Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lead the Way

In the course of reporting on the single-dumbest non-scandal in this election cycle, the WaPo cites this argument coming out of the McCain camp for why his POW experience matters:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., rebutted Clark's claim by arguing that McCain's years as a prisoner of war and the mistreatment he endured made him uniquely qualified to lead the campaign in the Senate to ban the use of torture in the interrogation of detainees in the war on terror.

"Nobody could have taken the floor and spoken about detainee policy" the same way, Graham added.

That would be true, if McCain had actually taken the lead on this issue. In actuality, he's been nothing more than an enabler of America's torture regime.

Still on this issue, this Post editorial misses the point entirely. Is the media's focus on what really is a total side issue obnoxious? Yes. But what's more so is the media's utter inability to recognize that Clark didn't say anything wrong. By acting like this was an actual "attack" that the media should ignore because Clark's views are inconsequential, it implicitly defends its own bogus labeling of Clark's claim as unjustifiable in the first place.


Unknown said...

To be fair I think the flap over McCain's advisor last week was equally as dumb a non-scandal.

Pablo Kenney said...

The only convincing argument that I've heard connecting John McCain being captured and qualifications for President is that while he imprisoned his father was promoted to a high position in Naval Command and so as propaganda the North Vietnamese offered to free him. Realizing the propaganda value of this, he refused to leave unless everyone imprisoned before him was also released, knowing that he would face torture and likely death. This shows courage and a professionalism that ought to be praised. While courage is certainly not a sufficient condition for Presidential qualification, it is desirable; arguably necessary.
Was Clark wrong? no. Being a POW does not in and of itself qualify McCain for president. But McCain did show desirable traits during that time period.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

That sounds as much like foolish stubbornness and pride as it does courage. Since McCain basically seems to embrace the sunk cost fallacy regarding Iraq, I'd say those are strong reasons to not vote for him.

I would also note that in a real sense, McCain didn't see war up close and personal. Not like a grunt does (or John Kerry did, for that matter). Seems like he saw 1) his bomb sights from up in the clouds and 2) a prison cell.

Far more convincing is a notion that being tortured and coming back from it like he did are signs of emotional resilience, and you need that when you make the tough calls.

PG said...

In actuality, he's been nothing more than an enabler of America's torture regime.

That isn't true. While McCain's decision to vote against the Feingold Amendment puts him in the position of thinking that the CIA should be able to use tactics that the military cannot, the Detainee Treatment Act was actually known as the McCain Amendment. Among Republicans especially, he can be accurately described as having "taken the lead."

David Schraub said...

But his waffling and hedging on the issue are hardly "leadership" qualities -- indeed, I'd say his biggest impact on this issue is to provide political and moral cover to other GOPers who don't want to be seen as pro-torture (but don't want to pass substantive legislation). Being a "leader" amongst Republicans on torture just isn't that impressive in this climate.

Pablo Kenney said...

While modern day bombers may be said to be distant from the action, I'm not sure that's true for Vietnam. Either way, I think that getting shot down makes war pretty real for anyone.

Also, I don't think you can group McCain's position on Iraq with his insistence to not be freed from the Hanoi Hilton. In saying that his decision was foolish stubborness you are impliying that the pragmatic thoughtful action would have been to accept early release. However, had he done that, it would in fact have shown the other POWs that the elites in their group (the sons of admirals) were willing accept special offers, thus giving them no reason to keep American secrets. I think that disregarding an offer like early release in the face of likely death, is courageous.

Pablo Kenney said...

Unfortunately, it looks like Kathleen Parker agrees with me.

I certainly don't agree with the full article, but the article I argue above is in it.

Unknown said...


I think it's definitely fair to say you can't appreciate the situation on the ground -- where the GIs were operating -- from a plane. These planes take off far in the rear and attack targets far behind enemy lines. And just because because getting shot down is a *real* experience doesn't mean it's a very informative look at the conflict as a whole.

As for foolishness vs. not, it may be just me, but if I'm a POW and one of my buddies turns down a chance to go home, I'd deck him for being a moron. Mind you, I also am figuring every soldier in that war knows damn skippy that elites get better treatment (see "Fortunate Son").

Meanwhile, McCain, once released, can go on to productively serve (which he did) in both traditional military roles, and for counter-propaganda purposes (tell about the horrors of torture, etc.).