Presidential race hits the home stretch
The Republican National Convention was held in Minneapolis two weeks ago, and John McCain was officially chosen as their presidential nominee. The four-term Senator from Arizona wrapped up his party's nomination early. He has had six months for the party faithful to coalesce and unite behind the war hero.
McCain's life is a bona fide, American military, made for movies, hero story. A documentary shown periodically on television, and continuously during the Republican Convention, portrays the amazing McCain epic. He is the heir to an iconic naval family name. His grandfather and father were products of the U.S. Naval Academy and both became decorated admirals. John McCain also graduated from Annapolis and was thrust into combat in the Vietnam War. He barely escaped death in an early catastrophic crash. Then, after recovering from that near death experience, was shot down in a flight over Vietnam and was imprisoned for five and a half years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was subjected to severe torture during that entire period.
If elected, McCain will arrive in the Oval Office as one of the most distinguished military men since George Washington to be elected President. His military record, coupled with his three decades in Congress, makes him unquestionably the most qualified candidate running this year. Therefore, the question is whether American voters want the most qualified candidate or whether they want change.
Along with tenure and qualification comes age. McCain's age has become and will be an issue, especially when his rival is only 47 years old. If elected, John McCain who turned 72 years old this year will be the oldest first-term president in history. He would take that mantle away from Ronald Reagan.
McCain has been very open and revealing with all of his medical records. Much more so than Bill Clinton who refused to release his medical history. He is in excellent health for 72. When questioned about his age, McCain points to a back breaking 2-year non-stop schedule and trumpets his 96-year old mother. However, McCain has been subjected to a hard life that has probably taken its toll and put a lot of mileage on the Arizona Senator and former POW. Five and a half years of torture where the enemy keeps you in a box and periodically breaks your bones will affect you. McCain also had a bout with skin cancer in 2000.
McCain's age will definitely be an issue. It already has been. He has been the favorite subject of late night comics for over a year. Polling indicates that the issue of McCain's age is a concern among about 32 percent of voters. Interestingly the biggest group of voters who say they are concerned about McCain's age are people who are older than him. Voters over 70 are the most concerned.
Another personal trait that has become somewhat of an issue is McCain's legendary temper and short fuse. There is hardly a senator of either party who does not have a McCain temper tantrum or tongue lashing story to tell. Our two senators have been at odds with McCain over the years. Jeff Sessions and McCain have clashed openly and vehemently over the immigration issue. McCain's reputation as a crusader against earmarked pork barrel projects is legendary. Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby is the king of pork projects. Therefore, it is an inevitability that Richard Shelby and John McCain would clash. Shelby has indeed been the recipient of harsh criticism and caustic sarcastic ridicule from McCain over his appetite for pork barrel spending. The Washington media even tried to bait Shelby into a battle of words with McCain. Shelby is the ultimate mild mannered pragmatist and would not take the bait. He quietly and deftly dismissed the McCain assault by simply saying, "Let him talk, nobody listens to him anyway."
Neither Shelby nor Sessions endorsed McCain or anyone else for that matter in the GOP race. They are now both supporting McCain as party loyalists. They certainly prefer McCain to Obama. However, Jefferson County Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus has been with McCain from the beginning. He has been a steadfast and staunch supporter, state chairman and delegate for McCain. Bachus will be in a strong position when it comes to state patronage if McCain becomes President.
Now that Labor Day is over and the nominees are officially in place, it should be an interesting 48 days to Election Day.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us.