I was recently asked whether I support the comments made by General Wes Clark, regarding Senator John McCain's qualifications to be Commander in Chief. I know General Wes Clark, having served directly for him for many years both in and out of uniform. In some ways I feel that I know him better than many; therefore, I am compelled to speak out on behalf of the integrity, honesty and just plain old fashioned smarts that he has consistently shown throughout his tenure as a military leader and into his civilian life. Let me be as clear as possible. Speaking as a veteran, both General Clark and I, not only respect but, revere the service given to our country by John McCain, including his years spent as a prisoner of war; however, this is not about Lieutenant John McCain the war hero. Make no mistake about it, Lieutenant McCain is a genuine American hero, but the issue at hand is about the judgment of Senator John McCain the politician.
The fact that the Rush Limbaugh right wing of the Republican party would pull out all the stops to escalate and attack Wes Clark for a simple statement of fact, after Wes clearly acknowledged, celebrated, and revered McCain's military service, is among the lowest and most base of political maneuvers. The candidacy for the Presidency is not about John McCain's judgment as a combat pilot – a profession that requires incredible nerves of steel, the athletic coordination of an Olympic athlete, and the bravery of our greatest national heroes.
This is about the judgment of Senator John McCain the politician. Every veteran I know holds Lieutenant McCain as a hero. It makes it all the more troubling that, as a Senator, John McCain voted against the new GI Bill of Rights, developed by his fellow Senator, Jim Webb (Interestingly enough I'm running against another Johnny come lately neo-con that voted "present" on the Webb GI Bill). I believe that our veterans deserve the best equipment when they are in the field, the best medical treatment we can provide, and the opportunity to make the transition from the military back into civilian life with the best and most generous benefits possible. One would think that a Vietnam veteran like Senator McCain, who saw – first hand – the heartache suffered by himself and his fellow soldiers both during and after the war, would share these priorities. Unfortunately, he does not. This makes me question his judgment.
Secondly, Senator John McCain has said that we should reject face to face diplomacy as a first effort. In fact, he has attacked those who say we should. This is especially hard to understand since McCain's own release from captivity, in 1972, came as a result of direct treaty negotiations. Senator John McCain appears to believe that negotiations are the same as appeasement since he stated that appeasement was the mistake of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Perhaps he does not really understand what negotiations are. It is never wrong to negotiate from a position of strength? We did this for the entire Cold War with an entrenched enemy dedicated to our destruction by nuclear attack; yet, we negotiated, and negotiated, and negotiated. We need a president who has the judgment to understand the difference between negotiating and capitulating.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Senator John McCain the politician has stated that he is willing to stay in Iraq for 100 years. We stayed in Vietnam for far too long and for all the wrong reasons. We thought that somehow we could create a Democracy by continuing the occupation, and because of that, more soldiers died than should have. This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of the then Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. We were driven by politicians who were unwilling to withdraw from an unnecessary war that simply could not be won militarily. Why would Senator John McCain the politician, someone who saw the horrors of Vietnam and spent such a long time as a POW, even consider doing the exact same thing to the current generation of soldiers (and generations yet to come if we are there for a 100 years) that Vietnam era politicians did to Lieutenant John McCain and his fellow soldiers? This is completely unfathomable and it is one of the main reasons that I believe Senator John McCain does not have the judgment or qualifications to be Commander in Chief.
In short, the very experiences of Lieutenant John McCain the war hero lead me to question the judgment of Senator John McCain the politician. I have never been part of a conversation that has denigrated John McCain for his war service. In fact, I do not take part in conversations that denigrate John McCain as a person. I was with General Clark when Senator McCain ate dinner with him, at his quarters in Panama. Not only is it true that Wes has a genuine friendship and respect for the Senator, but it is also true that he has a deep respect for his commitment to serving America in the Senate. Now we are told that discussing qualifications for the highest office in our country is somehow wrong. I think not. If only we had focused on these discussions 8 years ago perhaps the American people would have been spared the worst President in the history of our Nation.
Oh – and by the way – Wes Clark was critically wounded while leading a jungle combat patrol in Vietnam; yet, it is perfectly acceptable for Rush Limbaugh to denigrate his military service. If Grammys, Oscars, Emmys and Tonys were awarded for hypocrisy he would have several of all four. Tell me Rush – just when did you wear a uniform or are you like so many of your neo con buddies who just had more important things to do?