Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What candidate has Michael Shear been watching?

You know, I'm done thinking the press should do a good job of reporting the news, but is it too much to ask them to at least pay attention to it? Today a commenter on a Washington Post online chat asked Post reporter Michael Shear why it was such a big deal for Wesley Clark to point out that being tortured doesn't necessarily qualify one for the presidency. Pay attention to Shear's response:
What's the big whoop?: It's not like McCain rose to the level of general or something. He's a vet -- we get it. But simply being a vet, as laudable as it is, doesn't really tell you much about someone's qualifications for being commander in chief. If McCain is going to play the "I was tortured" card every five minutes as a justification for electing him president, then he shouldn't throw a hissy fit anytime anyone asks to know more about his military experience.

Michael D. Shear: I'm not sure that's quite fair. It's true that he was not a general. But McCain rarely talks about his time as a POW (though others sometimes do on his behalf.) And his campaign would argue that his experience in the military prepared him for a career in the Senate that was often at the center of the debates over military policy.

But his military record is certainly a fair target of scrutiny and as a reporter, I'd certainly like to make sure that all of the records are open to the public.
First of all, McCain has not released all of his records, and as a reporter you might expect Shear to actually, you know, fucking report that.

But the thing that gets stuck in my craw is Shear's claim that "McCain rarely talks about his time as a POW (though others sometimes do on his behalf.)"

What the fuck? Then where did these ads come from?

Or this ad or this one and he's pulled the most directly on point ad from the web, in which he says, point blank, "I was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW."

Then there are the speeches.

June 23, 2006:
When I was a prisoner-of-war, the Vietnamese went to great lengths to restrict the news from home to the statements and activities of prominent opponents to the war. They wanted us to believe that America had forgotten us.
June 18, 2007:
For several years I was a prisoner of war in the enemy's capital, Hanoi.
July 18, 2007:
If America stands for anything, it stands for the freedom to follow our own minds and hearts, to determine our own relationship with God. I did not realize just how precious this freedom is until it was taken away. As some in this audience may know, I spent several years as a prisoner of war, a time when all my freedoms were rescinded.
March 31, 2008:
During the Vietnam War, he commanded all U.S. forces in the Pacific, at the top of a chain of command that included, near the bottom, his son, a naval aviator on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, and later a prisoner of war in Hanoi.
April 3, 2008:
Persevering with others for a common goal is not only more satisfying in the end, but teaches you something about life you might not have known before, and can influence your direction in ways your own fortitude never could. I once thought I was man enough for almost any confrontation. In prison, I discovered I was not. I tried to use every personal resource I had to confound my captors, and it wasn't enough in the end.
June 28, 2008:
When I was in prison in Vietnam, I like other of my fellow POWs, was offered early release by my captors. Most of us refused because we were bound to our code of conduct, which said those who had been captured the earliest had to be released the soonest.
Some have gone so far as to call the Hanoi Hilton McCain's "trump card." Bloomberg's Edwin Chen wrote in May:
Whether he's deflecting criticism over his health-care plan or mocking a tribute to the Woodstock music festival, Senator John McCain has a trump card: the Hanoi Hilton.

That's the nickname for the site where he spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a past that McCain regularly recalls on the campaign trail to fend off policy attacks, score political points and give voters a glimpse of his sentimental side. He campaigns with squadrons of POWs and made a video to mark the 35th anniversary of his release from prison.

When Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Senator John Edwards, rebuked McCain's medical-care proposal and noted that he'd always enjoyed government health benefits, McCain responded that he knows what it's like to get inadequate care -- ``from another government.'' During an October debate, while knocking a Hillary Clinton plan to help fund a museum celebrating Woodstock, McCain said he missed the 1969 festival because he was ``tied up at the time.'' Even his rivals applauded.
And it's not just the press who makes this claim, either. Yesterday, McCain himself said he's reluctant to talk about being a POW:
McCain became visibly angry when I asked him to explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Presidency.

"Please," he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question.

McCain allies Sen. Lindsey Graham stepped in to rescue him. Graham expressed admiration for McCain’s stance on the treatment of detainees in US custody.

"That to me is a classic example of how his military experience helped him shape public policy in a way no other senator could have done,’’ Graham said.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, also traveling on the trip, expressed admiration for McCain’s wartime service as well.

McCain then collected himself and apologized for his initial reaction.

"I kind of reacted the way I did because I have a reluctance to talk about my experiences," he said, noting that he has huge admiration for the "heroes" who served with him in the POW camp and said the experience taught him to love the U.S. because he missed it so much.

"I am always reluctant to talk about these things," McCain said.
Now I've said before that I respect John McCain's strength under torture, but to suggest that he's "reluctant" to talk about that time in his life is just simply false.


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