In 1974, Gov. Ronald Reagan of California addressed a new conference of insurgent conservatives. But before he jumped into what would become one of his most famous speeches, laying out his vision of the nation as “the last best hope of man” and “a city upon a hill,” he introduced a young Navy pilot who had been recently released from a North Vietnamese prison.
As the crowd gave the 37-year-old John McCain a rousing standing ovation, Reagan chuckled.
“Well, I might as well sit down,” he said. “I can’t do any better than that for the remainder of the evening.”
The moment deserves some unpacking today, as conservatives gather for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s an event that bears little resemblance to the one that celebrated the future president…