Call To Arms: Defending Honor

There are a lot of positions John McCain holds that warrant debate and even criticism. But his honor – the core of his character – is decidedly not among them. Period.

Barack Obama’s press secretary has stepped where he ought not have gone, questioning John McCain’s honor. And when it comes to defending the honor of honorable men, American veterans don’t circle the wagons, we circle tanks and load the turrets. Mindless smear will not stand. Not now, not ever.

At issue is a new ad from the McCain campaign that calls into question the nature of what it calls Barack Obama’s solitary legislative achievement, which deals with sex education and child safety in schools. Perhaps the campaign ad was too simplistic in its description of the legislation as simply sex education. Perhaps the legislation, on the other hand, had only a small part dealing with child safety. I am unfamiliar with the legislation. And it really doesn’t matter one way or the other anymore. For, once again, the Obama campaign has said something so substantively abrasive as to make that which they are complaining about a minor aside.

“Obama’s one accomplishment?” the narrator [in the McCain-Palin ad] asks. “Legislation to teach ‘comprehensive sex education’ to kindergartners. Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.”

Bill Burton, Obama’s press secretary, responded in a statement: “It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls – a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn’t define what honor was. Now we know why.

I don’t know Bill Burton, but with a statement like that, he’s an idiot. If he’s not looking for a job today, it may only be to avoid the appearance of campaign meltdown. But with statements like that – and ‘lipstick on a pig’ et al, there’s already the appearance of a campaign meltdown.

John McCain didn’t say he couldn’t define honor. He said he was “not going to” define honor. And if you read his words carefully, he appears to be looking to avoid a ‘gotcha’ moment from the reporter from TIME, an interview that appears confrontational.

In an interview the magazine described as “prickly,” McCain repeatedly refused to define “honor”: “Read it in my books. … I’m not going to define it. … I defined it in five books. Read my books.”

Senator McCain clearly looks to be denying a gotcha moment to a reporter who is likely just a touch too clever for himself. And for Bill Burton – a campaign press secretary who has a solid grasp of the English language and the calculated usages of terms in the media – he has gone where he should not have.

This remark is on par with Randi Rhodes saying John McCain was treated well in Vietnam. The difference is only that Rhodes is a surrogate, while Burton is an important member of Obama campaign.

Arouse the passions among veterans, and you’ve got yourself a fight, Burton. Buckle up.

In Stolen Honor Reclaimed, defending the honor – the very dignity – of another Vietnam veteran, I included my personal definition of honor. Mr. Burton may wish to take a lesson. Because while he may recite a phrase defining honor, he clearly possesses little within his own character.

Honor is the single most important aspect of character that defines military service. Honor transcends integrity. It transcends honesty, selflessness, compassion and duty. Indeed, honor encompasses them all. Honor is a pillar of military service.

Helping my daughter with her homework one day, she asked me, “Daddy, what is honor?” I told her simply, “Honey, honor is doing the right thing…even when no one is looking.”

She got it.

It’s really no more complicated than that.

Burton may get it, too. He just apparently possesses none of it.

I am American first, conservative second and Republican a distant and decided third. In that order decisively. As such, I clearly have issues with some of Senator McCain’s positions – namely immigration and Cap & Trade. But one such area where I have zero issues is with his integrity and his honor. And frankly, I don’t see how anyone can claim to have issues with these and say it with a straight face.

John McCain may anger conservatives at times, but he never surprises them. He says what he means and means what he says. No backroom deals, no sneaky earmarks padding his supporters, none of that. He does the same thing when no one is looking as he does when everyone is looking. This is an unassailable truth about the character of a man shaped under incredible duress while serving at greater risk to self than most can fathom, no matter how often the story of his torture in captivity is told.

John McCain can define honor, Mr. Burton. He embodies it. He lives it. He is, quite honestly, honor personified – which has nothing to do with whether Mr. Burton, or Mr. Obama or I or anyone else agrees with a word he says.

  • When no one was looking, John McCain refused early release from the Hanoi Hilton because honor bound him to ensure that those there longer were released before him.
  • When no one was looking, Barack Obama made a shady mortgage deal with the assistance of a felon, Tony Rezko.
  • When no one was looking, John McCain on many occasions quietly visited troops in the field and in hospital beds simply because they were there.
  • When no one was looking, Barack Obama planned a visit to Landsthul Army Hospital only to cancel it when he learned that no one really would be looking because his campaign entourage and photographers were not allowed in to chronicle his visit.
  • When no one was looking, John McCain took an oath to defend the United States and its Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
  • When no one was looking, Barack Obama was befriending Bill Ayers to launch his political career, eventually sitting on a board with a domestic enemy, the unrepentant domestic terrorist who had declared war on the United States government and bombed targets in the Capitol and launched attacks elsewhere.

Now, while everyone is looking, John McCain remains the same man.

Now, while everyone is looking, Barack Obama and his campaign work tirelessly to assure that he is seen as quite a different man than he conducted himself when no one was looking. And for Burton to make an insulting, demeaning and false attack on the character of John McCain on behalf of his employer, Barack Obama, is inexcusable. It is deplorable.

And as veterans, we know a thing or two about honor and character that the Obama campaign and its staff and surrogates apparently cannot grasp. They are advised to stick to the issues and debate policy positions. Because attempts at character assassination and the false sullying of the honor of a good man’s character will not stand.

Our tanks are circled and our turrets loaded with principle and conviction.

And there are more veterans than simply registered Democrats. For this transcends party politics and the Obama campaign clearly “just doesn’t get it.” They will. The lines have been drawn, and they have crossed onto the wrong side of it.

The campaign has unwittingly just sounded the call to arms; a call to defend honor – not just John McCain’s, but the very definition that we all hold dear. This we will defend.

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