Rich Tucker

Beware, voters. John McCain has an anger problem.

Just this week, The Washington Post reported -- on page one -- about a meeting in 1992 (yes, 1992). It was “an informal gathering of a select committee investigating lingering issues about Vietnam War prisoners and those missing in action, most notably whether any American servicemen were still being held by the Vietnamese,” the paper says.

McCain apparently became so angry with fellow Republican Senator Charles Grassley that “he mocked Grassley to his face and used a profanity to describe him.” Grassley told the paper “it was a very long period of time” before he spoke to McCain again. Not, presumably, as long as the Post has waited to run this story, but a long time nonetheless.

Notice what’s missing here: context. We’re assured McCain got angry, but not whether that anger might have been justified. The senators were reportedly discussing Vietnam MIAs, but it matters what, exactly, were they discussing.

Former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey was also at the controversial meeting, and adds the missing information. “The precise point of disagreement between the Senators was over a man name Robert Garwood,” Kerrey wrote on a blog hosted by New York’s New School. “Senator Grassley believed he was a hero whose reputation was destroyed by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Senator McCain believed him to a traitor who caused prisoners (like Senator McCain) to receive additional encounters with torture.”

Furthermore, Kerrey adds, “McCain won the argument. My experience is that his anger always has a purpose and in this case the purpose was to defeat Senator Grassley’s argument which he did decisively.”

So McCain’s anger was not only justified, but tactical. And far more successful than the mainstream media’s repeated attempts to paint McCain as a cheating (see The New York Times, Feb. 21) loose cannon are likely to be.

If the senator wants to get angry, he ought to do so over the idea that the presidential race will somehow turn negative only when Republicans spend the autumn launching attacks on the eventual Democratic nominee. After all, it’s difficult to imagine what the GOP could say that hasn’t already been said by Sens. Clinton and Obama about each other.

Still, that’s the mainstream line, and the media are sticking to it. For example, “David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, tells NEWSWEEK that the Illinois senator won’t let himself be ‘Swift Boated’ like John Kerry in 2004,” the magazine wrote recently. “He’s not going to sit there and sing ‘Kumbaya’ as the missiles are raining in,” Axelrod added.

Missiles, eh? Such as the ones that a prominent Democratic senator recently accused McCain of using during his military career?

“McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet,” Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV told a West Virginia newspaper April 8. “What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground? He doesn’t know.” Rockefeller later apologized.

This, by the way, is an example of nasty campaigning, the sort of thing Democrats specialize in. Don’t take my word for it. The voice of the political left, The New York Times, recently editorialized that Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary campaign “was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.” But, we’re repeatedly told, it’s the Republicans who are going to go negative.

Oh, well. At least our reporters aren’t as out-of-touch as some across the pond are.

“To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace,” British commentator Simon Jenkins wrote on April 23 in The Guardian. Things are apparently so bad that “Americans have been almost persuaded by their president, George Bush, that they are not at peace.”

Well, we aren’t at peace. We’re at war. As, by the way, is Britain. Allied forces are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, two wars we can’t afford to lose.

Jenkins goes on to lament that Americans aren’t more like Europeans, who “have demoted military virtues and the military class to history’s dustbin.” But the reason voters on the continent have been able to do that is because, for decades now, the United States has picked up a disproportionate share of the human and financial cost of defending Europe.

Europeans love to brag about their “soft power,” their supposed ability to control events through diplomacy and economic pressure. But that only works when backed by “hard power,” something that Europeans are seemingly unwilling to deploy.

Look no further than the EU3’s (Britain, France and Germany) ongoing talks with Iran. They’ve been at it since 2003, and haven’t convinced Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions. When those talks fail, as they presumably will, the world will look longingly to American arms for protection.

If we won’t give it, what are they going to do -- get angry?


Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for Townhall.com.