A group calling itself Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain is circulating a mailer in South Carolina that purports to be a “Fact Sheet” on McCain’s military record. The inclusion of the following “fact” on the mailer should tell you all you really need to know about the credibility of this group:
Combat pilot McCain III lost his fourth [U.S. Navy aircraft] on July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk combat pilot. While waiting his turn for takeoff, an accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain Jr’s. [sic] plane. He escaped from the burning aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and threatened to sink the ship.
McCain’s campaign is calling the mailer a “deceitful smear” and is hoping it will “serve as an example of how we can bring these shadowy groups out into the open.” Vets for Freedom had this to say:
“A group that hides in the shadows and makes unsubstantiated claims only gives a black eye to all veterans,” said Pete Hegseth, Executive Director of Vets for Freedom. “To question Senator McCain’s service in Vietnam is outrageous. He is a true American war hero who endured years of unspeakable hell in a Vietnamese prison camp, and even refused early release in order to stay with his men – a true testament to his character and integrity. Senator McCain is a friend of all Veterans, and I am proud to stand by him.”
The whole effort almost seems designed to remind skeptical conservatives of that fact.
UPDATE: Just to be clear, I didn’t mean for that last comment to cast doubt on the authenticity of this attack. As an e-mailer just pointed out, the founders of this group are very real and appear to have a long-running beef with McCain over the normalization of trade relations with Vietnam.
Another e-mailer writes:
I, like thousands of other Navy vets, watched the deck camera recording of the awful USS Forrestal incident as part of basic training. McCain is clearly seen and, as is obvious to anyone who has seen it, escapes with his life by a matter of inches from what is obviously a gigantic disaster. Perhaps the Corner could link to a YouTube posting of that recording or find it somewhere to help dispel this ridiculous charge.
I don’t like McCain as a politician, but this is just insultingly outrageous.