John McCain, War Hero
By Jerome Grossman
Up to this point in the race for president of the United States, the uncrowned but virtually certain nominee of the Republican Party, Senator John McCain, is doing remarkably well in the public opinion polls. McCain is holding his own against both Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. According to all the polls, if the election were held today, he would have an even chance of victory.
This is surprising because of the political difficulties of the Republican Party; short of money, besieged by factional quarrels, a support base with less than customary enthusiasm, an unpopular president presiding over an economy in recession and two unresolved wars.
Yet, McCain is competitive in spite of these overwhelming negatives. One explanation offered is his life history, especially his military service in the Vietnam War. As squadron leader in combat flying, he was shot down, gravely wounded, captured by the enemy, held prisoner for five years, and tortured by his Vietnamese captors. Obama and Clinton have no military experience.
Could this heroic experience be the basis for his political popularity? The American voters have often rewarded their military heroes with the presidency, among them George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Harrison, Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and George H. W. Bush (the father).
However, in the last four elections, authentic war heroes were defeated by rivals who not only did not serve but appeared to have made special efforts not to serve. In 1992, war hero George H. W. Bush (the father) lost to Bill Clinton. In 1996 war hero Bob Dole lost to Bill Clinton. In 2000, war hero Al Gore lost to George W. Bush (the son). In 2004, war hero John Kerry lost to George W. Bush. It is difficult to explain the political rejection of these war heroes, while most Americans intensely “support the troops,” wherever they are, whatever they do.
On Election Day, 2008, the United States will be engaged in at least two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time it will have the largest military budget in the history of the world plus 737 military bases in 130 countries on every continent. McCain is gung-ho for the two wars and very supportive of the military program. Will the election of war hero John McCain be regarded as another ratification of US military policy by the American public, a policy which includes the entire planet as its sphere of influence and operation? Will President McCain rely on his military experience and U.S. military dominance to solve the inevitable problems posed by American hegemony?