McCain (lower right) with his squadron in 1965. (US Navy photo)
Ask about McCain’s Navy career, aside from the POW part of it
ASK THIS | September 02, 2008
McCain has made his military experience a key reason to vote for him. Reporters should examine his military records, including reports on air mishaps he was involved in before he was shot down over Hanoi. And McCain should see to it that all reports are made public.
By Barry Sussman
Setting the stage for the Republican convention, the Washington Post ran a special eight-page section with a profile of John McCain, more than 10,000 words long, by writer Michael Leahy, titled “A Navy Life Foretold.” Toward the end, after more than 9,000 words, Leahy mentioned, without laboring over them, three near-catastrophes McCain had as a pilot. Reporters should look into these incidents. They should do so soon, and not wait until just before the election, or after it. It’s unusual for military pilots, let alone presidential candidates, to have so many mishaps in a relatively short career of flying What do they tell us, if anything, about McCain’s judgment, ability and character?
The first incident occurred during flight training in Texas in 1958. As Leahy described it, McCain, “working on his landings one day…felt his engine die and, within seconds, was plummeting into Corpus Christi Bay.” He was momentarily knocked out, then regained consciousness and was able to escape from the cockpit.
The second occurred two years later. McCain had completed flight training and was deployed to the Mediterranean. “He was flying low one day when he decided to have some fun,” Leahy wrote. He dropped so low that he knocked down power lines over southern Spain, cutting off electricity in the area. McCain later referred to his own behavior as “daredevil clowning” and said he had created “a small international incident.”
The third came in 1965. McCain, stationed at Norfolk, flew solo in a Navy trainer plane to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. On the way back his engine quit. McCain ejected, landed safely and the plane crashed into a wooded area.
Leahy wrote that McCain had a “desultory performance” in the air. On the face of it, the incident in Spain stands out as an example of rash, poor judgment. The other two also raise questions. How much was a problem with the equipment, how much was pilot error? What about McCain’s responses: What do they tell us about his temperament?
The Navy investigates all such events and keeps records of them. Included as a rule are accounts by the people involved, which generally are not made public. One of the first steps for reporters would be to ask McCain to have the Navy release statements he made—or to release them himself. Reporters should also file Freedom of Information Act requests with the Navy for all documents pertaining to McCain’s crashes and incidents.
A journalist with experience in such research says the files should contain “accident/incident/safety reports” and first-hand accounts. In addition, this journalist notes, “given the age of the incidents, it would appear the records for them would be in the Naval Historical Center, and FOIAs go through the Chief of Naval Operations. FOIA information can be found on the Web site of the Naval Safety Center.”
Reporters also might seek a Privacy Act waiver to obtain all of McCain’s military and health records, including those from the Naval Academy. McCain and his supporters have made his military career—his knowledge and judgment—a key to his campaign, a main reason to vote for him. His behavior as a young rebel is widely known and wouldn’t surprise or shock anyone. McCain wants to be president; he should be willing to have these records made public.
In addition to these incidents, McCain was aboard the USS Forrestal off the Vietnam coast in July 1967 and narrowly escaped with his life in one of the most deadly events in American Navy history. He was in his plane when a rocket aboard the ship was set off. It was said to have slammed into McCain’s bomb-laden plane or the one behind it, resulting in a fire and multiple explosions that killed more than 130 sailors. It took almost 24 hours to extinguish the blaze. It was a few months afterward that McCain’s A-4E Skyhawk was taken down by a surface-to-air missile over Hanoi.
Barry Sussman is the editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project. He is the author of The Great Cover-Up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, now in its fourth edition.
McCain did Serve... Obama gets a big fat ZERO!
10/06/2008, 07:51 PM
I wish people would open their eyes what is happening with this election. I would pick McCain over anyone from the south side of Chicago. I know what kind of BS Obama was in and he just used the race factor to get what he wanted. He claims that he helped unemployed steel workers from the plants that were shutting down. Funny, no one can seem to find a steel worker that knew Obama.
Everyone claims McCain this, McCain that... You get bayonetted in the leg after being shot down and see what that feel like.
Obama wants to give the UN 70plus BILLION to offset the "world inequities". The corrupt supporting the corrupt... He never mentions THAT plan. Where does he think he will get the money?
He finds it with the middle class American because a lot out there refuse to believe that someone that falls to the left of Mao is running for the Dems and they keep toting the party lne for the Dems when the party was hijacked long time ago under the guise of "benefits" and Social reform.
America better wake up and soon and look at where this guy comes from... Chicago (Leaders in corruption)Illinois (Look at who Rezco was pals with, Obama and the present governor of Illinois).
His election committee consists of the existing Chicago political machine. I will tell you what will happen if Obama gets in the office. You will see all sorts of Chicago cronies begin to occupy high positions in the government.
This article is a slam on someone that did seve in the military. Obama cannot hold a match to it. Period.