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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.

Worth flying down to Rio for

John McCain, lover boy:

While John McCain attended his 50th Naval Academy reunion Saturday, a Brazilian beauty fondly recalled the affair she had with the young “good kissing” midshipman she met a half a century ago.

“He was tasty, loving and romantic,” says Maria Gracinda Teixeira de Jesus, 77, a former beauty queen and dancer, of the young John McCain, whom she met in Rio de Janeiro in 1957.

In “Faith of My Fathers,” his best-selling book, McCain recalled wild times in Rio where he and his Annapolis shipmates “indulged in the vices sailors are infamous for” and writes of meeting a Brazilian woman he doesn’t identify…

If McCain wins the presidency, the Brazilian promises to send him a telegram of congratulations “from his great love in Brazil.”

And then, of course, there was this, which McCain later called “my greatest moral failure.” Or maybe not. Because here comes: 

John McCain of the Keating Five. You remember the Keating Five, don’t you? Five corrupt U.S. senators, including McCain, John Glenn, Alan Cranston, Donald Riegle and Dennis DeConcini — amazingly, all Democrats except for McCain — got themselves in a bit of a pickle. Somehow McCain came out smelling like a rose…

They say that if you put five lobsters into a pot and give them a chance to escape, none will be able to do so before you light the fire. Each time a lobster tries to climb over the top, his fellow lobsters will pull him back down. It is the way of lobsters and threatened United States senators.

And, of course, that’s the way it is with the Keating Five. You are all battling to save your own hides. So you, McCain, leak to reporters about who did Keating’s bidding in pressuring federal regulators to change the rules for Lincoln Savings and Loan.

When the reporters fail to print your tips quickly enough–as in the case of your tip on Michigan Senator Donald Riegle–you call them back and remind them how important it is to get that information in the newspapers.

Here’s the background, as recounted by Time Magazine (link is above):

Following the deregulation of savings and loan associations (S&Ls) in the early 1980′s, several of these banks began taking greater liberties with depositors’ money, sinking it into risky real estate ventures and junk bonds in an effort to reap maximum profits. Fearful about the future of the vast amounts of federally-insured money being invested, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) instituted a cap on the amount of money S&L’s were allowed to place in such volatile instruments. An investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan uncovered flagrant violations of these regulations, exceeding the limit by over $615 million.

But before any measures could be taken against the company, five Senators came calling at the FHLBB, requesting that the charges against Lincoln not be pursued, on the basis that the S&L was a major employer in their states. These Senators — McCain , John Glenn (D-OH), Alan Cranston (D-CA), Donald Riegle (D-MI) and Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) — had little in common. Most of them came from different states and different parts of the political spectrum. One of the only elements that linked the men together was Charles Keating. The banker had been a major contributor to each of their campaigns, donating close to $1.4 million dollars total. Keating also considered John McCain to be a close personal friend, with whom he’d shared vacations and business ventures…

All five Senators denied improper conduct, claiming that it was Keating’s status as a constituent rather than as a donor that motivated their actions; although when Keating was asked whether his financial support had influenced the Senators on his behalf, he responded “I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I hope so.” 

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McCain has called this little lapse in judgment, “the worst mistake of my life,” and attributes his later unconstitutional zeal to clean up corruption to his experience during the Keating Five probe:

It was a very unhappy period in my life. But the fact is that I moved forward and I have been the greatest voice for reform and against corruption in Washington than anybody.

(In case you’ve forgotten one of the highlights of Charles Keating’s resume, here’s a helpful reminder, although probably NSFW.)

Finally, we’ll look at  John McCain, war hero, on the next page.

Almost all of McCain’s political reputation is based on the noblest thing he’s ever done in his life: refuse an out-of-sequence release from the Hanoi Hilton, despite enduring savage beatings from his captors. No one will ever be able to take that away from him, although you can read both the pros and cons of McCain’s actions during his captivity here. But like all torture victims, he eventually broke and signed a forced “confession,” as he recounted to Mike Wallace during a 1997 60 Minutes broadcast: 

WALLACE: (Voiceover) People who know McCain well say he can hold a grudge. He also has a legendary temper. But if McCain can be hard on his friends and even harder on his enemies, he can also be very hard on himself.

Sen. McCAIN: I m–made serious, serious mistakes and did things wrong when I was in prison, OK?

WALLACE: What did you do wrong in prison?

Sen. McCAIN: I wrote a confession. I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally bombed women and children.

WALLACE: And you did it because you were being tortured…

Sen. McCAIN: I… 

WALLACE: …and you’d reached the end of the line.

Sen. McCAIN: Yes. But I should have gone further. I should have–I–I never believed that I would–that I would break, and I did.

Maybe this, more than anything, explains why John McCain and his Mini-Me, Lindsey Graham, had dinner with his erstwhile “opponent,” Barack Hussein Obama II, rather than standing with Rand Paul.

While Paul was conducting his filibuster, McCain and Graham were among a group of Republican senators having dinner with Obama at a Washington, D.C. hotel.

Graham scoffed at Paul’s question about whether Obama thinks he has the authority to kill a noncombatant American citizen on U.S. soil.

“I find the question offensive,” Graham said Thursday on the Senate floor. “As much I disagree with President Obama and as much as I support past presidents, I do not believe that question deserves an answer.” Paul’s question, the South Carolina Republican said, “cheapens the debate.”

Even after losing the 2008 election,  the senator (R.-Media) felt compelled to stand again in 2010, defeating J.D. Hayworth in the primary and easily winning re-election in the general.  For McCain, there was no penalty for failure — as there never has been, throughout his life. (In this, he is eerily like Obama, the living embodiment of the Peter Principle.) After all, with a net worth of at least $20 million, whatever fire McCain may have had in the belly had long since been extinguished by the good life:

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The GOP cannot hope to win another national election unless and until it retires flawed, easily caricatured men like John McCain – and never nominates them again.

Also see: Tweets Of The Day-McCain And Graham Clown Car Edition

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I gotta tell you, this whole article struck me as horribly mean-spirited and nasty. I'm not the biggest fan of John McCain's politics, but he served his country honorably while Mr. Walsh and the rest of us (I was just too young for Viet Nam, but never did serve in the military) sat on the sidelines and watched. It's very nice for Mr. Walsh or whoever to tell us what their draft number was...but McCain went to Annapolis, which means he more or less volunteered.

The first section, critiquing his career as an aviator, is just bad writing, with lots of 20-20 hindsight and hand-wrining. Being a Naval Aviator and regularly flying off an Aircraft Carrier is one of the most dangerous things service personnel do, in any branch of the service. Planes crash now, and 50 years ago the safety procedures were much less stringent, and "hotdogging" was something that was expected of pilots. You mentioned the fact that he was the son and grandson of admirals, but you failed to note that this would be both good and bad for him. His peers and especially subordinates probably felt considerable resentment towards the "Admiral's kid" who was expected to be an admiral himself, and perhaps promoted when he didn't deserve it. I've always felt that his failure to achieve high rank probably had something to do with this. As an aside, the Forrestal fire (which can be blamed on him not at all) was an epic incident, several men were killed, and there's even a book about it. Just because he was involved isn't a reason to hold the thing against him. Oh, and he lost the plane he was shot down in, too...did you include that?

The second part is equally weird. OK, so he had an exotic Brazilian girlfriend. I'm not sure what the point is here. She still regards him fondly...jeez, that's weak.

Next there's the Keating Five fiasco. You've conveniently included all of the contemporaneous accusations of wrongdoing, without recounting the last incident, which semi-exonerates McCain. He always insisted that he paid for the flight that he got from Keating, though no records to support this could be found, so it was deemed that he got the flight for free, and was therefore beholden to Keating. Years later, his wife was caught up in a scandal of her own, when she was discovered to be addicted to prescription medications. It turned out that she'd been running a charity that distributed such medications to needy people, and she'd been stealing some of the pills for herself. Eventually it emerged that she'd either lost the check to Keating that McCain had always claimed was there, or stolen the money, I forget which...but the point is that McCain was blameless, beyond flying somewhere on Keating's jet (though he paid for it) and not noticing that his wife was a druggie.

Finally, we come to the part where he broke down and signed the confession of war crimes tortured out of him by the Vietnamese. I gotta tell you, that's one of the most offensive things I've ever read, and I'd suspect that if you'd asked the most conservative member of the military and the most liberal, neither would have much negative to say about him breaking. He broke his back bailing out of the plane, was bayonetted and shot by Vietnamese soldiers, and then went a year without medical treatment. And you're seriously going to hold it against him that he finally "confessed"? Seriously?

I want to make this clear: I think his repudiation of Paul petty and wrong, and I think Paul was right to do what he did. I just don't think ripping McCain for a one-sided rip of his past actions is appropriate. You didn't quite go completely overboard (that would have required you to mention him supposedly calling his wife an obscenity) but you came very close, and were completely over the line.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Is there anything in Michael Walsh's piece that you can demonstrate to be factually incorrect?

Sorry, you don't have to be a cop or a soldier to evaluate the actions of cops and soldiers no matter how much they complain about being evaluated by "civilians." In fact, you shouldn't be a cop or a soldier if your job is to direct and evaluate the actions of cops and soldiers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I voted for Palin with the sincere hope that the excitement of winning would lead to his state funeral before his inauguration.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (88)
All Comments   (88)
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Ask some of the crewmembers of USS Forrestal (CVA59} what they think of John McCain jumping ship during the fire on board.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, yes. John "The Songbird" McCain. Enough said.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The only other person I ever met he knew McCain back in the Hanoi Hilton also despised him. For what it's worth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are many heroic VietNam veterans out there who live their lives without allowing the words War Hero to be continually attached to their names, much less making a lucrative living out of it. Surely there can be a statute of limitations on the free pass that McCain has been enjoying all these years, given the rotten things he has said and done to other patriotic Americans over the years. I, for one, have yet to forgive him for throwing countless innocent naval aviators under the bus during the Tailhook witch-hunt.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
At my husband's change of command ceremony, I had a fascinating conversation with the elderly father of one of a squadron mates. This man was part of the Intel team that had debriefed McCain when he returned from Viet Nam. This man...a Republican btw...despised McCain. Given his history of mishaps, only an arrogant, entitled Fortunate Son like McCain would have been allowed to retain his wings and felt no shame while other aviators were attrited for lesser mistakes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What he did was wrong:
And if that wasn't enough, when he got back he did everything he could to stop the US govt from bringing the other POWs back
WHY? Was he afraid they'd tell what he did? Did he rat out his fellow soldiers too? I'm sure he did.
He is a slimeball. Just read this to exactly what kind of a man this RINO is:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look, its not just that he caved under duress and spilled the beans while a POW-its what he did AFTER when he got back to the US.When he got back he did everything he could to stop the US govt from bringing the other POWs back
WHY? Was he afraid they'd tell what he did? Did he rat out his fellow soldiers too? THAT was so very very wrong. He never helped give those men a chance and the rest were executed by the Vietcong when they couldn't get the US to negotiate with them
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
McCain is of the same class of US military pilot that took out the gondola cable in Italy some years ago, plunging a carload or two to their final sacrifice for freedom. On the ski slopes, for example, showboats like him are called hot dogs, not mavericks. A few days ago I read a bllogger's remark that McCain performs for pellets doled out by the press. Nail. Head.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I applaud McConnel for ultimately backing Rand Paul, even if a bit late. But McCain and Graham cannot be forgiven.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I still honor McCains war record. But when Rand Paul was fighting the good fight, and energizing the whole conservative movement, for an important principle, one where Rand ultimately won a rare concession from Obama, McCain and Graham were busy stabbing him in the back. That I cannot forgive.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Have you noticed how many times McCain has sabotaged the GOP since 2008?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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