Roger Simon: Trump the chump a hero in his own mind
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I come not to bury Donald Trump but to praise him.
He hath told you that John McCain is a dummy and a loser. If it were so, these would be grievous faults. And grievously hath McCain answered for them.
He spent years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons — enduring torture — because his jet was shot down while he was bombing Hanoi in 1967.
The Donald says this does not make McCain a hero. I agree. And so does McCain.
On the 40th anniversary of his shoot-down, McCain said to a crowd in Sioux City, Iowa, “Many years ago on this day, I was able to intercept a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane — which was no mean feat, to say the least.”
He always delivered that line with a broad grin, and the crowd always roared with laughter. He had been telling the joke for years and often massaged it a little bit to talk about heroism.
“I’m not a hero,” he said July 29, 2000. “I intercepted a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane.”
So Trump may have been correct — a rare occurrence for him — when he recently said McCain was “not a war hero” and then added, “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Vietnam always has been a useful issue for McCain. He is aware that many people consider him a hero no matter what he says, though he also has claimed to be “embarrassed” by and “bored” with the constant emphasis on his Vietnam service.
“I mean, Jesus, it can make your skin crawl,” he once said.
But his 2008 presidential campaign exploited it. The picture of a boyish, smiling, handsome McCain standing in front of his A-4 Skyhawk was dispensed by his campaign in small, medium and large sizes.
Was McCain a hero? Was dropping bombs on the middle of a city — he was trying to hit a power plant — an act of heroism? At the time, many on the left did not think so. Today few want to think about it at all.
But The Donald told reporters Saturday: “I was not a big fan of the Vietnam War. I wasn’t a protester, but the Vietnam War was a disaster for our country. What did we get out of the Vietnam War other than death? We got nothing.”
There are different kinds of heroism. To me, McCain became a hero not when he was shot down but when he refused to be released by his North Vietnamese captors. He refused because North Vietnam intended to use the release for propaganda purposes to show how McCain, the son of an admiral, would accept special treatment. It also would have demoralized the remaining POWs.
McCain was being tortured, was near death and had attempted suicide, but as a matter of principle, he would not accept an early release.
To me, that’s heroic.
Would The Donald understand this? He would not. To him, it would be a bad deal, and Trump believes only in good deals, i.e., deals that benefit him.
What good is a principle anyway? You can’t eat it like caviar or drive it like a Rolls-Royce or live in it like the Trump Tower. Most of all, you can’t gold-plate it.
The issue raised by Trump is not a new one. In June 2008, retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark went on “Face the Nation” as an unofficial Barack Obama surrogate. Clark said that though he considers McCain a personal hero, he doesn’t “think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”
Obama quickly slapped down Clark’s statement, saying no one should ever devalue military service, “especially for the sake of a political campaign.”
Trump’s political obituaries are similarly being written right now. But I am not sure the far right of the Republican Party is all that upset with Trump. After all, he promises to build a wall on our border with Mexico to keep out the drug dealers and rapists. And the birthers still love him.
He speaks his mind. And in his mind, he is already a hero.
In May 1999, The New Republic ran a long piece titled “The Hero Myth,” by David Grann. In it, he wrote:
“In the play Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht … one of the characters says, ‘Unhappy the land that has no heroes.’
“‘No,’ Galileo replies, ‘unhappy the land that needs heroes.’”
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