I've been running VoteVets.org for a couple of years now. In 2006 and in 2008, we've endorsed a number of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for Congress. It's still a story that the press is largely interested in, and when they call me to talk about it, I always -- always -- get the same first question:
What is it about their honorable service in Iraq and/or Afghanistan that qualifies them to go to Congress?
It's a legit question, and neither I, nor any of the candidates, take any umbrage at it. As veterans of the current conflicts, they have a unique perspective on the wars that should be part of the debate on the floor of Congress, and a vote that helps shapes our security policy.
Yesterday, John McCain was asked basically the same question by a brave reporter at ABC News. The reporter, not falling for the hysterics and mock-outrage of the McCain camp over General Wesley Clark's comments simply asked what John McCain's experiences in Vietnam did to prepare him to lead the largest military on the face of the earth.
"Please," he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question.
Uh uh. That's not good enough. You would assume that given all the whining over General Clark's legitimate point, that John McCain had some obvious answer to the question. Instead, he refused to answer the question, and let Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham come to his defense, babbling to the reporter about character, but not a word about qualifications.
The fact of the matter is that General Clark was absolutely right. McCain's service, while heroic and honorable, is not very relevant when it comes to preparing him to be the military's ultimate commander. His experience didn't involve executive decision making in the military, or global strategy. Very few candidates for the presidency have had the experience in life that prepares them for that role. In fact, McCain said it himself in 2003, that some of our best Commanders in Chief had no military experience at all.
That's why the McCain campaign went into all-out outrage mode over General Clark's comments. It wasn't about being offended. It wasn't even about General Clark. It was about lashing out so strongly that the media would cower in fear, and not even think about putting a question like this to McCain -- a question to which he has no answer, and is afraid of being exposed on that point. And, for most of the week, that strategy was successful, as the press wimped out, and repeated the McCain talking points.
The reporter from ABC News didn't fall for it, and did his job. But he didn't get an answer. Maybe now, reporters will stuff their guts back in their bodies and keep asking McCain this legit question -- a question I get a version of all the time from the same reporters.
It's a legit question, and it's a question for which the American people deserve an answer.