Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pre-Soaking Your Sane

John McCain was once the liberals' favorite Republican. His time in a North Vietnamese cell earned McCain a lot of guilt cred among Bill Clinton's groupies, who felt bad backing a draft dodger over a POW. So, they tried to have it both ways: Clinton, Hero President; McCain, War Hero and All Around Good Guy.

I remember it all too well.

Whenever I appeared on Alan Colmes' late night radio show in New York, I'd hear this uttered by Alan and his many liberal guests. One night it got really gooey. I was on with Peter Bales, a history teacher/stand up comic who blustered about his intellect and deep grasp of American history, and with Jaid Barrymore, mother of Drew, who also informed me of her massive brain power. Between these two, the studio was a tight fit. But I did manage some breathing space.

At one point, Colmes asked the panel if John McCain was a war hero. Bales tilted his head, weighed the issue, then pronounced that, yes, McCain was indeed a war hero. Barrymore quickly chimed in, adding her assent, while Colmes breathlessly spoke of how honored he was to have personally met McCain and bask in his glow.

Then they all turned to me.

"Well," I said, hesitating a moment, for I knew my answer would elicit hostility, "I'm not sure how heroic it is to incinerate Vietnamese children."

"OHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" was the collective reply.

Colmes told me I was tasteless. Barrymore said I should be ashamed of myself. Bales demanded to know whether I considered McCain a war criminal.

"No. Not personally. McCain didn't create the policy. The war criminals were in Washington."

Still, I added, that doesn't exonerate McCain for dropping bombs on the Vietnamese.

"Oh!" squeaked Barrymore. "What should he have dropped instead -- birthday presents?"

Here I was, in the middle of three Clinton liberals, reminding them why McCain ended up in a POW cell. Not that I supported torture or reprisal beatings, but some context was in order. The Vietnamese didn't sneak into the States and kidnap McCain from his snug bed. The three couldn't care less. What's more, they defended the U.S. bombing of Vietnam, at least so long as McCain was doing the killing.

Afterward, Barrymore told me that if I wanted to have a career as a media talking head, there were certain things I shouldn't say. At the time, she was a regular on Howard Stern, so Barrymore knew of what she spoke, or so she claimed. Finally, she left, and two words kept spinning in my head.

"Birthday presents?"