The Value Of Experience

As I poked around the blogosphere this morning, seeing what various and sundry pundits had to say about last night’s debate, One particular opiner of the sinister political bent (who shall remain nameless) brought up McCain’s appearance — in particular, the left side of his face.

Also, based on McCain’s face, he’s trying out for the lead in the next Mask movie.

I was irritated by that, but I had to admit — it kept grabbing my attention, too. And it was quite distracting.

But then I started thinking about it.

McCain’s face bears the marks of a very unpleasant brush with skin cancer. In 2000 doctors discovered a tumor on his face that turned out to be Stage IIA melanoma, where IV is the most severe. They performed serious surgery to excise it and do all they could to make sure it wouldn’t come back. Had McCain paid attention to the warning signs sooner, he could have been spared the scarring he bears today.

In 2002, he had another bout of melanoma. This was a tiny spot on his nose, and was removed with a minimum of fuss.

It was caught so quickly because McCain now pays a hell of a lot more attention to such things.

That struck me as part of a pattern.

In 1989, John McCain — along with four other senators — were accused of violating ethical rules while helping out savings and loan scumbag Charles Keating, intervening with regulators to keep them from noticing Keating had essentially robbed his customers blind and run his bank into the ground. Three (all Democrats) were found to have broken Congressional rules; McCain and John Glenn (also Democrat) were found to have not violated any rules, but exercised poor judgment in the matter.

After his return from five years of captivity in Viet Nam, John McCain let himself go wild in his personal life. He repeatedly cheated on his wife, and eventually the two divorced.

He’d also been a hellraiser before his capture. The stories of his carousing are nearly the stuff of legend in Navy history.

Even before he got there, though, he had shown himself to be at best an indifferent student. He graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis.

Sounds pretty damning, doesn’t it? Yeah, until you look at what Paul Harvey likes to call “the rest of the story.”

After his return from Viet Nam, McCain cracked down on himself in regards to his career. He battled back from crippling injuries and returned to active duty, eventually rising to command a training squadron. And not just any training squadron — one that had a dismal record and turning it around, winning its first commendation.

After his divorce, McCain realized what he’d thrown away. He mended his relatinship with his ex-wife, not reconciling but staying cordial. He remarried and worked like hell on keeping that marriage together.

After dodging a bullet with the Keating Five, McCain found himself seeing just how corrosive the influence of money on politics can be. He made himself into a crusader on the issue, with all the annoying fervor of the ex-smoker or ex-drinker, going after elements of the problem as earmarks and campaign finance.

And after he had his face sliced open and was left permanently marred as a direct result of his negligence, he paid a hell of a lot more attention to his skin’s health. When he had another bout of skin cancer, he spotted the symptoms almost as soon as they appeared, and it was excised with a minimum of fuss.

As I said, this is a pattern. A pattern of John McCain making mistakes.

And learning from them.

It’s a cliche’ to talk about McCain being a “straight talker,” but that’s because it’s largely true. He’s never been bashful about admitting his mistakes, of owning them and owning up to them. Hell, most of the people who obsess over his personal failings find themselves using McCain himself as their best source — especially about his first marriage.

McCain, like most people, is far from perfect. But unlike most people, he readily admits his shortcomings and his failures — and works like hell to learn from them.

On the other hand, we have his opponent. Barack Obama, the man who it seems never makes mistakes.

No, when Obama appears to make a mistake, it’s not his error. You were mistaken when you thought he’d done that. Or you have your facts wrong. Or it happened long ago, and is just a distraction.

For example, his association with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. Ayers was just some guy in the neighborhood, someone whose kids went to the same school as the Obama children.

Then he was some guy who was on the same board as Obama, and they saw each other a few times at meetings.

Then he was the guy who was on two boards with Obama.

Then he was the guy who put Obama in charge of one of those boards.

But that’s all irrelevant, because Ayers’ crimes happened when Obama was eight years old.

Just like it’s irrelevant that Ayers has never shown the slightest regret for his crimes. Indeed, he’s boastful of them — after he was freed because of prosecutorial misconduct, he declared “guilty as hell, free as a bird — America is a great country.” And he says that he and his former buddy terrorists (who were still active into the 1980’s), maybe they didn’t blow up enough things.

Things such as a dance for enlisted Army personnel. Things such as the home of a judge and his family.

Or, for example, the Iraq war.

Obama touts as the great example of his judgment that he came out against the war from the outset. Well, congratulations, Senator.

But since then, he’s been consistently wrong. When General Petraeus presented his “surge” strategy to the Senate, Obama predicted that it would fail, miserably, and voted against confirming Petraeus and tacitly endorsing the new strategy.

Well, the “surge” seems to have worked, quite thoroughly, but Obama won’t admit that he might have been mistaken in his assessment.

Obama talks about sounding a “warning” about the impending collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well, good for him. But when several senators — including John McCain and my own Senator John Sununu — put together a letter of their own and tried to put together a bill to rein in the insane practices going on at those two institutions, Obama said “include me out.”

But instead of saying yeah, he maybe should have done something more than just write a letter, he wants full credit for doing that and nothing more.

Think about the people you know. Nobody’s perfect; we all screw up on occasion. How do the people you know handle that, and which do you respect and trust more?

One type admits it, owns up, tries to fix it, and watches extra-carefully to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Another type refuses to acknowledge error. They see that as an admission of weakness, and instead fight like hell to deny that they ever made that mistake. They will argue and rationalize and defend what they did so that they don’t have to admit that they were human, that they messed up.

And they are the ones who are far more likely to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

I know which of the two i prefer to deal with, which I put more trust and faith in. And it ain’t the guy who never makes mistakes.

We have a clear example of these two types, in John McCain and Barack Obama. And I know which of the two I’d rather put my faith in.

Murtha: Sorry I Called You Racists Racist
Now he's toast