It is appropriate to ask how much deference is due a prisoner of war after his or her release, perhaps more so in light of the eruption of unseemly hostility that surrounded the recent release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after he was held captive for five years in Afghanistan. But the angry response to the Bergdahl release and swap for five supposedly bad guys held by the U.S. made for quite a contrast with another well-known p.o.w whose red-carpet ride continues, decades after his release from imprisonment in North Vietnam. Does the case of Senator John McCain beg the question of there being possibly some over-compensating in the goodwill bonanza the senator has enjoyed?
No one is about to deny McCain his country’s respect and gratitude for his record of outstanding service in the Vietnam war. That he chose to follow his time in the military with further national service as, first, a member of Congress and subsequently a senator, speaks to a patriotic bent in the man that is obviously beyond question. But the idea of McCain having a virtual hammer lock on media exposure as he spouts his unabashedly hawkish views ad nauseam leaves you to wonder if there hasn’t been some tacit “hands off McCain” understanding among the folks who ”run things.” Much to the chagrin of the lot of us.
In the midst of all the political sparring about the current deepening chaos in Iraq, there he was, in full flight the other day, railing against those who posit that the nation has become war weary. Who, in heaven’s name, would dare question – after military engagement in Iraq since 2003 and Afghanistan even longer – that the country is indeed very war weary? The super-hawk senator from Arizona, that’s who.
Another former military man, Senator Lindsey Graham, no slouch of a hawk himself, has frequently been a sort of McCain foxhole companion, invariably on the same page, delivering tough talk about some muscular action by the U.S. military that is the proper response to a problem in this or that location around the world. The two advocates of American big-stick policy abroad are now regularly billed as the GOP’s go-to foreign policy expertise team, but McCain has to be considered the senior partner in this deal. If only for the “ultimate authority” role that the media seems to have assigned him. It’s uncanny, this constant bull rush toward McCain by mainstream media, as if to suggest that utterances from him had somewhat of a Delphic oracle status. All of this for a guy whose predictable pronouncements about the Obama administration’s foreign policy failings have all the originality of the latest Elvis contest winner.
I mean, how truly newsworthy could it be if it’s known well in advance that the same tired lines about the use of American military resources for any skirmish popping up anywhere are the guaranteed sum total of the McCain contribution? Now he’s into getting on the American public’s case for being “war weary” after having been saddled with a protracted and costly Iraq occupation, thanks to a bunch of Republican manipulators’ grand deception.
How much further along this know-it-all path is McCain prepared to go? And, more importantly, how much longer is the mainstream media prepared to play the pretend game that stuff emanating from McCain represents gold-standard wisdom on the conduct of U.S. foreign affairs? A survey released last week by Public Policy Polling about the American people’s feelings on sending combat troops back into Iraq showed as many as 74 percent of respondents disapproving of any such re-deployment. Understandable numbers for sure, given what Americans have long known of the farce that served as pretext for initially becoming involved. McCain thinks there is something very wrong with the great majority of us for harboring such a view. And supposedly grown men and women in the media evidently consider McCain as having something important to bring to the table – so much so as to make him the dominant talking head on the glut of network Sunday morning newsmaker programs.
It’s enough to make you wonder about the retentive powers of media masterminds calling these plays. The presidential election of 2008 was a fairly recent happening. How could presumably reasonable people think to ascribe extraordinary or even adequate good judgment to an individual who was altogether untroubled to have Sarah Palin the proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency? Why is there this disproportionate attention still being paid to a man who, having been a frontline cheerleader for the original Iraq travesty, now unapologetically cheers for a rerun?
It is thus difficult to arrive at a rational explanation for why McCain thinks his is a voice worthy of being listened to. The p.o.w angle seems as good as any. But if McCain does indeed think his prisoner of war experience earned him an unlimited pass to regale us with outdated blood-and-guts fixes for how the U.S. engages the rest of the world, how wrong, one more time, this guy tends to be. Honoring McCain for his great service to country includes no obligation on our part to refrain from telling him he’s on the wrong side of history. The fawning media should get with the program as well and quit this long-running orgy of McCain silliness.