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There is a scene in the classic Elia Kazan film “Viva Zapata” when a young Emiliano Zapata for the first time meets his bride-to-be’s father, a shopkeeper manifestly unimpressed with his daughter’s suitor.  The father calls Zapata “a man of substance, without substance.”


So, too, it is with John McCain.  He is “a man of integrity without integrity”—meaning that the senator is reputed to have great integrity, but in fact has little, given the definition of that word: “the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards” (Encarta Dictionary).


Two different, but related, events that coalesced today are what have caused me to write on this subject.


The first was an email from a friend observing that a noted Washington, D.C. conservative journalist just said to her that he “disagreed with what McCain was saying,” but nonetheless “considered McCain far and above the best [presidential] candidate” because “the man has integrity.”


The second was this week’s Newsweek Web Exclusive by Jonathan Alter, relating a telephone call he had just received from Ross Perot, the unsuccessful presidential candidate who has long been a major voice on behalf of POWs and MIAs.  Alter quoted Perot as saying that McCain “is the classic opportunist—he’s always reaching for attention and glory.  Other POWs won’t even sit at the same table with him.”


According to Alter, “Perot’s real problem with McCain is that he believes that the senator hushed up evidence that live POWs were left behind in Vietnam and even transferred to the Soviet Union for human experimentation, a charge Perot says he heard from a senior Vietnamese official in the 1980s.  ‘There’s evidence, evidence, evidence,’ Perot claims.  ‘McCain was adamant about shutting down anything to do with recovering POWs.’”


Perot was referring principally to McCain’s tag-team performance with John Kerry on a Senate committee charged with getting to the bottom of the MIA question.  (See the article “Archangel 1918 to Hanoi 1972” at http://www.henrymarkholzer.com/f/publishedarticle.pdf.)


That article and the copious sources cited in it leave no doubt that McCain was instrumental in burying, sadly for all time, any possibility of learning what became of Americans who were missing in action throughout Southeast Asia.  Hardly the work of a man of integrity, let alone a United States Senator and himself a former prisoner of war.


While McCain’s lack of integrity in the MIA investigation is so dramatic because of his own military and POW background, there are other examples which are equally important and disturbing.

The man of integrity and self-proclaimed fighter for the “little guy” was up to his ears in the infamous “Keating Five” bank scandal, which cost countless American bank depositors incalculable amounts of money and some of them their life savings.

The man of integrity, a Republican and alleged conservative, partnered with leftwing Democrat Senator Russ Feingold to sponsor and enact a federal statute that has throttled considerable free political speech in American election campaigns, because, according to McCain himself he “would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt.  If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

The man of integrity did his best to legitimize millions of illegal aliens, despite their criminality, their harmful effect on the American economy, and its workers.

The man of integrity, during his two-plus decades in Congress, and his political heft there, did little or nothing on behalf of veterans, despite the fact that few in that body knew better than he the personal costs of their service and their needs.

The man of integrity, who supposedly opposes the “living Constitution” principle, organized the Senate cabal euphemistically known as the “Gang of Fourteen,” which made him kingmaker and indispensable to the White House in its nomination of Supreme Court justices and other federal judges—thereby, in a single coup, weakening the President’s appointment power and enabling the Senate to filibuster in violation of its constitutional duty to give judicial nominees up or down votes.

The man of integrity, a Navy pilot who spent over five years as a POW, whitewashed antiwar poster-girl Hanoi Jane Fonda, whom he characterized as merely a “confused young actress”—thereby insulting many of his POW brothers and others who suffered from her conduct, further legitimizing her traitorous behavior on behalf of the Communists.

The man of integrity, with a reputation for being strong on national security, engineered a near-unanimous Senate vote to give “enemy combatants” (i.e., Islamic terrorists) all the protections the Geneva Convention reserves for prisoners of war, and to prohibit the obtaining of crucially important intelligence by “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The man of integrity, who rails against government waste and purports to believe in a strong economy, twice broke ranks with his party, and voted against the Bush tax cuts.  And against repeal of the death tax.


The man of integrity, who so prides himself on being a maverick individualist, admits to being a collectivist by such statements as “Each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our [own] self-interest.”


The man of integrity, claiming concern with America’s dependency on foreign oil and the wealth transfer that it causes, joined the left no fewer than four times in defeating our ability to drill in Alaska.


The man of integrity joined with socialist [hawk] Senator Joseph Lieberman to promote an energy tax to combat “global warming,” even though it would help the oil cartel— and, worse, be aimed at a spurious threat that lacks credible scientific basis.


Now McCain has become the potential Republican presidential nominee. 


So the time has come to make an explicit issue of his purported integrity—an accolade deriving mostly from his reputation for “straight talk” (which has nothing per se to do with integrity), and his having been a prisoner of war.


Having been a POW—which McCain has recently been reminding voters about, especially in South Carolina—no more qualifies, let alone entitles, John McCain to be President of the United States than it does any other former POW. 


Nor is it possible to extrapolate from McCain’s POW experience all of the qualities a conservative president must possess in these times of deadly threats from abroad and a semi-socialist domestic economy brought us by the Republicans—and inevitable under the Democrats.


Nor does having suffered the agonies of Communist captivity give John McCain, or anyone else, a license to act consistently in a manner inimical to the interests of the United States of America and its people. It does not elevate a political opportunist and a man who lacks integrity into a presidential candidate who possesses that quality. 


Suffering is not a substitute for “possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles.”