Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Week in John McCain Land: The Case Against A Man Who Would Be President

So much has been going around the internet about Governor Sarah Palin's (dis)qualifications for executive office (and she is such an easy target for the Eastern Elite Eastablishment in all its tolerance for white people who are, shall we say, earthier, than your average Bostonian) that I do not think there has been a high enough focus on increasingly distressing news that is surfacing, and being documented, about Senator John McCain. There are a variety of facts emerging about McCain's character and Senate record that are far more disturbing in some ways than what we know about Palin's difficulty in telling the truth about her past actions (although what could be more disturbing than the fact that when Palin was Mayor of Wasilla the town instituted a policy of billing rape victims for their emergency room care and for the cost of the rape kits used to collect evidence that would theoretically put their attackers behind bars?)

But it is McCain who would be President, and it is McCain about whom we must ask the hard questions: although critics go on about his age, living until 76 or even 80 is not unheard of in this country, particularly if you have access to good health care, as Senators (although not all rape victimes) do. And I think military families ought to scrutinize his record particularly closely, a record that has been obscured by repeated references to his experience as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, having undergone torture and prolonged physical suffering, and his refusal to be exchanged early because he was the son of a high-ranking officer. All of these things have been cited as proof of his patriotism, his character, his judgement, and his concern for the men and women who make up our military.

This is a patriotism, or actions at least, of which McCain has a right to be proud. But there is another kind of patriotism McCain has practiced as a politician, and that variety might strike the families and friends of members of the armed forces as less conducive to their interests and concerns in the current crisis. That kind of patriotism is loyalty to the state, a loyalty that may override an ethical concern for soldiers and their families. It appears that McCain may be implicated as an integral player in aiding in the effort to suppress, along with several Presidents and several intelligence bureaus, credible evidence that POW-MIA soldiers were held back by the North Vietnamese government after the 1973 prisoner exchange (including 20 airmen downed in Laos who responded via an electronic signalling system but have not been heard from since) in an effort to obtain reparations and other concessions from the United States -- reparations that the United States has refused to pay. Read an article about it by Sydney Schanberg, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, here.

What did John McCain have to do with the suppression of such evidence? Well, as a member of the Senate committee investigating the POW-MIA question between 1980 and 1993, and as its only member who had been a POW and celebrated war hero, he was, Schanberg argues, uniquely persuasive in quashing subpoenas, opposing legislation that would have allowed further investigation and keeping evidence from the public domain that might have shed light on the issue for the many military families who still do not know what happened to their loved ones.

Perhaps because I am currently reading Linda Colley's Captives, a book which takes a fresh look at the British Empire from the perspective of those Britons who were taken prisoner by their imperial subjects, I found McCain's failure to side with citizens, particularly those who had made the greatest sacrifice in war, and his desire to side with the state, particularly awful, and the position that their families have been left in, for what seem to be purely political reasons, deeply poignant. Furthermore, these military families have been repeatedly kicked to the curb as they try to resolve the decades-long, unresolved, absence of family members. For example, in the face of a 1992 request made of the committee by Delores Alfand, the sister of a missing officer and chair of the national Alliance of Families, for electronic surveillance data, McCain bullied her until she wept. As Schanberg writes,

He has regularly vilified those who keep trying to pry out classified documents as "hoaxers," "charlatans," "conspiracy theorists" and "dime-store Rambos." Family members who have personally pressed McCain to end the secrecy have been treated to his legendary temper. In 1996 he roughly pushed aside a group of POW family members who had waited outside a hearing room to appeal to him, including a mother in a wheelchair.

I am not quite yet ready to celebrate John McCain's patriotic concern for our armed forces. Are you? Because if this is true (and Schanberg's article is compelling about something I haven't believed in for years) McCain's behavior is self-serving and unconscionable. There is absolutely no strategic reason for not telling the truth about those missing soldiers, except to conceal the collaboration of John McCain, and others, in the official abandonment of American prisoners. It is nothing more, or less, than a cover-up that has been given credibility by the most famous POW since Major Andre was executed by George Washington.

But let's say you want to forget about Vietnam, just like John McCain and his Republican cronies do. O.K. In other news, check out this piece in today's New York Times that details McCain's high-stakes gambling habits, the privileges he receives from casinos in return for his patronage, and -- far more important than this -- his actions as chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, which gives him a significant role in determining which tribes may establish casinos, and which Indian groups will actually be awarded the federal status that permits them the legal standing to bypass state and local gaming laws. The article details at least eight members of the campaign who have strong ties to the casino gambling industry, donations from the gaming industry (including Steve Wynn and Donald Trump, whose casinos McCain patronizes as a privileged guest) and muliple ties between the campaign and gambling lobbyists. The article also notes that the Abramoff investigation, in which McCain was an important player, succeeded in taking out important right-wing enemies who had implemented the dirty tricks used against McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary. If even half what has been reported is true, this one could make McCain's role in the Keating Five Scandal look tame. In addition to being on the payroll of the industry, apparently McCain was also able to help his pal Joe Lieberman reverse the tribal status of the Schaticoke Indians of Kent, Connecticut. The tribe, which was annoying a lot of very wealthy people in western Connecticut, wanted to establish a third casino, which would have cut into the Pequot and Mohegan casinos. These latter two tribes are big McCain, and Lieberman, donors.

And in case you are ready to write both of these articles off as the lying rants of a liberal press, I suggest you go here, for a collection of articles by conservative journalist George Will that raise the question of whether McCain's outbursts of rage and impulsive decision making are not cause for alarm in a potential President. "It is arguable," Will writes, "that because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"

Not at the age of 72, is my guess. Not with the best medical care in the world.


Margot said...

There are quite a few military families who know John McCain is no friend of ours. He is a friend only of himself.
Look, I appreciate the sacrifices he made as a POW, but that is not a free pass to the White House. And frankly, I am really tired of military families being used as political props for his campaign.
We are a military family who refuses to vote for John McCain. Hehas shown callous disregard of our interests when it comes to the long deployments, pillaging of our Navy and Airforce to augment Army units and refusal to throw his weight behind the GI Bill, until he decided to declare it was all his idea.
Electing John McCain will do nothing but perpetuate the abuse the armed forces have suffered these past 7 yrs. We cannot afford it.
I know that was your point, but I just wanted to let you know that more than a few military families think this guy is nothing but bad news.

Profane said...

Jarrod Hayes said...

Nicely done TR.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Tenured, the POW charge just doesn't make any sense to me. If the Vietnamese were using POWs to try to get reparations, why didn't they publicize this to put on the pressure? This whole story reeks of the loony fringe to me.

As for John McCain's gambling, I say more power to him -- I've lost a few bucks at cards over the years myself.

If you want to get worked up about something having to do with the election, check out this statement from the Governor of Missouri about the Obama team's police-state tactics there:

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt today issued the following statement on news reports that have exposed plans by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to use Missouri law enforcement to threaten and intimidate his critics.

“St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.

“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.

“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.

“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.”

Also, I don't know about nationally but here in North Carolina there have been several news stories on invalid voter registration forms turned in by ACORN. I gather this is a problem in other parts of the country as well. Some of Barack's fans seem to be getting a little too zealous.
Of course, I wouldn't expect you folks to get too worked up about that.
Hope you and all your readers will be watching the Palin/Biden debate Thursday night.

Anonymous said...


This is a big ol' stink about nothing at all.

Freedom of speech under the Constitution does not extend to criminal libel or slander. An that is what McCulloch and Joyce are talking about.

For example, if I publicly state that "Obama is not good for this country because he has Communist tendencies", that is an opinion, and no one can pursue me with criminal charges. On the other hand, if I publicly and knowingly state that "Obama was a registered member of Communist Party USA between the years 1983 and 1985," and he was not, then I could be in serious trouble.

What McCullogh and Joyce and Boyer and others are saying is perfectly within their rights and does not violate free speech. But I grant that it is also "extraneous" -- kind of like saying "if anyone violates the speed limit, we're gonna issue them a ticket" -- and obviously politically motivated.

Now, try to convince me that Matt Blunt's (a republican governor, I might add) statement isn't deliberately emotionally charged and politically motivated, being peppered with terms like "police state", "party of Jefferson", etc, etc. About the only thing he left out was the part about the total denigration of mom and apple pie!

And regarding the VP debate this coming prediction is as follows:

1. Biden gives an acceptable performance -- not spectacular, just acceptable -- as long as he commits no major faux pas.

2. Palin completely unravels in yet another torrent of confused nonsequiturs (her worst performance yet). Subsequently, prominent conservatives pressure her into stepping down, and McCain replaces her with his original first choice pick (whomever that was).

(Probability: 93% +/- 2%)


Susan said...

Jackdanielsback, so what if the Republican governor of Missouri issues a press release criticizing Obama? It's impossible to find out what evil thing Obama and his supporters are accused of doing. So maybe there is something, maybe not.

My understanding is that ACORN itself spends a lot of time trying to fix registrations and deal with missing or contradictory information.

I have no problem with gambling (though I don't get it), but I don't want my President to be making decisions that way.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a piece on McCain's record a month or so ago with information about his voting record (he voted against VA benefits, to cut the GI Bill, privatize VA hospitals, etc.) and his POW status which was apparently mediated for some time by his being the child of an important military figure and that he gave up info about planned attacks. I also documented many of his absences or votes on education, health care, farm aid, and other bills. I'm migrating blogs but if I can get the url I can put it here in the comments. (the post has links to Congress, a non-partisan tracking agency, and veterans associations who provided the info.)Much of the rep McCain has built for himself for this election campaign is unsupported by his record.

JackDanielsBlack said...

If the Obama camp thinks that their candidate is being libeled or slandered, I believe that their recourse under American law is to sue. By using elected officials to intimidate communications channels into not running anti-Obama ads, they are suppressing free speech and being (dare I say it?) un-American. If they are wise, they will eschew their Joseph Goebbels imitation.

Tenured Radical said...


Are making parallels between an African American man and a Nazi? That's twisted, man.


Anonymous said...


But they are not intimidating anyone into not running anti-Obama ads. As best I can make out, they are simply publicly declaring in advance "don't knowingly post non-factual comments about our candidate, 'cause it's illegal to do so."

I did a lot of Googling on this issue, and all I could find are the statements of outrage issued by Blunt and other anti-Obama-ites. If you happen to have any links to objective sources of information on what was actually said, by whom, maybe it would be useful to post some of those. I couldn't find anything, and ran out of patience searching.

JackDanielsBlack said...

TR, you are supposed to be an academic. Try reading my post again, and show me where I make "parallels between an African American man and a Nazi". What is twisted is your interpretation (explication?) of what I said, which is that the action of some Obama supporters in the law-enforcement community in threating free speech is unAmerican and similar to what the Nazis did in Germany in the 1930s.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Well, here is the "Obama Truth Squad" story from KMOV in St. Louis:

Any time you have law enforcement officials involved in a "truth squad" it is intimidating, to say the least.

Admit it -- if the McCain camp had pulled this stunt, you folks would be screaming bloody murder.

Anonymous said...

Brother Jack, You've come to a poor end when you defend the right to lie until legal authority forces you to be truthful.

Anonymous said...

TR, in regards to this passage...

(although what could be more disturbing than the fact that when Palin was Mayor of Wasilla the town instituted a policy of billing rape victims for their emergency room care and for the cost of the rape kits used to collect evidence that would theoretically put their attackers behind bars?)

And the actual truth, not some fantastic lie as exposed here.

Considering this and other proof of this lie, just wandering if you will be writing a retraction? An apology? And maybe double, triple checking any accusations in future?

Scott S.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Ralph, what I defend is the American right to free speech -- including freedom from intimidation. Are you liberals against that now? If so, somebody better inform the ACLU!

Tenured Radical said...

Dear Scott,

First of all, I pulled the story from a paper of record -- the New York Times. The story didn't originate with me: it's up to them to retract it if it is false. Second, Profane, in comment #2, printed a link to a story that questions this, which is the kind of editing process the blogosphere is supposed to produce.

I would suggest readers paste that link into their browser for further discussion on this issue.

And to you -- and RWP, whose snide comment I pulled -- if you disagree, or think I or any other commenter is wrong, you should do so (I hope with appropriate documentation where you can) but when you are belligerent or nasty, I will take your comments down.


Anonymous said...

Jack, I'm a card-carrying Republican member of the ACLU. Just wondering if it takes intimidation to get you to commit to telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

I understand that it didn’t originate with you, but just because it came from the NYT doesn’t meant it is correct. Yes it is up to them to retract it, but I thought you would do the same once you found out it was false. Is it ok the pass on a lie if a ‘paper of record’ does so? And only correct it when/if they do retract it, did you check to see if they did? That seems to me to be the actions of someone who wants the facts to fit their argument, not be factual.
There would be plenty of other arguments you could use to make your point that were factual and easily checked. The first time I heard this rumour I didn’t believe it (seemed too much), so I did some checking and found out pretty quickly that it was false. I think a lot of people just wanted to believe it as it fits their preconceived notions of what type of person Gov Palin is.
During this election there have been many false and misleading stories coming from all sides, ever since the announcement of Gov Palin there has been many false hoods passed off as truth (ie. Faking pregnancy to cover for her daughter, she was a member of the AIP). So when I hear something that sounds too good to be true (or too bad to be true) I try to confirm it from a few different sources on both sides of the issue.
I would have thought that you would have at least investigated it more to see if it is fact, when told it was incorrect to removed it, change it or at least put a note saying that it is disputed. Well it is your blog to do with what you like, I guess after reading for awhile I expected more.
Scott S.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear Scott,

It is one thing -- and it is a small part of the essay I actually wrote, which was about John McCain. If you want to see bad, horrible stuff, take a look at what they publish at the online version of Human Events. Retracting things is not the epitome of good journalism -- lots of folks repeated that thing, and I'm still not sure what is right and what isn't -- there just seem to be a lot of different opinions out there.

We all do our,



JackDanielsBlack said...

Ralph, as is indicated by the dispute here about the "truthiness" of TR's assertion about Sarah Palin and rape kits, one person's lie is another person's truth and (if I follow TR's reasoning correctly) it is very, very hard to tell the difference, so why worry about it?. So it is probably not a good idea (especially for a "card-carrying" ACLU member) to discourage freedom of speech because one thinks that what the other person says will be a "lie" -- in fact, as I said earlier, it's downright un-American. Ain't moral relativism wonderful?

And TR -- thanks for the pointer to the Human Events website -- I wasn't familiar with it. Pretty interesting.

Tim Lacy said...


Thanks for all the links.

On the very last point of your post, this is an argument I've been desperately trying to make with a few hyper-conservative Catholics I know (btw: they are not moderates, nor are they conservative moderates or liberal conservatives---they're right-wing Catholics).

To wit, is it not true that native intelligence, temperament, and statesmanship override almost every single issue that one could make against/for a candidate?

For instance, right-wing Catholics use a pro-life argument that looks like it could apply to a monkey who shares their view on the one subject---i.e. abortion matters more than torture, abortion matters more than welfare moms, abortion matters more than war, abortion matters more than a presidents actions in a genocidal situation, abortion matters more than being a fascist, abortion matters more than whether the potential president has totalitarian tendencies, etc.

I mean, do we want a potential intemperate war monger closer to the control panel for nuclear weapons just because he is pro-life on the abortion issue (or, in this year's election, merely anti-Roe)?

Anyway, just to throw a few more wrenches into the gears.

- TL

Debrah said...

A drive-by reminder to all illustrious historians who have their fingertips on the human story. The updated paperback version of "Until Proven Innocent" is now in stores.

This is the definitive account of the internationally-publicized Duke Lacrosse Hoax, coauthored by the incomparable Professor KC Johnson.

Such Diva madness!

davidjhemmer said...

Sarah Palin rocks!

Can I just say, Joe Biden was being very honest when he said Barack Obama was not ready to be president, that the presidency does not lend itself to on the job training. After Obama voted against the final war funding bill (Biden supporting it) Biden was being honest when he called Obama reckless and naive. When Obama promised to meet dictators without preconditions, Biden was being honest when he said that Obama was being dangerous and that he would "certainly not" agree.

Did the VP slot suddenly change all of Biden's opinions on these matters or was he just lying last night? Discuss!

p.s. Biden's botox job was terrible! His forehead didn't move, his eyebrows didn't raise
and that ridiculous huge smile with no facial movement above the nose looked scary. He should sue his plastic surgeon.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, she rocked alright, in the sense that she managed not too screw up like she did in front of Katie Couric.

But her answers (or non-answers as the case may be) are still bizarre and strangely inscrutible when you really try to understand what she's saying.

Like what's with the deal about a certain degree of "flexibility" in the powers of the VP over the other branches of gov't that are afforded by the Constitution?

Just what on earth is she really talking about? (if anything).

And why do you obsess so much about Biden's physical appearance? What does that have to do with anything substantive?

Anonymous said...

Ah, well lookie here...this seems to explain in part why she didn't mess up last night! Wish I had found this sooner.

davidjhemmer said...

30's striker;

You are the one who is uninformed not Mrs. Palin.

There's nothing bizarre about what she said. Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch of government, not the executive branch as the lawyer Biden erroneously said during the debate. It states in part:

"The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided."

It doesn't just say "The VP will cast tiebreaking votes" it says the VP will cast tiebreaking votes AND shall be president of the senate, these are two separate duties of the VP. Most VP's don't ever serve in that function, there is instead president pro-tem. If Palin wants to try it out and try to give the presidency of the senate some kind of actual job, more power to her.

By far the most bizarre answer of the night was Joe Biden's explanation of how the US and France kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon and should have sent in NATO to keep them out. Nothing remotely like this has ever happened, noone seems to have any idea what the hell he was talking about. Very strange.

Anonymous said...

RW Prof,

I am hardly "uninformed". My guess is that I am many years older than most of the folks on this blog, and I know a heck of a lot of what the Constitution says. Now here is what Palin said (copied directly from the transcript):

PALIN: "No, no. Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are. John McCain and I have had good conversations about where I would lead with his agenda."

My interpretation: She seems to be alluding to some other, additional "bit of authority" afforded to the VP, beyond simply the role of overseeing the senate.

She then went on to say that she could use that authority in support of the McCain agenda, which seems to primarily consist (of course) of energy independence, government reform, and special needs children. Her same old mantra. (Which she repeated frequently during the debate).

The next day, in a FOX news interview, she was asked what she had meant by "flexibility", and she replied: “The vice president, of course, is not a member — or a part of the legislative branch, except to oversee the Senate. That alone provides a tremendous amount of flexibility and authority if that vice president so chose to use it." She then stated that she had no intentions of “bleeding” her “authority over to the Legislative or Judicial branch" in promoting the McCain agenda, somewhat in contradiction of what she seemed to be suggesting during the debate.

Now, one doesn't need to be a Wittgenstein to recognize all of the above as being ambiguous, confused, muddled, etc. Any Joe Six-Pack can see it all for what it is. And believe me, I am the original Joe Six-Pack!

Anonymous said...

I meant to also say that the implications of the second to last paragraph in my previous posting above suggests that Palin feels that as VP, she is somehow imbued with powers that go over and beyond the legistative and judicial branches.

Only she promises not use her special powers. But all three branches are supposed to be equal, aren't they?

Regardless of all's all muddled and confused, as far as I am concerned.

davidjhemmer said...

30s striker

Curious, why didn't you address my other remark about Biden and Lebanon? Do you admit that his statement was just drivel?

Tenured Radical said...

Dear all:

I have special powers too! I just don't talk about them all the time as Palin does.


davidjhemmer said...


Where in the constitution does it say all three branches are supposed to be equal? That is popular to teach in 3rd grade social studies but it does not appear anywhere in the constitution and a lot of scholars would disagree.

As for Palin's "mystery" powers, it's not her fault the constiution defines the VP as president of the Senate then makes no further mention of this position.

davidjhemmer said...

Still waiting....

Any libs out there want to have a go at defending Biden and explaining what he was talking about re the US and France kicking Hezbollah out of Lebanon? I mean he has 30+ years experience in the Senate, he must have been referring to something!

Anonymous said...

RW Prof,
I said nothing about Biden's statement because, quite honestly, I don't have a good enough grasp on that particular aspect of recent history to proffer anything meaningful. It very well could be dribble. Or maybe not. I just don't know. But Palin's comments I can indeed test against something I know. Why did FOX news ask her what she meant by it, if the answer is so obvious?
- 30's