My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Uniquely UNQualified to be President

American life has a number of disqualifiers built in to it. For instance, a woman with a history of sexual abuse would never be allowed to serve on a jury in a rape trial; husbands and wives are not allowed to testify for each other; we’ve even recently witnessed where a Supreme Court Justice had to recuse himself from a case because he had already heard it and ruled on it once before.

In each instance, the underlying assumption is that the prior experiences and ties of the person involved are such that they are incapable of rendering a completely fair and impartial decision with regards to the questions in front of them.

It is just such a prior experience that I believe renders John McCain incapable of being President in a time of war such as this one.

The definitive experience of Sen. McCain’s life was his time served during the Vietnam War as a Prisoner of War. As the story goes, McCain followed military protocol and refused to go free once because other POW’s had been there longer, and as a result he spent an even longer interment.

His biography is the story of a great American, who served his country proudly and at great personal sacrifice, and who acted honorably under the most horrific circumstances.

But, if I may play junior psychologist for a moment, I also believe that this very experience makes him incapable of rendering accurate, discerning judgments with regard to the most important question before him right now, or during a presumed Presidency of 2009-2013: the question of the conduct of the War on Terror.

His recent refusal to allow the President’s Bill regarding the conduct of military tribunals is only the most recent in a series of actions intended to undermine the administration’s conduct of the war. Sen. McCain repeatedly asserts that America is in danger of “losing the war of ideas” and that we must be careful that our own soldiers will still have access to the rights guaranteed in the Geneva Convention. Of course, the Senator never seems to recognize--almost pathologically so--that the "moral high ground" didn't really do much for Daniel Pearl, or for the soldiers who were hung from a bridge in Baquba, or for his comrades in Vietnam, or for our guys at Bataan during WWII, or . . . EVER.

I submit that his strict adherence to the Geneva Convention provisions—indeed, including his extending them to non-signatories and people who clearly DO NOT qualify for protected status under the GC—is a direct result of his treatment at the hands of the VietCong. That he was not afforded any protections during his time as a POW, that he was not visited by members of the International Red Cross, that he was treated in “humiliating and degrading” ways has firmed in his mind the notion that all combatants deserve to be treated in certain ways.

And, to a point, I agree with him. Which is why I have little problem with the idea that detainees at Gitmo eat better than the soldiers that guard them and are allowed full access to their normal routine of prayer.

However, he has stretched that conviction into something nearing a crusade, and what he is actually accomplishing is deeply undermining the prosecution of the War on Terror. Tactics that he would have approved would have never gotten the information out of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that have stopped attacks on the United States; indeed, McCain-approved rules for interrogation would very likely never be able to get out of detainees any information of a time-critical nature. Why would that matter? Because we know al-Qaeda likes to stage multiple, near-simultaneous attacks. Were Sen. McCain to become President in two years it seems unlikely that, given his background, he would be willing to give the green light to “difficult” interrogations of prisoners, even if all intelligence were reporting an imminent attack.

And, his support for the Iraq War notwithstanding, it seems equally unlikely that he would prosecute the War on Terror in a manner that would force the terrorists to reconsider their own involvement. Consider, for instance, the case of Zarqawi: would a man who believes all terrorists deserve open hearings and all the rights of Common Article 3 be willing to pull the trigger on what some in the world called an assassination? That the question even needs to be asked makes McCain dangerous were he in that position.

I do think John McCain is a great American, and an honorable man. I’m even willing to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his continual opposition to a number of the President’s ideas, and a number of core Republican values.

But “straight talk” and the willingness to take politically difficult positions are not enough to qualify a man to be President. I would go so far as to say that a Democrat in the office would have to take a more hard-line approach to terrorism than McCain would, lest he (or she) be branded “weak” or “soft.”

“Weak” or “soft” McCain isn’t; wrong, he is.

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