The latest Democratic attempt to discredit John McCain’s military service is nothing short of pathetic. Speaking last week at something called the "Aspen Ideas Festival," former President Bill Clinton warned that "it’s just a matter of time before a former POW snaps, and relives the nightmare of his imprisonment."
In his remarks, Mr. Clinton compared Senator McCain to former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years as a political prisoner. According to Clinton, Mr. Mandela once told him that he had "let go" of his anger toward his captors to be truly free.
Then, he suggested that former POWs could lose control at any time.
"It’s just like if you know anybody who’s ever been a POW for any length of time, you will see you go along for months or maybe even years, and then something will happen and it will trigger all those bad dreams and they will come back, and it may not last 30 seconds," he said.
In response, McCain wondered where Mr. Clinton got his expertise. I wondered the same thing. To our knowledge, Clinton has never been held captive, let alone tortured (unless you count his marriage to Hillary). On the other hand, Senator McCain knows a little bit about the subject, having spent almost six years in the Hanoi Hilton.
More importantly, Mr. McCain—like the vast majority of former POWs—seems to have weathered the experience remarkably well. That seems to match my own, anecdotal experience on the topic. As a young airman in the early 1980s, I came to know three ex-POWs, all Air Force fighter pilots who had been shot down over North Vietnam. Their time in captivity ranged from a few months, to more than five years.
But all shared a common trait; they were quiet, personable and exceptionally well-balanced. And, they all struck me as remarkably unflappable. Enduring the hell of a prison camp tends to produce that effect; prolonged periods of isolation, deprivation and torture give you a new perspective on life and liberty.
All of the POWs that I knew resumed their military careers, returned to flying status and eventually retired as Colonels. No, I wasn’t privy to their inner-most thoughts, and didn’t know the details of their private lives, but it was clear that all three men had come to terms their POW ordeal and resumed a normal, productive existence.
And, for what it's worth, Dick Morris reminded us a few months back that Bill has his own, nasty tendency to blow up (and even become violent), at the slightest provocation. According to Morris, he was once physically attacked by Clinton (then governor of Arkansas), after he threatened to leave the campaign.
And he’s worried about McCain snapping?
I hate to lump former POWs with a scatological ex-President, but Mr. Clinton would do well to emulate the men who returned from the Hanoi Hilton and the few who survived Viet Cong imprisonment in the south. After their release, most led exemplary lives, remarkably free of misconduct and scandal. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same thing about Bill Clinton.
But, give Bubba some credit. He's on message with the DNC talking points, as the attempting "Swift-Boating" of John McCain continues.