August 28, 2008

That Part of McCain's POW Experience No One Mentions

Given that the McCain campaign seems to be running on his POW past of late, am I the only one who finds it peculiar that no one in the media seems to ever mention that confession he wrote in prison? I mean of course it's not surprising b/c 1) the media has worshiped McCain for years and 2) most would consider folding to torture completely understandable (though, true, according to the Bush administration McCain wasn't tortured) so it's not that surprising he did it. But if the campaign is constantly going to "go there", isn't the utter silence on the topic peculiar? And if Barack Obama had written such a thing wouldn't parts of the media be collecting their torches and pitchforks? To be clear I am NOT urging them to go there. But given the media's often salacious tendencies, and the McCain camp continually spotlighting his time there, I find the silence odd.

Posted by armand at August 28, 2008 02:22 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Politics | Pure Unadulterated Snark


McCain's confession, via the UK Daily Mail:
For almost two months, nothing happened. Then the punishment sessions began. I was hauled into an empty room and kept there for four days. At intervals, the guards returned to administer beatings.

One guard held me while the others pounded away.

They cracked several of my ribs and broke a couple of teeth. Weakened by beatings and dysentery, with my right leg again nearly useless, I found it impossible to stand.

On the third night I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move. Three guards lifted me to my feet and gave me the worst beating yet. They left me lying on the floor moaning from the stabbing pain in my re-fractured arm.

Despairing of any relief from pain and further torture, I tried to take my life. After several unsuccessful attempts, I managed to stand. Up-ending the waste bucket, I stepped on it, bracing myself against the wall with my good arm. I looped my shirt through the shutters. As I looped it around my neck, a guard saw the shirt through the window, pulled me off the bucket and beat me.

Later, I made a second, feebler attempt at suicide. On the fourth day, I gave up. I signed a confession that "I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pilot". The guards ordered me to record my confession on tape. I refused, and was beaten until I consented.

Those were the worst two weeks of my life. I shook, as if my disgrace was a fever and no one would ever look on me again except in pity or contempt.

Posted by: Morris at August 30, 2008 01:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yup, and if it'd been Obama who'd done it Coulter would have an entire book out on the "black criminal" and she'd be regularly feted by Hannity and Rush. So I find it odd no one in the press (the US press) really ever talks about this. I mean I don't, for the reasons stated above, but at the same time it is the kind of life moment some reporters and pundits seize on, so I sort of do.

Posted by: Armand at August 30, 2008 09:21 AM | PERMALINK

And if it were Jon Stewart taking on your response as he takes on Republicans (because that's where Dems get their news), he'd throw in a clip of you saying the words "black criminal" replayed a dozen times during his show, as if they were your words, for comic effect of course.

Posted by: Morris at August 30, 2008 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Remind me how mocking Jon Stewart (I'm not sure where you are going with that comment, but I'm guessing that's what you meant to do - and btw, boy howdy do you overestimate his ratings) is relevant to this thread?

Posted by: Armand at August 30, 2008 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

You brought up Coulter and Hannity as examples of people who talk about Obama's problems, so my comment reminds you how they are not alone in their unbalanced coverage. And the liberals I know here do get their news from Colbert and Jon Stewart.

If you actually listen to Glen Beck, Michael Savage, Rush, and Hannity, you don't get the same views. Think about the crisis in Georgia: Glen Beck says we need to fight with the Georgians and Savage thinks that it's their part of the world. These talk hosts all oppose Obama, but your argument assumes that because they say something negative (that's true) about Obama, then the Dems can say something negative (that's true) about McCain, without regard for the big picture.

I'd personally love for the story of his confession to get out, for Obama to confront him about it in a debate. Because the picture of his confession is one of sacrifice for his country, and you don't see Obama sacrificing, you see him missing votes that count if they're controversial. He's not willing to sacrifice his ambition, to go on record. That's why he can't respond to claims he's an extremist, but he doesn't have a record to counter these claims.

McCain is willing to sacrifice his ambition, to go on record, and that's why he's able to compromise. That's why he's not a Republican party leader, he's an outsider. That's why he's a unifier, because he's willing to put aside the interests of his Washington friends if he thinks they're wrong. That's why I disagree with him as much as I do, but it's also why I respect him more than I respect Obama. McCain stands for something, even though sometimes he loses.

Posted by: Morris at August 30, 2008 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Morris once again reads things into things I typed, coming up with paragraph after paragraph about something you think I said - but which I never actually said.

I brought up Hannity, Rush and Coulter not b/c they criticize Obama, but b/c they are the sort who continually flies the more-patriotic-than-thou card with a sneering condescension. Jon Stewart does nothing of the sort.

And why on Earth would Obama bring this up? My point is that a salacious media that's continually questioning the patriotism of certain American leaders is not doing it in this case, when a prominent American leader bent to the enemy's wishes in wartime - and I think that's something that's worth making one go hmmmmm. Obama has nothing to do with it. I'm questioning the media.

And you are criticizing Obama for missing votes? I've no idea why that's relevant here, but it's McCain who hasn't voted since April or something. And since when is McCain "going on the record". In the last few months the press can't get him to say much more than POW. There are lots of issues he's chosen not to discuss - but then as someone who follows the news I'm sure you know that. And in what bizarro-land is he a unifier? It's not relevant to this thread but since you brought it up - he's been in Congress for about a quarter century and doesn't have substantial record of accomplishment there; most of his colleagues didn't like him there; he won the nomination over a weak field with plurality wins in win-take-all systems; on pretty much any possible measure Republicans are less enthusiastic than Democrats ... you might think he's principled (though I find that laughable as apart from being ardently forced-pregnancy his views his politics have fluctuated a good deal over the last decade), but I don't see much evidence he's a "unifier".

Anyway, apparently the St. Paul gathering will feature a lot of attention on his POW years - it'll be interesting to see if Team McCain highlights this as an example of his service.

Posted by: Armand at August 30, 2008 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

You're right about the left not bringing up the patriotism argument. But if it were significant to them, wouldn't they? That is, most human attributes are expressed by degree. We want a president that's wiser, not more foolish, one that's more just, not more unfair, one with more courage, not less. But the left says patriotism is delivered equally, and you cannot question how much a person has. I don't see it, any more that I see equal courage, wisdom, or justice.

And McCain has a twenty year record in the Senate of being on the record. Obama has a three year record of missing votes. I know many of McCain's colleagues don't like him because he's not a company man, not an extremist meant to invigorate his base. We've heard for years how Bush was an extremist meant to activate his base, as though it's evil, and then Dems nominate the most liberal senator, to be extremist and activate their base because they're so tired of losing they don't care if it's right. John McCain is not that man.

Posted by: Morris at August 31, 2008 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Oy, dude, put the Kool-Aid down.

Again, none of this has anything to do with what you think or with what Obama thinks. I'm saying portions of the media eat this up - so why are they avoiding it? Mmmm, bias? I don't know - but it's weird. And given that they repeatedly raise the issue generally, and that the McCain camp continually argues its more patriotic than Obama and the Democrats, I'm surprised the US media has chose not to note this page in McCain's POW history.

And puh-leeze, pretty please, drop that nonsense about the most liberal senator. The National Journal ratings are crap, and we and much of the blogosphere have been over that a million times. I'll most happily acknowledge that he's liberal, and in fact more liberal than Hillary Clinton. But he's just not the most liberal senator, even is a piss-poor measuring instrument says he is. The DW-Nominate scores, or whatever they are being called lately, is the appropriate measure if you are looking for a general rating b/c that actually includes all the votes.

Posted by: Armand at August 31, 2008 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I heard a minor commentator bring this issue up but he tied it to the issue of torture. American feels it can torture people to obtain useful information. His point was either
A - John McCain is a war criminal like he says he is
B - People lie under torture so any information gained is useless.

Posted by: New Here at September 21, 2008 08:27 AM | PERMALINK

Today there's a lengthy front page story in the Sunday Washington Post (by Michael Dobbs) on John McCain's time as a pilot and POW (it's also the lead story on the MSNBC site at the moment). That's all it deals with - it is framed as the story that shaped his character, and it is predictably rhapsodic and told from bended knee, right down to the conclusion which says McCain provided "political cover" for Bill Clinton to normalize ties with Vietnam. It's worth noting that it does mention McCain's statement (which they term a "confession" - parentheses included). But that behavior is explained away, and not deemed to say anything about his character.

Of course why this tale tells us more about McCain's character than his voting record, his personal relationships, or his personality, is never explained, even though this is a lengthy piece.

Posted by: Armand at October 5, 2008 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

In that vein, there is a Rolling Stone piece that gets into some of that.

Posted by: binky at October 5, 2008 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not disputing the dubiousness of an undue focus on McCain's time as a POW as demonstrating anything more than his tenacity and his service to his country, but I think it would be unseemly for people who disdain torture to do more than note -- if even to do so -- that under sufficient duress, McCain told his captors what they wanted to hear, as virtually anyone would do under the same circumstances. Personally, I consider his "statement" wholly irrelevant to defining who he is.

Posted by: Moon at October 5, 2008 02:26 PM | PERMALINK

I humbly disagree given that at his convention and in his press generally this story has been told a million times (okay, a slight exaggeration) with that bit of the history excluded. If he's going to be the candidate who's little more than a biography (and a biography of things done 30-40 years ago at that), I think that's an important part of the biography - at least in so far as he's always selling himself as the tough guy who has been forever steadfast, and who is morally superior to other candidates b/c of his refusal to deal with "bad guys".

Posted by: Armand at October 5, 2008 02:40 PM | PERMALINK

I understand your sense of propriety and honesty, but my first point, above, was that I don't think it has anything to do with the story, as being more or less implicit and / or inevitable in a five-year stint in the Hanoi Hilton. A second point is that hammering on this from the left is incredibly dangerous, especially with a candidate who has not served in uniform. There's an inevitable sense of cravenness or effeteness in a candidate for CinC who has no time in service -- not one I agree with but one that cannot be denied among centrist voters -- and to draw attention to it by nitpicking at a fundamentally heroic (and ultimately irrelevant) narrative can only injure the left.

Posted by: moon at October 5, 2008 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

I get what you are saying, and I have no interest in hammering down on it. But I think it is something that needs to be included in such narratives to make them more honest (and of course to point out the ridiculousness of those who think every supposed evil-doer's secret - whether they have one or not - can be revealed if you just torture them enough). I don't want to see ads run saying he bent to the will of the Commies. But I also don't want him painted as Superman in hagiographies that play fast and loose with the facts at hand.

Posted by: Armand at October 5, 2008 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think fixating on the fact that he "confessed" under torture is worthwhile. What I do think is relevant is the development and utilization of the narrative of his experience, vis a vis that of others who went through something similar. He has suffered more that anyone should, and he did it while in the service of the country. That does not mean he is qualified for the presidency by virtue of that experience.

Posted by: binky at October 5, 2008 04:38 PM | PERMALINK

And on that point Binky I find Dobbs' Post/MSNBC story rather weird. If there's one thing voters know about McCain it's that he was a POW. You'd think if they were going to devote that many column inches (it's a long piece) to coverage of McCain a mere 4 weeks before the election that they'd cover something that's more obviously "news".

Posted by: Armand at October 5, 2008 05:02 PM | PERMALINK
Post a comment

Remember personal info?