Step it up, or / Shut it down

Say what? Better left unsaid? No, no, no! This has been left unsaid too long, man.

I have to disagree with Ambinder here, and I’m not one bit sorry about it. Look, Wes Clark, John McCain and I have one thing in common (at least), and that is that we’ve all seen combat. That experience didn’t really make Clark qualified for the White House, it certainly doesn’t make me qualified, and, what the hell, it doesn’t make McCain qualified to be President either.

The difference between Clark and I and McCain is that the two of us don’t talk about our combat experiences much, while McCain does nothing but that. That’s it! That’s his schtick!

For the 999,999,999th time — and I’ll keep on saying it until November 4th.

McCain is known for three things, and three things only:

1. His role in the Keating five Scandal, which may have led to

2. His role in fashioning a weak campaign finance reform package, and

3. Being shot down and consequently, spending five years as a prisoner of war.

Look, let’s accept, for argument’s sake, that the Vietnam War started in earnest in 1965, and essentially ended in 1973. That’s eight years. McCain was shot down in 1967, taken prisoner, and wasn’t released until 1972.

McCain suffered greatly at the hands of the enemy, that’s beyond question. I respect what he went through over there, even if he and his supporters doesn’t value what I or others have done. His combat experience, however, was fundamentally different from that of Wes Clark, or mine, or my uncle’s, for that matter.

There’s a further reason why Wes Clark or me or many other veterans don’t really talk about combat — it’s because we have other things to talk about! Essentially, we bring our game to the field, and leave everything on it.

McCain, on the other hand, has…no…game. None. Zip. In other words, Mad Jack is a punk, and he knows it! He knows it!

All he does is hint at his suffering, with a wink and a nod, and because regular folks don’t know how to deal with that when faced with it (trust me, they don’t, and that’s OK, as it goes), they give him a pass — and they’ve been doing it for the last four decades.

Well, it all ends now. It starts with Wes Clark, continues with me, and there will be others, some louder than others. I refuse to sanctify or venerate some service more than others.

If John McCain wants to milk his Vietnam experience for votes and support — and he’s been doing it pretty blatantly for forty years — then he’s going to get called on it. It’s as simple as that. If he doesn’t want that to be part of the debate, then the decision is simple — quit talking about it, or referring to it, even implicitly. Simply put, step it up, brother, or shut it down, as the lyric goes.

My hunch? He won’t do that, because he’s unable to. What he endured over the course of half a decade over two score years ago made him who he is. It’s his argument for the Presidency.

You, gentle reader, have no idea how tragic, how heartbreaking, that truly is.

We, however, deserve better than that. If McCain owes us anything — and since he chose running for the highest honor in the land, he certainly does — he owes us the duty to talk about how he plans to accomplish the things he wants to accomplish, rather than simplying saying, “Yes, I can!”

Since he can’t do that, and he’s never been held politically accountable in that way, he does what he’s always done, which is hold everyone else captive to the narrative he’s been living ever since he returned.

And as a result, our country will be the worse for it, even if he — finally? — is possibly better because of it.


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