(21st Century Wire) As train wreck politicians go, it would be difficult to top the case study of Republican US Senator John McCain from Arizona.
Many people were shocked to see images of McCain this past week, playing video poker on his iPhone while a Senate Committee debated the very war of which he is a chief architect. After being caught in the act, he then crassly tweeted: “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!”
Welcome to the wonderful world of John Sydney McCain III.
This past week, at a Town Hall meeting chaired by John McCain, an audience member stood up and proceeded to articulate his views on the hypocrisy and illegality of US foreign policy in Syria, and went on the accuse McCain and others in the US Federal government of committing treason against the American people, before finally called for the arrest of McCain and others who have been lending their support and military backing to al Qaeda in Syria.
After being completely exposed and given this dressing down by a member of the general public, the Senator then tried to make a joke and defended his prestige of standing in eight elections. He appeared noticeably shaken, and became confused and began to stumbling on his words.
It was a rare sight to see: a seemingly confident, arrogant and extremely wealthy politician being knocked off his perch by a member of the public, exposing the incredibly thin veneer of credibility and status which many politicians are propped up on by the mainstream media. Below is the video of John McCain’s shocking face to face confrontation with a member of the public:
Senator McCain, who is now 77 years of age, appears to have saved his best gaffs for the end of his political career. Unfortunately, Americans are not taking kindly to a Senator who seems to be playing poker with their future.
We now know that in recent months, McCain has made multiple trips to the Middle East to meet with some of the most questionable groups in terms of American geopolitics – Muslim Brotherhood operatives in Egypt, and more shockingly, McCain sneaking into Syria on the tax payers dime for a clandestine meeting with FSA armed opposition commanders and fighters in Syria attempting to unseat Bashar al Assad’s Syrian government.
McCain has long advocated for illegally assisting these fighters with US weapons and financial gifts. The Senator had promised the opposition more military arms and more political support, but as recent events in Washington prove, McCain could have been simply informing the opposition leaders and possibly their al Qaeda fighting groups too, that the US would soon be launching air strikes against the Syrian government – defacto air cover the insurgency. What was said at those meetings, who was present and who paid for his trip? That would be an interesting question for McCain to answer under oath in front of a Senate Committee Hearing,
Somehow, if by magic, McCain’s anti-Assad crusade dovetails rather nicely with Obama’s plans to ‘punish’ the Syrian leader over the alleged use of chemical weapons last month outside of Damascus.
But some rare democracy-type symptoms appear to have spread westward from Great Britain these past few weeks.
Firstly, Obama felt somehow compelled to allow his Congress to vote on the matter of military force, which was followed by closed-door discussions with McCain and his neoconservative cohort Lindsey Graham who told the President they would only back his action if it were a much bigger, and wider military operation designed to turn the tide of the war in favour of the Syrian armed opposition.
McCain and Graham’s plan of aggression was curtailed slightly by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s decision to restrict the terms of the McCain enhanced, Libya-style intervention.
“There’s no reference to changing the momentum on the battlefield, there’s no reference to arming the Free Syrian Army,” McCain recently told NBC News.
According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 70 percent of the Americans say they are against any effort by the US or its allies to supply those rebels with any arsenal, and similar numbers oppose military intervention by the US, which most Americans have figured out is nothing less than air support for a violent insurgent and terrorist confab made up largely of imported, non-Syrian mercenary fighters.
McCain’s explicit backing of these forces, and his open drive towards war, is clearly at odds with the American people and although he is certainly not alone in that damp category, his over-the-top, pro-war stance in the face of damning public opinion on a new war in Syria demonstrates how completely out of touch he is with the American public.
Patriot PR: Unraveling McCain’s War Hero Image
For years Senator McCain has fashioned his political image as that of having a huge military prowess and impeccable war-time credentials. Aside from his relationships with military contractor giants like Boeing and others, McCain’s war record has been a huge bone of contention for critics who have deconstructed the myth of the war hero image he subtly plays on at any opportunity.
McCain’s military credibility is mainly derived not from any brilliant achievement or extraordinary skill set, but rather from that of victim status. McCain is widely known as a Vietnam P.O.W., who allegedly endured solitary confinement and torture by the enemy, the Viet Cong, for a number of years in Hanoi.
This kind of profile is like a bullet proof shield in American politics, and it certainly has helped McCain over the years. But some question it. Aside from his own account of events, the only other evidence of his horrific ordeal are testimonies of his fellow surviving prisoners, and also a regrettable series of propaganda radio and film pieces in which he played a starring role, made by the North Vietnamese.
To be fair, repeated torture and solitary confinement could explain the blips of mental instability and massive chip clearly visible on McCain’s shoulder. It’s easy to feel sorry for him, and even to write off his reoccurring tirades and gaffs as perhaps that of an acute sufferer of Stockholm Syndrome.
Upon closer examination however, it’s more likely that his permanent chip on the shoulder and the spoiled brat-like outbursts are a direct product of a lifetime of privileged existence, where mishaps and misdeeds were always tidied up to maintain the impression of a spotless record – one which enabled his relatively fast-track in the political rat race.
John McCain was one of worst students in his naval class, who graduated from the Naval Academy 894th out of 899, but because he was the son of the great Rear Admiral John ‘Jack’ McCain II, he didn’t end up as a petty officer, or in charge of the mess hall. Instead his path was clear for advancement within that branch of the US military.
It gets worse. Along the way to Hanoi, he crashed two Navy aircraft while piloting them, and a third plane was reported to have crashed through power lines in Spain while “dare devil clowning”. A fourth aircraft was also destroyed on the deck of the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier parked off the coast of North Vietnam. That deadly incident involved McCain’s and another aircraft, as part of a larger disastrous incident and fire that killed 134 sailors and injured many others.
Details of what happened on the Forrestal differ somewhat depending on whose version of events you read, although McCain is said to have fled the ship by helicopter alongside a New York Times reporter to Saigon where he took a much-needed R & R, and did not even attend the memorial service of his fallen comrades in the days immediately following the tragic incident. Douglas Valentine wrote for Counterpunch in 2008:
“How psychologically twisted is McCain? And what actually happened to him in his POW camp that twisted him? Was it abuse, as he claims, or was it the fact that he collaborated and has to cover up?
Covering-up can take a lot of energy. The truth is lurking in his subconscious, waiting to explode. A number of US officials, including Andrew Card, have commented on McCain’s inexplicable angry outbursts.
In a July 5 2006 NewsMax.com article, former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), was quoted as having said about McCain: “I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues…. He would disagree about something and then explode.” Smith called it “irrational behavior. We’ve all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I’ve never seen anyone act like that.”
So, you say, McCain has a short fuse behind the plastered TV smile. So he calls his colleagues assholes and shit-heads. In high school they called him “McNasty.” That’s just how he is. Always was, always will be.”
“McNasty” was his nickname during his privileged upbringing, a young man – and a man, who is known by many to have been rude, aggressive, unstable and perhaps not of a fit state of mind altogether.
Was McCain actually ‘tortured in solitary confinement’ as he claims? Valentine adds here:
“However, on March 25, 1999, two of his fellow POWs, Ted Guy and Gordon “Swede” Larson told the Phoenix New Times that, while they could not guarantee that McCain was not physically harmed, they doubted it.
As Larson said, “My only contention with the McCain deal is that while he was at The Plantation, to the best of my knowledge and Ted’s knowledge, he was not physically abused in any way. No one was in that camp. It was the camp that people were released from.”
Guy and Larson’s claims are given credence by McCain’s vehement opposition to releasing the government’s debriefings of Vietnam War POWs. McCain gave Michael Isikoff a peek at his debriefs, and Isikoff declared there was “nothing incriminating” in them, apart from the redactions.”
In the fall of 1967, McCain was routinely bombing innocent civilians in North Vietnam from the safety of an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. “I am a war criminal,” he confessed on 60 Minutes in 1997. “I bombed innocent women and children.”
Friends in dirty places
McCain is also attached to one of the dirtiest financial scandals in US history, but incredibly, he was somehow let off the hook, in this case by the Senate Ethics committee. Wikipedia explainshis role in the infamous ‘Keating Five’ scandal:
“McCain became enmeshed in a scandal during the 1980s as one of five United States Senators comprising the so-called Keating Five. Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in lawful (‘lawful’) political contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and his associates at Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, along with trips on Keating’s jets that McCain belatedly repaid in 1989. In 1987, McCain was one of the five senators whom Keating contacted in order to prevent the government’s seizure of Lincoln, and McCain met twice with federal regulators to discuss the government’s investigation of Lincoln.”
Whatever happened, or didn’t happen, to John McCain over his illustrious mediocre career, most keen observers will agree that there is something about this man who has always seemed a bit off-key at the best of times, and outright wrong at his worst. Some would go so far as to label him an embarrassment. His video poker gaff simply crystalised what many had already suspected – that McCain is out lunch, even as war is being debated in his own chamber of government.
Perhaps it’s time for this 77 year old outdated and out-of-touch political relic, for once in his lofty career – to do the honorable thing and be done with public life, for there’s surely a board position through one of his powerful corporate lobby connections, or campaign benefactors.
Do the right thing for America and for the world, for once Mr. McCain, and please retire… to the golf course.
This article first appeared @ 21st Century Wire