It’s an article of faith among among Democrats that John Kerry, a war hero, was unduly smeared by a group of fellow veterans who did not know him or his accomplishments. I took more a mixed view of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, finding some of their claims worthy of discussion (Kerry’s involvement with the Winter Soldier Investigation) and others unworthy (Kerry’s supposed “war crimes”). So I hesitate to use the phrase in the title, but I think it’s warranted.
Four years later, some on the left are doing the exact same thing to John McCain. The Politico has already taken note of two in particular. One is Gen. Wesley Clark, who is likely to get some major press coverage. Less likely to generate interest offline, but still likely to be influential, is this John Aravosis post:
Honestly, besides being tortured, what did McCain do to excel in the military?
It’s not “nice” to ask the question, but it’s actually a pretty good question. … A lot of people don’t know, however, that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity. Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain’s military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief? 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.
But let’s answer the points Aravosis avoids: McCain spent more than a half-decade as a prisoner of war. Significantly, he refused an offer of early release in 1968, remaining behind with his fellow POWs and denying the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory (McCain’s father was a four-star admiral leading the U.S. Pacific Command).
Meanwhile, Aravosis portrays John McCain as participating in a propaganda video as if McCain did so of his own volition, rather than being held captive. To the contrary, McCain often made trouble for his captors — cheering the bombing of the North with his fellow soldiers — and spent significant time in solitary confinement. I don’t refer people to Wikipedia as a matter of course, but these sections are very well-supported, and the bibliography is a credible one.
Meanwhile, Aravosis’ 2004 candidate was “merely a vet” who spent just four months in combat, gave time to slanders against his fellow soldiers and whose convictions on the Iraq war developed late, at best. But I don’t want to argue about John Kerry; that may be the point. In fact, Barack Obama’s lack of a military record is an unlikely plus: he grew up at a time when military service was neither obligated nor obligatory.
Aravosis’ post by itself is deliberately inflammatory and poorly reasoned. Alone, it wouldn’t demand a response. But with liberal 527soutspending their conservative counterparts, it will be very interesting to see how far Obama supporters pursue this line of attack in the coming weeks and months.
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