Republican operative Charles Black is organizing a Swiftboat-style attack on Barack Obama for the general election campaign. While normally this involves creating distance and deniability for the candidate behind these attacks, Senator John McCain could not help himself last Sunday on ABC News when interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. It seems the McCain approach will build on Hillary Clinton's anti-Obama mantra perverting of his "bitterness" remarks, not wearing American flag lapel pins, his tenuous links to the self-promoting ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers and the Revs. Wright and Farrakhan, and the Rezco affair. The GOP will attack Obama by impugning his patriotism while wrapping its candidate in the flag. "He's black and he's a closet Muslim" will no doubt be kept for private one-to-one conversations but expect it to be there as well.
It's fair, therefore, to imagine what an anti-McCain campaign launched by independent groups supporting Obama will look like if left unfettered by mainstream Democratic operatives afraid to give offense to groups of voters, the same weak kneed folks who brought down Dukakis, Gore and Kerry by not answering in kind to being attacked by The Right.
John McCain enthusiastically and without a hint of doubt as to the War's legality strapped himself into a Navy fighter-bomber and headed towards North Vietnam every day. He bombed villages indiscriminately during an undeclared, illegal war in which his father, one Admiral McCain, and the US Navy played a major role. The Tonkin Gulf incident, fabricated by the US Navy, led President Lyndon Johnson to launch air attacks on North Vietnam and thus irretrievably commit the US to what became the longest war in US history. A Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery (most likely led by one of the 95% of Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners who were women) shot down McCain's Navy jet and he was taken prisoner.
McCain's "heroism" stems uniquely from the fact that he was an obstreperous prisoner of war unwilling to cooperate with his captors. Undeniably thugs, McCain's jailers resembled the jailers at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in their sadism and lack of respect for international conventions guaranteeing rights to enemy combatants. That he refused an early release and was not "broken" by his captors does not make him George Washington, Sergeant York or even Audie Murphy.
McCain's earlier and post-War years were ones of privilege, stature and mischief. He was by his own and all other accounts a cocky, drunken, gambling, whore mongering flyboy whose positions before and after the Vietnam War were arranged for by his family connections. His years as Naval Liaison to the US Senate allowed him to charm and ingratiate himself in the corridors of power which led to a vacant House seat being arranged for him in Arizona, where he had never visited let alone lived.
His family's DNA is war. The McCain family history of grandfather, father, McCain himself and now his son being at war is essential to understanding his psyche.
He is Sparta and the rest of us are Athens.
A President McCain could well lead to the end of The American Century.
Richard M. Walden is a Los Angeles-based civil rights lawyer who served on active duty in the US Army in 1968-1969.