Monday, June 30, 2008

Vietnam jailer endorses McCain

Remember when a spokesman for Hamas said Barack Obama was "like John Kennedy," and John McCain's campaign spun it as proof Obama couldn't be trusted as president?

Well, it turns out that McCain has his own skeleton in the endorsement closet. Only this one is far more explicit in his words:

HAIPHONG, Vietnam (AP) — John McCain has an unusual endorsement — from the Vietnamese jailer who says he held him captive for about five years as a POW and now considers him a friend.

"If I were an American voter, I would vote for Mr. John McCain," Tran Trong Duyet said Friday, sitting in his living room in the northern city of Haiphong. [...]

Duyet said he often met the young Navy pilot when off duty, that McCain would correct his English, and that he had a great sense of humor. And although they never saw eye-to-eye on the war that killed some 58,000 Americans and up to 3 million Vietnamese, he said, they listened to each others' views.

"He's tough, has extreme political views and is very conservative," Duyet said. "He's very loyal to the U.S. military, to his beliefs and to his country. In all of our debates, he never admitted that the war was a mistake."

The article goes on to mention Duyet's testy and repeated denials that torture ever happened under his watch in the 1960s and 1970s:

"They are liars. What they said is not true," said Duyet, who was a jailer at Hoa Lo from 1968 until the POW release in 1973, serving as prison chief the last three years.

Duyet claimed McCain "invented that story that he was tortured and beaten to win votes."

I suppose there's an irony in a presumably Communist official endorsing his former captive - an anti-torture one, at that - specifically on the basis of McCain's conservatism and loyalty to the U.S. Then he accuses McCain of exploiting his relationship with him to win votes. OK, make that about five ironies. Six, if you throw in the possibility that Duyet's just being subversive.

McCain's camp has sensibly distanced itself from said endorsement:

Asked for a response, the McCain campaign referred questions to Orson Swindle, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who was imprisoned with McCain. Swindle said Duyet "has no credibility on every utterance he makes."

Fair enough. I would argue that such an endorsement doesn't make McCain a Communist sympathizer or a textbook case of Stockholm syndrome. And, fortunately, I have yet to see anyone spin it this way. No one can be judged entirely by the company that admires them from afar.

But riddle me this: if critics are quiet over such an explicit McCain endorsement, then shouldn't they take Hamas' state-the-obvious words on Obama with a grain of salt as well? (By the way, I know the answer to this. I just wish I didn't.)

Interesting postscript: Just to show you the inevitable nature of newspaper editing, here's a quote from the first wire version of that story I came across (see sidebar):

McCain's wife, Cindy, was in southern Vietnam last week doing charity work. She said if her husband wins the election, the couple would delight in paying a presidential visit to the country.

It was followed in the original copy by a quote from Cindy that suggested the two remained on good terms. The contradicting campaign-response quote above was buried much further down the raw article, which ran to almost magazine length. Neither article is wrong, yet both omit certain angles due to space constraints. Yet another reason it's good to diversify your sources.

1 comment:

pudding-monkey said...

Yeah, if I were Vietnamese, I would just be enchanted by the thought of a visit from a politician who said he "hates the gooks."