On Sunday, Gen. Wesley Clark said that McCain’s military service, while honorable, did not necessarily prepare McCain to be a good president.
What is interesting to me is that the McCain himself went on the offensive immediately, trotting out a number of retired military men – including Bud Day, one of the original Swift Boat veterans – to condemn Clark’s comments. As you might recall, the Swift Boat veterans were a 527 group that attacked John Kerry’s military service in a number of TV ads, ads that at the time were denounced by John McCain as “dishonest and dishonorable”.
Why is this interesting? Because Clark did not actually attack McCain’s military service, just the idea that his military service somehow means that one cannot question McCain’s military judgement. In fact, Clark praised McCain’s service. McCain also attacked Obama, denouncing “the kind of campaign Sen. Obama and his surrogates and supporters want to engage in,” even though Obama consistently praises McCain’s service, calling him “a genuine American hero.” (On the other hand, Bud Day directly and dishonestly attacked Kerry’s service four years ago.)
So, when someone completely overreacts to a mild criticism, it makes me think they are trying to hide something. You know, like when you make a mild comment about someone having a drink at a party and they freak out and accuse you of calling them a drunk.
So what could McCain be hiding about his service? Well, here are a few things we do know about it:
- John McCain graduated fifth from the bottom in his class at Annapolis (in the bottom 1%).
- He received favored treatment because his father and grandfather were admirals, becoming a fighter pilot despite his low grades, and remaining one despite losing 5 planes (at least two of which were his fault).
- He was involved in an accident on the aircraft carrier Forrestal that killed 134 men.
- While he was a POW in Viet Nam, he collaborated with the enemy, participating in anti-American propaganda.
Those are the things that McCain has admitted to. The more interesting part is that (unlike John Kerry) John McCain has never released all his military records, preferring to keep them secret. Even the stuff we do know about McCain’s record should cause us to ask some serious questions. But McCain doesn’t want any of those questions answered, and will use known liars to attack anyone who dares to ask even the most innocuous question.
UPDATE 2: During a McCain campaign conference call (his second on the subject in as many days) McCain surrogate Orson Swindle said:
General Clark probably wouldn’t get that much praise from this group. I can’t speak for them, but we all know that General Clark, as high-ranking as he is, his record in his last command I think was somewhat less than stellar.
So let me get this straight. The McCain campaign is claiming that it is unacceptable to attack someone’s military record, and to prove their point they attack Clark’s military record — except that Clark didn’t actually attack McCain’s record. Incidentally, Clark’s last command was as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
UPDATE 3: Despite what the media keeps repeating, McCain wasn’t actually a fighter pilot, he was a bomber pilot. On 60 Minutes in 1997 he said “I am a war criminal. I bombed innocent women and children.”