For those of you who don't read the New York Times, yesterday's edition had the following commentary by Matt Bai, thinly disguised as an article [signin required] about John McCain:

There is a feeling among some of McCain's fellow veterans that his break with them on Iraq can be traced, at least partly, to his markedly different experience in Vietnam. McCain's comrades in the Senate will not talk about this publicly… And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington.

As Grandpa once reminded me, finding something to laugh about is not hard. You just need to wait long enough for the respectable people to start telling really big lies about wars and money.

An historical footnote: None of the Senators named fought any combat in rice paddies or jungles - unless you include the ricochet of a grain from the sack of rice that John Kerry drew down on. That paper cut earned the Senator the first of his many purple hearts.





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16 Comments so far

  1. Anon on May 20, 2008 9:40 am

    A post that is a thinly disguised attack on Kerry. Didn’t he throw away the Purple Heart from the “rice grain ricochet”? Who made the decision to award it, a Nixon appointee? How hard does a grain of rice have to hit to cause a paper cut? Does the paper cut need to bleed to result in a Purple Heart? If you’re going to parse his many purple hearts, you should get into the details, rather than generalize from a grain of rice to his entire life.

  2. Richard Martin on May 20, 2008 6:14 pm

    I'd be curious to learn what place this inaccurate and political post has on Daily Speculations. I can read this stuff on Fox News if I care to.

  3. Richard Martin on May 20, 2008 6:14 pm

    "First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officers' Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, Webb served with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam, where as a rifle platoon and company commander in the infamous An Hoa Basin west of Danang he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts."

  4. Craig Bowles on May 21, 2008 7:59 am

    Since NY newspapers are mentioned, the NY Post has more interesting economic articles than Barron’s or the WSJ to me. John Crudele always seems to write about something I don’t know. Yesterday, a top government official who helps calculate the nation’s inflation rate says, “We are going to show huge increases,” predicted Pat Jackman in a telephone interview with me last week. “If gas prices are stable from May forward, we are going to end up showing roughly a 16.3 percent increase [for the period] between May and December.” If gasoline prices continue to rise, then the increase in the gasoline component of the CPI will be even worse. (Seasonally, oil prices back off but this guy is really worth reading. Interesting takes on the employment numbers, too.)

  5. Mark Meredith on May 21, 2008 9:42 am

    Kerry was the captain of a swift boat which routinely saw combat, as can be easily verified by anyone capable of doing research beyond listening to Fox News. He was awarded three Purple Hearts, not one, for injuries sustained in combat and a Bronze Star for rescuing a Green Beret while under fire. Another commenter has already mentioned the factual errors regarding Sen. Webb's service. This post not only grossly ignores facts but also disparages three decorated veterans who have gone on to achieve distinguished careers in public service (for both parties). For me investing is primarily about learning to face reality, both objectively and subjectively, and posts like this make me doubt that this website has similar interests.

  6. Bob Johnson on May 21, 2008 10:09 am

    With the intent of maintaining a field of fair play, I must point out the NYT disparages Senator McCain, questioning his ability to understand combat; implying if he experienced what Senator Kerry did, he would fall in line with the liberal view.

    All of these men deserve our respect and gratitude, even if you disagree with their political views.

  7. John on May 21, 2008 11:43 am

    Since others have already covered Sen. Webb and Sen. Kerry I thought I’d chime in on Sen. Hagel. He is a Vietnam War veteran, having served in the United States Army infantry, attaining the rank of Sergeant (E-5) from 1967–1968. Among other commendations, while serving in Vietnam he received the Combat Infantryman Badge. The Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) is an award of the United States Army which is presented to those officers, warrant officers and enlisted soldiers, in the grade of Colonel and below, who participate in active ground combat while assigned as a member of an infantry or special forces unit, brigade or smaller size, during any period subsequent to December 6, 1941. Why would Sen. Hagel receive the CIB if he never fought in combat? I would ask that the moderator remove this post as it is factually inaccurate and has nothing to do with the purpose of this site.

  8. Lon Evans on May 21, 2008 3:05 pm

    Dear Stefan,

    How many “rice paddies or jungles” did you fight in? By the way, your Grandpa was right.


  9. Eric Nilsson on May 22, 2008 2:43 pm

    How unfortunate that Sen McCain spent so much of the war, so far away from the fighting, sequestered in the contemplative seclusion of the Hanoi Hilton. I must say that it takes some creative excess to suggest that a North Vietnamese prison camp represents a hermetic withdrawal from the realities of battle.

  10. steve leslie on May 22, 2008 9:14 pm

    The importance of this post is that it is much more than a political commentary, it reinforces the point that Vic makes constantly that just because something is mentioned in a newspaper or on a website or in a blog does not constitute fact.
    The Mantra is test test test. Research is the key. And then make up your mind as to which way to go.

    Lets talk facts not conjecture or speculation(no pun intended).

    John McCain graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy without distinction in 1958.

    John McCain was a naval aviator assigned to several aircraft carriers, and was on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Forrestal when he was injured and nearly killed when a fire broke out on the flight deck. He was hit in the leg and chest by fragments when a nearby bomb exploded. 134 Sailors were killed as a result of the fire that raged for 24 hours.

    John McCain was flying his 23rd bombing mission over Hanoi when he was shot down. He fractured both arms and a leg. Upon his capture he was beaten and stabbed and taken to the infamous Hoa Lo Prison nicknamed "The Hanoi Hilton". This was in October of 1967. Coincidentally, John McCain was a prisoner at the same time as Admiral James Stockdale who suffered similar beatings and torture that was to befall John.

    John McCain was a prisoner of war and not a guest of the Hanoi Hilton. He was subjected to beatings and torture and was refused treatment of his injuries. Upon learning that John was the son of a U.S. Admiral, he was offered release from prison if he would agree to be be part of a propaganda campaign against the U.S. Upon his refusal to cooperate, he was subjected to torture and beatings on a regular basis. In August of 1968,he was subjected to a series of beatings and more torture. He succumbed and made an anti-U.S. propaganda statement. He felt that this was a point in his life that he took little pride in but had reached his breaking point. He remained a prisoner of war there for five and a half years.

    He was released from prison on March 14th, 1973.

    John McCain underwent treatment for his injuries once stateside. He remained in the military and in late 1974 had his flight status reinstated when he became an commanding officer of a training squadron in Florida. In 1981 he retired from the military attaining the rank of Captain.

    As a result of his injuries, John McCain can not raise his arms normally as most people can so when he tries to wave he uses his trapezius muscles to assist him. . He also walks awkwardly and hunced over because of the torture he received. .

    In 1982 he began his career as a politician.

    Now those are the facts. It is up to you to decide what you want to do with them.

    This is my take. As with Admiral Stockdale, John McCain is a man who was subjected to more pain and suffering than practically any human could possibly imagine or endure. For that and that alone, he is a great patriot a great war hero and a great American.

    Steve Leslie

  11. Acetrader on May 23, 2008 10:43 am

    Very well said, Steve.

  12. Russell Sears on May 23, 2008 3:11 pm

    Dante, speaking allegorically, first wrote to us of the levels of descending into h#ll and back to give us enlightenment.
    If Mr. Bai can't even get the specifics right, while insisting on different levels, I'll assume Mr. Jovanovich actually knows and appreciates more the real version of the levels in Dante's trip.

  13. steve leslie on May 23, 2008 6:44 pm

    Perhaps this can put a point on this discussion. Matt Bai covers national politics for the New York Times Magazine. He is a graduate of Tufts and Columbia graduate school of Journalism. Prior to this, he was a writer for Newsweek. He is 39 years old. Ironically that means he was born the same year that John McCain was shot down and taken prisoner. He would have been eligible to serve in the Military in 1985. His bio gives no reference to military service.

  14. Eric Nilsson on May 24, 2008 9:50 am

    A point of clarification in regards to Mr. Leslie’s post in which he says that Sen McCain was a prisoner and not a guest at the Hanoi Hilton. This I presume was in response to my (admittedly lame) attempt at irony. I am fully aware of the horrific conditions that our service men were forced to endure in that pestilential hellhole. I was merely trying to focus scorn on the euphemestic license of Mr. Bai.

  15. steve leslie on May 24, 2008 5:46 pm

    To Mr. Nilsson's comment:My only access to what people state is if I see it on dailyspeculations. I am not privy to any lists so I do not see those comments. Few people remember way back in 1992 during the Presidential Race there were a series of Vice-Presidential debates. A famous one was held in October of 1992 in Atlanta Georgia. In one corner was Al Gore future Nobel Laureate for the Democrats. In a second corner was Dan Quayle spelling bee champion (spell Potato, or is it Potatoe) for the Republicans, and in a third corner many forget was Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale who represented the Independent Candidacy of Ross Perot. Admiral Stockdale was informed that he would be participating in the debates one week before the event. As a result, he was not prepared as his opponents were. He began his introduction with a question. "Who am I, Why am I here?" He was not allowed to continue with his explanation by the interrogators. He also was unable to clearly expain the policies of Mr Perot and as a result he performed poorly. To further exacerbate the problem, he could not hear the questions well due to the fact that his hearing aid was not performing well and he was getting feedback. He was summarily lampooned by the press and the media and Phil Hartman (deceased) did a parody of Admiral Stockdale on Saturday Night Live depicting him as a doddering old fool although he was only 59 at the time. It showed the ignorance and cruelty of the media is spite of the fact that Admiral Stockdale was one of the most highly decorated men in the history of the Navy, and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.As a naval aviator he like John McCain flew A4's and was shot down and a prisoner of An Hoa Prison for more than 7 years 4 of those spent in solitary confinement. He also war horribly beaten and tortured literally having his limbs torn from his body. After his release he became a prolific author, President of the Citadel and a fellow at Stanford University. Dennis Miller gave a very eloquent defense of Admiral Stockdale in a Stand-Up routine in 1993. In my judgment it clarifies much about the media and their role in politics which has become much more pronounced with the advancement of 24 hour news channels, and such shows that abound on MSNBC and Fox News. "Now I know (Stockdale's name has) become a buzzword in this culture for doddering old man, but let's look at the record, folks. The guy was the first guy in and the last guy out of Vietnam, a war that many Americans, including our present President, did not want to dirty their hands with. The reason he had to turn his hearing aid on at that debate is because those f**king animals knocked his eardrums out when he wouldn't spill his guts. He teaches philosophy at Stanford University, he's a brilliant, sensitive, courageous man. And yet he committed the one unpardonable sin in our culture: he was bad on television."Steve L.

  16. Eric Nilsson on May 24, 2008 9:57 pm

    Thank you Mr. Leslie for reminding all of us of the great sacrifices made by men like Admiral Stockdale and Sen NcCain. I read the book the Admiral based on the philosophy course he taught at Stanford (and reccommend it highly) and like many who knew of his service record was disgusted by the way he was treated during and after those debates. It was unforgivable. It is interesting that you brought up Stockdale since my remark in the previous post about hermetic withdrawal was prompted by one of the chapters in Stockdale’s book. He begins I believe by discussing Boethius and The Consolation of Philosophy and considers the vast literature that comes out of the prison experience. It was Sockdale’s book that got me reading Epictitus and taking philosophy as a serious activity.


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