By Bob Bennett
Sen. John McCain attacked Donald Trump’s followers as “crazies,” something he’s been tagging conservatives with for years. Trump angrily hit back, with the off-the-cuff remark that McCain is “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
No question this was unwise—particularly because there is a constellation of things to criticize McCain about (read on). The remark gave his opponents—mostly RINOs—an opportunity to strike back, hopefully to destroy him. The Republican National Committee condemned him. Sure: so their real choice, arch-RINO Jeb Bush, can move up in the polls: Fox’s poll on Sunday, showed Trump leading, at 18%, then Walker at 15%, Bush at 14%. All three are just behind Trump, within the margin of error.
So it’s no mystery why Walker called Trump’s remarks “a disgrace.” Same thing with Bush, who tweeted: “Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.”
Rand Paul, at 8%, did not criticize Trump; he tweeted: “I don’t always see eye to eye with @SenJohnMcCain. But I honor his service and the sacrifices he made for our country.”
Rubio, at 7%, said: “America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump.”
Like Paul, Cruz stayed above the fray, tweeting: “John McCain is an American hero. Although we have some policy disagreements, I’m proud to serve alongside him.”
Perry, dead last in the poll at 1%, said: “His attack on veterans make him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President.” Lindsey Graham, McCain’s Sancho Panza, also called Trump’s remark “disqualifying.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if the candidates who are behind could just delete the frontrunner? And why is Trump that? Because he’s addressing something that’s been driving Republican voters mad, for years. And the rest are too dumb, or too RINO to do the same. That excludes Ted Cruz, who has spoken out on illegal immigration and fought funding the illegal amnesty.
It also excludes Rand Paul, who said this, in the wake of the Tennessee attack:
“I’m very concerned about immigration to this country from countries that have hotbeds of jihadism and hotbeds of this Islamism,” Paul told Breitbart. “I think there does need to be heightened scrutiny. Nobody has a right to come to America, so this isn’t something that we can say ‘oh, their rights are being violated.’ It’s a privilege to come to America and we need to thoroughly screen those who are coming.”
The only two in the Fox poll who didn’t attack Trump are the only two conservatives, while the rest have been unmasked as the RINOs they are. Some may object to that label for Perry, but what else can we call a governor who signed the Texas DREAM Act giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition for Texas, and who spoke before the radical La Raza’s Annual Conference, in 2010?
One can only wonder why the Donald doesn’t hire an oppositional research person to craft his remarks a little better. Had he done so, he could’ve hit back with this little-known report, which strikes at the only thing McCain has going for him. And it’s something he did in partnership with then-Senator John Kerry.
Pulitzer award winner Sidney Schanberg wrote in a powerful 2010 article, titled “McCain and the POW Cover-Up”:
“John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn’t return home.
“Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents.
“Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain’s role in it.”
I can explain that one: McCain is so useful to the Left, why would the mainstream media bring this up?
“The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a special forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington—and even sworn testimony by two Defense secretaries that ‘men were left behind.’
“This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number—the documents indicate probably hundreds—of the U.S. prisoners held by Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.
“The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What’s more, the Pentagon’s POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of “debunking” POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible.
“The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally forced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The chairman was John Kerry. McCain, as a former POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine.
“Included in the evidence that McCain and his government allies suppressed or sought to discredit is a transcript of a senior North Vietnamese general’s briefing of the Hanoi politburo, discovered in Soviet archives by an American scholar in 1993. The briefing took place only four months before the 1973 peace accords. The general, Tran Van Quang, told the politburo members that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American prisoners but would keep many of them at war’s end as leverage to ensure getting war reparations from Washington.
“Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations. They were adamant in refusing to deal with them separately. Finally, in a Feb. 2, 1973 formal letter to Hanoi’s premier, Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in ‘postwar reconstruction’ aid ‘without any political conditions.’”
But Nixon well knew that Congress would never approve the reparations, and they never did.
“In a private briefing in 1992, high-level CIA officials told me that as the years passed and the ransom never came, it became more and more difficult for either government to admit that it knew from the start about the unacknowledged prisoners.… The CIA officials said their intelligence indicated strongly that the remaining men—those who had not died from illness or hard labor or torture—were eventually executed.
“The Arizona senator… has actually been following the lead of every White House since Richard Nixon’s…
“An early and critical McCain secrecy move involved 1990 legislation that started in the House of Representatives. A brief and simple document, it was called “the Truth Bill” and would have compelled complete transparency about prisoners and missing men…”
It declared, in short, any agency having information on POWs and MIAs “shall make available to the public all such records held or received by that department or agency.”
“Bitterly opposed by the Pentagon (and thus McCain), the bill went nowhere. Reintroduced the following year, it again disappeared. But a few months later, a new measure, known as “the McCain Bill,” suddenly appeared. By creating a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the documents could emerge—only records that revealed no POW secrets—it turned the Truth Bill on its head. The McCain bill became law in 1991 and remains so today.”
The McCain Bill even provides “rationales, scenarios, and justifications for not releasing any information at all—even about prisoners discovered alive in captivity.”
“Later that year, the Senate Select Committee was created, where Kerry and McCain ultimately worked together to bury evidence.”
“McCain was also instrumental in amending the Missing Service Personnel Act, which had been strengthened in 1995 by POW advocates to include criminal penalties,” for any official “who knowingly and willfully withholds from the file of a missing person any information relating to the disappearance or whereabouts and status of a missing person…”
“A year later, in a closed House-Senate conference on an unrelated military bill, McCain, at the behest of the Pentagon, attached a crippling amendment to the act, stripping out its only enforcement teeth, the criminal penalties…. By eviscerating the law, McCain gave his stamp of approval to the government policy of debunking the existence of live POWs.”
His methods of discrediting and silencing the families of missing men and MIA advocates will be familiar to anyone following his criticisms of conservatives, and Michele Bachmann, who tried to warn America about the penetration of the Muslim Brotherhood into our government:
“McCain has insisted again and again that all the evidence—documents, witnesses, satellite photos, two Pentagon chiefs’ sworn testimony, aborted rescue missions, ransom offers apparently scorned—has been woven together by unscrupulous deceivers to create an insidious and unpatriotic myth. He calls it the “bizarre rantings of the MIA hobbyists.” He has regularly vilified those who keep trying to pry out classified documents as “hoaxers,” “charlatans,” “conspiracy theorists,” and “dime-store Rambos.”
Sidney Schanberg wrote, “All humans have breaking points,” and “Few would fault them.” He theorizes that perhaps McCain’s “taped confession [which he] gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his postwar behavior in the Senate.”
He also writes that in his book Faith of My Fathers, McCain wrote, “I felt faithless and couldn’t control my despair,” and “I still wince when I recall wondering if my father had heard of my disgrace.”
“Is McCain haunted by these memories?” asks Schanberg. He adds,
“Many stories have been written about McCain’s explosive temper, so volcanic that colleagues are loath to speak openly about it. One veteran congressman … made this brief comment: “‘This is a man not at peace with himself.’”
“He was certainly far from calm on the Senate POW committee,” Schanberg wrote. “He browbeat expert witnesses who came with information about unreturned POWs. Family members who have personally faced McCain and pressed him to end the secrecy also have been treated to his legendary temper. He has screamed at them, insulted them, brought women to tears. Mostly his responses to them have been versions of: How dare you question my patriotism?”
Schanberg’s article describes a complex individual, for whom we must have some compassion, and also respect. But we cannot allow him to deter us from defending our country, in its time of greatest need.
Bob Bennett is a New York-based writer who has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post, and has appeared on Fox and Friends and America’s Newsroom. He has traveled widely and written travel pieces for the NY Post, a cover article for the Jewish Press, and an op-ed for the medical journal Cancer Biotherapy & Radioimmunotherapy. Bob was also award-winning producer of a travel radio show heard on New York stations: WMCA, WNWK and 50,000 watt WOR and the national Sky Angel Network. He now blogs on Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Community and Red State Diaries.