By now you might have heard about the faux outrage at Gen. Wesley Clark’s obvious statement that being a POW is not a qualification for the presidency–or a disqualification either. As Maha put it:
So a televised wingnut hollered that McCain was being swift-boated by Gen. Clark. Hello? Clark didn’t make unsupportable claims that McCain is lying about his war record or that he had behaved dishonorably in the service, as the swifties did to Kerry. He’s saying that being a fighter pilot and then a POW doesn’t qualify someone to be President.
Dear wingnuts: This is a simple statement of fact.
All manner of people have been POWs who would not have been good presidents. I sometimes write about my uncle, a POW in Japan during World War II, who was a great guy with many admirable qualities. But he would not have been a good president, either.
Look, wingnuts, if your atrophied brains have any firing neurons left, think about what skills a POW needs to survive. Then think about what skills a President needs to carry out the duties of office. I’m not talking about character here; I’m talking about professional skills. What does he know how to do?
I’m not saying that a former POW would necessarily be a bad president. I’m just saying the POW experience is irrelevant. John Kennedy’s PT 109 experience was irrelevant, also. That doesn’t mean he was a bad president. I’m just saying that bravery in war and being an effective POTUS are two unrelated things. I believe that’s what Gen. Clark was saying.
Let’s consider another Medal of Honor recipient: Tibor Rubin. Before he emigrated to the U.S., he spent fourteen months in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Here’s his war record:
While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit’s line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin’s gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
Keep in mind that either desperate rearguard action alone probably would have qualified Rubin for the Medal of Honor: he basically did two Basilones and a McCain (and to McCain’s credit, he was part of a bipartisan group that fought for Rubin’s Medal of Honor). Rubin has also described himself as a “little schmuck from Hungary” which has always endeared me to him (and now he calls himself “Mr. Schmuck, the hero”). I would definitely want him in a desperate situation requiring physical courage. And he would be a better president than the narcissicistic dry-drunk halfwit we presently have, although that’s damning with faint praise, and Rubin surely deserves better than that. But should he be president? Did what he went through provide him the skills that would make him excel at passing legislation, conducting foreign policy, and so on? Rubin has always been a personal hero of mine, but I’m not sure he would be a good president on the basis of his service record alone. And we have had several brilliant presidents, but would they have been able to survive what Rubin–or McCain–did?
It’s a fair issue, unless you’re named McCain.
Related post: ScienceBlogling Nick has more.
Mike, I would for sure vote for Mr. Tibor Rubin. He would also make a great Vice President candidate with John Mccain. Senator Mccain wrote a Senate Bill for eliminating the time limit on recieving the Medal of Honor for Mr. Tibor Rubin.