Thomas Sowell

We have been hearing for years that Senator John McCain gives "straight talk" and his bus has been endlessly referred to as the "straight talk express." But endless repetition does not make something true.

The fact that McCain makes short, blunt statements does not make him a straight-talker.

There are short, blunt lies -- and he told a big one on the eve of the Florida primary, when he claimed that Mitt Romney had advocated a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

Even the Washington Post, which supports McCain, said that the Senator "has distorted the meaning" of what Governor Romney said, that Romney "has never proposed setting 'a date for withdrawal.'"

During Mitt Romney's ABC News interview that Senator McCain twisted, Governor Romney was asked by the interviewer whether he agreed with President Bush's veto of Congressional legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal, and whether Romney as President would veto similar legislation.

"Of course," was Romney's reply. There was no ambiguity.

Confronted with his lie on Wednesday night's debate, McCain blustered and filibustered in a manner reminiscent of Captain Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny," when he was caught in a lie during a navy inquiry.

When confronted with any of his misdeeds, Senator McCain tends to fall back on his record as a war hero in Vietnam.

Let's talk sense. Benedict Arnold was a war hero but that did not exempt him from condemnation for his later betrayal.

Being a war hero is not a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card. And becoming President of the United States is not a matter of rewarding an individual for past services.

The Presidency is a heavy responsibility for the future of the nation, including generations yet unborn. Character and integrity are major qualifications.

The passing years and a friendly media have allowed Senator McCain's shortcomings in the character and integrity department to fade into the background.

McCain was one of "the Keating five" -- Senators who used their influence to try to protect a failing savings & loan company, which also became the subject of a corruption investigation.

During the 2000 primaries, the Associated Press reported Senator McCain's joking about people with Alzheimer's.

This went beyond bad taste because (1) it was known at the time that Ronald Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's and (2) the media to whom McCain was pandering hated Ronald Reagan.

It is especially ironic now to see McCain wrapping himself in the mantle of President Reagan.

With the momentum of his Florida primary win behind him, going into the "Super Tuesday" primaries, John McCain has now been restored to the position of front runner that the media gave him at the outset.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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