Friday, September 21, 2007

For language lovers only

For recreation these days I am trying to learn Homeric Greek. From their reactions some people have let me know just how weird they think it is. Admittedly, I have no practical reasons to do it. I will earn no degree. I will never be a scholar in the field, and it is a virtual certainty that I would never be permitted to teach it, even were I to become competent (which I doubt anyway).

But there are two good personal reasons to keep at it. First, whenever I have listened to or read any classicist who does know ancient Greek or Latin, I have always been jealous and asked myself why I didn’t learn it when I was young (well, actually, I know the answer - I was lazy and almost without any ambition).

Second, the study has been a gold mine of information about the ancestry of the English language. Frankly, that is always what I loved about foreign languages, particularly ancient ones. Seeing the roots of English from 2 to 3 thousand years ago thrills me. It might not affect a lot of people that way, but I have some good company. Tolkien wrote somewhat apologetically to a scholarly son who had imparted some interesting historical tidbit to him, that if a historical fact did not involve language, it really didn’t interest him that much. I can’t go quite that far, as I love history for its own sake, but one of my favorite pastimes is learning the origins of a place or thing name.

While ancient Greek is only one source of English among many, it is an early and important one, perhaps ultimately, the most important (you can argue Sanskrit or Latin to me). Every line of Homer tells me this is true.

Learning it is hard (although not as hard as working out) and sometimes frustratingly so. A graduate student has pointed out to me that because you don't converse in it, it does not stick in your head and you must constantly review. But, I have one advantage over academic students which I continuously remind myself about to quiet my “quit” reflex. I have all the time in the world until I die, lose interest or my eyesight fails (the worst of the three possibilities).

In some senses, learning Homeric Greek (as opposed to other ancient Greek like that of Plato or the Bible) is not like learning any other language. For one thing, it was not a real language. As the editor of the main text I use advised me in an email, no one says that they “speak” Homeric Greek. No one ever spoke it or wrote it except to create or recite epic poetry in the first millenium B.C.

It would make little sense to try and speak this early Greek, as the words are chosen and sometimes actually change according to the meter (huh? I’ll get to it). Homeric Greek is primarily a combination of two formerly spoken Greek dialects (Ionic and Aeolic, with bits of few others too, if you care), that would not otherwise be combined in normal conversation or writing.

There are also aspects of Homeric Greek which are just difficult for English speakers to understand, in particular, the declining of nouns, the length of vowels and the use of accents.

Before the Greeks modified the Phoenician alphabet (itself spun off of an earlier alphabet and so on back to pictograms), there were no symbols standing for vowels. This development has come in mighty handy and is now part of, I believe, most modern written syllabic languages.

No one knows if or when Homer lived, but modern consensus says between 725 B.C. and 675 B.C. if he did exist. By this time, at least, the Greeks differentiated between long and short vowels, as we do, but in a different way. The Greeks did not change the sound of a vowel when they lengthened or shortened it, as in modern languages; they actually lengthened or shortened the time it took to say the vowel.

So, if apple was a Homeric Greek word, and you wanted to lengthen the A, you would really say aa-pul, not ai-pul. Sometimes, in the case of E and O, which were always short in Greek, the letter itself would change when you lengthened it. For example, E, a Greek letter known as epsilon, when lengthened, becomes Eta, the capital of which looks like our H, and the small version of which looks like our small letter n melting into the line below it. With the letters a, i, and u, you have to know the word or understand the very vague rules rules for “scanning” the meter to determine whether it’s a long or short vowel. I know this is really going to sound strange, but I’ve come to really enjoy doing that, although I never would have predicted it when I started.

Those who took French in school are familiar with the accents now used to help us understand ancient Greek, because some languages still use them. They are \, / and ^. Unlike today, though, the Greeks accented a word by changing the pitch of their voice, not the extra stress put on the syllable. So, where our words stress a certain syllable – APple, the Greeks changed the pitch in a way we can only guess at. Even later ancient writers were incapable of explaining what the vowels actually sounded like when the pitch changed. How would they know? The speakers were long dead.

In beginning to learn the language, I started with the alphabet. That’s the easy part because it’s pretty much the same as ours with a few differences. The major ones are the shape of some letters. For example, a capital N was written like our N, but a small n was written v; their P is the symbol for Pi (as in 3.14), and they used what we would call P for our R sound. They also had letters for what we call blends (th, ph, ps, zd, ks) and did not have J, Y, V or C (although they had letter for the two sounds we use for C) today.

The Greek alphabet also had, very early on, what is called vau or digamma, which looked like our F that has fallen halfway through the cracks, and pronounced like our W. It was a widely used letter but mysteriously disappeared by Homer’s time. Strangely though, this letter's vau’s former presence could still affect the meter, spelling and accent in words it had previously been in. Likewise, they used a letter called koppa or Kwoppa, which looked like a lollypop. Koppa, which stood between the Greek versions of our P and R, and also fell out of the Greek language, but was reintroduced as Q in the Latin alphabet (think about it when toasting the Queen or staying at the Quality Inn; we almost had no Q).

After all that, you’ll be surprised and possibly disappointed to learn that the ancient Greeks did not really use the same alphabet we now use to represent their language, although something resembling it. The Greek alphabet we use comes from Byzantine scholars some 2000 years after Homer wrote, who used their form of the alphabet(which is still being used in Greece). There are actually no known existing copies of the Iliad or The Odyssey in the alphabet Homer would have used, just as we do not have ancient Hebrew Bibles preceding the Greek ones. The Byzantine scholars were writing far closer to our time than to Homer’s and, fortunately for us, introduced Homer to the West just prior to the end of their Eastern empire in 1453 A.D.

We know from written fragments that do exist from classical and pre-classical Greek times that Homer (if he existed and if he could write – another mystery) used only capital letters, probably had every other line heading in the opposite direction, did not have breaks between words and used no accents or breathing marks. By breathing marks, I mean a little mark which tells you whether to make an H sound before an initial vowel. The marks were another invention of the Byzantines; the Greeks just knew where to breathe, just as we know where to accent words in English without using any marks. The small letters, spaces between words, sentences going in one direction, breathing marks and accents were all Byzantine devices. Only very recently (I believe 1982) has modern Greek officially done away with breathing sounds and multiple accent marks.

If I’ve learned one thing about Homeric as opposed to other Greek, it’s that the meter is King. In other words, whatever grammatical rules there are, they are secondary to and designed for servicing the meter. So, if my word ends in the letters ew, it would normally be pronounced eh-aw (two syllables), unless the meter called for one long syllable in that spot, and then it would be pronounced as one long blended ehaw. Why? Because the meter is king, that’s why. It couldn’t have been easy to constantly come up with a word that fit the meter, even with two dialects to choose from, so the grammatical rules as to vowel length had exceptions to make it easier.

It’s not just the difference in long or short vowels that makes it difficult for us to understand Homer. It’s also word order. Suppose you wanted to write – “Achilles walked down the path and took a bite of the apple.” Depending on where it fell in the metrical pattern, you might have to write - “walked apple bite took and down the path Achilles”, or, “Achilles and path the apple down walked bite took.”   

Making the meter king is not that strange to us, really. Modern poets and song writers do it all the time in stretching a syllable to make something rhyme (Homer did not rhyme), and Homer (if he . . . blah, blah, blah) was writing or singing poetry.

Still not done with the problems yet though. In ancient Greek you declined nouns, pronouns, prepositions and adjectives just like we conjugate verbs (which they also did). Take the Greek word for plan, of which the root was Boul-. Depending on the contents of the sentence, you might write (transliterated) boulae, boulaen, boulaes, boule, and so on. Declining is still found in many modern languages from Serbian-Croatian to Korean to Romanian and even German. Personally, I think life is a lot easier without declension (even though we need to use extra words to compensate), but, I presume that whatever you grow up with, sounds best.

Without any doubt the greatest pleasure in this study comes in seeing Greek roots for modern English words or grammar rules. It would be a little tedious to discuss the grammar (something I dreaded even more than math in grade school). Still, it is a trip to notice that many of the elements in our language were already there thousands of years ago – subject, object, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, participle, tenses, etc. But, for now, let’s just look at some of our words which have roots in Homer.

In just the very, very beginning of the Iliad, the story of a wild few weeks near the end of the Trojan War (but not the end), I have come across the Greek roots for the following English words:


That’s 27 English root words in just twenty-one lines. For this American nerd, that's a pot of gold.

Although I have admitted that this is a strange hobby, I can’t possibly be the only one interested. The Perseus project on the web seems to have all of the ancient Greek works that you might ever want online with almost every single word linked to various dictionaries, lexicons and grammars. The Blue Letter Bible does a similar thing for the Old and New Testaments. These are enormous projects, obviously the work of many people for years, and somehow, I doubt they did it just for me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

David Walker

David Walker is a somewhat mysterious 19th century American figure who, like many of the figures that appears in this blog, almost no one reads or talks about outside of the occasional college class. In a recent ethnically diverse class of 75 I asked the students if they have heard of him. Only 1 student had, and she had learned about him in an African-American history class. I would have been too disgusted to ask how many had heard of Snoop Dog.

It's not like Walker did something so dramatic that I can’t believe he is not better known. He didn’t rescue anyone or save the country from the Brits. He wasn’t even an escaped slave like Frederick Douglas, who had a sensational and high profile speaking and writing career. He was just an emotional and outspoken voice that must have inspired a lot of slaves, and definitely inspired the best known and perhaps most important white abolitionist outside of John Brown. He also scared the grits out of a lot of slave owners during our country’s dark ages, and that’s always a good thing. To do it, Walker merely wrote a fairly short “Appeal,” which was harshly critical of all its targets – black or white Americans.

By trade, he was a big Northern city retailer with a flame thrower for a pen, born in Wilmington, North Carolina, probably three or four years before the turn of the century. No records tell us exactly when or where. Although his father was a slave, his mother was free. Under the law, such as it was, that made him free too. He left Wilmington while a young man, possibly for the reason that the high number of slaves made it difficult for him to find any work. Or, perhaps, he yearned to breathe freer air. Or, still again, maybe he just had that youthful wanderlust.

So, when he was old enough, he wandered around, already able to read and write. He settled in Charleston, South Carolina for a while, possibly getting there in 1821 (just to set the table; James Monroe is president; Western civilization in the U.S. pretty much ends in St. Louis, Lincoln was a pre-teen, and abolitionists are gaining courage and strength). If he was in Charelston in ’21 and ‘22, it is quite possible that he took part in a failed insurrection by a carpenter with the enticing name of Denmark Vesey and his associate, the magician, Gullah Jack, in 1822. Based on Walker’s later writings, it is hard to believe he would not have participated, were he given the opportunity, although there is no telling when he began to feel passionate about the issue. But, he was not one of the roughly 60 convicted or roughly 40 hanged when the insurrection was put down.

By 1825, Walker had made it to Boston, Massachusetts, which had been a free state since 1783. Free or not, of course, Boston’s blacks were not given the same opportunities as whites in many aspects of life such as, for example, sitting on juries or holding government positions. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of legal and de facto segregation, including in the school systems. Walker settled in a black enclave and opened up a used clothing store which would play a roll in his future attempt to liberate the slaves.

While in Boston he married and had a child, a girl, and was once arrested for receiving stolen property. He successfully defended the case, and seemed to be well known and respected, even in some white society. At the same time, he became very engaged in the abolitionist movement, then primarily a black endeavor.

When Samuel Cornish and John Russworm began publishing Freedom’s Journal, the first known black newspaper in the United States (which lasted only a year), Walker became their Boston agent. He actively supported the journal and occasionally contributed to it, as well as to Cornish’s later and even briefer effort.

Despite the brevity of the papers’ success, they essentially made Walker a known player in Boston abolition circles and brought him into contact with many other like minded men. In 1828, he made a speech to the Massachusetts General Colored Association which prefigured his much longer (but still relatively short) and more fiery Appeal.

The following year, he decided to make use of his business contacts in the maritime world and successfully began smuggling his Appeal, copies of which were sewn into the linings of the clothing he shipped. Walker’s shop was close by the docks and he apparently would ask simply sailors to help spread his work.

Blacks had for a long time been able to move far more freely in the nautical world than in the States. Not surprisingly, their work in that line aroused the fear in white society that there ability to maintain a semblance of normal life would help spread sedition. Soon after the Vesey affair mentioned above, South Carolina even legislated the incarceration of Black sailors until the ship left its dock.

Despite a somewhat rambling style and many literary and foreign attributions (which made one wonder how an illiterate slave, his audience, would possibly understand it) Walker’s spells his message out clearly. No society had ever treated its slaves as badly; blacks need to wake up and fight for their rights; Christianity and the Declaration of Independence demand the freeing of the slaves and blacks to be given rights; God would see to the fall of the white devils. I have to wonder if the young Malcolm X had read Walker. He would have liked him.

Walker threw historical figures, peoples and events around in the Appeal like Republican presidential candidates throw around President Reagan references. In the first two paragraphs of the Appeal, he makes references to the slaves of Egypt (Israelites), Rome and Sparta (the Helots), Jesus Christ, and the writers Josephus and Plutarch. Shortly thereafter, in a single paragraph he refers to the Pharaoh’s troops drowning in the Red Sea, the Helots again, the Spartan lawmaker, Lycurgus, the Roman tyrant, Sulla, Cataline, Caesar, Mark Anthony, Octavius, Lipidis, Brutus, Cassius, Tiberius, Mohammed II and the conquest of Constantinople, not to mention the Spaniards and the Portuguese in general. It’s almost like a prose crossword puzzle with an historical theme.

I disagree with those experts who believe that Walker predicted the Civil War (which would hardly be that difficult, as slavery had been a divisive issue since our country’s inception) but he did point out that it is not the oppressed who always end up raising the standard, but the oppressors who split apart and kill each other.

It is possible that Walker was himself influenced by a much shorter publication the year before he issued The Appeal. The author was Robert Young and entitled the Ethiopian Manifesto. Young wrote:

“As came John the Baptist, of old, to spread abroad the forthcoming of his master, so alike are intended these our words, to denote to the black African or Ethiopian people, that God has prepared for them a leader, who awaits but his season to proclaim to them his birthright. How shall you know this man? By indubitable signs which cannot be controverted by the power of mortal, his marks being stamped in open visage, as equally so upon his frame, which constitutes him to have been particularly regarded in the infinite work of God to man…..”

Walker was no Christ, although the Appeal is as much about the justice of God as anything else, but he may have had a little John the Baptist in him. It is difficult to ascertain Walker’s effect, short as it was. The next year Nat Turner had his hand at a failed insurrection. Inspired by Walker? There is no doubt that the Appeal was widely circulated in the South and there were even a few arrests for its distribution. Southern legislatures tried to enact and sometimes succeeded in passing anti-literacy laws in response to the Appeal and it is reported that at least some slaves were killed or sold when caught reading it. More direct proof of its effect is not known.

Walker was well aware of the effect his little book was having. He wrote as a footnote in the following edition – “”Why do the Slave-holders or Tyrants of America and their advocates fight so hard to keep my brethren from receiving and reading my book of Appeal to them . . . But why are the Americans so very fearfully terrified respecting my book . . . Now I ask the Americans to see the fearful terror they labor under for fear that my brethren will get my Book and read it . . . “.

One Northern preacher was slow to appreciate Walker. William Lloyd Garrison, perhaps the most famous of all abolitionist writers, originally criticized Walker as too extreme, but when he began publishing The Liberator, he apparently "got it" and republished Walker’s Appeal. Given Garrison’s fame (or infamy in some places), that was some tribute.

In giving you a sample of Walker’s work, I will just open the book and type wherever my finger points. It landed at a blast against blacks, quite a popular topic with him:

“It shows at once, what the blacks are, we are ignorant, abject, servile and mean-- and the whites know it-- they know that we are too servile to assert our rights as men—or they would not fool with us as they do. Would they fool with any peoples as they do with us? No, they know too well, that they would get themselves ruined. Why do they not bring the inhabitants of Asia to be body servants to them? They know they would get their bodies rent and torn from head to foot. Why do they not get the Aborigines of this country to be slaves to them and their children, to work their farms and dig their mines? They know well that the Aborigines of this country, or (Indians) would tear them from the earth. The Indians would not rest day or night, they would be up all times of night, cutting their cruel throats. . . .”.

If that sounds tough on blacks, trust me that he was harder on whites (“Is the U.S. not the most tyrannical, unmerciful and cruel government under Heaven” and “Algerines, Turks and Arabs treat their dogs a thousand times better than we are treated by the Christians”).

But here is another of Walker’s view on his own people from a slightly different viewpoint:

“. . . If you can only get courage into the blacks, I do declare it, that one good black man can put to death six white men; and I give it as a fact, let twelve black men get well armed for battle, and they will kill and put to flight fifty whites.—The reason is, the blacks, once you get them started, they glory in death. The whites have had us under them for more than three centuries, murdering, and treating us like brutes; and, as Mr. Jefferson wisely said, they have never found us out . . . “.

There were rumors that there was a price on Walker’s head at the time, with a higher price if he was kidnapped and spirited to the South. One Southern mayor had even asked Boston’s mayor to do something about Walker (he declined, although he didn't approve of Walker either).

The Appeal initially had a fairly short life, three editions, over the course of a year or so, when Walker mysteriously died a few days after his only child passed away. Suspicions were of course raised, but no charges were ever brought. Murdered? If so, it was not done in dramatic way which would send a message. I’m guessing no.

Walker’s little work is nearly 190 years old. It’s nice to know that just this year the City of Wilmington put up a plaque for him. It is likely that most people walk by it without having any idea of who he was. Yet, the great Frederick Douglass, a young man when the Appeal was published, declared it one of the most important abolitionist works. That’s a pretty good endorsement.

Indeed, how many pamphlets can you think of, however little read then or now, that have been printed over and over for two centuries? Tom Paine’s Common Sense and precious few others. That is a testament to greatness.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Toughness personified: George Chuvalo

George Chuvalo turns 70 this Wednesday, the 12th. I doubt he will ever read this, so I will make the incredibly rude statement that I can’t believe he is not dead given the fierce pounding he withstood for roughly 20 years of professional fighting, including beatings by some of the most ferocious boxers of the 60s and 70s, and personal tragedies so extreme, it is difficult to believe that anyone could withstand them and continue on.

I liked Chuvalo when he was in his prime, but mostly as a target for Ali, who, like many men of my age, I worshipped. But a few years ago, when I became aware of Chuvalo's personal struggles, I re-examined him and became more impressed.

Boxing, particularly professional boxing, is so brutal that some people think it should be banned. Actually, lots of people do, including the legendary sports announcer, Howard Cosell. We’ve all seen what happens to some fighters who fought a lot less often than Chuvalo. They end up in diapers or babbling in the corner. But years of punishment doesn’t seem to have affected Chuvalo much as he enters his eighth decade, and he took some beatings. Of course, he gave out a lot more than he took. As he himself pointed out after a loss to Ali, he went dancing afterwards with his wife – Ali went to the hospital.

A Canadian amateur champion, he started fighting professionally in 1956 at a tournament sponsored by Jack Dempsey. Two years later, at age 21, he won the vacant Canadian title for the first time. Through 1961, when he first lost to the other Canadian legend, Bob Cleroux, for the championship, he had fought 21 times, losing 4 times. Later that year, in a rematch, he beat Cleroux. Cleroux won the rubber match the next year. All three fights went the distance. Cleroux was not an ordinary fighter though. In his 25 fights up to that point, Chuvalo was one of only two to beat him (both of which he revenged). Cleroux was probably the superior fighter of the two, but he never got the big world title shot that made Chuvalo's career.

But not even Cleroux, nor anyone before him ever knocked Chuvalo down.

In 1963, Chuvalo started fighting regularly in the States, getting better all the time. In 1965, he got his big chance against former world champion, Floyd Patterson, in Madison Square Garden. Chuvalo had won 9 of his last 10 fights, his last 4 ending in 3 KOs and a TKO.

Patterson beat him in a 12 round decision that Ring Magazine named fight of the year. Like everyone else before him, he never knocked Chuvalo down.

Two years later, Chuvalo, having won his last 4 fights, all in Canada, got his shot at the WBA world title against Ernie Terrell. Terrell was made champion after Ali was stripped of his title for political reasons, and was good enough two years later to go 15 rounds in a losing effort to an Ali still in his prime. Terrell was also too much for Chuvalo, but he didn’t knock him down either.

In ’67, Chuvalo got his chance to battle Ali himself in an unofficial world championship fight. Battle is the right word. Ali needed a decision against a man he called the toughest opponent he ever had fought. Chuvalo was a bloody mess, but still standing at the bell after 15 rounds. Neither Patterson or Sonny Listen had managed to do that against The Greatest.

Losing to Ali did not seem to damper Chuvalo’s power or enthusiasm, because he won 13 of his next 15 fights, losing only to another known power puncher, Oscar Bonavena (although in a surprisingly artful fight), and then Joe Frazier. All of those wins were by KO or TKO and he was never stopped in a fight until he met Frazier, putting away almost everyone else. Still, when the fight was called in the fourth round, Chuvalo was still on his feet.

Getting destroyed by Frazier couldn’t stop him either. He won 12 of his next 14 fights, losing only to the much heavier and more talented Buster Mathis, who had been beaten only once in 29 fights (by Frazier), and then to George Foreman who was destroying everyone he came against, including Frazier. Foreman pummeled Chuvalo for three rounds. Yet, as in every other fight, Chuvalo never went down. His immediate response to the referee’s decision to call the fight was to ask him if he was nuts.

After Foreman, Chuvalo would fight 16 more times, finishing up in 1978 when he was over 40 (taking three years off in the mid-70s). He only lost twice during that time, once again to the great Ali and once to another interim heavyweight champion, Jimmy Ellis. He went the distance against both of them. Neither they, nor anyone else for that matter, could manage to knock him down. His last seven fights were wins (6 by KO, one by TKO), the last two for the Canadian heavyweight championship he had first won two decades earlier. If you look at the records of many older fighters, even great ones, they lost a number of their last fights before being forced to call it quits. Not Chuvalo. He went out a winner.

Chuvalo often fought against men far more talented than he was. With a few exceptions after the first couple of years while he was still learning, he lost mostly to world champions like Patterson, Ali, Frasier, Foreman, Terrell, Ellis and near greats like Cleroux, Mathis and Bonavena. Some of the best fighters he defeated were Jerry Quarry, then still a contender, and Light Heavy champion, Dick Tiger. But, other than his refusal to go down, it is Chuvalo's longevity that is most impressive. No other fighter was ranked in the top ten as long as he was, and that is saying something.

Chuvalo’s tragedy is personal, not professional. First one son committed a drug related suicide followed shortly afterwards by Chuvalo's wife. No fighter could take Chuvalo down, but this did. He can't remember it, but his friends told him that he stayed in bed for months. Then two of his remaining son’s died of drug overdoses. Only one son and his only daughter have survived. The story of Chuvalo’s family has been documented on television several times, one a few years ago, which drew my attention to him for the first time in many years.

Surviving the depression, and remarried, he now has an anti-drug organization ( Chuvalo’s toughness, even when losing, inspired a documentary (The Last Round: Chuvalo v. Ali). Contrary to some rumors, he did not inspire Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky.

While far from the best fighter of his generation, and not even one of the truly greats, Chuvalo was certainly up there with the toughest of them, both in and out of the ring, and continues to be inspirational to this day.

Happy birthday, George. Personally, I wouldn't get in a ring with you even now.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The speech that cannot be made


After politically required attention and abeyances to family, friends, politicians, and his wife, Senator McCain begins-

I would like to address some issues that are foremost in my mind these days, the 2008 election and the success of the Republican party.

I know that the polls have told all of us that my chances of success in the Republican primaries are dim, dimming and dimmer. I don’t believe in governing or campaigning by polls, as must be obvious . . . . but they do tell us some things that we ignore at our peril. Not only has Mitt Romney caught up to or passed me in some polls, but Mayor Giuliani's numbers suggest he has far greater support than do I. Without even announcing Senator Thompson has already passed me by. I can only hope he is taking voters from my competitors instead of me.

With that in mind, I wish to tell you that I need your support and for those Republicans who are not for me, to consider changing their mind, because I believe that the polls also show that I and only I can beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. Take a look at the match ups. Do Republicans want to see their favorite candidate win the nomination only to lose the big race? I hope not, but there is the possibility that they do prefer that. Such is human nature. Sometimes people just want their way in spite of defeat. I hope, when they make that decision they think of what is best for the country.

The reason for my better chances of success in the general election than in the primaries may not be obvious, but it is not all that difficult to see either. While my lack of status with the cultural right and my position in the immigration debate has made me unpopular with part of our party, it is more likely that independents, center right Republican and right thinking Democrats will vote for me as opposed to Hillary. None of the other gentlemen who compete with me for the opportunity to run as the Republican candidate can say this. Just as it is clear from the polls I am losing among Republican voters, they also make it clear I have the best chance of winning in the general election.

I am convinced that despite my lack of popularity with them at present, Republicans will come out in droves to vote for me, probably any Republican, against Senator Clinton. For whomever she is in reality, to much of the conservative base she is the person they would most like not to see in the White House. Yet, this does not matter if the Republican candidate cannot get Democratic votes. Over the course of the last year, the trend is overwhelming that more people now identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans. No amount of getting out the votes by Republicans will surmount this.

Some have suggested that I should, in fact, run as an independent. I will not do this. I am now, and always have been, a loyal Republican, and I believe in and regularly vote for our shared values. I am pro-life, pro-military and pro-business.

I recently took a stand in the immigration debate by proposing legislation that was practical and hopeful, although ultimately doomed to failure. I was aware that it would be entirely unsatisfactory to many in my own party as well and Americans in general. I recognizing however that what most people want in this country -- the border to be sealed off, and the process to be made orderly, could not be accomplished with this Congress.

Too many special interests, including business, agricultural and the demographics of just who those new immigrants are likely to vote for made it virtually impossible. I therefore proposed compromise legislation, believing that some order and attempt was better than thumping my fist and demanding what was impossible. I still think it was legislatively the prudent thing to do. I am a legislator and my duty was to do the best I could under the circumstances. But, as for my campaign to be president, it was disastrous.

My opponents may have understood better than me that the way to win primary votes and polls is to support a policy of slamming shut the Southern border and throwing out illegal aliens, policies I do support in principal, not to try and accomplish a temporary fix in the hopes of later correcting the problem. They were right and I was wrong in terms of what would be the more popular tact. But none of my competitors have a Senate seat at this time, and that gave them a freedom I could not act upon. Legislation requires some compromise, particularly . . . particularly, when the opposition party controls the house. I would rather get a half bowl a rice a day than demand caviar three meals a day and receive nothing.

I have no doubt, in fact, completely understand, that my ability to reach across the table to accomplish something, instead of demanding precisely what I want and getting none of it, is viewed by many of my own party as capitulation and even political heresy. It has cost me a loss of popularity among those whose opinion I value most, and almost certainly the candidacy of the party I have bound myself to for most of my life.

Yet this ability, which I challenge Mayor Giuliani or Senator Thomas to show that they can do, was understood by the great Republican leaders before our time, from Father Abraham to Ronald Reagan. More recently, the father of our current president, George Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, demonstrated this ability in forging political alliances both nationally and internationally, in stopping Saddam Hussein from his destruction of Kuwait and threat to destabilize the entire Middle East.

I have not denied that in seeking this nomination that I have sought to make amends with many of my Republican friends who are often called by themselves the religious right. In doing so, I have offended many on the left, who had appreciated my previous castigation of those same people whose support I now seek. No doubt, George Bush and Karl Rove outmaneuvered me, fair or foul, in 2000, by getting the respect and support of a broad group of Republicans whose votes were necessary while I focused on principals dear to me but favored by many Republicans and Democrats at the time. It would have won me the general election against Bush or Gore, but could not get me to the table.

Many presidents who take the oath of office, begin their first term by declaring, one way or another, that they will be the president of all Americans, not just their own base or party. They more than likely did not campaign for the nomination that way, and usually hint at it in the post convention campaigns, but they rarely govern that way. I intend to seek the nomination of the Republican party that way, run for president that way, and govern that way. That does not mean I will support policies I do not believe in. I will try and defeat them, and veto bills which are dead against my principles. But when there is an opportunity to work with the other side, I will remind you that we are all Americans first, with diverse views, and we need to stick together. Our enemies understand this, and will try and divide us at every opportunity.

Which brings us to a central question. Can a longtime senator successfully win his party's nomination by honestly telling his party, the voters and the American voters at large, what he intends to do in frank, honest terms, popular or unpopular?h The answer seems to be . . . . “no”. The way we manage our elections gives a decided advantage to those who concentrate their pandering on the most active, even if not the largest, groups in his party. And I know pandering, having done it in my turn. But I do have my limits.

Despite all this, I urge my colleagues on the right to look across the political aisle and ask themselves if they want to be cordially greeting a new President Clinton on inauguration day. I expect the answer is know. But if they elect one of my competitors, all of whom I respect and think would make a better president than Hillary Clinton, they will not get what they want.

I have no doubt that cultural conservatives would feel satisfaction on nominating Senator Thompson, who is a good and decent man. They might also feel some satisfaction at nominating Governor Romney, who I also believe to be a good and decent man. But not only the polls, but also common sense tells us that in an election year where due to the present administration far more Americans identify with Democrats than Republicans, we will not win with either of these two gentlemen.

A healthy respect for my own credibility leads me to acknowledge that other than me, Mayor Giuliani has the best chance to defeat Hillary Clinton. Many on the left are grateful to him for his contributions after 9/11, as I am. Ironically, many of his social views are not only far to the left of my own, but they are also to the left of Senator Clinton. I am impressed by the fact that while not giving up his liberal values, and with only a little bit of flip flopping, he has convinced many Republicans that he is “their” man, the one who will most likely insist on “their” policies. I have a proven record, which should tell them that this is more true of me than Rudy Giuliani, but he has convinced them otherwise. I believe I am the best choice for president, but I am rarely the best politician in the room.

Indeed, the Mayor from New York does slightly better in polls where individual Republican candidates are pitted against Hillary Clinton than I do. This does not surprise me. However, we have only begun to see the effect of Mayor Giuliani's negatives rise, whereas I am a known quality, having run before, and my negatives are more likely fixed.

And I suggest to you, my friends, that Rudy Giuliani has not proven that he understands that governing the United States cannot be done in the same fashion as governing New York City. In order to accomplish America’s goals, compromise and the ability to reach across the aisle, which does not characterize my opponent, must go hand in hand with will power and principals, both characteristics which I do believe he possesses. If he is running on having tamed Dodge City, he hasn’t told you how he is going to govern the country from Fresno to Savannah, from San Antonio to Minneapolis, because that is a lot bigger, a lot more diverse, and a lot more contentious than Dodge City. We have seen first hand how hubris and single mindedness on all issues without compromise, can hurt a presidency and disappoint Democrats and Republicans alike.

If you, like me, believe it is important that a Republican be elected president; if you believe like me, that Hillary Clinton is not the best person to serve in this highest honor, then I ask for vote for the last best chance to defeat her.

A few more things I would wish you to know. I have changed my position on immigration. I have seen that there is no hope of compromise in Congress, no way to slow the flow or regulate the problem. Frankly, the American people, including in my own state, want a far more aggressive defense of the borders. If my adversaries wish to call it flip-flopping, so be it. I have flipped the right way.

Some may say that my position on the Iraq War will keep me out of office. They are not correct. Republicans will vote for me anyway. Democrats who are likely to vote for me will not be swayed by it, as they are likely more conservative than other Democrats.

If I am elected president I promise you that I will make every effort to keep America safe from external and internal enemies, to seek to make government smaller and more efficient, appoint judges to the courts who understand the rule of law is central to our way of life and advocate that the states take care of those matters which are the state’s own business. They are sound conservative and Republican principles. Abraham Lincoln understood this. Teddy Roosevelt understood this and Ronald Reagan understood this. If elected I will stand on the shoulders of these giants, in order to best serve the people of this great country.

I can at the same time promise you that I would also seek to emulate those same great men in their compassion for the underdog, the poor and the abused. In doing so, I urge upon you, that in many respects due to these great men of whom I speak, the world is a better place, but it is not the same place it was ten, twenty or a hundred years ago. Thanks to these leaders and America’s tradition of a professional and civilian led military, and the sacrifice of millions of men and women who have served this country, of whom I count myself lucky to be able to say I served with them, we are more free and have greater liberties than at any time in our history, and at any time in the history of the world.

People will and should jealously guard their freedom and liberties, but always with an eye to the security of the country and our mutual safety. While it is well known that we should not give up our liberties to gain a little security, we also should not make a fetish of our liberties in the face of enemies who seek to destroy us and have the capacity to do so. There is a balance which we have struck before and can strike again. We can do both.

I have taken some heat in the past for a joke I made during a talk where I put the tune of a popular Beach Boys’ tune to use in emphasizing that we must be aware of and take measures against the hostility and nuclear ambitions of Iran. I have no enmity towards the Iranian people. They undoubtedly seek the same freedoms we enjoy. At the same time, I remain distrusting of the dictators and haters of freedom which rule that country. If the Iranian people cannot restrain their leaders or these uncompromising tyrants continue to use their oil money for terrorism and weapon product, we may, I say “may” have to do it for them. I hope and expect that we will do this in concert with our allies, but I do not take off the table that we may have to do it ourselves.

Make no mistake about it. Iran must not become a country possessed of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. If that is accomplished we Americans face a disastrous choice. Either seek to disarm those nuclear armed despots or appease them out of fear. I have no doubt how the majority of Americans would feel. Ronald Reagan would have known what to do. He would face them just as he did the Soviet Union – with indefatigable pressure and irrepressible faith in democracy and freedom. But we must act now to avoid any possibility of this dilemma occurring.

We must always honor the rights of other nations to self government and to seek to improve the lives of their citizens as their people and leaders see fit, even where they have different customs and values than we do. Although we have, as a country, made mistakes along the way, it is my firm belief that the United States is a loyal friend and a ferocious enemy to all just and fair societies, whether they are democracies or not. We must strive to show our friends more loyalty, always with an eye to our own self interest, but I believe we must also show more ferocity to our enemies. I don’t believe that the Democrat leaders understand that.

If the leaders of Iran, whom we must not shy from calling tyrants, zealots and bullies, continue to make themselves our enemies, and continues down a path of funding terrorists, interfering in Iraq, threatening our friends and allies, and building nuclear weapons, then we must confront them with all of our might. Whether as president of this country or a single senator from my own state, I intend to do so, with all my heart, all my soul, and with God’s grace, should he choose to grant it upon me.

Thank you for listening, and God bless America, its allies and friends of Democracy all over the world.

Notes from the speechwriter – well, JM will never see this baby and, even if he did, he wouldn’t give it. Straight talking only goes so far, and few candidates would have the courage to say some of these things, McCain not being an exception.

In writing it, I used what I hope is McCain's voice, and did not substitute my values for McCain's with one exception. I would like to see him become president, given the other possibilities, although there are many things I disagree with him about. Responding to my friend, Bear's, “Who do you trust?” ( – I trust McCain. I don’t trust most of the others, and certainly not Giuliani, Romney, Clinton or Obama. I don’t know enough about Fred Thompson to comment on him -- but I doubt that I would trust any partisan much.

So, the loyalty to the Republican party, the invocation of God, the Ronald Reagan worship, the pro-life stances are his, not mine. Some of it even made me squirm. But it is supposed to be his speech not mine. The hawkishness we share. We are in a war, for better or worse, and despite the fact that I have been leaning more to getting out of Iraq lately, it does not disqualify him for me. For one thing, I believe he will do a much better job than Bush, and have much more compassion for our fighting men and women who are taking a physical and emotional beating, no matter who is winning. If we can win, he might be our best bet.

My one exception was having McCain get on the right track on immigration. Shut the door, and then figure out what to do about illegal immigrants. There are many possibilities, but the hemorrhaging must stop. If he openly and honestly corrects that mistake with conservatives (and others) he might have a better chance. But, realistically, I do not think the damage done to McCain in his party due to the 2000 campaign tactics of Bush/Rove and his own anti-religious zealotry statements can ever be undone. He has to win without them, and if he gets to the starting gate, he can.

I wrote this because I strongly believe he is the only Republican who can beat Hillary right now (who, in my opinion, is the not only the most likely Democrat to win, but the only “first tier” candidate with the any common sense or understanding of the world, although it will be 8 more years of open season on Clintons if she wins) and that since he apparently won’t run as an independent, it would be best if he explained to Republicans why they need him to win. My version of McCain admits that Giuliani also might have a shot to beat her, but I think less of one. My preference would be a McCain/Lieberman ticket, which I never expect to see. There are lots of things about Joe (and everyone else) I don’t like, but the possibility of independents winning the White House is too good not to hope for.

The latest rumor is that McCain will pull out and give his support to Giuliani, who continues to frighten me. I hope not. It is too early for that. He should stay in, finances willing, until February 6th, 2008. If guys like Kucinich can stay in, why can’t he?

Most of all, we know that people react to honesty. Be brutally, ridiculously honest. He has nothing to lose and should give it a shot. It is what made him popular in the first place.

Someone give him this speech, please.

Post publication note to readers -- Good news. I have belatedly decided that this will be my last McCain article for a long time. If he can't win without me . . . .

About Me

My photo
I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .