Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Swamp, John McCain and President Carter

Sen. McCain is attracting favorable articles now, for pure and understandable reasons.  After his death, whenever it comes, more commendations will come and slight criticism will be unbecoming.

So let me offer a bit of criticism and context now.

There's been much discussion of "the swamp" in DC and the need to drain it.  Very laudable I'm sure. But I've a vague memory, I think based on Timberg's book, that McCain was a denizen of that swamp for a while.  After his release from the POW camp, and recuperation from his injuries, and before he retired from the Navy and entered electoral politics, he was assigned to the Pentagon as a liaison to the Senate.

Now the Ford and Carter administrations had a project for medium-sized aircraft carriers, conventionally powered and cheaper than the nuclear carriers the Navy and Rickover had been building.   As a naval officer McCain's ultimate commander was President Carter, but his real allegiance was to his bureaucracy, the Navy.  And the Navy, or at least many of the big shots, wanted the biggest and best of everything (pardon my cynicism).  McCain was an effective lobbyist with the Senate for the nuclear carriers, operating against the official policy of the administration.  It was a little reminiscent of the "revolt of the admirals" of 1949, except that McCain and the others were able to achieve their goal with less publicity.

That's how the swamp works, and Sen. McCain was once a swamp dweller.

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