View Full Version : McCain/ Hillary Clinton's Vodka Drinking Contest & McCain's Son Joining the Marines

Mister Mets
07-30-2006, 07:33 PM
Found two interesting articles on McCain.

First, his 18 year old son has joined the Marines.


This September, Senator John McCain's youngest son, Jimmy, 18, will report to a U.S. Marine Corps depot near Camp Pendleton in San Diego. After three months of boot camp and a month of specialized training, he will be ready to deploy. Depending on the unit he joins, he could be in Iraq as early as this time next year, and his chances of seeing combat at some point are high. Of the 178,000 active-duty Marines in the world, some 80,000 have seen a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and 25,000 are now bearing the brunt of some of the worst fighting in Iraq. About 6,000 Marines have been wounded there, and about 650 have been killed. "I'm obviously very proud of my son," says the elder McCain, "but also understandably a little nervous."

At 70 years old, McCain might have thought his days of living in the shadow of family military men were behind him. His grandfather, Admiral John S. McCain Sr., served in the Pacific in World War II and was present at the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. His father, Admiral John S. McCain Jr., commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific during Vietnam, when the young McCain was a prisoner of war in Hanoi. But if the old men cast long shadows, McCain is about to learn, the young ones can too.

Jimmy McCain's deployment will affect more than his family. His father is a leading contender for the White House in 2008. If Jimmy deploys to combat, it appears that McCain will join Franklin Roosevelt to become one of the very few American presidential candidates to have had a son at war. And even the prospect of Jimmy's service will shade the race. Iraq is the most important strategic and political issue facing the U.S. Many Democrats are calling for troop withdrawal to begin immediately, and the Bush Administration is struggling to reduce troop strength by the end of the year. McCain is the leading voice calling for increasing the number of U.S. troops there.

In the way that happens more frequently in fiction than in life, a McCain family drama is replaying itself. As a prisoner of war, Senator McCain declined an offer of early release by his Vietnamese captors, extending his stay at the Hanoi Hilton by almost four years and nine months. During that time, his father continued to approve air strikes against Hanoi, knowing his son was there. Now comes Jimmy McCain, putting himself in the line of fire even as his father calls for more troops to be sent to war.

Named after McCain's father-in-law, James Hensley, Jimmy is the lively, happy-go-lucky member of the clan, friends say. During the 2000 campaign, a Boston Globe reporter spotted Jimmy, then 11, chasing his older brother Jack around the house, calling him a "pork-barrel spender"--a deep cut in the McCain home. During that year, when McCain was on the road in New Hampshire, the candidate proudly read aloud from a school report on General George S. Patton Jr. by Jimmy that he had faxed to his father: "The Tanks Will Roll On."

McCain's personal influence on Jimmy appears to have outweighed the privileges that came with being his son. McCain is rock-star famous, and his wife Cindy came to the marriage with money as the daughter of a Budweiser distributor. While others have signed up for duty--the sons of Senator Kit Bond of Missouri and Tim Johnson of South Dakota have served combat missions in Iraq--it is nonetheless unusual for children with their background to enlist. By comparison, at least 32 congressional family members were found to be lobbyists, in a recent study by Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

Jimmy knows the risks of war from his father's descriptions of battle, imprisonment and torture in Vietnam. The Senator's book, Faith of My Fathers, dryly relates the experience of "small pieces of hot shrapnel" tearing "into my legs and chest" and tells how, in solitary confinement, "the first few weeks are the hardest," as "the onset of despair is immediate." Not exactly a prime recruiting tool for your kids. Still, when it comes to them, McCain the elder is stoic. "I don't think there's anything unusual about Jimmy," he says. "There are, thank God, lots of young men and women like him."

In some ways, though, Jimmy is breaking with tradition. His brother Jack, now 20, has just finished his plebe year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather went before him. And McCain, the Navy aviator and keen interservice competitor, has been known to crack more than a few jokes at the Marines' expense. McCain says he doesn't read much into Jimmy's decision. "I know that he's aware of his family's service background," he says. "But I think the main motivator was, he had friends who were in the Marine Corps, and he'd known Marines, and he'd read about them, and he just wanted to join up."

McCain says his son's service won't change his position on the war, and claims it won't even affect how he feels about it. "Like every parent who has a son or daughter serving that way, you will have great concern, but you'll also have great pride," McCain says. But it will be hard to ignore. If Republicans retain control of the Senate after November's midterm elections, McCain is due to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee in January, a position he has long aimed for. There he would have day-to-day responsibility for oversight of the war.

And then there's 2008. McCain already has strong national-security credentials. His son's service only strengthens his position. It will neutralize the assertions of the left that Republicans are "chicken hawks," pursuing the war for ideological reasons without any connection to the pain of it. And it will probably have a broader effect on McCain's credibility. Critics have accused McCain of pandering to the right in order to solidify his front-runner status, but the power of that argument would be diminished if McCain were seen steadfastly supporting a war even as it endangered his youngest son.

More than anything else, though, the country may find itself viewing Iraq through McCain's eyes as it follows his son's progress. And nothing is more powerful for a candidate than sympathy. Nothing, too, is more irritating to McCain, who sounds annoyed by the interest in his son's enlistment. In mid-June, he asked TIME not to run this story, and relented only when it appeared that other organizations might break the news. In response to most of the heavier questions about Jimmy's motivation and the influence he may have felt from his family, McCain doesn't want to play. "He's an 18-year-old kid," he says, and he no doubt remembers what that means. The Senator was such a hell-raiser as a plebe and a pilot that he was nearly forced out of the academy.

Whatever Jimmy's enrollment says about him, his father or the country, candidate McCain is letting it speak for itself, for the most part. Often the clan gathers for a popular July 4 barbecue at McCain's cabin in Arizona. But this year McCain canceled the picnic, and the Senator, his wife Cindy and Jimmy went to the Quinault Indian reservation in Washington State. "We went fishing and hiking and enjoyed the rain forest there as well as the salmon fishing, although we didn't catch any salmon," he says. "Cindy and I were able to spend a weekend with him. And it was fine."

Then he got into a vodka drinking contest with Hillary Clinton in Estonia. This interested me as an Estonian, and pissed off my parents who knew of alcoholics there. My father's especially upset because of McCain's history as an alcoholic.


WASHINGTON, July 28 — Two summers ago, on a Congressional trip to Estonia, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton astonished her traveling companions by suggesting that the group do what one does in the Baltics: hold a vodka-drinking contest.

Delighted, the leader of the delegation, Senator John McCain, quickly agreed. The after-dinner drinks went so well — memories are a bit hazy on who drank how much — that Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, later told people how unexpectedly engaging he found Mrs. Clinton to be. “One of the guys” was the way he described Mrs. Clinton, a New York Democrat, to some Republican colleagues.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain went on to develop an amiable if professionally calculated relationship. They took more official trips together, including to Iraq. They worked together on the Senate Armed Services Committee and on the issue of global warming. They made a joint appearance last year on “Meet the Press,” interacting so congenially that the moderator, Tim Russert, joked about their forming a “fusion ticket.”

Politics being what it is, there is more friction than fusion. As the 2008 presidential campaign begins to take shape, with Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton at the top of the polls for their parties’ nominations, they are increasingly underscoring their differences on issues like the war in Iraq and port security. Advisers to Mr. McCain have put a stop to his inviting Mrs. Clinton on trips.

Whether their friendship is based on anything other than the respect of one political professional for another, or the opportunity to strike a tone of bipartisanship for public consumption, is unclear. But the interplay between the two senators, both well known and both with compelling personal narratives and a knack for infuriating their own parties’ bases, could determine the tone of the 2008 presidential race and make it less personally vicious than the last two campaigns.

Of course, Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton are a long way from facing off for the presidency. Neither has even officially announced a candidacy, and both would still have to endure a primary season that is shaping up to be intense. Neither would probably be the other’s first choice as a rival; both would no doubt prefer to run against someone less skilled in blurring ideological lines.

Still, members of both parties are already speculating about what a McCain-Clinton race would be like.

“If they get through a primary election, they would be polar opposites on policy,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close ally of Mr. McCain who has traveled with both senators. “On the major issues, it’d be a fairly clear choice. But I believe that the personal relationship hopefully could survive the political process.”

Harking to the days when a Republican president and a Democratic speaker of the House were friends, Mr. Graham said, “Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, at the end of the day, would go down to the White House and knock one back, and the country was no worse off for that.”

Rarely is it the case that likely presidential contenders are able to play off each other so much. Two modern races, in 1992 and 2000, pitted governors against Washington insiders, the candidates barely acquaintances. George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, recalled having met Vice President Al Gore only a few times before they debated onstage in 2000.

Four years later, despite their overlapping years at Yale and their work just down Pennsylvania Avenue from each other, President Bush and Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, made contact almost entirely over the airwaves.

This time, with so many senators thinking about running, the primaries and potentially the general election could find the candidates squaring off against colleagues who are operating in close proximity. Mr. Kerry served in Vietnam around the same time as Mr. McCain, who defended him against Republican attacks during the 2004 race. Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, devised a landmark campaign-finance bill with Mr. McCain (and has since traveled with him and with Mrs. Clinton).

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain, however, share not just a title, but also a general approach to politics. Both strive to be seen as willing to break with ideological orthodoxy from time to time and to work across the aisle. Both emerged from nasty political battles — Whitewater and her husband’s impeachment in her case, the 2000 Republican primaries in his — declaring their hatred of the “politics of personal destruction,” as former President Bill Clinton called it.

“They would run a completely different campaign than we’ve seen in recent memory,” said Marshall Wittman, a former aide to Mr. McCain who has worked with Mrs. Clinton.

“Both of them realize there is a desire in the country for a different politics of national unity that transcends the current polarization,” Mr. Wittman said.

At the same time, both have endured serious presidential campaigns before and market themselves as independent power brokers within their parties.

“That’s their great commonality,” Mr. Wittman said. “Obviously, if they faced each other in a general, they would emphasize their differences.”

A friendly relationship, or just the appearance of one, brings risks and advantages to both, although political strategists agreed it was wise for Mr. McCain to distance himself from Mrs. Clinton. (One reason is that Republicans said they could imagine a photograph of Mr. McCain with Mrs. Clinton, considered one of the most polarizing Democrats in politics, being used in a negative ad during a Republican primary.) Mr. McCain is also weakest among conservative Republicans, who dislike his willingness to take independent stands and work with Democrats.

Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has been working to convince moderate voters that she is a centrist who can work across the aisle, a claim bolstered by Mr. McCain’s tacit approval of her.

Both senators are accustomed to being sought out by other politicians hoping to burnish their own images. What makes their rapport different, advisers said, is that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain are essentially of equal stature.

During their Estonia trip — also attended by Mr. Graham and Senators John E. Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine — Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton were the ones recognized as they walked through the streets of the capital, Tallinn.

It was during their joint trip to Iraq in late February 2005 that Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton appeared via satellite on “Meet the Press,” an appearance that put their civility on display. When Mr. Russert asked Mr. McCain at the end of the interview whether he thought Mrs. Clinton would make a good president, Mrs. Clinton came to his rescue, saying: “Oh, we can’t hear you, Tim!”

“Yeah, you’re breaking up,” Mr. McCain added, laughing. But then he said: “I happen to be a Republican and would support, obviously, a Republican nominee, but I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would make a good president.”

Asked the same question about him, Mrs. Clinton replied without skipping a beat: “Absolutely.”

Mr. McCain’s advisers played down their relationship, saying he was friendly with a number of Democrats. “They underscore their differences every day,” John Weaver, a political adviser to the senator, said of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton. “That doesn’t mean you treat each other less civilly.”

Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said: “They are colleagues who have worked and traveled together on issues of interest to both, such as support for our military and global warming, and they agree to disagree on issues such as requiring greater scrutiny of foreign government ownership of our ports.”

But Mr. Reines said Mrs. Clinton’s advisers had not noticed any recent changes in her relationship with Mr. McCain, and he declined to elaborate on the rounds of vodka.

“What happens in Estonia stays in Estonia,” Mr. Reines said.

Ray G.
07-30-2006, 07:37 PM
I read about McCain's son in the papers today. Impressive kid. I'm sure his family's very proud, and I hope he comes home safe.