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July 01, 2008

Comments

The question is not 'Why do the Republicans do it?', it should be 'Why does the media fall for it every time?' (and the sound byte that omits all context.)

He did not ridicule or disparage or question his military service, or say that it didn't matter.

Yes he did.

But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron.

He saying that McCain hasn't had executive responsibility, then he says that he did, but not the kind that "counts". Clark is going to diminsh the impact of every other high-ranking officer who speaks out for Obama.

His comment was, in a word, stupid.

Jeff,

Can you explain why McCain's peacetime executive experience differs significantly from most small businessmen's executive experience? With respect, running a gas station isn't the easiest thing in the world, but it also doesn't qualify you to be President. I'd wager that many captains serving in Iraq right now who have become virtual mayors are amassing executive responsibility much faster than far more senior officers do during peacetime.

“…riding in a fighter plane…”

-Wesley Clark, 4-Star General, Obama campaign

There you have it.

Compared, of course, with the stresses and dangers associated with establishing non-judgmental nurturing environments for welfare recipients with federal money. And going home to a $1.9 million dollar mansion.

Riding in a fighter plane.

Bill, do you think that riding in a fighter plane qualifies someone to be President?

No I do not Turbulence.

But I think that if a 4-Star General refers to piloting a warplane in the act of dropping bombs, dodging flak, and dodging SAMs as ‘riding in a fighter plane’, that tells me something about the 4-Star General. Especially if the target of his comments had had his shoulders broken as a POW.

It also reflects upon the character of the person on whose behalf the 4-Star was speaking. Clark made himself look sleazy and highlighted Obama’s lack of accomplishments.

He answered the question the way it was posed: SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

"nor has he ridden in a fighter plane "
"nor has he ridden in a fighter plane "
"nor has he ridden in a fighter plane "
"nor has he ridden in a fighter plane "

Learn to read.

I mean, FFS, he's there to shill for Obama -- what's he supposed to do, stop Schieffer, and say, "Well, actually, Sen. McCain didn't just RIDE in a plane . . . ?" Jebus, Bill, grow up.

Sorry Phil, I lacked context in my critique:

“Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

-Wesley Clark, 4-Star General, Obama campaign

I had ignored the cheap shot.

Stick to casual racism. Anything else is making you look really foolish.

This strikes me as a kind of "reverse Swift-boating". The commentators in the video were completely distorting the substance of Mr. Clark's comment. Mr. Clark said that riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is not a qualification to be President. If somebody wants to argue that riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down IS a qualification to be President, well, we can argue that point. But the claims that Mr. Clark dissed Mr. McCain, or that he disparaged his service, are flat lies. Why can't the right stick to the facts? Why must it distort everything?

Personal attacks. The rules.

Thanks.

I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.

Bob Schieffer's question, quoted by hilzoy upthread. Kindly note the parallelism in language between the question and the reply.

Without meaning any disrespect to McCain, or to anyone who has ever served in any branch of the military, I just want to say that I'm getting close being ready to puke the next time I hear the word "hero".

McCain lived through five and half years of truly brutal treatment. He could have made things easier on himself, and he chose not to. All of that is extraordinary, and he deserves everyone's respect for that.

Not one person has made any negative comment about that. Not one person.

Schieffer raised the issue of McCain's being shot down. Clark addressed it, using *exactly* the language Schieffer used in asking it.

And not for nothing, but McCain owns more than one multi-million dollar house. He's spent decades funneling federal money to lots of folks. Welfare to rich people is still welfare.

I'd like to suggest that the shrieking pundits on the right take a pill and calm down, but I'd be wasting my breath. It's gonna be rude, stupid, and loud, 24/7, from now until November.

Thanks -

My best guess as to why the Republicans are doing this, other than habit: they're worried that Obama might ask Clark to be his VP nominee.
This episode is a good indicator that Obama absolutely shouldn't, though. I don't think anything Clark said was wrong, but his tone was (or was too easily interpreted as) insulting and dismissive, and "he was just using the same phrasing as Schieffer" isn't a good defense. The right-wing response has been absolutely predictable — stupid, out of proportion, loaded with fake outrage, hypocritical, and calculated to distract from real issues, but absolutely predictable — and someone who's out there to make the case for Obama should damn well have predicted it, and seen the trap (intentional or not) in Schieffer's phrasing a mile off. That Clark wasn't savvy enough to do that and steer clear of it makes me think it's a good thing he didn't get very near the nomination in 2004, and definitely makes me think Obama shouldn't be considering him for VP.

"he was just using the same phrasing as Schieffer" isn't a good defense.

It may not be a good defense against the charge of being impolitic.

It's an excellent defense against the charge of disparaging McCain's military service.

Thanks -

I just want to say that I'm getting close being ready to puke the next time I hear the word "hero".

exactly.

the media is behaving utterly terribly here. they've completely accepted the wingnut outrage as real, and barely paused to think "hey, didn't they do far worse to Kerry in 04? didn't they wear they Purple Heart Band-Aids at the 04 convention? why is this different?"

it's been obvious for a long time that they're head over heels for McCain, but i didn't think it could be quite this bad.

That's a fair point, russell, but Clark was, after all, there to perform a political function. I don't like that he couldn't make a blunt statement expressing a reasonable view without out it turning into a huge mess, but the fact remains.

(I don't think that the Obama campaign's response has been right, either, by the way. Since, as you say, it's demonstrable that Clark did not in fact disparage McCain's military record, the campaign should have stuck by him, called the right wing on their spin, and pointed out the much worse things right-wingers have a habit of saying about military and ex-military people who oppose the Iraq war. I would have thought they'd have learned by now the way to win is to hit back instead of reflexively retreating.)

the Obama campaign's reaction to this, and the way it handled FISA, and the faith-based stuff, etc. makes me think they've changed something fundamental about their strategy... and it sucks.

I'm not sure what Clark's point is. McCain's been making a big deal of his service, and how much that's prepared him for the Oval Office?

That Clark wasn't savvy enough to do that and steer clear of it makes me think it's a good thing he didn't get very near the nomination in 2004

Yeah, because Clark probably would have lost and then where would the Dems be ;)

I couldn't even finish watching that TPM segment. It made me glad I don't watch the mainstream media and incredibly INCREDIBLY sad that this is what passes for news these days.

the Obama campaign's reaction to this, and the way it handled FISA, and the faith-based stuff, etc. makes me think they've changed something fundamental about their strategy... and it sucks.

I blame the Clintons.

I hate this stuff.

But (now I hate myself), how is getting shot down early in the action considered a successful demonstration of executive responsibility?

Strictly speaking, it is an honorable and expensive failure to complete a job assignment.

In other news, I noticed last week one of McCain's Vietnamese officer captors recommended voting for him. He, the Vietnamese officer, also denied that McCain was tortured, probably because of the latter's charm.

Willie Horton will be out soon with his election recommendations, too, McCain being his favorite candidate. Horton, I'm told, believes half a black man (Obama) would not have sufficiently punished an entire black man, and THAT can't be tolerated.

I rode in a HUEY gunship and took out an entire Vietnamese village with help from Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, and Lawrence Fishburn. When they yelled "Cut!" I kept firing, hoping not to be Swiftboated down the road for insufficient war enthusiasm.

I accept the nomination.

I can lead the country into the apocalypse with humor and a funny walk.

John McCain SwiftBoats...John McCain!

- During an interview with National Journal, John McCain was asked if “military service inherently makes somebody better equipped to be commander-in-chief.” McCain said, “Absolutely not…I absolutely don’t believe that it’s necessary.” [National Journal, 2/15/2003]

http://thinkprogress.org/wonkroom/

Why can't the right stick to the facts? Why must it distort everything?

It's in its nature. Honestly, shouldn't we all be expecting this behavior from them? The right will distort anything that the Obama campaign and its supporters say. They've been doing this to Democrats since at least 1988; they won't stop this year.

Not one person has made any negative comment about [McCain's time as a POW]. Not one person.

Actually this isn't true. I seem to remember a fairly sizable whispering campaign on the right back in 2000 that suggested that McCain was some kind of Manchurian candidate. But certainly nobody from the Obama campaign has done this.

My best guess as to why the Republicans are doing this, other than habit: they're worried that Obama might ask Clark to be his VP nominee.

Why should they worry about Clark as a VP nominee? Surely they understand as well as anyone that actual military experience and even war heroism provide no automatic inoculation against GOP attacks on a candidate's patriotism. And Clark has always been a rather wooden presence on the campaign trail. Clark would be an ok VP nominee, but certainly no better than half a dozen other likely possibilities.

My own guess is that the GOP is doing this because they have nothing better at this point...and they simply cannot afford a rational analysis of the claim that McCain's war service makes him specially qualified to be President.

I think I'm just going to have to ignore political stories until the new year. It's only July, and I'm already so fed up with story after story about "patriotism", the existential essentiality of military service, gay marriage, the desire to keep one's handgun closer than one's underwear until the day one dies. Just how insecure is the average American male? What exactly is to blame? Was it always thus? It's truly depressing.

Just how insecure is the average American male? What exactly is to blame? Was it always thus? It's truly depressing.

I wonder that too. But I think that the impression is exaggerated by our DC media courtiers who have been telling the same political story since 1978. Also they have their own insecurities and show a worshipful derference to authority and things military and tend to project that on to "regular americans"

It strikes me that while some accuse Obama of hiding behind his color as a way of making him difficult to criticize, the same can be said of McCain relative to his military experience. While nobody want to be tainted with accusations of racism, just a strongly nobody wants to criticize the war hero - the one part of the McCain construct that's untouchable.

If you want me, I'll be down at the Capezio store, buying some Pointe shoes to more easily tiptoe around the ever-so-touchy candidates and their "posses".

Mountain out of a molehill.

What Fledermaus said.

I mean, FFS, he's there to shill for Obama -- what's he supposed to do, stop Schieffer, and say, "Well, actually, Sen. McCain didn't just RIDE in a plane . . . ?"

Clearly that's what he should have done; jump on the "ride in a plane" wording, assume the mantle of outrage on behalf of all veterans and then from that position attack McCain on the GI bill.

But we already knew that Clark wasn't a particularly good politician, the fact that he let someone put those words in his mouth was a serious error but I don't think it turned out as badly as it could have. It did pretty much bury yesterday's speech but perhaps Clark's message made it through to some people.

Of course the Republicans and their enabling media will try to twist this and gin up the faux outrage.

The surprising and extremely disappointing part is Sen. Obama's response. Which I notice the post says nothing about.

they simply cannot afford a rational analysis of the claim that McCain's war service makes him specially qualified to be President.

Under some circumstances, a candidate might reasonably argue that combat experience taught him first-hand how terrible war is, and thus made him extremely cautious about using military force.

Those are not the current circumstances.

Can you explain why McCain's peacetime executive experience differs significantly from most small businessmen's executive experience?

Not having been in the navy (or any other service), I can't say how Navy command differs from civilian command. But Clark said that McCain hadn't held "executive responsibility". he clarified later, but had he talked to the men in McCain's command, he would have realized it was a stupid road to go down.

Not to mention repeating the talking point of the interviewer.

Has Clark been asleep for the past 8 years?

Clark is interesting. You would think that he would have a lot of cachet within the military, but seems to have little.

He is clearly smart and accomplished. But there is little support from him from what you would expect to be his base.

Russell: Not one person has made any negative comment about that. Not one person.

With all respect, I have to disagree with that. Not negative exactly ("we honor his sacrifice of course") but rather as disqualifying him because of it.

NYT:

And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them [D Senators] have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington.

Not all of McCain’s fellow veterans subscribe to the theory that the singularity of his war experience has anything to do with his intransigence on Iraq. (Bob Kerrey, for one, told me that while he was aware of this argument, he has never believed it.) But some suspect that whatever lesson McCain took away from his time in Vietnam, it was not the one that stayed with his colleagues who were “in country” during those years — that some wars simply can’t be won on the battlefield, no matter how long you fight them, no matter how many soldiers you send there to die.

“McCain is my friend and brother, and I love him dearly,” Max Cleland, Georgia’s former Democratic senator, told me when we talked last month. “But I think you learn something fighting on the ground, like me and John Kerry and Chuck Hagel did in Vietnam. This objective of ‘hearts and minds’? Well, hello! You didn’t know which heart and mind was going to blow you up!

More explicitly:

As expected, his point is mainly a rehash of that obnoxious Times piece arguing, per McCain’s anti-Iraq vet colleagues in the senate, that he doesn’t grasp how difficult war is because he spent the Vietnam years merely being tortured instead of in combat. Beers (himself a former Marine and Vietnam vet) actually takes it a step further: Because McCain never got to taste the excitement of the “turmoil” here at home in the late 60s, that too limits his policy vision. (Audio at link.)

“His national security experience is sadly limited”… because he was being tortured as a POW rather than on the ground there. A few months on the ground – good executive experience. More than 20 years of military service, years of combat missions, the Forrestal disaster (and I’ve seen speculation that it was McCain’s fault), more than five years as a POW (and I’ve seen crap on that that makes me want to hurl and delete the intertubes), running a squadron, Navy's liaison to the United States Senate, a couple of decades on the Armed Services Committee, etc. – “sadly limited”.

None of this should be taken as my support for McCain as CiC BTW. Far from it. I just object to the assertion that Omaba surrogates are not in fact denigrating McCain’s service. IMO they are. And the surrogates are hitting familiar themes. All respect, honor his service, but hey – he missed the war…

Stand by for responses about “swift boating”, but I am not going to rehash that, as I am not supporting or voting for McCain.

OCSteve,

To be fair, there is simply a difference between fighting on the ground, and not.

I disagree with McCain's detractors on this because I think that being a POW for 5 years more than counts as "fighting on the ground," but would generally accept it against most fixed wing pilots.

OCSteve-

Max Cleland, Rand Beers, and Bob "secular madrassa" Kerrey are Obama surrogates?

That's news to me.

Kerrey's at the New School, I think Cleland's teaching, and Beers, given his background, is prolly at some think tank.

Also, if there is a silver lining to all this, I'll bet it's that Chuck Hagel and Colin Powell are at home gnashing their teeth at the coverage. I wouldn't be suprised if the Dems landed them both to speak in Denver.

Jrudkis: I disagree with McCain's detractors on this because I think that being a POW for 5 years more than counts as "fighting on the ground," but would generally accept it against most fixed wing pilots.

A good point I think, but if we restrict it to Vietnam (which is what this election seems to be about) I think that most POWs were pilots. I readily admit I pulled that out of an orifice – so I am more than willing to be corrected. OTOH I never served in combat either as a pilot or on the ground, so I have no basis for comparison.


Jay: I have a hard time distinguishing between McCain surrogates and Obama bashers – I think that the reverse would be true…

The contrast between this crap and the 2004 Swift Boat/ purple heart band-aid mockery is unbearable.

In 2004, the Swift Boat lies (including the suggestions that Kerry shot himself) were circulated by the media with a "he said, she said" demeanor. The odious purple heart band aids went unremarked. That behavior was the undisputed foul besmirching of the distinguished service of Kerry.

In 2008, they now make up alleged attacks on McCain's military service and get the vapors.

And McCain runs on his war record far more than Kerry ever did. Just 100% bias and hypocrisy.

And in the end folks – just as a reminder: I will not vote for McCain. I generally support Obama. I just think he needs to get serious and get beyond hope and change and if possible keep those creepy groupies at bay. OTOH, I will be quick to object to this kind of stuff. That’s me. Sorry. (Well, not really.)

if we restrict it to Vietnam (which is what this election seems to be about)

Aren't they all? (I had thought that this was the first election that wasn't going to be about 'Nam, but I guess TPTB are just too invested in THEIR "great war" [ha!] to let go.)

I don't think that McCain's experience is considered limited because he wasn't on the ground. It's limited because he wasn't in charge, he wasn't in management. he wasn't a working with the big picture. He was in effect sitting in a basement most of the time. Being tortured. that's expereience which could build characgter (or desgtroy it) but it doesn't equip a person in the slightest for making national security decsions.

I suppose Clark can see this because he was a four start generral and very much in management, in the positin of monitoring the big picture.

My quibble about this argument it that I'm not sure any one experience, no matter how responsible or noteworthy equips a person to be President. Grant was a general but a lousy President. Reagan was a governor and a lousy Preseidnt (I'm not thinking of his lousy policies. I'm thinking of his asleep at the whell management style while white collar criminals and thugs ran the show).

ANyway, bottom line for me: McCain is claiming to have gravitas in foreigh affairs bsed on his experience. But, obvioulsy he did not spend his time in Viet Nam learning the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. Nor did he learn that one's policies should be derived from a deep understanding of facts. So the experince did not equip him well for Commander in Chief.

Night all. Sleep tight.

No matter how you look at it, and who brings it up, it is not a discussion that favors Obama.

Whether McCain's service is helpful or not is immaterial when you don't have it.

I suppose Obama or his friends may think that talking about it now diffuses it when the election comes and the polls are likely tighter, but I think in the long run you still end up with the guy who served, and the guy who didn't.

The right will distort anything that the Obama campaign and its supporters say. They've been doing this to Democrats since at least 1968; they won't stop this year.

Fixed.

OCSteve: I was disappointed to read about Beers, until I read this:

"I was at that event and Beers was practically defending McCain to a man who was shouting about why McCain doesn't seem to understand the negative public mood about the war. Beers' reply that McCain was serving honorably in POW camp and missed out on events at home and on the ground in Vietnam was completely respectful. Calling it a smear is just wrong."

I think in the long run you still end up with the guy who served, and the guy who didn't.

So what? What does recent history tell us about military experience and presidential aspirations?

2004: Decorated Vietnam combat veteran loses to Vietnam avoider.
2000: Vietnam veteran loses to Vietnam avoider.
1996: Decorated WW II combat veteran loses to Vietnam avoider.
1992: Decorated WW II combat veteran loses to Vietnam avoider.

A military record isn't a free ticket to the White House. No one is going to give someone pitiful a sympathy vote on something so important. If you're going to bring up your military record and try to run on it, it had better be unassailable. Otherwise it's a pretty simple job to neutralize the advantage.

McCain's record certainly isn't unassailable. Anyone who takes a close look at his record knows that he comes off looking a lot worse than Senator Kerry did, and look what happened to Kerry.

McCain's record certainly isn't unassailable. Anyone who takes a close look at his record knows that he comes off looking a lot worse than

You had me right up until this part. What are you speaking of?

I'm with Slarti on this: "You had me right up until this part."

OCSteve, with respect, I think there is some hypersensitivity at work here. What I read in that first set of quotes was a bunch of people saying that flyboys, due to the nature of their job, don't "get" counterinsurgency to the extent that grunts lugging a pack on the ground do. I find this notion to be so banal as not worth stating, but the NYT magazine clearly disagrees. The thing is, right now in this very war, we've had the pleasure of watching high ranking Air Force officers say things that demonstrate an appalling ignorance of counterinsurgency campaigns. There's a reason that Petreus essentially claimed that there was no combat role for the AF in FM 3-24.

That doesn't mean that pilots aren't brave or awesome or anything like that, but it does mean that they're less likely to understand the kinds of wars we now have to deal with. Frankly, I don't think that's necessarily McCain's problem: I think McCain is just all around stupid about everything (being 3rd from the bottom at Annapolis tells me something). In that sense, I think McCain's fellow Senators who fought on the ground are giving him the benefit of the doubt: they're saying that he doesn't know what's what due to institutional and professional biases as opposed to outright stupidity.

You had me right up until this part. What are you speaking of [sic]?

I'm speaking of his record. Here are the facts as I understand them.

To begin with, he was a poor student. He was fifth from the bottom of his class and almost expelled. He was admitted into pilot school ahead of more qualified candidates, and he was a below average pilot according to his peers. He crashed 4 planes in non-combat situations, several of the crashes being his fault according to the military. One of them killed 134 sailors. That period coincided with a lot of drinking, as he admits. Then he crashed another plane in a combat situation, was captured, and followed that up by agreeing to give military information to the enemy in exchange for better medical treatment than other POWs received. Then, after his release from imprisonment, he committed violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice against adultery and fraternization with subordinates.

Of course, you have to balance all this against the fact that he got 28 medals for 20 hours of combat. Quite an amazing rate of production, to be sure, but sometimes it certainly helps to be the son and grandson of 4 star admirals.

He has a lot to be proud of in his record, too, but if he is going to run on it, as Kerry did, he has to be prepared to defend the deficiencies, as Kerry found out. McCain doesn't measure up.

You had me right up until this part. What are you speaking of?

I can only speculate, but when I read that, I thought of these two comments at Balloon Juice.

But we already knew that Clark wasn't a particularly good politician

Umm... no. The most you could say is that he's not a good campaigner. Unless you view a politician's role as PR and nothing more.

Now we know what the War on Christmas does in the off season.

This could be a winner for (R)s. The normal best antidote to ridiculous persecution fantasy is mockery. This isn't a subject that lends itself to that.

Wouldn't it be better to steer the discussion towards, "what have you done for us this century?"

One of them killed 134 sailors.

Uh, no. That wasn't a crash, and his involvement was only that he managed to be closest to the incident, and managed to escape.

Then he crashed another plane in a combat situation

Kind of hard not to crash a fast-mover when it's missing a entire wing.

The rest has some elements of truth to it; possibly more than the points I've picked out here.

The right is throwing a fit over this for one reason; they want to sell McCain's military service as uniquely presidentially qualifying because they are losing and Obama is not a vet. They don't have a lot of cards to play and they don't want to lose this one.

They have to frantically attack anyone who questions the relevance of McCain's service. If thyey don't then the issue might be openly discussed, and that cannot be allowed to happen because... McCain's admirable service is not particularly relevant to whether he would be a good president.

The right has a lot to lose here, and their panicked response is the tell.

Clark will do well to refuse to back down, and to carefully and reasonably defend his point over and over again. His follow-up so far is pretty good. Obama will do well keeping his distance, carefully avoiding rejecting the substance of Clark's argument. Obama's follow-up so far isn't bad either. He should conspicuously keep Clark on the Veep list. That will provoke conniption fits from the right, but it will says loud and clear that discussion of the relvance of McCain's military career is on the table as a topic of reasonable discussion.

If Obama and Clark are smart they can play this very well.

McCain's actions as a POW, are relevant, because they show genuine strength of character. Foregoing a Wall Street career to do community service shows relevant unselfish public spiritedness as well. But few POWs and few community activists would make good presidents. We need to decide who to vote for for better reasons, which is Clark's point.

"But even I didn't imagine all this:"

This video runs 7 minutes and 21 seconds; possibly you could give us two or three sentences of summary, to spare those of us too busy to want to spend 7 minutes and 21 seconds listening to something without a transcript?

If not, possibly at least five words on what it is, who it is, where it comes from, why we should want to view it?

And consider that millions of Americans, and even more people around the world don't have broadband, and can't afford it, and it simply isn't practical to wait forty minutes for video to download on dialup, and it's kinda disenfranchising poor people as readers and participants to not even bother to give a couple of sentences on what the video is?

If so, many thanks!

I like tomtom's point, and if that is the case, I would like to see Clark follow up with an newspaper op-ed. I also like John Cole's thought on the whole affair

OCSteve: Far from it. I just object to the assertion that Omaba surrogates are not in fact denigrating McCain’s service. IMO they are.

You have no grounds whatsoever to stand on to complain about any political denigration of any past military service, since you still defend the political denigration of John Kerry's service by the Swift Boat Liars. (Or did, last time we discussed it, which was well after the Swift Boat Liars had been revealed as a Bush/Cheney campaign organisation.) Dmbeaster has already pointed out that while Clark stuck to the facts, the swifties lied.

Nor indeed does any Republican who supported the Swifties denigration of Kerry: I don't mean to pick you out of the mob as especially bad in this respect. It's just that your asserted intention to vote for Obama not McCain does not, apparently, mean you're not going to talk the Republican talk and run with the Republic attack packs.

It's pure double standard, of course: IOKIYDAD*.

*I just made that up. It's OK If You're Denigrating A Democrat.

"I'm not sure what Clark's point is. McCain's been making a big deal of his service, and how much that's prepared him for the Oval Office?"

Slart, McCain's entire political existence has been based on the sole fact that he's "a war hero," and was a POW. It's the entire reason the press has worshipped him since his 2000 run.

This may have escaped your attention.

"They've been doing this to Democrats since at least 1988 1918"

Fixed!

Under some circumstances, a candidate might reasonably argue that combat experience taught him first-hand how terrible war is, and thus made him extremely cautious about using military force.

Those are not the current circumstances.

Chuck Hagel could make that argument.

Too bad he's not the nominee.

"He crashed 4 planes in non-combat situations, several of the crashes being his fault according to the military. One of them killed 134 sailors. That period coincided with a lot of drinking, as he admits. Then he crashed another plane in a combat situation, was captured,"

This seems a poor and misleading summary of the facts that, even according to this anti-McCain summary:

[...] - Combat pilot McCain III lost his fourth on July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to
the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk combat pilot. While waiting his turn for takeoff, an
accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain Jr’s. plane. He escaped from the burning
aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft,
and threatened to sink the ship.
5 - Combat pilot McCain III lost a fifth plane three months later (Oct. 26, 1967) during his
23rd mission over North Vietnam when he failed to avoid a surface-to-air missile.
I'm unaware that being hit by a SAM, and being hit while on the deck by a rocket, are circumstances that are the pilots fault; do you believe he willfully has a strong magnetic field, or what?

Similarly, listing a number of medals, without specifying what they are, and why they were awarded, and matching that against a number of "hours in combat" (ten minutes of flying an actual combat fighter in actual combat can seem quite long, I'm given to understand), seems to me no morally, ethically, or particularly factually, different than what the Swift Boat Veterans for BlahBlah did. YMMV.

It's the entire reason the press has worshipped him since his 2000 run.

The press do love them some war heroes. That, however, was not my question. My question was (restated somewhat): McCain's been claiming that his war-hero-ness gives him some skillset that's advantageous in a candidate CinC?

It is entirely possible, even probable, that I've missed any such claims.

And, sure, there's the strength-of-character angle, but Clark wasn't speaking to that, as far as I could tell.

Several questions:

In what way does being a fighter pilot 40 years ago have any direct relevance to the challenges that face a President in 2008, beyond vague assertions about character and experience?

Is being a hero under torture evidence for one's ability to make rational strategic and economic decisions that benefit the nation?

Is it possible that McCain has learned all the wrong lessons from Vietnam - and that this is what drives his series of misstatements, strategic follies and simple untruths on Iraq and Afghanistan?

Is it distorting a person's record to point out that, though the record may be admirable in many ways, it is not a qualification for a complex and demanding job 40 years later?

Just askin'....

this video just angered me.

Fred Kaplan commented, btw.

Among his points:

[...] In 1967, Navy Lt. Commander John McCain was flying A-4E Skyhawk attack planes off the USS Oriskany aircraft carrier. He was on his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam when an air-defense battery shot him out of the sky. He crashed into Hanoi's Truc Bach Lake (where a statue of him was erected, in celebration of the event) and was held prisoner for the next five years.

In 1970, Army Capt. Wes Clark was commanding A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, of the 1st Infantry Division ("the Big Red One"), when a Viet Cong soldier shot him four times. Though seriously wounded, he ordered his men to fight back, and they won the skirmish. Clark was hospitalized and awarded a Silver Star.

Of course, Clark is no hero, as a glance at his record shows.

No, he was just a Ranger and Airborne, and petty stuff like that:

Among his many military decorations, Clark is a four-star general who has been awarded the Silver Star, five Defense Distinguished Service Medals, four Legion of Merit Awards, two Army Distinguished Service Medals, two Bronze Star Medals and the Purple Heart.

[...]
Clark’s citation for Silver Star states, "As the friendly force maneuvered through the treacherous region, it was suddenly subjected to an intense small arms fire from a well-concealed insurgent element. Although painfully wounded in the initial volley, Captain Clark immediately directed his men on a counter-assault of the enemy positions.

With complete disregard for his personal safety, Captain Clark remained with his unit until the reactionary force arrived and the situation was well in hand. His courageous initiative and exemplary professionalism significantly contributed to the successful outcome of the engagement.

Captain Clark's unquestionable valor in close combat against a hostile force is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army."

But clearly Clark is no hero.

"They've been doing this to Democrats since at least 1988 1918 1876"

Double-fixed!

He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war.

When did the US have an army >100 billion soldiers? ;-)

But clearly Clark is no hero.

I don't think Kaplan said that, Gary. Maybe that wasn't your point, though.

ten minutes of flying an actual combat fighter in actual combat can seem quite long, I'm given to understand

I'm told that thousands of hours in ground combat can seem quite long also. Know of any infantrymen who earned 2800 medals in Vietnam?

But you're missing the point, or proving it. The original post I responded to claimed, "(I)n the long run you still end up with the guy who served, and the guy who didn't."

And my point is, "So what?" Anyone who served for any period of time is going to have some positives and some negatives on their record, and if they emphasize their military career, they had better be prepared to have the negatives brought up. It takes a couple of minutes of looking at the public record and all of the sudden we are discussing which of the 5 planes he lost were his fault (and no I didn't claim all 5 were, as you imply). There are a lot of negatives out there in the factual record, which to me seem worse than the negatives that were in the factual record about Senator Kerry's service. If you would like to differ, let's hear what you found so particularly objectionable about Kerry's military record.

And no, my summary does not come close to Swift Boat territory. Swift Boat territory would be to drag up some left wing partisans who served in the same general area as McCain, put them in uniforms for television ads where they trade in vicious rumor and gossip about his time as a POW, and then have the press ask him to respond. Or something like the "Obama is a Muslim" campaign where you simply repeat a lie about the man often enough that the target voter decides, "I just don't know which side to believe, so I will stay home from the polls."

But Democrats don't do things like that, or things like winning elections, right? It just wouldn't be nicey nice.

It would consitute swiftboaring if someone were to suggest that McCain was never a prisoner or that he lied about being tortured or that he collaborated while he was a prisoner. Wait--that swiftboat type lie WAS spread--by the Bush supporters against McCain in their primary fight.

McCain claims that his POW experience gives him the background, the knowlwdge, the experience to be commander-in-chief. It does NOT,however, because the experience of being locked up in a smal dark room and tortured for years doens't give a person any knowledge of world affairs,or experience in deeling in world affairs. And McCAin has displayed both his ignorance of and his unwillingness to learn about world affairs repeatedly.

The faux outrage . in my view , has two purposes: protect the myth of McCain's gravitas, and to create the myth that Democrats are just as nasty in thier campaign behavior as Republicans. So a false equivalence is necessary.

it may very well be that McCAin's experience toughened his character. However characgter is a very hard thing to measure and characgter doesn't translate in a predictable way into Presidential action. McCain, for example, is temeprmental and appears to be hardheaded and opinonated ( albeit ignorant) on the issue of Middle Easern policy. On the other hand his opinonson nearly every other issue change in accordance with his audiance. As far as his personal life: he likes leggy blond trophy wives with money and will trade in for a new one as needed. On the other hand he did not collaborate under torure and that shows a great deal of stregnth of characgter. So how come he hasn't got the sgtregnth of characgter ot decide on and stick to a position of torture, taxes, immigration, or glabal climate change plicy? Or the stregnth of characgter to stay committed to a marriage when his wife is no longer a leggy blonde? Republicans used the character argument ot promote Bush and that didn't turn out very well. I just don't care about chracter--it is too hard too assess and too hard to predict how it will affect Presidential actions.

So no he didn't get swiftboated. His sole claim to the Presidency got challenged.

now_what:
"Swift Boat territory would be to drag up some left wing partisans who served in the same general area as McCain, put them in uniforms for television ads where they trade in vicious rumor and gossip..."

Wait, you mean that McCain didn't fake his POW status, and wasn't actually hanging out with underaged Thai prostitutes in Bankok for five years?

That changes everything.

It's the entire reason the press has worshipped him since his 2000 run.

That's nonsense. There's tons of people with good military records from Vietnam who are not beloved by the media. John Kerry comes to mind.

They like McCain because he drinks with them and gives them good copy, and is generally fun to hang out with in the press bus. He also seems like a real human being who sometimes says things that aren't the party orthodoxy, which, again, makes for good copy.

I don't want to defend the press's fairly ridiculous relationship with McCain (the tone of Bob Schieffer's questioning of Clark - as though he is shocked that Clark would even dare to question whether McCain is qualified - is a disgrace). But it has nothing to do with his background. You are confusing cause with effect. McCain's background is untouchable because the press likes him. They don't like him because of his background.

"I don't think Kaplan said that, Gary."

I don't think so, either. That sarcastic characterization was in response to this, and the other billion right-wing comments of that nature since Bosnia, and particularly since the 2004 Clark campaign, and most particularly in the last few days.

"There's tons of people with good military records from Vietnam who are not beloved by the media. John Kerry comes to mind."

John Kerry wasn't a prisoner for five years, which is the basis of the press worship of McCain, in combination with the general lack of service by most members of the press.

and the other billion right-wing comments of that nature since Bosnia, and particularly since the 2004 Clark campaign, and most particularly in the last few days

Yes, I've seen some of that, Gary. In the process of looking around for stuff like that, though, I found where David Hackworth retracted his "Perfumed Prince" comment (directed at Clark) made back in 1999, and possibly earlier. Not sure what to make of that; it's yet another kink in the maze of twisty narratives, all different.

I haven't read all the posts but, McCain's real character was shown WHEN HE REFUSED RELEASE FROM PRISON. Have any of you any idea what it took for him to do that, knowing it was going to piss-off his captors. How many people do you know who would refuse release on principal.

How many people do you know who would refuse release on principle.

Nelson Mandela did, I believe on at least one occasion, because the price of his release was to quit supporting the anti-apartheid movement.

By the way, Mandela is finally off the terrorism watch list - all members of ANC were designated terrorists by the apartheid South African government, and in 14 years somehow no one got around to undeclaring the terrorism of Mandela and his anti-apartheid comrades.

I know what the problem was: not enough oil under Nelson Mandela.

not enough oil under Nelson Mandela

One never knows for sure, until one has done some exploratory drilling.

McCain claims that his POW experience gives him the background, the knowlwdge, the experience to be commander-in-chief. It does NOT,however, because the experience of being locked up in a smal dark room and tortured for years doens't give a person any knowledge of world affairs,or experience in deeling in world affairs.

Well, I'm not sure this is true, so long as we accept assertions that 1)the most absolute importantest all-consuming overriding duty of the President is national security, and 2) torturing and generally mistreating PO- er, "detainees" is utterly crucial for national security...

Be careful Jes or there will be McCain = Nelson Mandela ads soon and the latter is seen by most (I think) as a positive person.

Oh, not among core Republican voters, surely? After all, Mandela was ANC, so both a terrorist and a Communist. And he's a convicted felon. And all that without considering the melanin problem - you know, the "there's just something about that boy Obama I don't like" problem.

Others have sort of touched on this, but I fail to see how (rightly) pointing out that McCain's service (which was honorable and admirable, Full Stop) is not part of the qualifications for the job of President, is much different than the wingnuts (rightly, for once) pointing out that Obama's race is not a qualification.

They had no problem with this logical construction back then, and protested loudly that they weren't being racists or attacking Obama's race, just trying to defuse its effect on the election by pointing out that it wasn't relevant.

They were either lying then, or they're lying now. And you wouldn't be likely to lose money betting on both.

"David Hackworth retracted his "Perfumed Prince" comment (directed at Clark) made back in 1999, and possibly earlier. Not sure what to make of that"

Seems quite straightforward to me; what's the complication?

I thought it was a loss when Hackworth died; I didn't always agree with him -- women in combat, for instance -- but he was the boots on the ground, and I wasn't, and I always had great respect for him, his experience, POV, and articulateness. I'd followed his writing and views ever since About Face came out.

Thanks to the link for his high praise of Wesley Clark. When Hack wrote something like that, you know it's sincere.

"I haven't read all the posts but, McCain's real character was shown WHEN HE REFUSED RELEASE FROM PRISON."

He would have been violating the Navy Code of the U.S. Fighting Force if he had.

[...] . Code of Conduct III

a. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

[...]

f. One such privilege is called parole. Parole is a promise by a prisoner of war to a captor to fulfill certain conditions such as agreeing not to escape nor to fight again once released—in return for such favors as relief from physical bondage, improved food and living conditions or repatriation ahead of the sick, injured or longer–held prisoners. An American POW will never sign nor otherwise accept parole.

[...]

d. Actions every POW should resist include making oral or written confessions and apologies, answering questionnaires, providing personal histories, creating propaganda recordings, broadcasting appeals to other prisoners of war, providing any other material readily usable for propaganda purposes, appealing for surrender or parole, furnishing self-criticisms and communicating on behalf of the enemy to the detriment of the United States, its allies, its armed forces or other POWs.


It's not like he withstood torture without breaking, you know. But, then, no one does.

Here is McCain's own account, btw.

McCain knew the Code:

[...] Suddenly "The Cat" said to me, "Do you want to go home?"

I was astonished, and I tell you frankly that I said that I would have to think about it. I went back to my room, and I thought about it for a long time. At this time I did not have communication with the camp senior ranking officer, so I could get no advice. I was worried whether I could stay alive or not, because I was in rather bad condition. I had been hit with a severe case of dysentery, which kept on for about a year and a half. I was losing weight again.

But I knew that the Code of Conduct says, "You will not accept parole or amnesty," and that "you will not accept special favors." For somebody to go home earlier is a special favor. There's no other way you can cut it.

I went back to him three nights later. He asked again, "Do you want to go home?" I told him "No." He wanted to know why, and I told him the reason. I said that Alvarez [first American captured] should go first, then enlisted men and that kind of stuff.

"The Cat" told me that President Lyndon Johnson had ordered me home. He handed me a letter from my wife, in which she had said, "I wished that you had been one of those three who got to come home." Of course, she had no way to understand the ramifications of this. "The Cat" said that the doctors had told him that I could not live unless I got medical treatment in the United States.

We went through this routine and still I told him "No." Three nights later we went through it all over again. On the morning of the Fourth of July, 1968, which happened to be the same day that my father took over as commander in chief of U. S. Forces in the Pacific, I was led into another quiz room.

"The Rabbit" and "The Cat" were sitting there. I walked in and sat down, and "The Rabbit" said, "Our senior wants to know your final answer."

"My final answer is the same. It's 'No.' "

"That is your final answer?"

"That is my final answer."

With this "The Cat," who was sitting there with a pile of papers in front of him and a pen in his hand, broke the pen in two. Ink spurted all over. He stood up, kicked the chair over behind him, and said, "They taught you too well. They taught you too well"—in perfect English, I might add. He turned, went out and slammed the door, leaving "The Rabbit" and me sitting there. "The Rabbit" said "Now, McCain, it will be very bad for you. Go back to your room.

What they wanted, of course, was to send me home at the same time that my father took over as commander in the Pacific. This would have made them look very humane in releasing the injured son of a top U. S. officer. It would also have given them a great lever against my fellow prisoners, because the North Vietnamese were always putting this "class" business on us. They could have said to the others "Look, you poor devils, the son of the man who is running the war has gone home and left you here. No one cares about you ordinary fellows." I was determined at all times to prevent any exploitation of my father and my family.

There was another consideration for me. Even though I was told I would not have to sign any statements or confessions before I went home, I didn't believe them. They would have got me right up to that airplane and said, "Now just sign this little statement." At that point, I doubt that I could have resisted, even though I felt very strong at the time.

But the primary thing I considered was that I had no right to go ahead of men like Alvarez, who had been there three years before I "got killed"—that's what we say instead of "before I got shot down," because in a way becoming a prisoner in North Vietnam was like being killed.

About a month and a half later, when the three men who were selected for release had reached America, I was set up for some very severe treatment which lasted for the next year and a half.

It's entirely admirable. But he would have been a disgrace to his country and family and self if he had done otherwise. Not much of a life at home, after that, really.

And incidentally, here is one of the tortures:

It was also in May, 1969, that they wanted me to write—as I remember—a letter to U. S. pilots who were flying over North Vietnam asking them not to do it. I was being forced to stand up continuously — sometimes they'd make you stand up or sit on a stool for a long period of time. I'd stood up for a couple of days, with a respite only because one of the guards—the only real human being that I ever met over there —let me lie down for a couple of hours while he was on watch the middle of one night.

One of the strategies we worked out was not to let them make you break yourself. If you get tired of standing, just sit down—make them force you up. So I sat down, and this little guard who was a particularly hateful man came in and jumped up and down on my knee. After this I had to go back on a crutch for the next year and a half.

Here's an interesting passage, btw:
[...] I admire President Nixon's courage. There may be criticism of him in certain areas—Watergate, for example. But he had to take the most unpopular decisions that I could imagine—the mining, the blockade, the bombing. I know it was very, very difficult for him to do that, but that was the thing that ended the war. I think the reason he understood this is that he has a long background in dealing with these people. He knows how to use the carrot and the stick. Obviously, his trip to China and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Russia were based on the fact that we're stronger than the Communists, so they were willing to negotiate. Force is what they understand. And that's why it is difficult for me to understand now, when everybody knows that the bombing finally got a cease-fire agreement, why people are still criticizing his foreign policy—for example, the bombing in Cambodia.
McCain also consistently referred to the the enemy as "the gooks," by the way, and by other such terms. But racist dehumanizing is understandable in response to being tortured.

Isn't it?

Hating your captors and torturerers, and wanting to see them dead is pretty understandable.

Isn't it?

I understand those in the blogosphere who want Obama to defend Clark and his comments -- the hypocrisy of these commentars after the Swift Boat fiasco is absolutely shameless -- but I think Obama's decision is the politically correct one. From the first moment it became clear that there would be an Obama-McCain race, Obama has sought to take the focus off McCain the person on to the McCain-Bush policies. This is the winning strategy. McCain's experience in Vietnam is singular in American politics today, and gives him the credibility and ugh, "gravitas" that establishes his "maverick" credentials with the media. Obama has successfully tied McCain to Bush's Iraq policies (see the latest numbers about voters who think a McCain Presidency would be too much like Bush's) and thus extinguished the "war hero" framing. In fact, the best personal attack Obama has used on McCain is the line in his stump speech: "I respect Sen. McCain's accomplishments, even if he does not respect mine." Clark's comments do not fit into the overall strategy; they were clumsy and off message. Bush's 2004 campaign showed how powerful a campaign speaking with a single voice can be with the media, Obama needs to get his campaign back on the same page and get rid of this distrction from the central theme.

I think in the long run you still end up with the guy who served, and the guy who didn't.

To those who responded to this part of my post: I agree that the fact of wartime service is not definitive for who wins the election, but it is a significant addition to the entire package. Someone listed above all the losses by veterans, which is true. But does any one think that Bush Sr. would stand a chance against Clinton but for his service (and of course there was the Perot part that may or may not have turned that election)? Clinton was a clearly superior politician.

Kerry had his wartime record to distinguish himself, and stood a good chance of winning against an incumbent. The rest of the Kerry package was a deficit, in my opinion, but his record was enough for winning the primary and making a good run for the victory.

So, sure, wartime service is neither necessary nor sufficient, but it is better to have it on your side than not.


McCain seems to be playing a game to see how far he can push his hypocrisy without having the media call him on it. I wonder if there is a limit. It's amazing to me that two of the surrogates he has on this Clark brouhaha are Orson Swindle, who attacked Clark's military record ("his record in his last command I think was somewhat less than stellar") while complaining about Clark's imaginary attack on McCain's, and Bud Day, who actually appeared in the Swift Boat ads smearing Kerry. Any Democrat, and most Republicans, trying anything like that would have been eviscerated, but since it's St. McCain of the Barbecue there's barely a peep that can be heard over the roar of false outrage about what Clark said.

McCain seems to be playing a game to see how far he can push his hypocrisy without having the media call him on it. I wonder if there is a limit.

It seems rather doubtful. These are the same idiots who kept praising Bush while one fiasco after another unfolded.

But does any one think that Bush Sr. would stand a chance against Clinton but for his service

Bush Sr. won an election against an Army vet four years before he faced Clinton. Clearly it was something else than his mere military service that allowed him to win that one.

Your theory is nice and all, but the facts reject it.

If you want an explanatory variable for electoral success, I am not aware of a better one than economic conditions 6 months before voting day. The strength of one's military resume is a wash looking at elections for the last 60 years, and for the last 4 elections, having combat experience at all has been correlated 100% with failure.

Kerry had his wartime record to distinguish himself, and stood a good chance of winning against an incumbent. The rest of the Kerry package was a deficit, in my opinion, but his record was enough for winning the primary and making a good run for the victory.

That's not the history I remember. His service was a net negative by the end of the campaign from what I can tell.

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