The So-Called POW


One dog that just won't hunt in this presidential election is the octennial attempt to suggest that John McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam was somehow totally different than advertised. The latest example comes from the always-entertaining (and sometimes intentionally so) Gore Vidal, in a Q&A with the New York Times:

And what about Mr. McCain? Disaster. Who started this rumor that he was a war hero? Where does that come from, aside from himself? About his suffering in the prison war camp?

Everyone knows he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. That's what he tells us.

Why would you doubt him? He's a graduate of Annapolis. I know a lot of the Annapolis breed. Remember, I'm West Point, where I was born. My father went there.

So what does that have to do with the U.S. Naval Academy down in Annapolis? The service universities keep track of each other, that's all. They have views about each other. And they are very aware of social class and eventually money, since they usually marry it.

At the risk of taking Vidal seriously, there have been dozens of histories written about the 500 or so POWs in Vietnam, and every one I've seen that references McCain speaks about his spirited, morale-boosting resistance in the face of torture and humiliation. Which is enough to clear my "heroism" bar, for what that's worth.

Some bonus Vidal bitchiness:

How did you feel when you heard that Buckley died this year? I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred. […]

Well, it was a great pleasure talking to you. I doubt that.

Link via Andrew Sullivan.