The Smears Begin To Fly

Sen. Jay Rockefeller managed to put his foot firmly in his mouth today, forcing a subsequent flurry of retractions and apologies. Sen. Rockefeller comment?

“McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit,” Rockefeller told the newspaper, which published the article on the interview Tuesday. “What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground? He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues,” he is quoted saying.

Sen. Rockefeller is not only issuing a smear, but he’s also clearly has no idea about what actually happened in Vietnam. For one, Sen. McCain was shot down when his plane was at a very low altitude—4,500 feet. The purpose of flying that low? To avoid collateral damage to civilians.

Laser-guided “missiles” were not invented until long after the end of Vietnam.

Sen. McCain, of course, spent years as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton. Undoubtedly he was quite well aware of what was happening on the ground.

This kind of lazy, offensive, and stupid slur is only the beginning of the sort of smears we can expect to see throughout this election season. We’ve heard for years how supposedly some sinister Republican operatives smeared McCain in the 2000 South Carolina race—by November, all those attacks will likely seem tame in comparison.

Not only that, but radio shock jock Ed Schultz accused Sen. McCain of being a “warmonger” in the presence of Sen. Obama during the North Dakota Democratic Convention. That smear is already the predominant one flying around the extremist left-wing blogosphere. The problem with that smear is that Sen. McCain knows more than anyone what the horrors of war really are, having been tortured nearly to death several times while a POW—and not only that, it’s hard to argue that Sen. McCain doesn’t care about the troops when one of them is his son, and another is likely to serve in Iraq soon. If that’s the plan of attack that the Democrats will have, expect the American people to see them as the desperate and disgusting smears that they are.

Do the Democrats honestly think that this sort of juvenile rhetoric actually persuades people? Or that it doesn’t persuade them to think less of those who use it? If the Democrats want to attack McCain on substance for his support of the war, that’s one thing. That’s a legitimate argument to make. But so far we have Sen. Rockefeller’s ignorant smear, Ed Schultz’ “warmonger” slur, and the Obama campaign constantly misleading the American public by saying that McCain wants there to be “100 years” of war in Iraq. None of those attacks are factual, all of them are misleading, and none of them have an ounce of substance to them.

If this is going to be the sort of rhetoric we can expect throughout this election campaign, then it will signal a return to politics as usual and the rhetoric of personal destruction rather than the substance that America deserves.

UPDATE: The Columbia Journalism Review has a piece on why Obama is distorting McCain’s “100 years” comment.