One of the worst offenses in American politics is quoting a politician out of context. One comes to expect politicians to quote their opponents out of context for political expediency. We should hold the media, however, to a much higher standard and be able to turn to them to set the record straight when that happens. I'm not a particularly big fan of Donald Trump, and I don't support his presidential campaign. The truth of the matter is, though, that he is being vilified for saying something about Sen. John McCain he never said. Trump has been making a lot of off-the-cuff statements as of late ala Robert Redford's character Bill McKay in the 1972 classic movie, The Candidate, to grab headlines. And it's been working for him. The latest polls show him near the top of the crowded Republican pack, if not slightly ahead of Jeb Bush.
So Trump goes out to McCain's home state of Arizona last weekend and draws a huge crowd of 15,000 Arizonans anxious to hear what he has to say. Trump, who supported McCain's 2008 presidential bid and helped raise about a million dollars for him, criticized him for being soft on illegal immigration. McCain fired back after Trump's appearance in his home state that he had "fired up the crazies," a pretty insulting and harsh comment to make about a lot of people, including members of his own party, in his home state. The war of words between the two escalated as the week progressed with Trump referring to McCain as a "dummy" for insulting the people who attended his Phoenix rally as a bunch of "crazies."
At an appearance in Iowa at week's end, Trump was asked at a Family Leadership Summit moderated by political pollster Frank Lutz about referring to a war hero like McCain as a "dummy." Trump tried to put his comment about McCain in context, which arguably justified his use of the word "dummy" to describe a sitting U.S. Senator paint his own constituents with such a negative, broad brush. "But he's a war hero," Luntz replied. Here's how Trump responded:
“He is a war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured.”
"I like people that weren't captured." "Okay, I hate to tell you."
“He’s a war hero, because he was captured.”
“I believe, perhaps, he’s a war hero. But right now, he’s said some very bad things about a lot of people.”Almost every news media report I've read has given the impression Trump said McCain is not a war hero. He said no such thing. He emphasized why he had been characterized as a war hero, which is factually correct. It's his POW status, not his actual military service that won him war hero status. Trump even acknowledged he's a war hero; he just doesn't think we should get carried away with exaggerating who he is. But if a lie gets repeated often enough, it becomes the truth. So anyone not paying any attention to what Trump really said in Iowa would believe he said something he never said about McCain.
One of the points Trump did not bring up, which I think is quite relevant to this discussion, is the uncivil like manner in which McCain has increasingly treated anyone with whom he has political disagreements. I've been perplexed and very disillusioned by McCain's treatment of his fellow Vietnam War veterans and their families who have demanded answers about unaccounted for MIAs and POWs as he once was. Not only has he shown great insensitivity towards these Americans by insulting them and questioning their motives, he has gone to great lengths to use his position in the Senate to block the release of any information that would help them get answers to questions about their missing relatives.
Aside from his overt efforts to block the families of veterans from getting answers about their lost loved ones, McCain's own POW story can be told in a different light that paints him as anything but a war hero. His critics point out that McCain was not tortured while in captivity like other POWs; his injuries were caused by the initial shoot down of the Air Force plane he piloted over North Vietnam during bombing runs. His North Vietnamese communist captors derisively referred to him as the "Songbird" because of his willingness from the moment of his capture to provide information sought by his interrogators. McCain made dozens of propaganda films for the North Vietnamese, which included harsh statements about the American enemy the North Vietnamese were fighting. The video below is just one example of the deep-seated contempt many of his fellow veterans hold towards him, who consider him anything but a war hero.
About a year ago, even mainstream, conservative columnist George Will came around to admitting the American people had been lied to for decades about the Vietnam War and, in particular, the fact that Watergate might never have happened had President Richard Nixon not been obsessed about covering up the role of him and his chief emissary, Henry Kissinger, in sabotaging President Johnson's peace talks between the North and South Vietnamese, an act of treason by the future president and Kissinger:
. . . The treason came in 1968 as the Vietnam War reached a critical turning point. President Lyndon Johnson was desperate for a truce between North and South Vietnam.
LBJ had an ulterior motive: his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, was in a tight presidential race against Richard Nixon. With demonstrators in the streets, Humphrey desperately needed a cease-fire to get him into the White House.
Johnson had it all but wrapped it. With a combination of gentle and iron-fisted persuasion, he forced the leaders of South Vietnam into an all-but-final agreement with the North. A cease-fire was imminent, and Humphrey’s election seemed assured.
But at the last minute, the South Vietnamese pulled out. LBJ suspected Nixon had intervened to stop them from signing a peace treaty.
In the Price of Power (1983), Seymour Hersh revealed Henry Kissinger---then Johnson’s advisor on Vietnam peace talks---secretly alerted Nixon’s staff that a truce was imminent.
According to Hersh, Nixon “was able to get a series of messages to the Thieu government [of South Vietnam] making it clear that a Nixon presidency would have different views on peace negotiations.”
Johnson was livid. He even called the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen, to complain that “they oughtn’t be doing this. This is treason.”
“I know,” was Dirksen’s feeble reply.
Johnson blasted Nixon about this on November 3, just prior to the election. As Robert Parry of consortiumnews.com has written: “when Johnson confronted Nixon with evidence of the peace-talk sabotage, Nixon insisted on his innocence but acknowledged that he knew what was at stake.”
Said Nixon: “My, I would never do anything to encourage….Saigon not to come to the table….Good God, we’ve got to get them to Paris or you can’t have peace.”
But South Vietnamese President General Theiu---a notorious drug and gun runner---did boycott Johnson’s Paris peace talks. With the war still raging, Nixon claimed a narrow victory over Humphrey. He then made Kissinger his own national security advisor.
In the four years between the sabotage and what Kissinger termed “peace at hand” just prior to the 1972 election, more than 20,000 US troops died in Vietnam. More than 100,000 were wounded. More than a million Vietnamese were killed.
But in 1973, Kissinger was given the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the same settlement he helped sabotage in 1968.No fewer than 20,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam and more than 100,000 were wounded in the ensuing years following the treasonous actions of Nixon and Kissinger. This is how Sen. McCain reacted to protesters at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing who called for Kissinger's arrest as a war criminal when he was called, along with other former secretaries of state, to testify before the Senate. Watch as McCain refers to them as "low-life scums," while defending the treasonous Kissinger as someone who had served his country with "the greatest distinction". Kissinger actually won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for ending a war he had actually covertly helped prolong: