John McCain served honorably in Vietnam. He cites that service whenever he’s questioned about an issue for which he doesn’t have a good answer. Instead of describing any particular policy or his twenty six year record in Washington, his convention has been a three day description McCain’s military record. Expect to hear even more about it in his acceptance speech tonight.
Remember that just a couple of weeks ago, McCain was criticized for his inability to remember how many many houses he owns. At the Democratic convention, Joe Biden said that McCain couldn’t understand kitchen table issues because he would first have to decide over which kitchen table he would discuss them. McCain ultimately formulated this non-sequitur of a response:
I spent five and a half years in a prison cell, I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a kitchen table, I didn’t have a table, I didn’t have a chair,” said McCain, citing his history as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. “I spent those five and half years not because I wanted to get a house when I got back home.”
Subject changed. No longer was the issue McCain’s age, forgetfulness, or inability to identify with the difficulties facing average Americans.
Intimidated, the media let him off the hook: How can you question a war hero and former POW about whether his memory is what it used to be or whether he understands what life is like for other Americans? So they didn’t.
When John Kerry ran for president in 2004, Republicans savaged his service in Vietnam. Republican delegates, in a particularly unpatriotic display, wore purple Band-Aids at their convention to mock what they claimed were exaggerated or falsified descriptions of the circumstances under which he was wounded in battle.
Swift Boat Vets for Truth, a Bush front group, was vicious. They alleged that accounts of Kerry’s bravery in combat were exaggerated or even fabricated. In short, they lied about him.
Democrats, by contrast, have gone out of their way to honor McCain’s service, and rightfully so.
But in ’04, Kerry didn’t help. His references to his experience in war — like McCain’s — were overbearing and frequently came off as self-serving. I recall hearing conservative bloviators suggest that he went to Vietnam simply so that he could use it as a resume-booster thirty five years later in a run for president.
Throughout the ’04 campaign, James Taranto, who writes for OpinionJournal, referred to Kerry as the “haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam.” It’s a great line and effectively mocked Kerry’s incessant references to his service. It turned Kerry’s frequent references to his service into a joke.
Kerry’s service itself became a liability. He was seen as a limp-wristed pansy who didn’t know how to fight a war. Meanwhile, Bush, who avoided Vietnam and skipped out on his National Guard unit, became a steely-eyed warrior with the fortitude to defend America.
It was completely absurd. So where are the mainstream editorialists mocking John McCain for pulling out his service every time he can’t think of a better answer?