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McCain’s Self-Righteous Fakery


If John McCain keeps up that self-righteous fakery about wanting to be our servant, were in for two rather tedious months until election day.

First of all, he also says he wants to be our leader. How can he be both our leader and our servant? We know whats really going on here. The servant shtick is phony humility intended to soften us up. He has no intention of being our humble servant and every intention of being our know-it-all Great Leader, our commander in chief.

It will be disappointing if Americans fall for this. I cant think of a greater betrayal of the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence than to yearn for either a national servant or a leader. All men are created equal rules out both. It is no accident that McCain counts among his heroes Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, both of whom betrayed those ideals in ways America still hasnt recovered from. Both aspired to be Great Leaders at the helm of a big, managerial central government, in which individual liberty took a back seat and the mass murder of war was an acceptable way to settle disputes.

An earlier generation of Americans even Republicans and conservatives would have been sickened by the spectacle of a national political convention at which delegates waved signs saying, Service and Country First. The rabid and belligerent U-S-A! U-S-A! chants would have had our ancestors heading for the doors. How deep we have sunk into the muck of bellicose nationalism. How unbecoming to our individualist heritage. McCain is the natural leader of this new America.

When John F. Kennedy called on us to ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country, the Jeffersonians among us were properly appalled. Here was an American Mussolini, updated with a tan and brash boyish looks, but a Mussolini nonetheless. Conservatives who still had some Declaration in their hearts were justifiably concerned.

McCain now makes the same appeal, and conservatives who a year ago despised the man whoop and holler like a drunk college-football crowd.

Service to country is far too abstract a slogan to be any guide to living. In real terms it ends up meaning service to the state, which is to say, service to whatever manipulative, scheming politician happened to have clawed and double-talked his way into the White House at the time. Countries dont call men to war. White House occupants do, and they know that the surest way to be ranked among the great presidents is to embroil the country in war. We must stop dressing up the slaughter of foreigners as a great national cause.

When the Navy pilot McCain fell out of the sky over Hanoi, he wasnt delivering pizzas. He was trying to destroy civilian necessities such as dams and power plants. Did his country call on him to do that? No, it was not his country he was serving. If no White House occupant had sent him to North Vietnam to wreak death and destruction on innocents, no decent, productive American would have thought to do so. What had those North Vietnamese peasants done to us? Nothing. But John McCain is called a hero for surviving the wrath of people who resented his trespassing on their lives. We must stop identifying the country with the warmongers in office.

McCains website says that each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest. If he were seeking a university chair in ethical philosophy it might be worthwhile arguing with him. Generosity is a virtue; self-sacrifice is not. But McCain doesnt want to run a classroom. He wants to run the country, that is, you and me. In a free country hed have no business telling us what our duties are. Anyway, its a funny way for a servant to talk. But McCain doesnt really want to be our servant. He wants to be our leader.

Those who want neither to be served nor led will ask this man to leave them alone.

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    Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.