Reason Writers Around Town: Matt Welch on Why McCain Really is a Hero


Write a critical book about John McCain, and you will soon become a repository of many colorful rumors. These come in three general flavors: 1) Did you hear about his terrible temper? (The subject did come up, yes.) 2) Did you know he likes the ladies? (Fred Thompson invoked "Marie, the Flame of Florida" at the Republican National Convention, so, yes.) And, most popularly, 3) He wasn't really a hero in Vietnam at all; also, I think they did something funny to his brain there.

The answer to that last rumor, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is that that dog won't hunt.

Rolling Stone magazine this month came up with one of the best-sourced versions of the he's-no-hero argument, and by best-sourced I mean the article quoted one fellow ex-POW on the record as saying that "he wasn't exceptional one way or another." From there, the author went on to conclude that, for McCain in Hanoi, the military Code of Conduct, by which prisoners of war were supposed to abide, "went out the window."

Read the rest at the Los Angeles Times.

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  1. Sorry, I’m boycotting the LA Times for the Edwards coverup.

  2. It’s nice to know that with the election nearly decided, we can stop hating McCain and go back to the days when he was just a decent senator.

  3. Just in case, the Google ads that appear in this post are a carry-over from the LAT source page.

  4. I…I…I don’t…I don’t trust McCain.

    He’s…uh…he’s an…um…





  5. A real hero wouldn’t have gotten his ass shot down in the first place.

  6. joe, you damn fool, he’s a Chinaman!

    Isn’t that where Manchuria is?

  7. It seems there something funny happened with McCain’s brain, but probably well before Vietnam.

  8. Penguin Pie – taDOW

  9. I think McCain should go on SNL and reprise Martin Sheen’s opening scene from Apocalypse Now:

    Saigon. . .shit; I’m still only in Saigon. . . . Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I’d wake up and there’d be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said “yes” to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I’m here a week now. . .waiting for a mission. . .getting softer; every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around, the walls moved in a little tighter.

    And so on. With, of course, proper accompaniment from The Doors’ “The End”. I’d vote for him in a flash if he’d do that.

  10. He sure did crash an awful lot of planes, but other than that, meh.

  11. Libertate, that would kick ass.

  12. Yeah but so what, McCain wasn’t the editor of The Harvard Law Review

  13. Is it fair to say he was a hero in Viet Nam and stopped being a hero when he left?

  14. Thanks MattW! I’m definitely going to remember your stalwart attempts to get BHO elected after Reason’s choice squelches free speech and we’re all – or at least we counter-revolutionaries – forced to switch to mimeography. Plus, samizdat is so retro cool!

  15. Funny, because I remember a lot of gushing McCain coverage from Rolling Stone back in 1999-2000.

  16. The harsh truth is that the overwhelming majority of POWs, including McCain, “broke” under torture at some point. As would I, and certainly any writer for Rolling Stone, in about five seconds.

    Ha! Well played Mr. Welch

  17. What would be even cooler is if McCain did the whole film (I think SNL would run a one-sketch show with this cast), with a totally bald Dick Cheney as Kurtz at the end. Bush would make a cameo as the photographer; Obama as Clean.

  18. Of course he’s a hero. As an aside, I used to walk by the Murray Hill fire station every day. I’d say good morning to the guys hanging out. They’re heroes too. Doesn’t mean I want them to be president.

  19. If being victimized makes a hero than I nominate Jessica Lynch

  20. obviously him delivering Walken’s monologue from Pulp Fiction would be great too

  21. Obama heroically organized a community in some vague way.
    That is what hope is. Yes we can.

  22. Sarah Palin, of course, would appear as one of the Playmates, satisfying America’s desire to learn more about her. Joe Biden will not be invited to appear.

  23. I nominate Jessica Lynch

    Wouldn’t work. Flynt still has the pr0n she made in the military.

  24. Hero’s don’t join collectivist organizations of coercion. He was only a hero if you buy into that nationalist bull****

  25. You pus-filled weak-kneed bunch of vaginas!

  26. If McCain was a democrat the republicans would NOT call him a hero and would have a 527 ad featuring his former prisonmates talking about how much of a scumbag he is for his unamerican actions in Hanoi.

  27. If McCain was a Democrat, we’d be hearing about how he’s never worked a real job in his life, but has been sucking at the government teat since he went to college.

  28. joe,

    Such sentiments have been uttered hereabouts from time to time.

    I can’t come up with a good Colonel Kilgore cameo.

  29. I can’t come up with a good Colonel Kilgore cameo.

    JoeThePlumber, of course.

  30. Is he licensed to kill? I thought it wasn’t.

    Bush will be great in the Dennis Hopper role. It will make him a hugely successful ex-president.

  31. I can’t come up with a good Colonel Kilgore cameo.

    G. Gordon Liddy?

  32. Jammer,

    Yes, if it were 1978. We need someone current. Someone crazy. Someone who likes surfing.

    This is impossible.

  33. If McCain was a democrat the republicans would NOT call him a hero and would have a 527 ad featuring his former prisonmates talking about how much of a scumbag he is for his unamerican actions in Hanoi.

    Looks like Rolling Stone tried to gin up just that, and came up with one guy who said meh, he wasn’t so special.

    Trust me, if it was possible to put together such an ad, it would be on the air right now.

  34. Pro,

    I was afraid Gordo might be too far past his due date.

    Ted Nugent? He is certainly crazy. Current is a bit of a stretch, though, hmmm…

    Ann Coulter?

  35. Huh. Well, there’s Karl Rove, the ultimate bogeyman to the left (meaning that he can be all things). Wesley Clark is a little weird, but I don’t know if he’s a surfer.

    There’s always Robert Duvall.

  36. .. well done, Matt

    .. Hobbit

  37. How did Hitler skip the Jews who run this website? He did America a disservice by the skip. You are the people who are distroying our freedon was worse the SS storm troopers in Germany could have ever done.

  38. C Gottwerth

    Jesus Christ, what the hell is your problem?

  39. HA HA HA HA
    i love it.

  40. C GOTTWERTH.. you are a hilarious pimple on the ass of the liberal jewish juggernaut, and i applaud your staggering intelligence

  41. Even the last name is perfect.

  42. Pro Lib: I can’t come up with a good Colonel Kilgore cameo.

    Dude. Giuliani.

    “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like…. 9/11 er, victory! I mean, victory.”

  43. As far as McCain-as-hero, it’s not like he’s Sgt. York.

    He was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others during the U.S.-led Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.

  44. Yes, Giuliani is perfect. It’s a token of his forgettableness that one tends to overlook him.

  45. I believe he’s a hero, but I don’t want heroes governing me. I’d rather have a feckless, faint hearted guy who always fears to take any decisive action as my President. Basically, I’d rather have no one in the office at all.

  46. The former Vietnamese soldiers who held McCain prisoner have come out and stated in several interviews that McCain was never tortured. In fact the Vietnamese got to medical attention immediately since they wanted him alive as a bargaining tool. McCain’s claims that he was tortured as a prisoner of war are in dispute by the people who held him captive.

    In addition, I proudly consider myself another “washed up old terrorist” since I actively did everything I could during the Vietnam era to stop the war. I have no respect for McCain for participating in an illegal war that killed millions of innocent people. John got what he deserved. I have a lot more respect for Obama voting against another Vietnam.

  47. JB,
    What exactly do you think they would say? “I remember putting the needles under his fingernails myself.” Of course they will deny that they tortured him.

  48. Obama wasn’t in Congress when the US went to war in Iraq. It’s not a major point, but it’s important to point out when someone makes a damnfool statement. And while I don’t support interventions of the Vietnam War variety, I also don’t think that fighting murderous communists is something to be ashamed of.

  49. JB, washed up old terrorist eh? Were you responsible for the bombing of Sterling Hall in Madison, WI by chance? You sneaky Vietnam war protestor, you.

  50. I still wouldn’t flash him the Queen of Diamonds.

  51. Why not? Then you could tell him to jump in the lake, and…

  52. How exactly is getting shot down and captured during a war which America lost, supposed to make him a special Hero? I say special hero, because i don’t want to discredit the fact that he chose to serve. Everyone who serves in a time of war is a hero, but how is McCain anymore of a Hero than every other combat veteran, like the homeless man I bought lunch for a few days back? Oh, because McCain’s Father was part of the power elite and then McCain dumped his first wife to marry a multimillionaire Heiress. McCain is a hero because he has the advertising dollars to tell everyone he’s a hero. John McCain has always been a hero… to John McCain.

  53. will wrote: “What exactly do you think they would say? “I remember putting the needles under his fingernails myself.” Of course they will deny that they tortured him.”

    Then again, Bush says McCain wasn’t tortured, either. Bush’s position is that McCain was just “aggressively questioned” or suchlike.

  54. Capt. Obvious:
    “Choice” does not equal “Draft”

    Some of us were forced by the Man to “serve” and fight.

    Now let’s talk about the *real* Prisoners of (that) War

  55. Capt. Obvious:
    BTW: I agree with everything else you have to say Ole John

  56. Matt, you didn’t make the case you stated in your title.

    You didn’t address competently either his “breaking”, nor his possible brainwashing, nor his subsequent suppressing and ridiculous classification of POW-MIA information, nor his cheerleading of “normalization” of relations with the Vietnamese.

    There are many unanswered questions in this matter.


  57. When you participate in an immoral and unconstitutional war, those who fight against you are the heroes.

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