Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.
In its May 29 edition, the New York Times contributed another meme to the myth of John McCain. The Times' front-page profile led with this:
But Mr. McCain, the son and grandson of revered Navy admirals, was having second thoughts about following his family’s vocation. He had spent the previous four years as the Navy’s liaison to the Senate, sampling life in the world’s most exclusive club ...
He had found a sense of purpose in an apprenticeship to some of the Senate’s fiercest cold warriors. And in Senator John G. Tower, a hawkish Texas Republican, he had found a new mentor, beginning a relationship that many compared to the bond between a father and son.
With Mr. Tower’s encouragement, Mr. McCain declined the prospect of his first admiral’s star to make a run for Congress, saying that he could “do more good there,” Mr. Lehman recalled. But Mr. Lehman knew duty was only part of the reason.
“He just loved it up there,” Mr. Lehman recalled. “Like very few military people, John heard the music up there, and he really wanted to do it.”
Got that? McCain gave up the opportunity to become the first third-generation admiral in order to become a lowly congressman. Sounds plausible but, writing in Huffington Post, Jeffrey Klein calls this story "highly improbable." Reasons for doubt include the fact that in his memoir, Worth Fighting For, McCain did not mention that he had nobly turned down a promotion to admiral, with all its dynastic implications, to pursue a career in public service. In fact, McCain's own assessment was he was very likely unqualified to be an admiral. Klein also cites the fact that, over the years, none of McCain's close friends has ever mentioned his turning down the promotion --- and the fact that a promotion for McCain at that juncture would have gone against the Navy's strict pecking order, leapfrogging him to the top of the ranks past others who had waited their turns. And, Klein says, John Lehman a) had only been on duty as secretary of the Navy for two months at that point and b), as secretary, he was not in charge of who got promoted to admiral.
Finally, Klein notes that the Times article failed to point out that Lehman is now a McCain adviser.
Myths about John McCain die hard, and you can bet that this shiny new bullet-point is now a fact in his resume, even if it is not true.
And yet there has been considerable chipping away at the McCain mythologies lately, much of which has been coming from an unexpected source: the candidate himself. In fact, John McCain has done more to expose the reality behind the fabulations that he is a straight-talking maverick than his political enemies ever could.
The prime instance of this is the fantasy that he is a straight talker. In this month alone, McCain has contradicted himself in public statements no less than 10 times. The list of McCain's flipflops as of June 16, which was compiled by by Jon Perr, writing at Crooks and Liars, ranges from the media's treatment of Hillary Clinton to privatization of Social Security, to the estate tax, domestic spying, restoring the Everglades, opposing investigations into Hurricane Katrina and more.
And then there is the myth that McCain is a maverick --- you know, the sort of maverick who voted with his Dear Leader 95 percent of the time last year.
Underpinning the McCain mythos is his service in the military. But in his Huffington Post article, Jeffrey Klein found that a close examination of McCain's time in the service reveals faint echoes of George W. Bush's approach. Like Bush, McCain was admittedly more focused on partying than on duty, God and country, and, like Bush, he used highly placed connections to receive plum assignments that should have gone to more qualified men. Klein writes: