Tags: mccain | trump | pow | vietnam

McCain's Legacy: The Personal Beats the Political

McCain's Legacy: The Personal Beats the Political
An early morning view before the casket of Senator John McCain is carried by members of the Arizona National Guard to the Arizona State Capitol Rotunda where he will lie in state, August 29, 2018, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 29 August 2018 12:49 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It was the second of two televised presidential debates. The Republican candidate, trailing for the entire campaign, was gaining momentum. A seasoned politician and wartime Navy veteran, he knew that a strong performance would increase his surge, putting him in position to defeat his younger, upstart rival.

And then it happened: a seemingly minor statement that not only halted his advance, but effectively ended the election.

“There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”

And with those words, President Gerry Ford imploded, lost to Jimmy Carter, and the rest is history.

Obviously, it can’t be proven that Ford would have won without that blunder. But given his rise in the polls, and that he still only lost by a small margin, it’s a good bet that his statement cost him the presidency.

Assuming that was the case, it is incalculable how much history changed because of just a few sentences. If Ford had been victorious, there would have been no Carter malaise, and thus no Reagan Revolution. The nation’s political landscape, and the future of the world, would have been altered so significantly that people with the names Bush, Clinton, and Obama likely would never have been president.

The lesson? Sometimes that which seems small and irrelevant can wreak havoc.

And that brings us to John McCain, who recently succumbed to brain cancer after running for president twice, serving in congress for 36 years, and, most notably, choosing to remain with his fellow countrymen in a North Vietnamese prison for almost six years.

The truth is that McCain’s political career was relatively undistinguished. Ditto for his lackluster bids for the White House. That said, his most impactful legacy may have little to do with the “political,” and everything to do with the “personal.”

Rewind to the 2016 campaign when Donald Trump was tearing up the Republican field. Truly the Teflon Don, it seemed that the ruder his statements were — comments that would have sunk any other candidate — the more his popularity grew.

But one insult stood out above the others.

In referencing John McCain, Mr. Trump stated: “He’s not a war hero…he was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

While that indignity didn’t stop Mr. Trump from winning, it was nonetheless repugnant.

Because McCain’s father was a high-ranking Admiral, the North Vietnamese gave the young Captain a chance to go home early. McCain outright refused, knowing that his captors would use his release for propaganda. Additionally, McCain knew leaving would violate the POW code, which stated that prisoners should be released in sequential order, based on their date of capture. Simply put, John McCain understood that if he accepted the offer, a fellow prisoner who was next-in-line for release would instead remain incarcerated.

That said, given the horrific conditions at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where McCain was beaten regularly while receiving minimal food and health care, few would have questioned using his “get out of jail free” card. Instead, he spurned his North Vietnamese captors, time and again.

The fact that anyone would criticize a military officer for being captured is beyond the pale. McCain was shot down on his 23rd bombing run, and broke both arms and a leg during ejection. After pulling McCain from a lake (where he almost drowned), the locals went to work, fracturing his shoulder and stabbing him with a bayonette. And that was the best part of his captivity. For the next five-and-a-half years, he was tortured and almost died on several occasions. For the rest of his life, John McCain was unable to lift his arms over his head due to his injuries. Not exactly a picnic, Mr. Trump.

And if anyone is going to slam a POW for being captured, it shouldn’t be a person who received five military deferments, as Donald Trump did (four for college, and one for bone spurs in his feet, despite him playing numerous sports). This isn’t the forum to pass judgement on those deferments. A case can be made that staying away from Vietnam was smart, given that America’s military was forced to fight with one arm tied behind its back. The point is that Mr. Trump looked like a spoiled armchair warrior who let others do the fighting, yet had the gall to then criticize them, from the safety of his penthouse.

But what goes around, comes around. Call it karma, fate, or flat-out revenge.

Fact is, John McCain had the last laugh by being the deciding vote against repealing Obamacare — which happened to be President Trump’s signature issue.

Sure, McCain justified his “no” vote. But let’s be honest: you don’t travel 2,000 miles, while battling aggressive brain cancer, just to put up one more vote. He had nearly forty years of votes; one more, in his condition, wasn’t necessary. But he did it anyway.

And why? McCain had too much class to say this, but in all likelihood, it was to teach Donald Trump a lesson in humility. It was about paybacks, and defending the dignity of every POW and veteran. And it was to show the world that being a thin-skinned bully has no place in American politics.

In short, it was personal.

How does this tie together with Gerry Ford’s gaffe? That which seems insignificant often generates huge ramifications.

Mr. Trump undoubtedly thought his comment was innocuous. But in reality, its extremely personal nature — criticizing the part of McCain’s life to which he most identified — quite probably led to McCain’s stake-in-the-heart vote.

Had Mr. Trump not chastised McCain and POWs, the Senator may have voted differently. And had the president and GOP replaced Obamacare with health care reform that drastically lowered premiums, granted more personal choice, and offered better access to doctors, the Republicans’ chances of retaining the House would have skyrocketed.

With the massive political capital the president would have earned, the sky would have been the limit for accomplishing the rest of his agenda.

But none of that happened. Instead, with just a mediocre tax cut as their crown jewel, the GOP’s chances of retaining control look increasingly doubtful.

Should the Democrats retake the House, the possibility of an impeachment proceeding looms, and the president’s chances of passing his agenda — especially building the wall — are virtually zero. And two years of gridlock would not bode well for Mr. Trump’s reelection effort.

Incomprehensibly, it seems that the president has no self-awareness that his own actions might yet become the primary cause of his Party’s defeat. And he certainly didn’t help himself by refusing to keep the White House flag at half-mast longer than the required period (later reversing himself), as well as taking several days to make a personal statement about the life of Senator McCain.

Time will tell whether Donald Trump’s POW comments will ultimately prove to be a black swan event.

In either case Senator, thank you for your service, and rest in peace.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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It was the second of two televised presidential debates. The Republican candidate, trailing for the entire campaign, was gaining momentum.
mccain, trump, pow, vietnam
Wednesday, 29 August 2018 12:49 PM
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