Colson: McCain gets Trumped; politics as usual

by John Colson

Watching the Republican primary-election skirmishes is almost as funny as watching reruns of the old “M*A*S*H” television series (the early episodes), except for the fact that the election is a serious thing.

My funny bone was tickled last week when clown prince Donald Trump essentially said what many others have thought through the years, that Arizona Sen. John McCain really should not be considered a war hero simply because he was captured.

“I like people who were not captured,” The Donald continued, presumably meaning he prefers the heroics of soldiers who stayed on the battlefield and killed the enemy. Trump never explains himself, or his explanations go unreported as too goofy and not nearly as pithy as the statement he’s trying to explain.

Now, I have some sympathy for McCain, a Navy pilot who was shot down over Vietnam and held captive for more than five years in Hanoi. The son of a high-ranking admiral, he was subjected to vicious torture, as were a lot of U.S. soldiers over there. He reportedly refused early release because to accept it would have violated the unwritten code of U.S. prisoners of war — “first in, first out” — and would have handed North Vietnam a public-relations coup.

He once admitted that the sustained program of torture and abuse nearly broke him at one point, but in the end he thumbed his nose at his captors and emerged to talk about it.

That’s fairly heroic stuff, in the normal course of military events, and McCain deserves praise for it, regardless of a generally accepted conclusion that we never should have been in that war in the first place.

The problem here is that his actions during that idiotic war got him elected to the next-highest political job in this country — being a U.S. senator — a result that pumped him up to the point where he decided he should be elected president. Twice.

We all remember his most recent presidential bid, in 2008, when his truly startling lack of sound political judgment was laid bare in his choice of a running mate, former Alaskan Gov. and GOP nutbag Sarah Palin, whose post-defeat career as a TV personality was so pathetic and poorly received that even Fox News dumped her a couple of months ago.

What most voters may not recall is that some of McCain’s own brethren, under the name of Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, in 2008 mounted an anti-McCain “swiftboating” campaign — the very same group did the same thing to Democrat John Kerry in 2004 — to revile McCain’s military record as a sham and undermine his status as a military hero.

According to published accounts, even some other POWs from the Vietnam War era feel that McCain is a shameless huckster who trots out his prisoner experience any time he wants attention or votes and a hothead whose violent temper renders him unsuitable for this country’s top political job.

What this all boils down to is that Trump is just being himself: a rich windbag whose relationship with the truth is as shaky as his marital record.

We should remember that this is not Trump’s first flirtation with presidential politics, although it is his first formal, official candidacy for the job.

According to a USA Today summary published last month, Trump was first dragged into the presidential arena in 1987 by a GOP activist named Mike Dunbar, who thought the Republican field of candidates that year — Vice President George H.W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas — were both “duds” who might actually turn the White House over to Massachusetts Democrat and political lame-o Mike Dukakis.

Trump declined to take the bait, limiting himself to making occasional outrageous remarks that kept his name in the news.

He made another feint at the title in 2000, when he would have faced religious-right darling Pat Buchanan as a possible independent candidate, but he backed out of that contest, too.

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential race, after joining the ranks of the insane “birther” crowd that claimed then-candidate Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was a communist to boot, Trump again made noises about running but again backed away.

This time, though, he’s in it for “real” — or as real as a flighty, self-obsessed megalomaniac can make it.

And his incendiary remarks about McCain, like his earlier condemnation of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, were just more of his bombast.

I don’t believe Trump really thinks he can win; he simply has enough money to waste that he can view it as a game, a bit of fun.

And it is another example of an earlier sentiment he expressed back in 1999, when he quit the Republican Party and declared, “I really believe the Republicans are just too crazy-right” ­— meant in the political sense rather than giving them credit for being correct about anything.

As for what Trump really thinks, who the hell knows?

Aspen Times Weekly

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