Well, kind of. In his current campaign ad, McCain quotes Theodore Roosevelt saying, “there never was a fight better worth making than the one in which we are engaged.” The line comes from “A Confession of Faith.” What “fight” was Roosevelt talking about?

to use the government as an efficient agency for the practical betterment of social and economic conditions throughout this land. There are other important things to be done, but this is the most important thing. It is preposterous to leave such a movement in the hands of men who have broken their promises as have the present heads of the Republican organization…. These men by their deeds give the lie to their words. There is no health in them, and they cannot be trusted.1

In this speech Roosevelt called for government action to secure a living wage, to ensure that industry did not endanger people in their workplaces or their homes, and said we should study and borrow from Germany’s provision for old-age pensions and other social insurance.

By this time Roosevelt had also praised the Hague Conference’s charters of international rights and promoted an international court, along the lines of the U.S. Supreme Court, to deal with violations of international law, and suggested there be an “international police power.”

Somehow this program doesn’t seem to filtered into McCain’s campaign speeches.

McCain also shows Winston Churchill. Churchill found it appalling that his country would send so many young men to prison, and he set out to reform the laws “so that next year there will be 50,000 fewer people sent to prison than last year.” Does McCain find our record-high levels of imprisonment similarly appalling, and would he likewise end them?

Churchill used the power of the state to establish minimum wages and unemployment insurance. “What could be said for us,” he asked, “and what could excuse our own improvidence if the next depression found us all unprepared?” Apparently McCain doesn’t even know what he thinks about this kind of policy and preparedness.

Roosevelt talked about war a lot, and Churchill led his nation courageously through one. But they also had an excellent idea what kind of country was worth fighting for. Does McCain?

1In fairness, Roosevelt condemned the Democrats too, but this McCain is already doing.