Jul. 1st, 2008

phamos: (bamababy)
Wes Clark is being lambasted for his comment on Face the Nation about McCain's military service. Let's do an instant replay, shall we?

CLARK: He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not, do you want to take the risk, what about your reputation, how do we handle this publicly? He hasn't made those calls, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: Can I just interrupt you? I have to say, Barack Obama hasn't had any of these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.
CLARK: I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.

Wes Clark has shown himself to be awfully shitty at playing politics. This was obvious during his halfhearted presidential run in 2004. (Full disclosure: I voted for him in the New York primary.) But regardless of whether I agree with his sentiment here (which I basically do) or whether it was a dumb thing to say in our soundbyte-centric society (which it was), what I was struck by was the structure of this conversation. Bob Schieffer was the one who actually said the offending phrase first: "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down." People are treating this like Clark was the one who came up with this phrase, because it's the PHRASING, not the sentiment, that is causing the trouble here. As others have pointed out, John McCain himself has said in the past that his hostage experience alone does not qualify him for the presidency. That's fair game. What people are pissed about is that the phrase is casual and almost dismissive, even making it seem like becoming a hostage was HIS FAULT for just riding along and getting his dumb ass shot down. That's the problem. So it's ironic that Clark was just parroting what Schieffer said first. I don't think Wes Clark on his own would have classified John McCain's experience in Vietnam as just riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down -- that particular linguistic turn wouldn't have even occurred to him, as a lifelong military man. I mean, honestly, do people REALLY THINK that Wes Clark, of all people, would piss all over a fellow soldier like that? What he's pissing on is the idea that military heroism itself is a good enough qualification to lead the free world. He doesn't think it is, and I don't either.

Funnily enough, this whole thing reminded me of my dad's episode of NYPD Blue. The scene that episode is most remembered for, a scene my dad actually didn't write but ended up being the crux of the whole plot, involved the following dialogue, between Sipowicz and an angry black community activist:

Kwasi: You're dealing with the one n***** in a thousand who knows what you can and cannot do.
Sipowicz: I'm dealing with the n***** whose big mouth is responsible for this massacre.

Boom goes the goddamn dynamite. Doesn't matter if Kwasi said it first, Andy was in for some shit as soon as that word passed his lips. There is a slight complication here in that Sipowicz was actually a total racist, whereas Wes Clark is hardly anti-military. But seriously, in this country, there are some things you JUST. DON'T. SAY. You don't get to say the N-word if you're white. And you don't get to talk shit on a war hero, even by accident. There are probably others, but those two should be self evident at this point.


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