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Unexamined Premises

John McCain, American ‘Hero’

March 7th, 2013 - 4:16 pm

What, me worry?

John S. McCain III, the disastrous Republican 2008 candidate who suspended his presidential campaign and refused to take the fight to Barack Obama when he had the chance to actually do something for his country, has beclowned himself yet again:

Highlighting the discord among Republicans over President Barack Obama’s targeted killings policy, two prominent GOP senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, took to the Senate floor to criticize Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 12-hour filibuster Wednesday…

McCain said Thursday the Senate needed to conduct hearings and an in-depth debate on Obama’s targeted killings policy, “but that conversation should not be talking about drones killing Jane Fonda and people in cafes. It should be all about what authority and what checks and balances should exist” in order to combat “an enemy that we know will be with us for a long time.”

The distinguished senator’s crack about Hanoi Jane (her account of her trip to North Vietnam is at the link) got me to thinking about his own past, which in turn led to the question: why do Republicans admire this man? Most of his life, John McCain has been a disgrace to his service, to the Congress and to his country. So let’s take a trip down memory lane:

John McCain, ace pilot:

One thing’s for sure — if it wasn’t for bad luck, McCain wouldn’t have no luck at all.

McCain did lose two Navy aircraft while piloting them. One crash was found to be be McCain’s fault, the other due to an engine failure of undetermined cause.. A third was destroyed on the deck of the carrier USS Forrestal when a missile fired accidentally from another plane hit either the plane next to McCain’s or, less likely, his own aircraft, triggering a disastrous fire that killed 134 sailors and nearly killed McCain. A fourth plane was lost when he was shot down over North Vietnam on a bombing mission over Hanoi. 

A fifth alleged “crash” turns out to be a misinterpretation of a flight accident that did not result in the loss of the aircraft. McCain admitted to causing that incident through “daredevil clowning” but returned safely.

Well, what about that “daredevil clowning” with a very expensive piece of U.S. government property? Just a little youthful hijinks from the son and grandson of four-star Navy admirals who finished near the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy, or what?

“Clowning” in Spain, about December 1961: Those who claim McCain lost five planes – when they bother to give specific citations at all – point to an incident described by McCain, and also in Timberg’s book, as happening on one of McCain’s deployments to the Mediterranean. The L.A. Times put the date of the incident as “around December 1961,” while McCain was on a training mission flying from the USS Intrepid.

Timberg, 1995 (p. 94): His professional growth, though reasonably steady, had its troubled moments. Flying low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines, which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral. The tale has gotten better with age. These days they talk about the day McCain turned the lights out in Spain. 

McCain described it this way in “Faith of My Fathers,” which was published four years after Timberg’s account: 

McCain, 1999 (p. 159): There were occasional setbacks in my efforts to round out my Navy profile. My reputation was certainly not enhanced when I knocked down some power lines while flying too low over southern Spain. My daredevil clowning had cut off electricity to a great many Spanish homes and created a small international incident.

The L.A. Times, which interviewed others who were in McCain’s squadron at the time, reports that he returned to the carrier with 10 feet of power line trailing from his plan, and with a severed oil line. But while McCain himself admits this incident was cause by his own “daredevil clowning,” he landed safely and did not lose the aircraft. McCain’s detractors should scratch that “crash” off their list. 

Despite the incident in Spain, and the earlier finding that McCain was to blame for the Corpus Christi crash, McCain was promoted to full lieutenant on June 1, 1962.

Hardy har har.  This is the kind of thing that, if you’re not as lucky as McCain, gets innocent people killed. Also, it’s more than a little curious that, with a record of irresponsibility like that, McCain was promoted in 1962. Or maybe not, given what his father was doing at the time:

From 1960 to 1962, McCain held commands in the Atlantic, including Amphibious Group 2 and Amphibious Training, and served on Taconic and Mount McKinley. He was Chief of Naval Information from 1962 to 1963, initiating the post and garnering influence with the Washington press that would aid his career. Following the April 1963 loss of the nuclear submarine Thresher, he explained to the public why the search for the wreckage would be lengthy and difficult, and defended the Navy against charges that it had been tardy in disclosing details of the disaster. McCain was promoted to vice admiral in July 1963, and was made commander of the entire Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet.

It’s good to have friends in high places, especially when they’re blood relatives, not to mention superior officers. And that bit about sucking up to the press corps indicates that the acorn didn’t fall very far from the oak. But let’s move on. We’ll pick up some romance tips from the suave Arizona senator on the next page.

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