Introducing the story by mentioning General Clark's criticism of McCain's use of his years as a POW to somehow demonstrate his "preparation" for the presidency, NPR's Scott Horsley did yeoman work to embellish the old guy's reputation this morning. In a story titled McCain's First (And Only) Military Command, Horsley spins McCain's service running the VA-174 squadron in the most positive light possible.
The report is billed as "the first of two reports", in that
On Wednesday, NPR will look at a little-known piece of Barack Obama's resume: his short stint researching and writing about international finance.Below the fold are a few choice excerpts from Horsley's
"I learned a lot from him," said Ross Fischer, a flight instructor who served under McCain. Fischer now runs a charter airline based in Florida. "I run my company pretty much like John McCain ran his squadron."
Interviews with a half-dozen former subordinates suggest McCain ran his squadron with a clear goal, a lot of listening and the sheer force of his personality.
McCain set an audacious goal of getting nearly all the planes flying again. To do so, he took the unusual step of promoting people from down in the ranks into key positions. He convinced his superiors to let him cannibalize parts from idle aircraft. And mostly, he acted as a cheerleader, egging on the maintenance crews with the same outsized personality that's helped him on the campaign trail.
"He'd usually start out by kidding the chief petty officer in there, giving him a hard time. And the guys just loved it," said Smith. "It changed the whole atmosphere of the squadron. The attitude was one of excitement. Prior to him, I think most people in the squadron had a sort of 9-to-5 mentality. But attitudes changed rather quickly."
"He put the fear of God into his pilots, including his student pilots, and said, ''You better do it by the book. Do it safely. Because if you don't, you'll be seeing me personally," recalls Bob Stumpf, a student pilot under McCain who went on to command the Blue Angels.There's nothing in the story, of course, about the role his father may have played in placing McCain in command of the squadron. Nor is there anything about his difficulty in qualifying for flight service in the A-7 aircraft while in Jacksonville. As Nick Kristof wrote in a New York Times profile in 2000,
All this raised eyebrows and hackles, and some senior officers grumbled about favoritism for the admiral's son. When Mr. McCain failed in his initial efforts to qualify to land an A-7 aircraft on a carrier, a failure that would have blocked his career, some senior officers were delighted.Nor is there any mention of McCain's other activities while stationed at Cecil Field. According to Dan Nowicki and Bill Muller in the Arizona Republic,
John M. Johnson, then a junior officer helping people qualify for the A-7, remembers two senior officers taking him and a co-worker aside and ordering them to make sure that Mr. McCain did not make it. But the junior officers were mesmerized by ''the Skipper,'' as Mr. McCain was called, because of both his record in Vietnam and his glow of leadership.
So Mr. Johnson and the other young officers coached the Skipper tirelessly for his second try on the A-7, training him on the simulator and prepping him every moment they could. And when he qualified, they held a huge party, celebrating him for a version of the inspiration and iconoclasm that he now lays claim to in presidential politics.
After a whirlwind courtship, John asked Cindy to marry him. But there were some details to clear out of the way.So the "little-known piece" of John McCain's background turns out to be a spiffed-up and sanitized look at his one and only leadership position in the Navy. Last month, our own USArmyParatrooper provided a more contextual look at McCain's military leadership "achievements", offering a rather more nuanced analysis in which Jacksonville and VA-174 hardly make a ripple.
McCain needed a divorce from Carol, his wife of 14 years from whom he was separated. After McCain's dramatic homecoming from Vietnam, the couple grew apart. Their marriage began disintegrating while McCain was stationed in Jacksonville. McCain has admitted to having extramarital affairs.
"Sound marriages can be hard to recover after great time and distance have separated a husband and wife. We are different people when we reunite," McCain wrote. "But my marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam, and I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. The blame was entirely mine."
And to match against a paean to John McCain, squadron leader, tomorrow we'll get the inside skinny on Barack Obama, international finance weenie.