Damn clouds are lingering over the Champlain Valley Sunday morning. Let’s hope for a little sun by late this afternoon when U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona hit’s the Burlington, Vermont tarmac. There’s a big GOP fundraiser at the Sheraton in South Burlington this evening, but a McCain photo-op pit stop at the Hinesburg Volunteer Fire Department has been scheduled for 5:15 p.m. At the moment, that’s looks like where the only brief “press availability” of Sen. McCain’s Vermont visit will occur.
If ever there was a politician you’d like 10 minutes with, heck, an hour with, it's McCain. Remember his visit to Burlington back in January 2000?
It was a Sunday. pre-New Hampshire Primary, last-minute kind of thing. Frosty. frigid. cold. sunny Sunday morning. And more than 650 people packed, and I mean packed, themselves into Contois Auditorium at Burlington City Hall to see McCain: Republicans, Democrats, Progressives and Independents. More than triple the fire code. McCain’s appeal crosses party lines. For folks my age (56), the Vietnam thing is a big part of it.
When I see John McCain it’s a little like seeing former Georgia U.S. Max Cleland. Know what I mean? On behalf of the government of the United States of America, they paid a very painful and visible price for their service in uniform. And every time I see them, I am reminded that they, like the American people - and the 58,000-plus other young Americans of my generation who paid with their lives - were lied to by the White House about the reasons our country had to launch a war in Vietnam in the first place.
Just like our current Iraq War, eh?
In fact, just caught Sen. McCain on ABC This Week with George Stephanopolous. At issue, President Bush’s bold, brazen, anti-American and utterly stupid attempt to override the Supreme Court and push through legislation that would “modify” the Geneva Convention on prisoner treatment. More than two-dozen former top generals and admirals, including former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell strongly oppose the White House on this one. Wrote Powell to McCain this week:
“The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of out fight against terrorism.”
Beginning to doubt?
As the former military commanders put it in a letter this week to Chairman John Warner and Vice-Chairman Carl Levin of the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“If any agency of the U.S. government is excused from compliance with these standards, or if we seek to redefine what Common Article 3 requires, we should not imagine that our enemies will take notice of the technical distinctions when they hold U.S. prisoners captive. If degradation, humiliation, physical and mental brutalization of prisoners is decriminalized or considered permissible under a restrictive interpretation of Common Article 3, we will forfeit all credible objections should such barbaric practices be inflicted upon American prisoners.
“This is not just a theoretical concern. We have people deployed right now in theaters where Common Article 3 is the only source of legal protection should they be captured. If we allow that standard to be eroded, we put their safety at greater risk.
McCain says it's an issue of conscience. Already the loud-mouthed right-wingers like Joseph McQuaid at the Manchester Union Leader are condemning him.
At times like this I get the fleeting thought that perhaps human beings were smarter, and got along better, in the Stone Age?
O.K. How about in the Rock & Roll Age?