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McCain’s Nasty Campaign and POW Status

Obama’s statement yesterday refusing to comment on Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy shows the distance still remaining between his campaign and McCain’s. McCain’s negative attack ads dragged Obama down somewhat, but he is still far above McCain in the decency of his campaign.

The Economist this week talks about McCain’s bio in an article entitled “No Surrender.” It says, “After failing to dodge [a surface-to-air missile], he ejected from his plane, broke three limbs and fell into a lake. He was dragged out by a mob, stabbed in the groin and beaten nearly to death.” It does not comment on the the major decisions in that sequence: to have ejected from the plane, not to have fought to the death despite his injuries, or not to have committed suicide before the mob captured him. It is arguable that the honorable thing for McCain to have done, especially in light of the fact that his father was the senior Navy commander in his theater, would have been to go down with his plane. Allowing himself to be captured placed his father in a terrible position. His father dealt with it, perhaps appearing callous, but perhaps he felt that his son had failed to live up to the family’s naval tradition. McCain had a horrible career at Annapolis; then unlike the majority of his cohorts, he got shot down, and when he got shot down, he allowed himself to become a POW. It’s not a sin to become a POW, but it’s not heroic either. It became more heroic for Vietnam war POWs because it was one of the few things that the country embraced, probably because they were freed only when the war was over, and thus there was no need to use them to oppose the war. The regular veterans came home to contempt from their civilian counterparts, who saw them as tools used by the government to pursue a war that civil society opposed, and therefore as war criminals regardless of whatever courage and decency they may have displayed in combat.

Ironically, Vietnam POWs probably got treated more like heroes than POWs from previous wars, while ordinary veterans got treated worse. McCain came to believe the hype surrounded his return, deserved or not, and now is basing his presidential campaign on it.

I’m guessing he failed to live up to the standards of his four-star admiral father and grandfather, and in response tends to downplay their service. It order to portray Obama as an elitist, he tends to portray his four-star father as something only a little better than a bag-boy at Safeway. In reality, McCain was a failure by his father’s standards.

Fortunately, Obama is too polite to say anything like this.

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