It was perhaps inevitable that someone from the McCain camp, in this case his aide Mark Salter, would try to slime Jean Rohe, who used her graduation speech at the New School a few days ago to criticize McCain and what his speech said about the very young people he was addressing (and had addressed at two other graduations previously, including Liberty University, with the same speech). Here’s some of what Salter had to say in his comment to Jean’s Huffington Post essay about her speech, which I linked to here:
Let me tell you a little bit about the Senator, the man you dismiss so derisively. Once upon time, even among the young, the words courage and hero were used more sparingly, more precisely. It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. And please don’t worry about the Senator’s discomfort with you. He has managed to endure much worse. McCain was once offered release from imprisonment and torture because of his father’s position as a senior military officer. He declined because he would not leave his comrades behind, and thus, willingly, accepted four more years of hardships life will spare almost all of us from. In his political career he has shown the same character he showed as a Navy officer all those years ago. He has, over and over again, risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interests of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself.
You took exception to the paragraph in which he lightly deprecated the vanity of youth. Well, Ms. Rohe, and your fellow graduates’s comical self-importance deserves a rebuke far stronger than the gentle suggestions he offered you. So, let me leave you with this. Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it very unlikely any of you will ever posses the one small fraction of the character of John McCain.
Sweet, huh? And this reaction does nothing to contradict the point Jean made in her speech: that McCain (and now his surrogates) think that young people, especially young liberals, are worthless and should just keep their mouths shut, like those nice young Christians at Liberty University. Moreover, Salter apparently didn’t even read her essay or listen to her speech, because he’s playing projection games with her.
Now Jean Rohe is defending herself against the sliming, and if McCain had stood up to George Bush the way this 21-year-old student is standing up to the Right Wing Noise Machine, he might not have lost so much respect:
In addition, you make many assumptions about who I am and what I stand for. You assume that the words shouted from the audience reflected at all times my opinions and values. You assume that I have made myself look like an idiot, which, I can tell you, is just not true. You assume I have taken no risks. I’m curious to see which doors have been permanently closed to me in the future, simply because I’ve spoken up. You assume that I did what I did simply to draw attention to myself for my own personal benefit. I have said in my writing, and I will say it again, I would never have asked for this responsibility in a million years. The entire event was stomach-churning and unpleasant because it was something I didn’t want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values. You assume that I have no experience making a living. I have been a full-time college student and have worked a job to pay my own rent and my own expenses for the past two years. You assume that I live in an “echo chamber” of liberal head-patting, when, in fact, I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a neighborhood notorious for its cultural diversity and sometimes, conflict. I live in New York City where every human interaction is a test of our willingness to coexist as citizens. And finally, I think it is unfair to assume that I have not considered the hardships of Senator McCain’s life. Indeed, one of my first feelings upon seeing him in the flesh was compassion for how much he must have endured in his time as a POW. If there’s one thing that I know about myself, it is that I care for people, and in that sense I have a great deal of character. Please don’t try to bully me anymore.
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