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Tested

October 22, 2008

This past Sunday, Joe Biden predicted that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy”.

Now…I’m not entirely sold on this prediction. I have no doubt a President Obama would be tested…the state of the economy alone makes that all but certain. Whether he will be tested with a major international crisis on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis (or a repeat of 9/11) is another matter altogether. Could it happen? Certainly. Will it happen? Maybe, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

In any event, John McCain quickly used Senator Biden’s remark as an opportunity to remind voters that he has been tested:

McCain recalled being ready to launch a bombing run during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which Biden said over the weekend tested a new President John F. Kennedy and was the template for the kind of “generated crisis” the 47-year-old Obama would face within six months of taking office.

“I was on board the USS Enterprise,” McCain, a former naval aviator, said in the capital city of Harrisburg. “I sat in the cockpit, on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, off of Cuba. I had a target. My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war.”

As the crowd of several thousand began to swell with cheers and applause, he added with dramatic effect: “America will not have a president who needs to be tested. I’ve been tested, my friends.”

Now, that sounds pretty reasonable to…wait…WHAT?

Let me get this straight. McCain is saying he has been tested because he sat on the deck of the Enterprise on alert for a bombing mission that, ultimately, never happened?

It may sound good…it may rouse the base…but when you step back and thinkabout it, this claim is patently absurd. 

First and foremost, the bombing mission never took place…precisely because of Kennedy’s deft handling of the crisis. The only “test” McCain would have had to endure would have been a pre-flight check.

Second, McCain was a Navy pilot. The decision was never anywhere near being in his hands. He had no tightrope to walk and, as the mission never took place, he pretty much had nothing to do.

To my mind, this notion of being tested involves being thrust into a delicate situation and having to make decisions…decisions that could endanger thousands…or millions…of lives. Kennedy was tested. McCain, not so much. For him to claim he was, in my opinion, diminishes what Kennedy was able to achieve in what would become his finest hour.

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