What About the Battles?

Sarah Palin hit this point a few times in last night's vice presidential debate. Rather than give you the whole meandering segment, here's the summation. You can read the entire transcript...and it's not an easy read...here.

"John McCain...knows how to win a war. (He's) been there and he's faced challenges and he knows what evil is and knows what it takes to overcome the challenges here with our military."

I was confused, so I decided to check out the Wikis.

Since John McCain turned 18 years old, the United States, as I count it, has been involved in five major conflicts:

- The Vietnam War: John McCain's A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi. Vietnam is considered a failure.

- The Persian Gulf War: An amazing success at the time...but it turned out to be just part of the story.

- The War on Terrorism: Al Qaeda has been weakened and there haven't been any terrorist attacks within US borders (though they've been common elsewhere). Osama Bin Laden is still at large.

- Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan): Was considered a resounding success until recently.

- Iraqi Freedom: Was considered a resounding failure until the troop surge, which just made Afghanistan worse.

John McCain was not the Commander-in-Chief during any of these conflicts...he wasn't even a commanding officer...so it's not fair to say he loses wars. But there's hardly proof that he's won a war, either.

(Note: Barack Obama has not won any wars, either.)


  1. So much of it is rhetoric. I've done a lot of marketing copywriting and this is the same thing. Try to make your product (presidential candidate) sound as good as possible, inflating small facts into solid evidence to sell your product to the largest number of people. It's hard to fault the candidates for this (because everyone knows failing to do this gets you nowhere, both in advertising and in politics), but it's still disappointing.

  2. Right...the Wikis are always right.

  3. That's true that John McCain has never won a war. But, he has consistently offered sound advice regarding the military:

    1. Not sending to few troops to Lebanon

    2. Identifying the enemy and the nations sponsoring them ON September 11

    3. Firing Rumsfield

    4. The surge in Iraq

    John McCain also served for two decades as a military officer, and from all accounts a good one. That experience alone gives him more qualification to lead the military than Barack Obama.

    However, it is definitely not the only issue in the campaign. I, too, am disappointed in the rhetoric emanating from both candidates.

    Let the truth begin!

  4. "John McCain's A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi."

    I saw him speak at the University of Utah in 2002 and he spun it like this:

    "I intercepted an enemy surface-to-air missile with my aircraft." Then he followed up with a joke about it not being the most cost effective way to take out missiles.

  5. My biggest reaction last night was to Palin's line about American exceptionalism, the shining city on a hill, which she attributed to Ronald Reagan even though George Winthrop first used the line about the New World in 1630.

    My second biggest reaction was to line you posted here, Jordan: "John McCain...knows how to win a war. (He's) been there and he's faced challenges and he knows what evil is and knows what it takes to overcome the challenges here with our military." I focused more on the clause "and he knows what evil is." What does that even mean?

  6. @Anon:

    I only looked at Wikipedia for dates and a breakdown of all American conflicts in the the past 50 or so years...Wikipedia doesn't need to tell me Vietnam was bad war.

    @tim miller:

    "John McCain also served for two decades as a military officer, and from all accounts a good one."

    Not all. He was considered a party-lover, crashed two planes, and flew another one into powerlines. He was critical of civilian leadership, but so is every serviceman I've ever known in the military.

  7. I believe John McCain led the American side in the War of the Worlds, but I could be mistaken.

  8. to be fair, she said that he knows how to win a war, not that he ever has put that knowledge into practice.

  9. As an Arizona resident, I can assure you John McCain plays a mean game of Risk. That might have been what Gov. Palin was referring to.

  10. Also, somewhat seriously, I find your list of accomplishments a little funny, Mr. Miller, considering that you left out McCain's support of the Iraq war in the first place. It's somewhat like if I decided to engage in illegal street racing, but after smashing head-on into several passing cars made the decision to reduce your speed by ten miles an hour. Maybe it would have been a good idea not to start in the first place.

  11. Mr. Gibson,

    Obviously, most of the commentators here do not agree with McCain's position on beginning the Iraq War, even though he could count as his allies Joseph Biden and Hillary Clinton.

    It is also obvious that had McCain been listened to from the beginning, America (and Iraq) would have suffered far fewer casualties.

    I'm not asking you to agree about the war in Iraq; that's impossible.

    But, I am suggesting that you recognize McCain's area of strength for what it is. I don't mind accepting that Barack Obama has urban credentials McCain doesn't, and I do happen to believe that America needs a president who understands the challenges and possibilities of America's cities.

    I have actually defended Obama against unfair attacks from my side of the aisle, and will continue to do so.

    But, it is not factual to argue that McCain does not have military or foreign policy expertise.

  12. I wouldn't dare to argue that McCain has more hands on experience with both the military and foreign policy, however, the logical fallacy with promoting McCain on that level is if you're going on that standard alone, your vote should have been cast for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 (and somehow I doubt either situation is the case). Just because someone has experience in an area doesn't equate with the ability to make GOOD decisions. I can understand that ideologically you find McCain more palatable than Obama and that's fine, but to say he's "consistently offered sound advice" is revisionist and absurd.

    After all, he connected Iraq to 9/11, said that we would be welcomed by the Iraqi people, believed we would find weapons of mass destruction, declared that we had won a "massive victory" in 2003 and praised Rumsfeld's leadership in 2004. If you focus on McCain's greatest hits, he sounds great. Then again, there's a huge body of work riddled with mistakes in judgment surrounding the assessments you mentioned.

    Also, if McCain and all his glorious experience happen to end up in the grave during his term, who will be at the wheel then?

  13. You are correct that McCain tied Iraq to 9/11. This is one of the issues on which liberals and conservatives cannot find common ground, because we continue to believe that Sadaam supported and encouraged efforts to weaken and damage the United States. The fact is Sadaam encouraged the ideology of terror that resulted in the attacks. A smoking gun? No, we didn't find one.

    And, as far as being welcomed as liberators: I live in the Metro Detroit area where we have the second largest concentration of people of Arabic descent in the nation. Many of these are Iraqis who escaped the brutality of Sadaam's regime. And they were rejoicing in the streets when his statue fell and when he was captured.

    Granted, the rejoicing has not continued because of the way this war has been mishandled. No argument there (although I challenge you to find a war in which there have been no strategic errors).

    You are correct in stating that I did not support Kerry or Gore in 2000 or 2004.

    I have been addressing the allegations made against McCain's qualifications, not suggesting that experience alone qualifies a person for leadership.

    It is my belief that a person's philosophy and values are far more important to his or her readiness to lead the country than his or her experience alone (although I don't discount that).

    My problem with Barack Obama (and, on some issues, with John McCain) is his philosophy, not his inexperience in a particular issue.

    Peggy Noonan has made this point about Ronald Reagan -- he was not a work in progress in the White House; he knew what he was about and set out to achieve it. In the White House, the President is constantly faced with crises and issues he does not know when he is campaigning. How he responds is determined by his philosophy, not by his campaign advisors and pollsters.

    I felt like Kerry was a work in progress; he didn't seem to know what he believed any more than the rest of us did. As far as Al Gore, I had serious disagreements with him philosophically.

    (I'm one of those religious kooks whose environmental plan is the rapture, you know:)

    So, you are right; experience is not the only qualifier for high office in America.

    And (I know, now I'm getting as long winded as John Kerry on a bad conference call), one more thing. the extensive "packaging" of candidates bothers me, too. I have posted on my blog about the failure of both campaigns to be honest and open in their advertising, and both of these campaigns were promising to change politics.

    So, I tend to agree with the cyncism, even if I'm a little more comfortable with Sarah Palin at the helm than you all are.


  14. "- The War on Terrorism: Al Qaeda has been weakened and there haven't been any terrorist attacks within US borders (though they've been common elsewhere). Osama Bin Laden is still at large."

    We all understand that this is false, right? (Anthrax, anyone?)