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Mccain As Shrink

Portsmouth, New Hampshire--I can't say I've ever understood why people with deep, deep troubles go to campaign events to unburden themselves to politicians. My guess is that they do it after they've tried--and failed--to seek relief in numerous other places. Today, one such person came to a John McCain campaign event, and while these sorts of things are usually incredibly awkward to watch, this one was almost inspiring.

McCain was almost finished with an hour-long forum on the environment in Portsmouth when a severely disabled man named Greg indicated that he wanted to ask a question. In halting, slurred speech, Greg--I didn't get his last name--told McCain that he was a military veteran who'd suffered a serious motorcycle accident more than 20 years ago. Then, Greg essentially asked McCain whether the politician thought he should go on living. "I'm thinking it would be better to let me die and let others consume," Greg said. "I really don't see any point in continuing because it's difficult for everyone else, it's hard to support me."

I can't imagine a more awkward situation for McCain--having to counsel a complete stranger who, as one other journalist here put it, had essentially just read him a suicide note, and having to do so in front of about 200 people. And McCain's initial attempt was actually a bit awkward, as he mentioned that we are "a Judeo-Christian principled nation" that "believe[s] every life is precious." But McCain soon found his footing, and as he continued to counsel Greg, I noticed that a couple of men in the audience were crying. "All I can tell you," McCain went on, "is that [you have] loving family members, loving neighbors and friends who want to do everything we can to help you live as long and as beautiful a life as possible. And we pray for you. And we cherish you. God bless you." McCain then turned back to the topic at hand--the environment--and took a few more questions, but as the event was ending, he did one final pivot. "Greg," McCain said, "we want you and we love you and we need you and you will be our inspiration with your courage." 

I don't know if McCain won any votes today with his performance in Portsmouth--my guess is that he did--but I'd imagine he provided a much-needed glimmer of hope in one man's life. And I can't think of any other presidential candidate who could have done that under the circumstances.

--Jason Zengerle