Saturday, January 26, 2008

McCain Torched by Tulsa Writer

Presidential candidate John McCain has seen his political fortunes rise in recent weeks. Once all but declared dead by the pundits, McCain has won a couple of Republican primaries and shows every sign of being the GOP front runner.

As we noted in our previous post, Oklahoma House Speaker Lance Cargill has come out as a McCain supporter.

But the backlash has begun—and the McCain haters are turning up the rhetorical heat. Consider, for example, a letter by Tulsan Charles Dyer in Wednesday's Tulsa World.

Some highlights: McCain is a "grumpy old geezer" and a "smirking fake." He's "Amnesty John" who has "pandered to millions of lawbreakers and their apologists."

But that's not all. McCain "has opposed tax cuts" and supported the closing of Guantanamo, which will "unleash al-Qaida terrorists on the U.S. prison system." Worst of all, perhaps. the ACLU "must love this guy."

Finally this: "Amnesty John is known for his terrible temper and sanctimonious ways."

Whoa, Nelly! Next time, Mr. Dyer, tell us what you really think.

As usual, however, there's another side to the story. Mr. Dyer doesn't mention it, but McCain is also a war hero served as a Navy pilot in Vietnam (unlike, say, chickenhawks such as Dick Cheney, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity), survived a devastating fire on the USS Forrestal in 1967 (you can look it up), was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, survived five years as a POW and was tortured by his captors, was finally released and became a distinguished (though not perfect) Republican U.S. senator from Arizona.

AltTulsa doesn't always agree with Sen. McCain, it's true, but let's cut the guy some slack. Like him or not, McCain is an honorable man who has earned the respect of all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

Based on his letter to the editor, Mr. Dyer is unwilling to grant even this courtesy to McCain, apparently because the senator is not sufficiently right-wing enough and unwilling to toe the conservative line on illegal immigration.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, of course. But we submit that this take no prisoners, scorched earth rhetoric is bad for the Republican Party and conservative politics. It's also bad for democracy, a political system that depends on some amount of good will and civil debate.

Assuming the very worst about your political foes may make some partisans feel good, but it does nothing to make the nation better or stronger.

12 comments:

Maria said...

I agree. Like his politics or not, Senator McCain is an honorable man who deserves a level of respect and should be extended some courtesy. Argue his position on the issues-- disagree with that-- but for crying out loud, be respectful. Actually, I think everyone should learn that lesson and treat each other just a little better-- agree or disagree with issues, but treat the person with respect!

"This take no prisoners, scorched earth rhetoric" is bad for everyone.

Tulsan said...

"(McCain) was tortured by his captors..."

Oh, I guess they couldn't have waterboarded him then.

"...this take no prisoners, scorched earth rhetoric is bad for the Republican Party and conservative politics."

To that extent, it is a good thing, but as you say,

"It's also bad for democracy, a political system that depends on some amount of good will and civil debate."

The Limbaughs, Hannitys, Gibsons and Matthewses need to be widely seen as the phonies and opportunists they are.

Dan Paden said...

Sometimes, in order to see things in the humorous way I do, you need to drop a few words. For instance,

...chickenhawks such as Dick Cheney, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity...

is a lot funnier when followed immediately by

Assuming the very worst about your political foes may make some partisans feel good, but it does nothing to make the nation better or stronger.

Now, seriously: y'all are about to seriously try to put into the office of CIC either a woman whose military experience would be--let me think now--ah, yes, that would be none, unless you count her vote authorizing the use of the military in Iraq (isn't that the definition of "chickenhawk" you are working from?) or one of two men, neither of whom has a military record. To my mind, then, you are running one "chickenhawk" for president, and two would-be future chickenhawks, unless you propose to bar them from ever sending troops into combat. And, of course, your last successful presidential candidate skipped out on ROTC and never served a day in the military, but I note that it didn't stop him from sending troops into Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia, launching missiles into the Sudan and into Afghanistan, and ordering air attacks on Iraqi military targets. Was he a chickenhawk?

It seems to me that the Democratic Party has no room to talk when it comes to that sort of thing.

Tulsan said...

In case anyone is interested in the military background of any of the candidates, the rundown is at Politifact.com

I think AT's intention in the post is simply to give some credit to McCain for his undeniable record in the Navy. None of the other candidates of either party come close. A voter who feels that a military background is important has to look at McCain.

By contrast, Cheney "supported" the Vietnam War but applied for and received five deferments. Cheney later explained, "I had other priorities in the 60s than military service."

Perhaps Cheney and his cabal would have benefited from some exposure, after observing their ready willingness to commit their countrymen to military action under false pretenses.

I imagine that McCain's own experience, and the fact that his son is serving in Iraq would moderate his thinking on the matter. He's not my choice, but he deserves some respect.

Tulsan said...

Dan: "...unless you count her (Hillary's) vote authorizing the use of the military in Iraq (isn't that the definition of "chickenhawk" you are working from?)"

Not the one I am working from.

Agreed that Hillary made a mistake in voting to give Bush the power to prosecute the war as he saw fit (and his "seeing" turned out to be anything but fit.)

There is certainly a difference between a bad vote, and the archetecting, propagandizing and implementing of a war plan (especially the under-false-pretenses Iraq war.)

My definition of "chickenhawk": someone who takes a consistently aggressive military stance, but also took active measures to avoid personal service. That is Cheney to a T. Without doubt, Bill Clinton actively avoided the draft, but also could not be considered a hawk in general outlook.

George W. Bush joined the reserves as a way to avoid combat, but he did serve. Rush Limbaugh had a cyst on his rear end and received a deferment for it---chickenhawk. Sean Hannity was too young to be eligible for the draft.

Of the viable GOP field, Romney and especially Giuliani qualify as "chickenhawks." McCain and Huckabee do not: the latter, because he was never eligible for the draft, and the former because he did not avoid the draft.

That's one definition. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expand it to include non-serving hawks who didn't avoid service, but it wouldn't be as telling that way.

Dan Paden said...

Bill Clinton actively avoided the draft, but also could not be considered a hawk in general outlook.

After the list of military adventures I provided, one has to wonder just how many places one has to commit troops and how many people one has to blow to kingdom come to be considered to have a generally hawkish outlook. But even granting that Der Schlickmeister didn't have one, it amazes me that you will concede that he avoided the draft, but it was still okay for him to send troops into the fray because his outlook was different. Apparently, attitude makes all the difference. Wait 'til I tell the kids.

My definition of "chickenhawk"...

Seems to be less than universal.

In the post, we have (unlike, say, chickenhawks such as Dick Cheney, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity)

And then your words:

George W. Bush joined the reserves as a way to avoid combat, but he did serve.

Sean Hannity was too young to be eligible for the draft.

Which of you is in error as to the "chickenhawk" status of these two men?

You know, there are people whose judgment is less than stellar, who really shouldn't be trusted with sending troops into combat, and who possibly ought not to be listened to when discussing the subject. But the reality is that "chickenhawk" has just become such an abused pejorative on the left that it is largely bereft of objective meaning and serves only to smear anyone who supports military action without having served in the military--whenever it suits the left, of course.

And it does suit the left to have McCain's opponents tarred. He is far more agreeable to the left on a number of issues than others whom we conservatives prefer.

While it is perfectly true that Senator McCain's military service was honorable and extraordinary, that alone does not qualify a man to be president, and, on his positions, most conservatives simply do not feel he has been consistently with them and that he cannot be trusted not to stab them in the back--again. Anyone who looks at his record can see this in a heartbeat. The heated rhetoric surrounding Senator McCain stems not from a lack of respect for his military service, but from being incensed over his repeated betrayals, condescension toward those in his own party, and outright insults to conservatives.

And it ain't helpin' him none that some of the kindest words heading his way come from our ideological opposition. We note such things.

Tulsan said...

Dan: "...it amazes me that you will concede that (Clinton) avoided the draft, but it was still okay for him to send troops into the fray because his outlook was different."

How "okay" it is, is a matter of personal preference I guess. It's certainly not okay with me that Bush sent troops to Iraq whether he spent time in the reserves or not.

The President, whether he or she has military experience or not, is given the key role to play in foreign policy, and there is no requirement that he or she have military experience, however helpful it might be.

Apparently the American people are okay with that, as I have heard no clamor to change it.

I maintain that Clinton would be seen as a hawk by very few, despite the fact that he did order military actions.

***
Dan: "(Tulsan's definition of 'chickenhawk') Seems to be less than universal."

Agreed. I chose mine to highlight the hypocrisy of people who are eager to commit others to battle, but took active measures to avoid the military themselves.

It's understandable that neither Dick Cheney nor Bill Clinton wished to fight in Vietnam, especially from the late 1960's on. During the Nixon presidency, it became obvious that we were getting out, it was only a matter of he and Kissinger finding a face-saving way to do it. Why would anyone be eager to throw his life away once that became understood, even assuming they were previously gung ho?

Today's GOP candidates appear overeager to commit others to a war even more misbegotten and pointless than Vietnam proved to be. Do you imagine that if any of them were in their teens or twenties right now, that they would be enlisting? I think not.

Why are all those able-bodied RedState youths who believe in this war so passionately not lined up at the recruiting stations?

I don't really care whether conservatives think McCain stabbed them in the back or not. In fact, I would much prefer Romney or Huckabee get the GOP nomination. They would be easier to beat. Once the right digests this, they will fall in line, and look to dislike of the Democrat for motivation if they can't muster any enthusiasm for McCain. But I hope I'm wrong and that McCain does not get the nomination.

Dan Paden said...

I would much prefer Romney or Huckabee get the GOP nomination. They would be easier to beat.

I gather that that's because you think McCain'd be more likely to get the swing votes, and I suppose he might be. But I have a hard time thinking that he's going to win--at least easier than Romney or Huckabee--without reasonably enthusiastic support from the conservative base. There's already serious talk in some quarters of sitting out the general election if McCain gets the nomination, on the grounds that he wouldn't be much, if any, better than a Democrat, and if/when things "tank" during the next administration, it'd be far preferable for it to happen on a Democrat's watch--and also for the sake of making it clear to certain Republican blue-bloods that they cannot take conservative votes for granted.

I don't know that that will actually happen. Personally, I will vote for McCain if it comes down to it, because I really do think your candidates are even worse. But that's hardly the way to win, you know: "Vote for McCain: At least he's not as bad as so-and-so!"

Granted, Romney and Huckabee each have their problems, but they don't include a history of having directly insulted and repeatedly betraying the people they expect to vote for them. They are much more likely to have the support of the base, and in the long run, I can't help but think that that is at least as much a factor in winning the general election as getting the swing vote, maybe more. And I think either of those candidates might get a lot more of the swing voters than you give them credit for, anyway.

To be frank, if y'all'd run a tolerable Democrat, one that could at least fake being close to the center, Republicans wouldn't stand a chance this election cycle. But your party responds better to its base than our party responds to ours, and as a result, you keep fielding candidates that are so far left and, in some cases, so unbelieveably weird and/or personally repulsive, that you are on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Tulsan said...

This election presents a dilemma for the "Christian values" voter.

Huckabee was the real winner late last year at the Values Voters Summit in D.C., sponsored by Dobson's "Focus on the Family" group. Despite this "grassroots" support, Dobson himself was reluctant to endorse him, probably because of questions about his electability.

If Dobson had thrown his weight behind Huckabee, then Huckabee came a cropper, as he seems to be doing now, then Dobson's power would be diminished along with that of the bloc of voters he represents.

This group cannot truly get behind Romney since he is a Mormon. McCain is clearly not a true believer. What are they to do?

Yes, they could sit out the election or run a third part candidate. Either option would likely propel the Democrat into the White House. Either might devalue their perceived strength as a political force.

The Republican "bluebloods" have cynically used the bloc for years anyway. Maybe that is only now becoming apparent to them. But there is nowhere else to go.

The Democrats always run the risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The current leaders in Congress (with the exception of Dodd) seem frightened of rocking the leaky boat of Bush and his enablers. I'm hopeful that will change, because there is no other way to remove the GOP's grip on power than to build up the Democratic party.

Tulsan said...

Dan: "...if/when things "tank" during the next administration, it'd be far preferable for it to happen on a Democrat's watch..."

Probably the best thing that could happen to the GOP is to lose power, before all the bad seeds they have sown come to rotten fruition. Then they can blame it all on the Democrats. And it might work. That's where the GOP's talent seems to solely reside, not in effective or even non-disastrous governance.

Dan Paden said...

Tulsan, of your last two comments, I agreed with every word of the first, believe it or not, and of the second--well, I'm sure it'll come as no surprise to you that Republicans feel much the same way about Democrats' capacity for proper governance.

The story goes that a famous baseball manager was once so upset with his left fielder's play that he decided to get out there himself and show the man how the job was supposed to be done. He promptly muffed an easy pop-up. When he came back into the dugout, he told his left fielder, "Son, you got left field so fouled up, can't nobody play it."

Sometimes I think that's about what the current political landscape amounts to: so fouled up, can't nobody play it.

Tulsan said...

Dan: "Sometimes I think that's about what the current political landscape amounts to: so fouled up, can't nobody play it."

Digby: "The country finally rejected everything the Republicans had so smoothly accomplished and elected a Democratic majority in 2006. And the Republicans have responded by completely obstructing any kind of Democratic agenda, protecting their unpopular president from having to make unpopular vetoes and projecting a new argument that everything is stymied because of "partisan bickering." In other words, the Republicans created the illusion of a bipartisan disease and are now touting a "cure" that will only benefit them. They're good at that sort of thing.