On my Saturday afternoon NARN radio show with Mitch Berg here in the Twin Cities, we discussed the upcoming Super Tuesday contest and took some calls. Most of the callers gave us rational support for their decision to back Mitt Romney or John McCain, but one in particular stood out for its weirdness. As near as Mitch and I could tell, the caller postulated that McCain had been brainwashed and turned by the Communists as a POW and was now a Manchurian Candidate -- which surpassed even the strangest arguments I'd heard about the Clintons at the peak of CDS. Both of us wondered in which paranoid delusional corner that particular notion arose.
Lo and behold, we got an answer today. Dr. Jack Wheeler apparently began spreading this particular rumor just after the Florida primary, and it gets nasty:
Others relate times when McCain screamed four-letter obscenities right in their faces in the Senate cloak room, like Dick Shelby, Rick Santorum, or Jim Inhofe. "The man is unhinged," one Senator told me. "He is frighteningly unfit to be Commander-in-Chief."
That John McCain is clinically nuts is scary enough. What worries a small group of GOP Senators and Congressmen even more is a deep and dark skeletal secret in McCain's glorified past to which they are privy, and which the Clintons will use to blackmail him. ....
McCain was kept at the Hanoi Hilton from December 1969 until his release, along with all the remaining POWs, in March of 1973. During this time, T translated all the Vietnamese interrogators' notes and reports regarding John McCain.
According to T, they reveal that McCain had made an "accommodation" with his captors, and in exchange, T's father saw that he was provided with an apartment in Hanoi and the services of two prostitutes. Upon returning to his prison cell, he would say he had been held in solitary confinement. That may be why so many of his fellow prisoners said later they saw so little of him at Hoa Loa.
That would be news to his fellow POWs, who recall the days of Hoa Loa much differently:
Even when he was in solitary confinement, he was constantly in contact with others. Further, we always knew about movements within the camps because the Communists simply were not competent at preventing us from gaining intelligence. Men who were in the camps with him agree that they are not aware of a single night that he spent out of his cell.
A friend, whom I know to be reliable, was across the hall and one door down, from McCain’s cell when McCain was first captured. He has told me that he saw Communist officers enter the cell where the wounded John McCain lay, incapacitated. He heard them offer McCain early release and heard John answer that he would go home when we all go home. He heard the voices of the officers rising until they were shouting angrily at McCain and threatening him. This was followed by screams of agony from John McCain, and a stream of obscenities from him. He could not see what they did to him and I never heard from John McCain what it was. This does not sound like a collaborator.
In the spring of 1971 I personally witnessed evidence of John McCain’s loyalty. After the attempted rescue of POWs at the camp at Son Tay, in November of 1970, almost all Americans were moved to Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi, the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” The Communists felt so threatened by the raid that, for the first time, they concentrated us in large cells with as many as sixty men in a cell.
Against this eyewitness testimony from James Warner, who served as a policy adviser to President Reagan in his second term, we have the conspiracy theories of Wheeler. Wheeler doesn't actually produce any evidence, documentary or testimonial. Conveniently, Wheeler says the CIA has it hidden. That doesn't keep him from dropping this turd in the middle of the primary punch bowl.
I have had it with whispering campaigns. Some Senators think John McCain is "clinically nuts"? Then they need to step forward and explain that diagnosis, openly. Being temperamental isn't the same thing as "clinically nuts", and the description Wheeler gives sounds a lot closer to the former than the latter. I've had coaches who could blister the paint off the walls and pack a semester's worth of Salty Language 101 into a post-match review, but that didn't make them "clinically nuts".
And this smear about living in a hotel room with prostitutes while being held as a POW is particularly despicable. I thought the lost-airplane smear was bad, but this smells worse than anything I've ever heard in politics. Shame on Wheeler for pushing this story without so much as a scrap of evidence, and especially in the face of compelling testimony to the contrary. What's Wheeler's basis for passing this along? He heard it from the son of the man who supposedly interviewed McCain for the KGB, without ever seeing the translations . As if the KGB never engaged in disinformation and sabotage campaigns!
And if this had been true, why would McCain have challenged Bush for the presidency in 2000? Why would he run now? He's been involved in military and intelligence affairs for years in the Senate, all the way back to when the Soviet Union was a going concern. Wouldn't the CIA or the Clintons have used it (assuming either would have done so) back in the 1990s when McCain was openly criticizing them for their policies?
Wheeler includes one last smear for the road:
When the time is right, the Clintons will see to the leaking of the GRU archives on McCain to the media. Bet on it, just as you can bet they'll follow it up with media disclosures of the lady lobbyists in Washington having adulterous affairs with McCain. (There are at least three of them; I know the name of one but I'm not going to put it in writing.)
Pathetic. Disgusting. Rancid. Gutless. He'll throw the mud, but he won't give the evidence. What a revolting piece of work Wheeler is. This kind of character assassination should have no place in politics, and the only evidence it provides is that of Wheeler's moral derangement.
UPDATE and BUMP: Someone asks me in the comments if it wouldn't be better to ignore people like Wheeler. Unfortunately, no. Someone has to take out the garbage, and if it keeps piling up,. the stink gets on everyone in the room.
Allow me one last bit of logic. If McCain had reached the "accommodation" Wheeler says, why not just allow the NVA to send him home, like they first requested? Why stick around for five and a half years in POW camps? And if the reportedly leftist CIA wanted to torpedo McCain, wouldn't they have done it during his full-throated support for the Iraq war and the surge, which they opposed?
People shouldn't vote for or against McCain on this garbage. Look at the issues and the record and make the decision on that basis. I think the issues and the record favor Mitt Romney, but others can rationally make a decision to support John McCain. And while I've decided to support Mitt, that doesn't mean I'm going to stand idly by while McCain gets libeled and slandered in a despicable manner. McCain has served his country honorably for too long and under unimaginable circumstances for this to go unanswered.
For more on this, check out Beth's reaction.