Thursday, June 6, 2013

What'd He Say?

The mythos of John McCain lives, even in the face of his own mendacity. His recent showboating in Syria, posing with rebels who might have been pretty bad guys to make the point that we'd have no problem telling the good ones from the bad ones for purposes of arming them, was so pathetic as to stir a certain amount of embarrassment for the guy, even from me. But this is really something, if I understand it correctly. At the recent 90th birthday party for Dr Strangelove, he had this to say:

To do justice to the life and accomplishments of Henry Kissinger would take—as Henry would be the first to agree—a vehicle longer than my few brief remarks. A mere single-volume biography couldn’t really manage the task competently, could it, Henry?
So I’ll limit my remarks to recalling one anecdote that I think illuminates the character of my friend. 
For several years, a long time ago, I struggled to preserve my honor in a situation where it was severely tested. The longer you struggle with something, the more you come to cherish it. And after a while, my honor, which in that situation was entirely invested in my relations and the reputation I had with my fellow POWs, became not just my most cherished possession, it was my only possession. I had nothing else left. 
When Henry came to Hanoi to conclude the agreement that would end America’s war in Vietnam, the Vietnamese told him they would send me home with him. He refused the offer. “Commander McCain will return in the same order as the others,” he told them. He knew my early release would be seen as favoritism to my father and a violation of our code of conduct. By rejecting this last attempt to suborn a dereliction of duty, Henry saved my reputation, my honor, my life, really. And I’ve owed him a debt ever since. 
So, I salute my friend and benefactor, Henry Kissinger, the classical realist who did so much to make the world safer for his country’s interests, and by so doing safer for the ideals that are its pride and purpose. And who, out of his sense of duty and honor, once saved a man he never met.
To be clear: I have nothing but admiration for any of those guys who managed to survive the horror of their captivity, by whatever means; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have. But this would seem to turn on its head one of the enduring legends of the man -- that he refused early return. Because, didn't he just say it was Henry Kissinger who made the decision for him? And, in saying Kissinger saved his honor, didn't he imply that if given the offer directly he'd have taken it? Again: no criticism from me no matter the truth. But if he said what I think he said, it's interesting that, until now, and while running for president with what's-her-name, he did nothing to let the truth of it be known.

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