­cess­ful, re­former, who is not afraid to take on the es­tab­lish­ment. Sound like any­one else we know? She has run a mu­nic­i­pal­ity and she has run a state.

And I can say without fear of con­tra­dic­tion that she is the only nom­i­nee in the his­tory of ei­ther party who knows how to prop­erly field dress a moose . . . with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Teddy Roo­sevelt.

She and John McCain are not go­ing to care how much the al­li­ga­tors get ir­ri­tated when they get to Wash­ing­ton, they’re go­ing to drain that swamp.

But tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the re­mark­able story of John McCain. It’s a story about char­ac­ter. John McCain’s char­ac­ter has been tested like no other pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in the his­tory of this na­tion.

He comes from a mil­i­tary fam­ily whose ser­vice to our coun­try goes back to the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War. The tra­di­tion con­tin­ues. As I speak, John and Cindy McCain have one son who’s just fin­ished his first tour in Iraq.

An­other son is putting “Coun­try First” and is at­tend­ing the Naval Academy. We have a num­ber of McCains in the au­di­ence tonight.

Also here tonight is John’s 96year-old mother, Roberta. All I’ve got to say is that if Roberta McCain had been the McCain cap­tured by the North Viet­namese, they would have sur­ren­dered. [. . . ]

John McCain was pre­par­ing to take off from the USS For­re­stal for his sixth mis­sion over Viet­nam, when a mis­sile from an­other plane ac­ci­den­tally fired and hit his plane.

The flight deck burst into a fire­ball of jet fuel. John’s flight suit caught fire. He was hit by shrap­nel. It was a scene of hor­ri­ble hu­man dev­as­ta­tion.

Men sac­ri­ficed their lives to save oth­ers that day. One kid, who John couldn’t iden­tify be­cause he was burned be­yond recog­ni­tion, called out to John to ask if a cer­tain pi­lot was OK. John replied that, yes, he was. The young sailor said, “Thank God” . . . and then he died.

Th­ese are the kind of men John McCain served with.

Th­ese are the men and women John McCain knows and un­der­stands and loves.

If you want to know who John McCain is, if you want to know what John McCain val­ues, look to the men and women who wear Amer­ica’s uni­form to­day.

The fire on the For­re­stal burned for two days. 20 planes were de­stroyed. 134 sailors died. John him­self barely dodged death in the in­ferno and could’ve re­turned to the States with his ship.

In­stead, he vol­un­teered for com­bat on an­other car­rier that was un­der­manned from los­ing so many pi­lots. Step­ping up. Putting his “Coun­try First.” Three months later John McCain was a pris­oner of war.

On Oc­to­ber 26, 1967, on his 23rd mis­sion over North Viet­nam, a sur­face-to-air mis­sile slammed into John’s A-4 Sky­hawk jet, blow­ing it out of the sky.

When John ejected, part of the plane hit him — break­ing his right knee, his left arm, his right arm in three places. An an­gry mob got to him. A ri­fle butt broke his shoul­der. A bay­o­net pierced his an­kle and his groin.

They took him to the Hanoi Hil­ton, where he lapsed in and out of con­scious­ness for days. He was of­fered med­i­cal care for his in­juries if he would give up mil­i­tary in­for­ma­tion in re­turn. John McCain said “No.” Af­ter days of ne­glect, cov­ered in grime, ly­ing in his own waste in a filthy room, a doc­tor at­tempted to set John’s right arm without suc­cess . . . and without anes­the­sia.

His other bro­ken bones and in­juries were not treated. John de­vel­oped a high fever, dysen­tery. He weighed barely a hun­dred pounds.

Ex­pect­ing him to die, his cap­tors placed him in a cell with two other POWs who also ex­pected him to die.

But with their help, John McCain fought on. He per­se­vered. So then they put him in soli­tary con­fine­ment . . . for over two years.

Iso­la­tion . . . in­cred­i­ble heat beat­ing on a tin roof. A light bulb in his cell burn­ing 24 hours a day.

Boarded-up cell win­dows block­ing any breath of fresh air.

The op­pres­sive heat caus­ing boils the size of base­balls un­der his arms.

The out­side world lim­ited to what he could see through a crack in a door. We hear a lot of talk about hope. John McCain knows about hope. That’s all he had to sur­vive on. For pro­pa­ganda pur­poses, his cap­tors of­fered to let him go home. John McCain re­fused. He re­fused to leave ahead of men who’d been there longer.

He re­fused to aban­don his con­science and his honor, even for his free­dom.

He re­fused, even though his cap­tors warned him, “It will be very bad for you.” They were right. It was. The guards cracked ribs, broke teeth off at the gums. They cinched a rope around his arms and painfully drew his shoul­ders back.

Over four days, ev­ery two to three hours, the beat­ings re­sumed. Dur­ing one es­pe­cially fierce beat­ing, he fell, again break­ing his arm.

John was beaten for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with other pris­on­ers.

He was beaten for NOT com­mu­ni­cat­ing with so-called “peace del­e­ga­tions.”

He was beaten for not giv­ing in­for­ma­tion dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tions.

When his cap­tors wanted the names of other pi­lots in his squadron, John gave them the names of the of­fen­sive line of the Green Bay Pack­ers.

When­ever John was re­turned to his cell — walk­ing if he could, dragged if he couldn’t — as he passed his fel­low POWs, he would call out to them.

He’d smile . . . and give them a thumbs-up.

For five-and-a-half years this went on.

John McCain’s bones may have been bro­ken but his spirit never was.

Now, be­ing a POW cer­tainly doesn’t qual­ify any­one to be pres­i­dent. But it does re­veal char­ac­ter. This is the kind of char­ac­ter that civ­i­liza­tions from the beginning of his­tory have sought in their leaders. Strength. Courage. Hu­mil­ity. Wis­dom. Duty. Honor. It’s pretty clear there are two ques­tions we will never have to ask our­selves, “Who is this man?” and “Can we trust this man with the pres­i­dency?”

He has been to Iraq eight times since 2003.

He went seek­ing truth, not pub­lic­ity.

When he trav­els abroad, he prefers qui­etly speak­ing to the troops amidst the heat and hard­ship of their daily lives.

And the same char­ac­ter that marked John McCain’s mil­i­tary ca­reer has also marked his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

This man, John McCain is not in­tim­i­dated by what the polls say or by what is po­lit­i­cally safe or pop­u­lar.

At a point when the war in Iraq was go­ing badly and the pub­lic lost con­fi­dence, John stood up and called for more troops.

And now we are winning.

Ron­ald Rea­gan was John McCain’s hero.

And Pres­i­dent Rea­gan ad­mired John tremen­dously.

But when the pres­i­dent pro­posed putting U.S. troops in Beirut, John McCain, a fresh­man Con­gress­man, stood up and cast a vote against his hero be­cause he thought the de­ploy­ment was a mis­take.

My friends . . . that is char­ac­ter you can be­lieve in. [. . . ]

Be­cause John McCain stood up our coun­try is bet­ter off.

The re­spect he is given around the world is not be­cause of a teleprompter speech de­signed to ap­peal to Amer­i­can crit­ics abroad, but be­cause of decades of clearly demon­strated char­ac­ter and states­man­ship.

There has been no time in our na­tion’s his­tory, since we first pledged al­le­giance to the Amer­i­can flag, when the char­ac­ter, judg­ment and lead­er­ship of our pres­i­dent was more im­por­tant.

Ter­ror­ists, rogue na­tions de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons, an in­creas­ingly bel­liger­ent Rus­sia.

In­ten­si­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion from China.

Spending at home that threat­ens to bank­rupt fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. For decades an ex­pand­ing gov­ern­ment . . . in­creas­ingly waste­ful and too of­ten in­com­pe­tent.

To deal with th­ese chal­lenges the Democrats present a his­tory mak­ing nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent.

His­tory mak­ing in that he is the most lib­eral, most in­ex­pe­ri­enced nom­i­nee to ever run for pres­i­dent. Ap­par­ently they be­lieve that he would match up well with the his­tory mak­ing, Demo­crat con­trolled Congress. His­tory mak­ing be­cause it’s the least ac­com­plished and most un­pop­u­lar Congress in our na­tion’s his­tory.

To­gether, they would take on th­ese ur­gent chal­lenges with pro­tec­tion­ism, higher taxes and an even big­ger bu­reau­cracy.

And a Supreme Court that could be lost to lib­er­al­ism for a gen­er­a­tion. This is not re­form. And it’s cer­tainly not change. It is ba­si­cally the same old stuff they’ve been ped­dling for years. Amer­ica needs a pres­i­dent who un­der­stands the na­ture of the world we live in.

A pres­i­dent who feels no need to apol­o­gize for the United States of Amer­ica.

We need a pres­i­dent who un­der­stands that you don’t make cit­i­zens pros­per­ous by mak­ing Wash­ing­ton richer, and you don’t lift an eco­nomic down­turn by im­pos­ing one of the largest tax in­creases in Amer­i­can his­tory.

Now our op­po­nents tell you not to worry about their tax in­creases.

They tell you they are not go­ing to tax your fam­ily. [. . .]

My friends, we need a leader who stands on prin­ci­ple.

We need a pres­i­dent, and vice pres­i­dent, who will take the fed­eral bu­reau­cracy by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shak­ing.

And we need a pres­i­dent who doesn’t think that the pro­tec­tion of the un­born or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.

The man who will be that pres­i­dent is John McCain.

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