Throwing Tomatoes at Heroes

We here at Scragged are not fans of Sen. John McCain.  As we have discussed in past articles, he is profoundly wrongheaded on the issue of illegal immigration; his lack of respect for the First Amendment in the area of "campaign finance reform" is nauseating; and it would appear that he has swallowed hook, line, and sinker the anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-freedom fraud that goes by the name of "global warming."

Yet for all our differences, the fact remains that the Senator served his country honorably in the military and behaved with great bravery at tremendous personal cost.

As lovers of freedom, and with a deep and abiding respect for our warriors in uniform, it is hard not to be moved by his story of resistance to torture and his stalwart refusal to be freed early on account of his high-ranking father when other less-famous captives had been imprisoned longer and suffered more.  No man who is willing to subject himself to additional years of torture out of duty and loyalty to his comrades-in-arms can ever be truly called a scoundrel.

Which is why the current tactics of certain Democratic politicians are so revolting.  Of course we expect McCain to be the target of political attacks; after all, the Democrats want to defeat him in the election, and they have every right to criticize his positions on issues.

Of course they will also attack him personally; after all, the personality and personal integrity of the President of the United States is of the utmost importance.  John McCain has a reputation for having a temper; it's entirely appropriate to bring this to the attention of the voters, for them to judge whether it presents a potential problem.

What is entirely out of bounds, however, is to demean service in the military as not just unimportant, but indeed tawdry.  Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia got the ball rolling:

"McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet," Rockefeller said. "He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they (the missiles) get to the ground? He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues." [emphasis added]

So it's somehow a black mark for a member of the military to kill the enemy in some fashion other than by personal hand-to-hand combat?  What, does Sen. Rockefeller consider a proper duel, with matched weapons, to be the only "honorable" fight?  John McCain is unfit to be president - in fact, does not care about the lives of people - because his duty in the Vietnam War assigned to him by officers representing his commander-in-chief was flying airplanes?

Sen. Rockefeller had the decency to apologize for his scurrilous remarks.  In fact, his apology is worth repeating:

"I have deep respect for John McCain's honorable and noble service to our country. I made an inaccurate and wrong analogy and I have extended my sincere apology to him. While we differ a great deal on policy issues, I profoundly respect and appreciate his dedication to our country, and I regret my very poor choice of words."

Insofar as it's sincere, this statement is entirely acceptable, accurate, and indeed is quite similar to the feelings of several Scragged writers toward McCain.

One elderly senator speaking out of turn is regrettable, but anyone with aging grandparents can easily understand such sayings.  But hardly a week later, here we are again, this time with former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern:

Let me tell you what I would say to John McCain: neither of us is an expert on national defense.  It's true that you went to one of the service academies but you were in the bottom of the class. It's true that you were a pilot in Vietnam, that you were shot down and spent most of the war in prison and we all sympathize with that and honor you for your courage.  But you and I both had these battle experiences, you in a Navy fighter plane, I in an army bomber. I am not going to criticize your war record and your knowledge of national security but I don't want you criticizing mine either.

If I'd be allowed just one little dig at Senator McCain, since he gave me. I would say, 'John, you were shot down early in the war and spent most of the time in prison. I flew 35 combat missions with a 10-man crew and brought them home safely every time.'

Pause for reflection on McGovern's remarks.  He's quite right that serving honorably in the military at the knife-edge level certainly does not automatically qualify one as a military genius.  In no way do we wish to diminish Mr. McGovern's own honorable service against Nazi Germany - as he says, he commanded 35 bomber combat missions and brought his men home safely.  This deserves respect.

But is he now blaming McCain for being imprisoned by the Viet Cong, and again using that as some form of disqualifier?

John McCain's credibility regarding leadership and love of country does not come from his having been a fighter pilot, nor from having been shot down.  It does not arise from his being captured and incarcerated as a prisoner of war.  It doesn't even originate from his having been tortured, though his attempts to provide disinformation to the enemy certainly go a long way in that direction.

His credibility comes from the fact that he refused to be released from the prison and from his torturers because there were other American servicemen more deserving than he.

The Viet Cong wanted a propaganda victory from releasing the son of an admiral ahead of his turn in the queue; that way, they could broadcast their "privileges of the exploitative capitalist elite" theme all across the Communist world.  McCain refused to be used in this way; as a direct result, he was subjected to even worse tortures which caused permanent physical disabilities.  He spent an additional five years in those conditions because he was a man of principle rather than a man of expediency.

That is what gives John McCain his credibility.  The President of the United States is supposed to recognize that he is not the master of the American people, but their servant.  Without exception, the truly great presidents and generals we have had over the years have recognized this truth.

George Washington prayed daily for his men.  General Grant - not a great president, but certainly a great general - agonized over the combat deaths of those serving under him, sometimes to the risk of his overall strategies.  President Lincoln famously said, "God must love the common people, for He made so many of them," and he governed with a deep and abiding respect for all Americans including slaves and the Southern rebels.

Down through the years, the inherent importance and value of each and every American and the fundamental equality before God of every one has been one of this country's finest principles and most shining goals.

John McCain is not a perfect man.  He is not a perfect candidate, and he would not make a perfect President.  You can make the argument - as Scragged has, does, and will - that he wouldn't even be a particularly good President because of certain specific deeply flawed policies he espouses.

But by making attacks on his character, these Democrats do not harm him.  They only illustrate ever more clearly why they and their ilk are utterly unfit for public office or public respect.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments
Great article--wish stuff like this could appear in the national media! Many people in America don't know how to think straight or for-themselves, because they don't have an interest in doing so, and are being guided by wrong counsel in the mainstream media ("the drive-bys"). They don't know that good character makes for good leadership. They don't even seem to know what good character IS. John McCain is far from perfect in character, but he demonstrated that he has some character in staying those 5 extra years in prison.
April 28, 2008 8:51 AM
So McCain's a war hero. Big deal.

I'm wondering, does being a war hero trump being an adulterer? Obviously, to some it does.

McCain may have handled himself honorably in Vietnam, but he threw that all away when he came home from the war, cheated on his wife, eventually divorcing her to marry the other, younger, less flawed, woman. Is that a man of good character? Not where I come from.

By definition, an adulterer is a liar, and a liar is not someone I would choose to lead me.

April 28, 2008 10:38 AM
McCain doesn't have perfect character but he has a good amount in some areas. To that end, no one has perfect character. Our founding fathers, as much character as they showed, still had their vices. I think I agree with the article though in that when it comes to WAR and his SERVICE in that war, lobbing cheap shots at McCain's service is low rent.
April 28, 2008 10:51 AM
Let's not forget the Almighty reminding us about "who should cast the first stone".

ALL of us have enough flaws to fill a book. The big question is can he persuade Congress to at least some good idea's.
That's the only real valuable trait a president needs.
April 28, 2008 6:31 PM
Honestly I don't think I trust somebody WITHOUT some flaws to their character. I don't like John McCain as a presidential candidate, but in a three way race with the clowns on the democratic side, I guess I have to vote for him.
I would also strongly recommend reading his book "Faith of My Fathers" it really makes you value what you have, and respect what he did while in captivity.
Either way, conservatives lose...
May 14, 2008 10:59 AM
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