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October 15, 2008



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We thought we'd add a few pertinent facts to the pile of McCain-Palin transgressions, before their campaign goes up in flames.

Ladies first. The Village Voice sent Wayne Barrett to Alaska to do a little moose sniffing. Not only did he track down fascinating contributions to Palin's campaigns, but he raises the question of who built the Palin house and how that relates to the famous Wasilla Sports Complex nearby

When the Palins began building a new family home off Lake Lucille in 2002—at the same time that Palin was running for lieutenant governor and in her final months as mayor—Spenard [Builder's Supply] supplied the materials, according to Antoine Bricks, who works in its Wasilla office. Spenard actually filed a notice "of its right to assert a lien" on the deed for the Palin property after contracting for labor and materials for the site. Spenard's name has popped up in the trial of Senator Stevens—it worked on the house that is at the center of the VECO scandal as well.

Todd Palin told Fox News that he built the two-story, 3,450-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath, wood house himself, with the help of contractors he described as "buddies." As mayor, Sarah Palin blocked an effort to require the filing of building permits in the wide-open city, and there is no public record of who the "buddies" were. The house was built very near the complex, on a site whose city purchase led to years of unsuccessful litigation and, now, $1.3 million in additional costs, with a law firm that's also donated to Palin collecting costly fees from the city.

Now gentlemen.

Historian Mary Hershberger has done some sniffing around of her own into McCain's role the fire on the Forrestal in which 168 servicemen lost their lives:

Some of those who were on the Forrestal and other persons familiar with the ordnance told me that because the rocket did not hit McCain’s craft, only actions by the pilot could have caused any bomb to fall from McCain’s Skyhawk. These sources—who spoke under the condition that they not be publicly identified—agree with each other that, if any bomb fell from the McCain airplane, it was because of actions that he took either in error or panic upon seeing the fire on the deck or in his hasty exit from the plane. Two switches in the cockpit of a Skyhawk need to be thrown to drop such a bomb, according to the sources.

Whatever the circumstances of the fire’s origins, McCain did not stay on deck to help fight the blaze as the men around him did. With the firefighting crew virtually wiped out, men untrained in fighting fires had to pick up the fire hoses, rescue the wounded or frantically throw bombs and even planes over the ship’s side to prevent further tragedy. McCain left them behind and went down to the hangar-bay level, where he briefly helped crew members heave some bombs overboard. After that, he went to the pilot’s ready room and watched the fire on a television monitor hooked to a camera trained on the deck.

McCain has never been asked to explain why he claims that the Zuni rocket struck his plane. If a bomb or bombs subsequently fell from McCain’s plane as he has said, it seems to strongly suggests pilot error, and if a bomb or bombs did not fall from his plane, it suggests rash disregard for important facts in his accounts of the accident.

There is plenty more about this story that raises questions about McCain’s truthfulness and judgment. In the first hours after the fire, he apparently did not claim to have been injured. New York Times reporter R.W. Apple, who helicoptered out to the ship the day after the tragedy and sought out McCain as the “son and grandson of two noted admirals,” never mentioned him being wounded, although he reported on him more than on any other crew member. ......

McCain’s actions after the fire show a determination to exit the ship as quickly as possible. When New York Times reporter Apple finished gathering his notes on the fire, McCain boarded a helicopter with him and flew to Saigon. Given that fires still burned on the ship and some of his fellow airmen were gravely wounded and dying, McCain’s assertion that he left the carrier for “some welcome R&R” in Saigon has a surreal air. Apple, now dead, said nothing in his news reports about inviting McCain to leave the ship, although he did report talking to him in Saigon later that day. McCain does not mention receiving permission to leave the still-burning ship. Merv Rowland, a commander and chief engineering officer of the Forrestal at the time of the fire, told me that he had not known that McCain left the ship within 30 hours of the fire and that he found this “extraordinary.” Rowland added that only the severely wounded were allowed to leave the ship and that no one, as far as he knew, would have been given permission to fly to Saigon for R&R. McCain’s quick flight off the Forrestal meant that he missed the memorial service for his dead comrades held the following day in the South China Sea.... The record suggests that after McCain left the burning Forrestal for the greater ease of Saigon, he saw his Navy career as being in jeopardy. Soon, he went to London, where his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., was stationed as commander in chief of the United States Naval Forces in Europe. Sen. McCain has written little about the fire, and his book does not mention any conversations with his father about bombs dropping from his plane on the Forrestal or his leaving the ship. However, it is difficult to imagine that he did not discuss the tragedy and his own personal difficulties because, by McCain’s own account, his father had intervened on his behalf before. After seeing the admiral in London, McCain went to the French Riviera, where he spent his nights gambling at the Palm Beach Casino...

McCain’s book skips over the weeks after the Forrestal fire, but Timberg says that the young naval officer spent the months of August and September 1967 “unsure of his status.” Following McCain’s application for a transfer to the Oriskany, his orders were delayed, and in September he returned to his home in Jacksonville, Fla. There, an old friend, Chuck Larson, saw a change in McCain: The pilot was discouraged about his future. McCain confided to Larson that he might have to get out of the Navy because, in the words of the Timberg biography, “his past had become a burden” and “whenever he joined a new outfit he was dismayed that his reputation for mayhem had preceded him.”7 Aside from any questions about his Forrestal actions, McCain had, in his short Navy career, crashed two planes and flown a third into power lines in Spain because of, as he put it, “daredevil clowning.”

[clickies and bold type brought to you by all of us here at Dakota]

And then there's the question of what started the fire in the first place, and why McCain might have worried that he was in trouble. Some eye witnesses reported that McCain tried a "wet start as a practical joke on the pilot behind him on deck --from CQ Politics:

Normally, it’s a harmless, common stunt by “cowboy pilots.” But on this occasion the exploding kerosene caused a six-foot long Zuni rocket under the trailing pilot’s wing to launch across the flight deck.

“[It] ripped through the fuel tank of McCain’s aircraft,” Dickinson writes. “Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain’s stubby A-4 . . . into the fire.”

McCain rolled out of his cockpit onto the deck and ran for his life, Dickinson writes.

“Just then, one of his bombs ‘cooked off,’ blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers.”

But according to historian Mary Hershberger, writing on the liberal Truthdig.com site, McCain panicked.

.....and you have it from there.

If this entry weren't already challenging your attention span, we might mention that William Timmons, who heads McCain's transition team "aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime." But we won't.

You're welcome.

Photo note: Patriotic lure with big hook - a metaphorophoto, of sorts

Posted by Dakota at October 15, 2008 11:16 AM