Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dateline: KIGALI

I had never formed an opinion of Cindy McCain, prospective first lady, until reading Michael Gerson's column in today's Post.
[In 1994,] following a call for help from Doctors Without Borders, [Cindy] McCain had assembled a medical team with the intention of setting up a mobile hospital in Rwanda. Arriving by private plane in mid-April, a couple of weeks into the massacres, she realized that the chaos made deploying her team impossible. At the airport, she paid for the use of a truck and set out for Goma in then-Zaire, where hundreds of thousands of refugees were also headed...

Arriving across the border in Goma, in what is now Congo, McCain found cholera victims stacked beside the road "like highway barriers." "I remember having to step over the decomposing body of an infant, covered with white powder, lime I guess, to get into one building." The field hospital covered four acres. McCain's team provided primary care for sick and frightened refugees, many of them suffering from dehydration. For nearly a month, McCain organized deliveries of food and water for the operation, collecting supplies at the Goma airport.
While the world watched the genocide on TV, very few did anything. I have the utmost respect for those who acted.
In the shadow of Barack Obama's world tour, McCain joined a bipartisan delegation... [and] came back to a very different Rwanda -- peaceful, well governed, and making, with American help, some of the most rapid progress in the history of public health. "What has struck me," says McCain, "is that most people are reconciling. A woman I met was gang-raped [during the genocide], her throat was slit, she lost her whole family, but was willing to forgive. The reason this will be a successful country is the women -- some of the strongest, most inspiring women I have ever met" ...

Over the years, McCain has taken medical services to a Sandinista stronghold after Nicaragua's civil war; set up a mobile hospital near Kuwait City while the oil wells still burned from the Persian Gulf War; helped in Bangladesh after a cyclone. And while in that country in 1991 she found her daughter Bridget in an orphanage -- "She really picked me," McCain insists. Sometimes the desire to save every child is properly concentrated on a single child.
Mr. Obama has a fascinating ancestry. But for actual accomplishments in their own years, I would pick either of the McCains.


gary said...

How exactly is Obama's ancestry fascinating? He had a Kenyan father and an American mother. While the combination may be somewhat rare, neither factor is rare by itself. (while I suppose that to most Americans, Kenya is a fairly exotic location, I bet that most Kenyans think of America as exotic.)

John S McCain III had a grandfather who obtained the rank of Full Admiral and was present at the signing of the treaty ending the second world war. McCain's father was commander in chief of the US Pacific command during the Vietnam war.

The only way in which Obama's ancestry is fascinating is that it is unusual for a President to have a parent who was not an American (I can think of no presidents who have had non-American fathers). However, this in itself is not really fascinating.

Of course, this comment that I am writing is pretty much non-sense anyway, as your comment was a throw-away line at the end of a post, and nobody really cares about the ancestry of the candidate.

Chops said...

I think people do care about the ancestry of a candidate, and for good reason: the identity of the president says a lot about what and who is America. To have a president with an African father would say that America is who she says she is: a land of opportunity and upward mobility, and a land of immigrants. These are good things.

Likewise, the G.W. Bush, Gore, and Hillary Clinton candidacies implied that access to leadership comes through powerful family members. You too can lead the free world... if your father did!

This is not new: vital to the enduring popularity and identification of presidents like Truman and Lincoln is their rural upbringing.

Gandhi said...

For one, George Washington's father was not born in America.

gary said...

Augustine Washington was born in Virginia, which, as far as I'm concerned, means that he was an American.