Paging Senator Webb, please pick up your belongings and move up the short list. It’s been almost 60 hours and Randi Rhoads has spent two consecutive shows being practically apoplectic about the fine Wes a respected General and Democratic Vice Presidential front-runner has made.
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, 34-year veteran of the United States Army and the Department of Defense, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, has spent the last two news cycles being excoriated for having the temerity to express an opinion on John McCain’s entitlement to the American Presidency based alone on his military service and sacrifice. In a less-charged news environment or if the mainstream media would be paying any attention at all to John McCain’s bionically acrobatic ideological floor show that could have qualified him for Beijing, this would have been a perfectly appropriate and on-point criticism of Senator McCain’s self-declared squatting rights on all things military simply because of the tragic end and harrowing five-year-long end to his combat career.
In 2008, and at the beginning of what will be the ugliest general election in any of our lifetimes, not so much. Given the respondent vitriol, you would have been forgiven for mistakenly thinking that Clark was nickamed “Country Wes” in the 1960s and tossed a grenade into his campus ROTC building before hopping into a filthy VW van with four mange-afflicted dogs and three girls nicknamed after celestial phenomena and hightailing it for Canada, instead of being a highly-decorated General, wounded Vietnam vet, and West Point valedictorian.
For the record, here’s the conversation, on this past Sunday’s Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer, that has confirmed to a pre-convention, summer-bored media that General Clark is a turncoat who grew his hair long and joined the Hippies:
GENERAL CLARK: “That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded, that wasn’t a wartime squadron. He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn’t seen what it’s like when diplomats come in and say, I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it publicly? He hasn’t made those calls, Bob.”
BOB SCHIEFFER: “Well — well, General, maybe — could I just interrupt you?”
SCHIEFFER: “I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences, either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean…”
CLARK: “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how much General Wesley Clark hates America, and Senator McCain.
And boy was the Senator from Arizona mad. So much so, that he added two new flips and a flop to his positional ouevre. As always, as it is increasingly obvious, the recorded archive is John McCain’s worst enemy. Dan Abrams cited a handful tonight, including McCain’s thoughts from November 7, 1999, “The question I ask my self every morning while shaving in front of the mirror is: OK, John, you’re an incredible war hero, an inspiration to all Americans. But what qualifies you to be President Of The United States?”
Never mind that this is what Clark said over and over and over and over. “I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility,” he said to Schieffer on Sunday. But that was lost in the follow-up. Even though he repeated it ad nauseum on Dan Abrams’ Verdict on MSNBC Monday, Abrams kept poking him in the eye and asking again, insisting during and after the interview that he still didn’t know what the General meant, if the General would repudiate or apologize for what he said. You’d have to be dumber than a box or rocks or ruthless in pursuit of your ratings to contend that you didn’t understand what General Clark meant. Dan Abrams isn’t anything close to stupid.
As for the Arizona Senator, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. McCain wasted no time in enlisting the aid of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, whom he lashed in 2004 for their lacerating attacks on John Kerry’s military service in 2004, just because he testified eloquently against the Vietnam War and tossed his medal into the White House lawn. The SWBFT were front an center in McCain’s new “Truth Squad” that he formed this week to counter any charges that will emerge from the Obain camp and from his surrogates. Never mind that McCain defended Kerry in 2004 against the slurs of this group that introduced the term “527″ into our political lexicon, and deplored the Swift Boat attacks against the 2004 Democratic nominee as “the same kind of deal that was pulled on me” in McCain’s 2000 Presidential primary campaign against George Bush. McCain this week welcomed the support of Colonel Bud Day and McCain’s former Hanoi Hilton cellmate Orson Swindle–both of whom were front and center in defaming the legitimacy of Kerry’s military service in 2004–and has accepted nearly $70,000 from their crew, the aforementioned Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
This all should be gone by the end of the week, but Team McCain is going to be dipping into the rucksack to find and toss this grenade for the next four months. It’s a shame that we won’t have General Clark to knock around the Veepstakes anymore, but regardless of how much of a pariah he’s become in some circles, he’ll always have a seat at the talking-head table, and he’ll always take it. McCain’s newly-adopted Swift Boat surrogates are going to keep all guns blazing, but even though they brought American Gladiator back and there’re remaking Knight Rider, Americans really aren’t that stupid. They’ll probably figure it out.
That said, when it comes to the intelligence of the American public, I’m still going to at least partially take H.L. Mencken’s advice and split my bet.