Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Wrong Stuff

Yesterday, we heard lots of talk about patriotism. And like Mark Twain said, you should always be patriotic to your country, and sometimes even to the government. But the issue that came up on Sunday with General Wesley Clark is not about that, it's about whether or not being a jet pilot makes you the right stuff to be a good president.

And in all fairness, we just tried that. And it hasn't worked out that well.

It's a little like saying that Jack Kemp would make a good president because he was a quarterback. Since he was a pro football quarterback, maybe he would. But if he never won a championship as quarterback, maybe not.

Perhaps the most fair way to determine if someone is the right stuff for the job, whether its quarterbacking or top gunning, is to look at their record. According to these folks, here's McCains:

"During his relative short stunt on flight status, John McCain III lost five U.S. Navy aircraft, four in accidents and one in combat.

Robert Timberg, author of The Nightingale's Song, a book about Annapolis graduates and their tours in Vietnam, wrote that McCain "learned to fly at Pensacola, though his performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn't love it."

McCain lost jet number one in 1958 when he plunged into Corpus Christi Bay while practicing landings. He was knocked unconscious by the impact coming to as the plane settled to the bottom.

McCain's second crash occurred while he was deployed in the Mediterranean. "Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula," Timberg wrote, "he took out some power lines [reminiscent of the 1998 incident in which a Marine Corps jet sliced through the cables of a gondola at an Italian ski resort, killing 20] which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral."

McCain's third crash occurred when he was returning from flying a Navy trainer solo to Philadelphia for an Army-Navy football game.

Timberg reported that McCain radioed, "I've got a flameout" and went through standard relight procedures three times before ejecting at one thousand feet. McCain landed on a deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees.

McCain's fourth aircraft loss occurred July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk pilot. While seated in the cockpit of his aircraft waiting his turn for takeoff, an accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain's plane. He escaped from the burning aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and threatened to sink the ship.

McCain's fifth loss happened during his 23rd mission over North Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967, when McCain's A-4 Skyhawk was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. McCain ejected from the plane breaking both arms and a leg in the process and subsequently parachuted into Truc Bach Lake near Hanoi. "

Perhaps the most damning charges though stem from the Forrestal incident. Here some would say that McCain was not an accidental victim of the bizarre event, but rather perhaps the careless creator of the inferno. Here's one acount of the event from the DU:

"Surviving crewmen and those who investigated the Forrestal fire case reported that McCain deliberately 'wet-started' his A-4E Skyhawk to shake up the guy in the F-4 Phantom behind his A-4. 'Wet-starts', done either deliberately (the starter motor switch allowed kerosene to pool in the engine and give a wet start) or accidentally, shoot a large flame from the tail of the aircraft.

In McCain's case, the 'wet-start' 'cooked off' and launched the M34 Zuni rocket from the rear F-4 that punctured the Skyhawk's fueltank, knocked the M-65 1000 lb bomb off it's 500 lb rated mount, and touched off the explosions and massive fire.

The F-4 pilot was reportedly killed in the conflagration, along with 167 of his fellow Forrestal shipmates (including those who died later from wounds suffered). 'Wet starting' was a common practice among young 'hot-dog' pilots.

McCain was quickly transferred to the USS Oriskany (the only Forrestal crewman to be immediately transferred)."

Whether the wet start story is true or not, one thing cannot be denied, McCain was in the middle of it.

For 23 combat missions (an estimated 20 hours over enemy territory), the U.S. Navy awarded McCain a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service medals.

Not bad for a guy who graduated with a class rank of 894 out of 899.

John Sidney McCain III is known among many of his Vietnam flight buddies as "Ace" McCain. This title has not been bestowed upon McCain because he destroyed five enemy aircraft. On the contrary:

It was five on our side

You would have thought his father was in charge of the war.

Fact is.

He was.

A hot head fighter pilot that has lost five jets, and was in the middle of an accident that destroyed another 20, almost sank an aircraft carrier, who perhaps hot gunned 167 of his his fellow sailors down sounds like the stuff of a great charismatic character for an exciting and rivoting adventure movie.

But it's the wrong stuff to be on the trigger of the American military.

We can't afford someone who fights fire with fire.

We need someone who knows in his heart

that it is water that puts out a fire.

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Blogger SB said...

From Move On -- a petition and links to write to major media about this.


On Sunday, General Wesley Clark spoke honestly and bluntly about what it takes to be Commander in Chief. He said that while Senator John McCain's service made him a hero to millions, including Clark himself, McCain's experience doesn't trump the poor judgment that he's shown on some of the most important issues in recent years.

What General Clark said was right, but the media has been in an uproar—twisting his words and accusing him of saying things he didn't say. (You can read Clark's actual words in the P.S. below). CNN even went so far as to accuse Clark of "swift boating" McCain.

When the media distorts the facts on important issues like this, it has serious consequences. Can you sign this petition supporting General Clark and tell the media to stop distorting his comments? Clicking the link will add your name to the petition.


The petition reads:

The American people deserve the truth—not sensational reporting. The media has consistently twisted General Clark's words. In fact, General Clark said he respects John McCain's service, but that McCain's experience doesn't automatically give him the judgment to be Commander in Chief. The media must stop distorting Clark's statement.

Over the last 24 hours, the media has made a caricature of General Clark's statement and distracted this country from the real debate. CNN said that General Clark "tried to Swift boat John McCain," and MSNBC said Clark "blasted McCain's military record."

These characterizations are totally false.

We all honor Senator McCain's service. But that does not mean that on matters of security, the military, and veterans issues that Senator McCain is beyond reproach. Nor does it mean that his service trumps the poor judgment he has shown on some of the most important issues of our time, including the war in Iraq, the efforts to get Osama bin Laden, and veterans legislation like the 21st Century GI Bill.

Please sign the petition today:


It is important for General Clark to not back down, and to keep treating the American people like adults who can handle a real, honest, and blunt debate in these important times.

In some circles, this is called "straight talk," and it's exactly what we need right now.

Thank you for your support,

Jon Soltz
Iraq War Veteran
Chairman, VoteVets.org

P.S. Here's what General Clark actually said, from my piece on Huffington Post yesterday:

BOB SCHIEFFER: How can you say that John McCain is untested and untried, General?

CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable.

John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world.

But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded—that wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle this publicly? He hasn't made that calls, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well, General, maybe—could I just interrupt you?

CLARK: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences, either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...

CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

I thought he lost one when he got back from Nam. I may be wrong but he was a half assed pilot for sure and a terrible student. He was a party guy and was never going to follow in his family footsteps and make admiral.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The treatment of Clark's lucid remarks made in the last few days by the ever-rabid media has been absolute and complete. Anyone who reads a transcript of Clark's remarks could not possibly come away with the conclusion that he was attacking Crazy Train's military record.

Clark was merely stating what ought to be obvious to just about all of us. Having been shot down over Nam and imprisoned for several years does not qualify a man to be president. Personally I don't think it qualifies him to be a hero but I won't argue that point -- that's my own opinion.

Veterans are speaking out against the bullshit.

Veterans Respond to General Clark's Comments
by Brandon Friedman / June 30, 2008

We’ve heard from the pundits, the "strategists," and the politicians all day long on Wesley Clark's recent comments.

That said, I’ve been terribly disappointed by the Democratic "strategists" who’ve fallen all over themselves in order to talk about how sacred military service is--specifically John McCain’s--and how awful General Wesley Clark’s comments were, even though not one "strategist" that I’ve listened to today has ever served a minute in uniform. These ignorant, knee-jerking consultants on TV have been in an apparent race to concede ultimate authority on military matters to John McCain and the Republican Party since Sunday night. It’s disgusting. And these concessions have been so over-the-top destructive to our long-term plans for running the country, that I’m not even sure where to begin.

The bottom line is this: If Democrats tuck tail and run from Republicans in this instance, we run the risk of ceding authority on military issues to John McCain for the rest of the campaign. Whether you like Clark or not, everyone has an interest in defending him vigorously in this case. We cannot allow the Right and the media to get away with trashing the first guy to come out in prime time to slam McCain’s military "expertise." If our organizations don’t defend Clark as being right in this case, we give in to the idea that Republicans are the parents in terms of national defense, and Democrats are the children--something those on the Right will be more than happy to reinforce.

This idea that we can’t question someone’s expertise on military matters simply because they served could very easily become the next "whoever is against the war is unpatriotic" mantra. And that’s not something I’m prepared to accept.

That said, one group we really haven’t heard much from today is the group that's actually served in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that changes now.

Here are a handful of the messages we’ve received at VoteVets.org since this morning. Judge for yourselves what the troops who are left-of-center think about this whole deal.
General Clark was right. Service as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is only one of the roles of a president. General Clark did not attack Senator McCain's ability to be president, he simply pointed out that his military service does not inherently qualify him for that role.

Chris LeJeune
Salt Lake City, UT
Iraq Veteran
General Clark is right. We should honor the service of any veteran who has suffered in war, but I don't think that in itself qualifies one to be the Commander-in-Chief. And that’s the point General Clark was making. He wasn’t attacking Senator McCain personally, and anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous.

Patrick Almand
Dallas, TX
Iraq Veteran
General Clark is on point in his comments about Senator McCain. There are many fine leaders in the military. Some--like Senator McCain--have persevered through the most terrible of circumstances. They are all heroes, but they do not necessarily possess the skills to lead the free world. If Senator McCain really wants to show his Commander-in-Chief credentials, perhaps he should start advocating for a sound national security strategy, rather than marching in the proverbial formation of eight years of failed Bush administration policy.

Richard Smith
Huntsville, AL
Afghanistan Veteran
Combat veterans understand that General Clark did not denigrate Senator McCain's honorable service to this nation. In fact, it's Senator McCain's lack of support for the troops--like his opposition to the new GI Bill until recently--which dishonors and dismisses the selfless sacrifices made by our brave men and women in uniform. General Clark understands these things and is never hesitant to speak out about them. General Clark has our back and I have his.

Ernesto Estrada
San Francisco, CA
Iraq Veteran
Marine Corps
General Clark's criticism is accurate and well-founded. No one is disputing the fact that Senator McCain served his nation with honor, and I am forever grateful for his sacrifice. That being said, the question at hand is whether the senator's military service alone qualifies him to serve as Commander-in-Chief. Despite Senator McCain's horrific experiences in Vietnam, during his tenure in the Senate, he has been a staunch advocate of the disastrous war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failed foreign policy. Senator McCain did not support the Webb-Hagel G.I. Bill or the dwell-time amendment, either of which would have reduced some measure of the emotional and financial stress on active duty service members and veterans. General Clark was not attacking John McCain's military service--he was questioning whether he learned anything from that experience.

Casey Howard
Colorado Springs, CO
Iraq Veteran
In no way has General Clark questioned the honorable service or the patriotism of Captain McCain. Rather, he questioned the judgment of Senator McCain who has foolishly endorsed the failed neo-conservative foreign policy of the Bush administration.

Peter Granato
Washington, DC
Iraq Veteran
General Clark needs to be making these comments. Its the only way to get through the free pass the media is giving John McCain because of his honorable service as a POW.

Elliot Anderson
Las Vegas, NV
Afghanistan Veteran
Marine Corps
General Clark and John McCain are both equally honorable patriots. However, if we can’t have an honest and open debate about policy and military experiences, then the significance of this campaign will be greatly diminished. This is something on which John McCain has based his entire campaign and, therefore, General Clark was totally justified in pointing it out.

David Brignac
Baton Rouge, LA
Afghanistan Veteran
As a third-generation Army veteran, I’ve been fortunate to know many admirable men and women with service in the Armed Forces, but I’m also rational enough to understand that military service alone is not a qualification to be President of the United States . Having the foresight to avoid unnecessary wars and the compassion to fund health care and education for returning veterans is also essential; unfortunately, Senator McCain seems to focus solely on sending troops to war while ignoring other problems facing our nation. With American jobs going overseas, home values plummeting, and our nation’s educational and health care programs under-funded, we need a national strategy focused on resolving our problems both home and abroad. While John McCain’s Veteran and POW status makes him a hero to me and many others, his background in no way qualifies him to tackle the challenges facing our country.

Aaron Bailey
Ann Arbor, MI
Afghanistan Veteran
To attack General Clark for stating what should be obvious -- that military service alone does not automatically qualify one to be Commander in Chief or President -- is ridiculous. Some of our most successful presidents have not served in the armed forces. President Bush did fly a plane in the military -- and his record as Commander-in-Chief has been disastrous. While everyone should respect the service and sacrifice of John McCain (which General Clark did), this respect must not be a gag on honest questions or open debate.

Kayla Williams,
Author of Love My Rifle More than You
Broadlands, VA
Iraq Veteran
General Clark’s comments were taken completely out of context by the media. He never questioned McCain’s service to the nation. He only repeated the words of the reporter asking the questions. General Clark is one of the most qualified voices in the debate over U.S. foreign policy, and it would be a huge loss for the pro-military crowd if his voice were silenced over this nonsense.

Peter O’Brien
Boston, MA
Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran
General Clark is right. Gen. Clark has seen combat as a company commander in Vietnam as well as the commanding General in Kosovo. If anyone knows that military service alone does not qualify one to be the President of the United States, General Clark is it.

Brian McGough
Broadlands, VA
Iraq, and Afghanistan Veteran
My fiance and I both served with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He was infantry and served two tours in Iraq, I was a public affairs specialist (journalist, photographer). Like many, we both saw a lot of death and destruction. As a result, we are both strong opponents of Senator John McCain, as are many of our fellow veterans. We were so relieved to see General Clark say publicly what so many of us who served in uniform have been thinking. Not only do we fundamentally oppose Senator McCain's view on the war, but we are appalled by his constant commitment to voting against, or abstaining from voting, bills that would improve the welfare of service members and veterans.

No one disputes that Senator McCain served honorably in the Navy and is to be commended for his actions. He is truly an American war hero. But these events occurred 40 years ago and the circumstances under which he served in Vietnam (both in the country and under military regulations) are very different from those faced by service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Americans should be looking at his current record--and not lingering on his past one to see just how much he understands about this war and how committed he is to this country's troops.

Linsay Rousseau Burnett and Robert Huddleston
Clarksville, TN
Iraq Veterans
2003-04 and 2005-06
General Wesley Clark is the leader of veterans in the progressive movement. As such, he will defend himself and other, like-minded veterans will defend him--publicly. All parties interested in having the support of the military support should take note.

Source. / Daily Kos

Wesley Clark On Face The Nation June.29, 2008

Also see Defending Wes Clark by Lt. General Robert G. Gard Jr. (USA, Ret.) / The Huffington Post

6:31 AM  

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