Former President Jimmy Carter aroused the anger of many John McCain supporters when he stated bluntly the Arizona senator was “milking” his stint in prison. It is doubtful if a single speaker at the Republican convention has failed to throw in a reference to Vietnam and being a prisoner regardless of the topic being discussed. Some of McCain’s former fellow prisoners support his candidacy because they share a bond of having gone through hell together. They believe being a prisoner helped transform him as a person. But, of course, prison and torture also harms an individual. And, as former POW Philip Butler comments, “I like and respect jOhn as a person, but even if he were my blood bother, I would not vote for him. On Election Day, fitness to be president trumps everything.”
Thousands of Americans were POWs. John McCain’s experience as a POW was most probably more painful than other prisoners. But, the flip side of being a prisoner for years, is that McCain lacked any knowledge of the fighting in Vietnam and what was happening to people. It is interesting that Senators Webb, Kerry, and Hagel who were in combat while McCain was in prison, oppose the war in Iraq.
It would be helpful if Senator McCain could actually discuss a problem or issue, without the requisite, “when I was a prisoner in Vietnam,” introduction. Being a prisoner has nothing to do with learning how to handle the economy nor issues in the Middle East. Many people do not like Jimmy Carter, but sometimes his bluntness is right on target.