I understand what Wes Clark was trying to say about John McCain when he said that getting shot out of a plane doesn’t qualify as foreign policy experience. I can also understand that every strategist on the Obama campaign must’ve had apoplexy when they heard the comment. It’s exactly what the McCain campaign has been waiting for — the chance to turn McCain into Petraeus. Small wonder McCain won’t accept Obama’s denunciation. The whole "Betrayus" episode provides the perfect blueprint for how to turn the press corps into a bunch of pearl-clutching, histrionic nitwits.
I’ve seen the polling reports — McCain’s Viet Nam experience is like a nuclear warhead, it obliterates everything it touches. Want to talk about the economy? Healthcare? Oil prices? McCain’s history as a POW trumps it all. Waldman and Brock talk about it in their book as one of the pillars of the McCain legend. And despite the Fox News contention that "McCain never mentions it" (15 times in one day), McCain does talk about it. All the time. It’s all he’s got.
I’m sorry Obama accepted the right wing frame that Clark was questioning McCain’s patriotism — he clearly wasn’t. The ensuing collective hissy fit on the part of a media (and a nation) held hostage by the War On Terra is both atavistic and exhausting. I understand why team Obama felt that they had to take such nuclear fissile material off the table as quickly as possible, but I’m glad Clark said it. I hope it can help us get to a place where we can recognize that there are many different ways to demonstrate one’s patriotism — say, by being a community organizer for a public housing project — and that trying to quantify one as inherently better than another is both myopic and unnecessary.
The whole experience, however, does demonstrate that the Republican attack machine is so self-sufficient and freestanding that it doesn’t need big GOP money to survive any more. Having claimed a compliant media largely for themselves, they can just put the pig on auto-pilot and go suck Mai Tai’s by the pool.