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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"McCain stresses his military career as making him peculiarly fitted to be president"

Richard Bates is a retired Baraboo teacher and principal, dedicated liberal and Democrat, and serial letter-to-the-editor writer, usually with something bashing President Bush, but this time bashing John McCain:

McCain is an authentic hero. He endured years of confinement and torture because he refused to cooperate with the North Vietnamese when his plane was shot down in their territory. However, being a hero does not make one a military expert.

McCain stresses his military career as making him peculiarly fitted to be president. Being a veteran does not automatically make one a good military strategist or foreign policy expert. His career as a Navy bomber pilot did not make him an expert on military strategy any more than my experience in the infantry made me one. We were both just instruments for delivering death and destruction at the direction of our generals.
The letter goes on to criticize other things about McCain. I added the emphasis, because I want to address that point specifically, but first:

No dissing Mr. Bates. The guy is as liberal as the sky is blue and, as far as I'm concerned, just as wrong as any other liberal. But he's also a WWII vet who fought in Burma, India, and China (and wrote a book about his experiences). So he gets to say what he wants, and no dissing him.

I'm not aware that McCain himself has ever stressed "his military career as making him peculiarly fitted to be president."

The point is not that his service makes him "peculiarly fitted." It doesn't, any more than any other specific experience makes one "peculiarly fitted."

It does give McCain a peculiar vantage point from which to consider war and its consequences - a vantage point the vast majority of us do not and will never have. More importantly, it's a vantage point Barack Obama can't come close to matching.

It also speaks to McCain's character - to have lived through years of brutal imprisonment as he did, and to have continued honorable service while living through it - speaks to his character in a way that the vast majority of us cannot match. Barack Obama certainly can't.

If we're being honest, we'll agree with Mr. Bates that McCain's experiences don't make him an expert on military strategy or foreign policy. I wonder how many presidents we've had who were experts on the day they took office. Not many, I think.

Still, even if McCain isn't an expert, how much more expertise does he have than Barack Obama? Barack Obama, who will have spent a whole four years in Congress (compared to McCain's 26 years) on the day the next president is sworn in?

McCain's supporters point out his military service, not to pretend this makes him an "expert," but to contrast his life with that of his opponent's. And when you compare the two, you find there really is no comparison at all.