General Clark was greeted with gasps of outrage from the media today when he dared to wonder out loud why Senator McCain became a national security guru by getting his plane shot down. Nobody up to now had asked the question but other people must’ve been puzzled. I know I was.
Surely, the whole idea of combat is to shoot down the other guy, not to get shot down yourself?
McCain’s record is rather spotty. The son and grandson of an admiral, he failed to rise above the rank of captain in the Navy apparently because he had problems with authority. A feisty little guy, he was more at home in the boxing ring and on the playing field than in the classroom. And judging from his own book, he did not lead an exemplary private life.
He was careless or unlucky enough to get shot down over Vietnam and spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton. That was undeniably unfortunate. Like a lot of other American POWs he was beaten and tortured. Admirably, he did not break, remaining loyal to his country and his comrades in arms. For that, I’ll say you’re a tough little guy, McCain. And you’re probably a better man than I am… I’m sure I would sing like a canary if anyone tortured me.
But I’m not running for president, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on national security. If anyone offered me the job of commander in chief, I would politely decline. I would suggest someone more qualified – someone like General Clark perhaps.
The 64-year-old retired general was valedictorian of his class at West Point and won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University. His degrees include a master’s in military science and a bachelor’s in philosophy, politics and economics.
He spent 34 years in the Army and the Department of Defense, receiving many military decorations, several honorary knighthoods, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Clark was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe from 1997 to 2000.
And he never got shot down.