The Plank

Is Mccain Looking Back In Anger?


I realize these aren't completely parallel, but it's still worth comparing McCain's trying to make political hay out of Obama's connection to William Ayres with McCain's personal decency toward another one-time radical of the era, David Ifshin. Here's a 1996 Margaret Carlson column that touched on the McCain-Ifshin relationship:

It took 16 years for them to be friends. But last Thursday, when
Senator John McCain eulogized a former enemy, David Ifshin, who died at
age 47 after a five-month battle with cancer, the two had long made
their "peace together." McCain may be our most famous prisoner of the
Vietnam War; Ifshin, the most famous protester to go to Hanoi (save
Jane Fonda). Ifshin's antiwar sentiments were piped into McCain's cell
repeatedly via Radio Hanoi. McCain, who was left hanging by his broken
arms for hours a day, shriveled to less than 100 lbs. during his
five-year imprisonment. Both men would end up in Washington in 1984:
McCain, by then a Congressman sharply critical of Ifshin's antiwar
politics; Ifshin, a lawyer working on the Mondale presidential
campaign. Two years after that, Ifshin saw McCain at a Washington event
and the two men made up. Over the next months, the two set up the
Institute for Democracy in Vietnam.

Two weeks ago, McCain visited Ifshin, his wife and three young
children. "I thought, thank goodness we didn't waste any more time in
anger. You can't put off setting your life right." In his eulogy, the
Senator from Arizona remembered defending Ifshin, the former general
counsel of the Clinton campaign, in the Senate after demonstrators
assailed the lawyer's patriotism at a Memorial Day speech by the
President. "I wanted the protesters to know that they were bearing
false witness against a good man. That this small gesture that meant so
much to David meant even more to me. David Ifshin was my friend. His
friendship honored me and honors me still."

I'm not saying McCain and Ayres should be friends; and Ayres's radical past is certainly more troubling than Ifshin's (making bombs trumps visiting Hanoi, plus Ayres has remained unrepentant). But, once upon a time, McCain was the sort of pol who seemed more interested in healing these wounds rather than exploiting them.

--Jason Zengerle

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