Foot in mouth disease
By John D. Turner
11 Apr 2008

I am beginning to wonder if it is possible for any Democrat politician (or ex politician) to open their mouth and have anything even vaguely resembling truth or reality flow forth. In the past I have been critical of the press for not checking their facts before they rush to file a story. Perhaps I should be less harsh; it seems that our politicians suffer from the same disorder. Why bother with accuracy? If they don’t call you on it, you’re home scot-free. And if they do, you can always apologize.

The latest to do so is Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. Of course, by the time I actually get this posted I am sure his remark will be superseded by someone else’s, so saying he is the latest is probably going to end up being inaccurate as well.

The statement by Rockefeller?

“McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground? He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues."

There is so much wrong with this statement on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start.

First of all, McCain was not a fighter pilot. He was trained to fly attack, not fighter aircraft. His original assignment was flying the A-1 Skyraider, a single-seat propeller-driven attack bomber. Later he transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk, a single-engine turbojet, also an attack aircraft, as is noted by the letter “A” in the designation. Were he actually a fighter pilot, he would have been flying an aircraft with the letter “F” (for Fighter) preceding the numerical designation (e.g., F-4, a Navy fighter aircraft of the period).

John McCain was flying the A-4E Skyhawk when he was shot down by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile over Hanoi on October 26, 1967. It was his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam.

Second, while laser-guided bombs had indeed been invented prior to 1967, their first use in combat was not until 1968. At that time, John McCain was “safely” ensconced in his “palatial” quarters in the Hanoi Hilton with two broken arms and a broken leg from the bail out, and a crushed shoulder and bayonet wounds in his left foot and abdomen courtesy of his captors.

It is highly unlikely that John McCain has ever dropped a laser-guided bomb on anything from any altitude.

His comments also reveal a total lack of understanding of how laser-guided bombs work. Since hitting a target with a laser guided bomb requires that the laser “paint” the target until the impact occurs, a pilot cannot be “long gone” when the bomb hits. During this time the pilot is exposed to enemy fire and subject to being shot down.

Third, it should also be noted that when he was shot down, John McCain was part of a 20-plane raid against a thermal power plant in Hanoi. His plane was hit, losing a wing, while pulling out of a dive after dropping its bombs. This would seem to indicate that he was not indiscriminately scattering bombs from 35,000 feet as Mr. Rockefeller would have it.

Indeed, the typical attack aircraft mission is flown at low altitude – the better to actually hit the target. While bombing was carried out at 35,000 feet, this was, again, not done by fighter aircraft, but by bombers; typically B-52 heavy bombers. You will note that bombers can be identified by the “B” prefixed to the numerical designation; the Navy does not have any aircraft with the “B” prefix – those would be Air Force aircraft. John McCain was in the Navy, not the Air Force.

And despite what Mr. Rockefeller may believe, military missions are aimed at military targets, not women, children, and babies. While it is undeniable that women, children, and babies are killed in air strikes, this is not the objective. Military pilots are not cavalier knaves of the “I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth I know not where” mentality. Many are greatly bothered by the collateral damage that results from a mission where civilians are present. The moral implications of their job are not lost on them.

Unlike terrorists, who not only do not seem to be bothered by slaughtering innocent men, women, and children, but who go out of their way to make them a target.

Laser-guided weapons were developed so that instead of having to drop tens or hundreds of bombs to hit a target, a single bomb (or a hand full at worst) could be dropped with the same or greater probability of actually hitting the target. This has multiple desirable effects; a greater guarantee of accomplishing the military objective, fewer resources expended, less risk to the pilot, and fewer civilian casualties and collateral damage. The laser-guided bombs used in Vietnam were the first generation of “precision guided munitions” (PGMs). On average, they landed within 23 feet of their targets as opposed to 447 feet for “dumb” iron bombs – a vast improvement. Modern PGMs are even more precise, with accuracies (depending on conditions) measured in inches instead of feet.

There has been a lot of comment on the net regarding Mr. Rockefeller’s ill-advised remark. One, which seems to have received a lot of comment, has him saying “McCain, like most military pilots, doesn’t care about the innocent civilians he thoughtlessly murders.” To be fair to Senator Rockefeller, I can find no evidence that he actually stated what the quote above says he did, and I believe I have found the original article that quoted him. The above “quote” seems to be a highly incendiary rendering of what Senator Rockefeller actually did say. However, there is no doubt that the implication of his remark (intentional or not) is pretty much in line with the non-quote quoted above; that is, military pilots don’t care about humanity.

This pretty much encapsulates the disdain that many in the left-leaning Democrat party have for the military and anyone dumb or unfortunate enough (Halp US Jon Carry) to volunteer to serve.

Of course, it wasn’t the print media that called him on the inaccuracies in this statement. In fact, the print media didn’t seem to think the remark all that newsworthy. After all, remarks made by Democrats are assumed to be accurate; it is only remarks by Republicans that need to be researched six ways from Sunday. Senator Rockefeller served in the Peace Corps, not the military. You can’t expect him to know all the details and nuances about military hardware and who flies what.

Ok, maybe. So what committee’s does Senator Rockefeller serve on? Something in keeping with his competencies, I would expect. And nothing to do with the military, since that’s not his forte. Appropriations perhaps? Banking, Housing, and Urban development? Energy and National Resources? Environment and Public Works?

No, actually Senator Rockefeller serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence. Not only does he serve on it, he chairs it! He gets to authorize the annual Intelligence budget! Isn’t that nice? It could be worse I suppose. He could be the chair of the Armed Services committee.

Of course, Senator Rockefeller later apologized for his remarks.

"I have deep respect for John McCain's honorable and noble service to our country. I made an inaccurate and wrong analogy and I have extended my sincere apology to him.... I regret my very poor choice of words."

Having kissed the owie and made it better, we are now all supposed to forget about his remark and move on. At least that is what the liberal blogs would have us believe. I mean, come on now. He apologized! What more could you want? Besides, many on the left agree with him, are proud that he had the “guts” to make the statement, and see his apology as “caving” to the right.

There have been so many apologies made by Democrats in the last month or so, one is tempted to refer to them as the Party of Apology. And that’s fine. When you are a Democrat, an apology is all that is necessary. They’re only human, you know.

And Republicans? Well, the only apology that is acceptable from a Republican is their resignation. They have to be held to a “higher standard.”

Democrats merely “misspeak” after all; Republicans lie.

Do I think that Senator Rockefeller should be forced to resign for his ill-advised remarks? No. But then again, perhaps chairing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence isn’t the most intelligent place for him either. Maybe he should be placed somewhere else, where his disdain for the military won’t have the opportunity to seep over into his day job, so to speak. Environment and Public Works sounds like it might be a good fit.

So, anyone want to take bets how long it will be until the next foot-in-mouth comment on the Democrat side?