State Senator Hugh Leatherman and U.S. Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain was on the Francis Marion University campus on February 20, one of his several appearances this month in South Carolina as the 2008 presidential campaign cranks into motion. In the state during the same week were Barak Obama, who drew a huge crowd in Columbia at the Convention Center, and Hilary Clinton, who appeared before a more limited crowd of about 500 in Florence. David White, the political scientist down the hall (who once worked for McCain in Arizona), says the large rallies are unusual for this early in the election cycle. Perhaps the lack of any clear favorites among Dems or Repubs has led the many would-be candidates to charge out of the gate early.
McCain, who was introduced by Dr. Eddie Floyd, S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, and S.C. Senator Hugh Leatherman (of Florence), spoke for only 10 minutes or so in the Nursing Building Lobby to a crowd of 200-250. Then he took questions, and I was pleased that most of them came from students: "How did you get into politics?" "What would you do about the partisanship that currently paralyzes our government?" "What's the future of Iraq?"
There was an awkward moment when an 87-year-old man from N.C. walked right up to the podium and began holding forth on his own war record. He went on and on and didn't seem to have a question. McCain was very patient, at one point asking him to summarize. Finally, after much too long, there was a break in the man's monologue, McCain thanked him, and the crowd applauded, thus ending the little filibuster. McCain circulated through the crowd shaking hands and signing autographs. I had my Founders Hall neighbor, Alissa Warters (a political scientist), shake the Senator's hand while I took her photo.
I am not a McCain supporter, though I honor the fortitude he showed during his long imprisonment in North Vietnman. I think he is a man with strong and honorable convictions, although I disagree with his stance on Iraq, his commitment to Bush's intransigence.