This media clown show over comments about John McCain's military sevice by Wes Clark and JIm Webb has really gotten out of hand. They didn't attack McCain's military service, they attacked the relevance of that service. The relevant questions - e.g., the relevance of military service to Presidential candidates, the 180 these guys are making on that issue - are being ignored. The media should be smart enough not to fall for the manufactured controversy they're currently covering. Instead, reporters should be asking Wes Clark and Jim Webb when they suddenly decided that military service wasn't such a big deal and shouldn't be mentioned. I addressed Gen. Clark's previous comments yesterday; Ramesh Ponnuru patiently explained the appropriate take on the Clark story today.
Now let's examine whether Jim Webb really believes that McCain needs to "get the politics out of the military [and] have our political arguments in other areas." Here's a review of Webb's own record.
- In his own 2006 Senate campaign, Jim Webb touted the importance of military experience...
[W]hat you’re seeing here is, is a split between the theorists, who have controlled so much of the policy in this administration, theorists who have never been on a battlefield, who have never put a uniform on, and who are looking at this thing in a totally different way from people who have had to, to worry about their troops and themselves possibly coming under enemy hands.
- And again...
“I know what it’s like to be on the ground. I know what it’s like to fight a war like this..."
- In 2004, Jim Webb criticized "those around Bush, many of whom came of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served..."
- In 2000, during McCain's Presidential campaign, Jim Webb wrote an article about John McCain's military service and its relevance in the campaign.
- In 1998, Jim Webb gave a speech in which he questioned the "new notion: that military service during time of war is not a pre-requisite for moral authority..." He disagreed, calling lack of military service a "problem".
I ... subscribe to a different view, in effect the reverse of that syllogism, because when it comes to leadership ... the logic is indeed the reverse: the hotter the fire, the tougher the steel, and the more reliable the leader. It has also created a vacuum of true understanding in the highest places. Today, for the first time since the United States became a major world power, none of the principals in the national security arena .. have served in the military. This problem might recede ... but it is unlikely to go away.
The media should not be trying to read "smears" into what Clark and Webb said. Instead, they should be asking why they have suddenly reached these politically convenient new conclusions.