Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Well, Thanks for the Marvelous Insight

Lord knows, I hate politics. I find no real good in the party system and especially the divisiveness and "us vs. them" mentality each of the two parties in this country take at every single opportunity. I haven't quite decided who I'm voting for this November (or if I'll even vote at all) but I wanted to comment on something.

I don't remember where I got the link (hat tip to whoever it was) but I read an article from a fellow POW of McCain's, Philip Butler, who wrote why he wouldn't be voting for McCain:

Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain

I take issue with, not necessarily his opinions of the character of McCain, but the way he arrived at them and the way he presents them. I think this is telling of the whole spectrum of political criticism - ideally one should begin with a question or premise, relate facts that support the premise, then end with a conclusion that's arrived at based on those facts. Butler knows what his conclusion is already and gathers various facts and opinions that sort of sound shaky and, when combined together, somewhat support his conclusion. Kind of. If you look at it with cynical, already-decided-against-McCain eyes. Anyway, here are some examples (I've broken them up somewhat because the anecdotes are long but these are the gist):

When I was a Plebe (4th classman, or freshman) at the Naval Academy in 1957-58....John, a First Classman (senior) and his room mate lived directly across the hall from me and my two room mates....

John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. ...On one occasion he took me with him to escape "over the wall" in the dead of night. John had a few beers, but forbid [sic] me to drink (watching out for me I guess) and made me drink cokes. I could tell many other midshipman stories about John that year and he unbelievably managed to graduate though he spent the majority of his first class year on restriction for the stuff he did get caught doing. In fact he barely managed to graduate, standing 5th from the bottom of his 800 man graduating class. I and many others have speculated that the main reason he did graduate was because his father was an Admiral, and also his grandfather, both U.S. Naval Academy graduates.

First off, the author describes in particular one antic he and McCain participated in together. Of course, he neglects to admit he was just as at fault as McCain for "going over the wall" but that doesn't seem to matter. Nor does he seem to find any worse anecdotes than them sitting together drinking beers (and cokes). He hints at "other midshipman stories" but if they were much worse, why not relate one that actual has some meat to it? I will give him the part about McCain graduating near the bottom of his class being significant, but truly one's academic past only really matters when you're trying to move forward to the next step. If you've succeeded in spite of academic failings, I don't think they're too significant. The bit about his father and grandfather getting him through school is, as he says, "speculation" and not worth mentioning without it being an actual fact. He could have as easily "speculated" that McCain ran drugs, cheated on his exams or spied for the communists if he'd liked, and it would have pulled as much weight in the final analysis. Basing an argument on an "everybody knew" supposition is very weak.

People often ask if I was a Prisoner of War with John McCain. My answer is always "No - John McCain was a POW with me." The reason is I was there for 8 years and John got there 2 ½ years later, so he was a POW for 5 ½ years. suffering was worse than your suffering, so you're not fit to be president? That doesn't track at all, though he's beginning to build to a point later. However this inclusion, while factually irrelevant, continues to serve as an emotion-builder toward the reader to hold McCain in disfavor, as if to say if he'd really wanted to be president, he should've suffered more as a POW. Nice.

Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care.... But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.
Sure, politicians control media messages in some cases but not all and while McCain may be the highest profile former POW I know of, I don't think - and neither does anyone else - that he was necessarily THE hero POW at all. Everyone who was a POW suffered, everyone who was a POW died a little over there, and all should be afforded our respect at least for that. If the media wants to portray McCain as THE hero POW, that's their prerogative. It still doesn't mean he is or is not a good candidate for president, so that argument doesn't wash either way.

John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection.... Because John's father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW's suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda.
Does the author believe that those who saw McCain on TV (which, admittedly, I was much too young to see at that time so I have no first-hand knowledge of how it was presented) truly believed he was the only POW? Or the only one that suffered? Again, just because the media treats or presents a person in a certain way does not qualify or disqualify them for the presidency in any way. The author just comes off as bitter of the treatment one POW got over the others in the media.

John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW's in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor - 8, Service Crosses - 42, Silver Stars - 590, Bronze Stars - 958 and Purple Hearts - 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well. But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many - not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.
Same song, second verse. No kind of indictment against McCain's time as a POW - indeed the author goes out of his way to point out that McCain served and endured honorably - yet is unfit to be president because of the way the public perceives him and his service time. I've never seen any McCain ads or publicity that paint him as the only POW to suffer, or the one who suffered the most. It's a case of someone reading context into something that just doesn't really exist the way he thinks it does.

I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.
That's a perfectly well and good argument. I personally thinks it does go to show a person's resilience and courage but hey, that's just me. And I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way. No, being a POW doesn't qualify you to be president. But it sure doesn't hurt your credibility to have gone through something like that in your life and emerged alive.

Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.
A very valid concern that I have no argument with. One of the more serious concerns about McCain being president, and for choosing a VP candidate well. This is really the author's first point of concern that makes sense as a valid reason to NOT vote for McCain.

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.
This can also be a valid concern for those who know McCain personally. A personal connection is always an opinion I would welcome and give some weight to. But there needs to be more character insight than, "he's a hot head with an explosive temper." From all reports, Hillary Clinton certainly has a temper (and so did Bill. And Ronald Reagan, I believe. So did Nixon. And I don't think Teddy Roosevelt was a meek little lamb (although admittedly he didn't have quick access to nukes). I would have liked to heard more first-hand reports of McCain's temper, however, and it would take more than "an infamous reputation" to sway me one way or another.

It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush's war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual. The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.
Well, personal opinions of the war aside...he is a Republican. And it's not a huge stretch to believe that in some of the larger issues facing the country, he might have similar views to the current Republican administration.

And I have news for everyone who thinks there are actually "outsiders" in politics. There are no outsiders in politics, especially national politics. "For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual", well, every single politician running for national office is Washington-as-usual. He might have you think that "Washington-as-usual" means Republican, but it means all politics. When you get to the national stage, the philosophical differences disappear to any meaningful degree and they all become the same more or less. Are there philosophical differences between the Mets and the Yankees (outside of their respective fanbase)? No. They're just two major league teams playing baseball, and that's how it is when you get to Washington. You can stop using that as an attack plank, because none of them are any different in that regard. Jed Bartlett or David Palmer aren't coming to our rescue any time soon.

I'm disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right. I fear for his nominations to our Supreme Court, and the consequent continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues. John is not a religious person, but he has taken every opportunity to ally himself with some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers lately. I was also disappointed to see him cozy up to Bush because I know he hates that man. He disingenuously and famously put his arm around the guy, even after Bush had intensely disrespected him with lies and slander.
That entire paragraph could've been written by any Democratic writer, and the author completely abandons any pretense of objectivity. Thus he loses his credibility as one who had a personal relationship with McCain and was going to provide character insight. You don't have to be a fan of either party to understand the conventions of how things work - Democrats support Democrats and Republicans support Republicans. When one on either side of the aisle does so, the other aisle always expresses shock and outrage.

Senator John Sidney McCain, III is a remarkable man who has made enormous personal achievements. And he is a man that I am proud to call a fellow POW who "Returned With Honor." That's our POW motto. But since many of you keep asking what I think of him, I've decided to write it out. In short, I think John Sidney McCain, III is a good man, but not someone I will vote for in the upcoming election to be our President of the United States.
So there it is - the author lays out little to no real character reasons that would convince anyone not to vote from McCain, other than the Democratic Party talking points in the previous paragraph. Which tells me....nothing more than I already knew.

Ok, so what does the author decide he won't vote for McCain as president, and wants us to know? a) McCain was a ne'er-do-well in college, and graduated near the bottom of his class, b) he wasn't a POW as long as some others, c) the media exploited his status while he was there because of his family connections, d) the media continues to exploit his POW history, e) he has a bad temper, and f) umm... ummm.... umm.... well, he's a Republican and has various Republican traits.

Yeah, that's about it.

What started as an possibly intriguing look into the past and character of a presidential candidate devolved into a political attack that was little more than a repeat of political talking points. And we learned nothing.

Way to further the public discourse. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to ignoring the Democratic and Republican conventions.

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