One of my favorite cartoons shows a drawing of a pond of quicksand. There is a single hand sticking up out of the sand, flipping the bird. The caption goes: “There goes a bitter young man.” If you substitute “old” for “young” it describes John McCain perfectly. It was bad enough that he voted against health care reform, after running for re-election promising to repeal ObamaCare. He did it at 1:00 a.m. in the most theatrical way possible, to provide maximum humiliation to his Republican colleagues in the Senate.
John McCain is routinely described as an American hero. That is true if you give that label to anyone who served in combat during the Vietnam War. It is true if you grant hero status to anyone who was a POW in North Vietnam. He was definitely brave enough to fly very dangerous combat missions over North Vietnam. No one should blame McCain for breaking under torture while a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, but understanding and awarding hero status are very different things. It is widely reported that McCain produced propaganda tapes that were broadcast over the radio to U.S. troops and played constantly on the prison loudspeakers.
Most people don’t know that McCain was involved in in three major air crashes, before he was shot down over Hanoi. Most people don’t know that McCain was involved in a major incident on the USS Forrestal that resulted in the death of 134 sailors.
McCain apparently did not stay on deck to help fight the fire and the next day he got a ride off the ship on a helicopter with New York Times reporter Apple. This happened during a time when critically injured sailors were desperately waiting for transportation off that ship. Apple wrote the following:
“Today, hours after the fire that ravaged the flight deck and killed so many of his fellow crewmen, Commander McCain sat in Saigon and shook his head. ‘It was such a great ship,’ he said. Later, Apple wrote: “It was almost three months ago that the young, prematurely gray Navy pilot was sitting in a villa in Saigon, sipping a Scotch with friends and recalling the holocaust that he had managed to live through. He was John Sydney McCain, 3rd, a lieutenant commander. The day before he had watched from the cockpit of his Skyhawk attack plane as flames suddenly engulfed the flight deck of the Forrestal, on which his squadron was based. ‘It’s a difficult thing to say; he remarked after a long time. ‘But now that I’ve seen what the bombs and the napalm did to the people on our ship, I’m not so sure I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam.’ ”
I cringed when Donald Trump, who appears to have sat out the Vietnam War with highly questionable medical deferments, trashed John McCain. At least John McCain served which is more than what Trump did. But when Trump said the following about McCain: “he’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured” he was rude, crude and truthful. McCain did receive a lot of medals, but almost all of them were because he was a POW.
McCain clearly enjoyed sticking it to Trump, and the country, on his way out of the Senate. Once again, with John McCain, it is all about…John McCain. Like I said, there goes a bitter old man. I wish him well in his fight against brain cancer, but “hero worship,” not so much.