Well, this never would have happened had General Clark not persisted in his remarks about whether John McCain's military experience qualifies him to be president. Today, on his "Straight Talk Express" plane, a reporter actually asked McCain how his experience qualifies him to be president and McCain turned visibly angry in response (man, I wish there was video, but I suspect we'd have seen it by now...)
From ABC News's Political Radar:
McCain bristled at the comments on "Face the Nation" last weekend by an Obama supporter, retired general Wesley Clark, who belittled the relevance of McCain's wartime experience as a qualification for the Presidency.
"I think it's up to Sen. Obama now not only to repudiate him but to cut him loose," McCain said.
McCain became visibly angry when I asked him to explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Presidency.
"Please," he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question.
"Puhh-leeeease." Sorry, Senator, not off limits any longer.
Oh, and here comes the obligatory rescue from his wingmen...
McCain allies Sen. Lindsey Graham stepped in to rescue him. Graham expressed admiration for McCain's stance on the treatment of detainees in US custody.
"That to me is a classic example of how his military experience helped him shape public policy in a way no other senator could have done,'' Graham said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, also traveling on the trip, expressed admiration for McCain's wartime service as well.
Hmm, odd that Graham would choose to cite that as an example considering McCain actually voted against banning waterboarding. But what's a little inconsistency among friends?
And then finally there is the requisite McCain "composing himself" moment:
McCain then collected himself and apologized for his initial reaction.
"I kind of reacted the way I did because I have a reluctance to talk about my experiences," he said, noting that he has huge admiration for the "heroes" who served with him in the POW camp and said the experience taught him to love the U.S. because he missed it so much.
"I am always reluctant to talk about these things," McCain said.
Reluctant? Is he kidding? He's been shamelessly exploiting his POW status in television ads since last fall, not to mention his entire political career.
Paul Waldman of Media Matters debunks the myth that McCain is somehow too modest to discuss that part of his life over at HuffPo. On the contrary:
There's a myth out there that the McCain campaign and the media have cooperated to create. It says that John McCain is reluctant to exploit his Vietnam POW story for political advantage, so modest and full of integrity is he. We've seen this repeated again and again, not just by McCain and his supporters but by reporters who ought to know better.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
From the first time he ran for Congress in 1982 up to the present day, McCain has made his POW story the centerpiece of his entire political career. The key moment of that 1982 campaign was when he responded to his opponent's (absolutely true) accusation that McCain was a carpetbagger by saying, "As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi." At every point since, it has been the deft use of this tool that has brought McCain renewed attention or won him a key victory.
It was an unlikely transition but it's appearing as though, because of General Clark's persistence, the media, wanting to take the story to the next level, could possibly turn from agitator to ally on this issue. If more diligent reporters do continue to ask McCain for an actual answer to the question, McCain had better come up with a response other than anger.