Tested: What does it mean?

October 23, 2008 at 5:25 am (Has John McCain been tested?) (, , , , )

John McCain’s claim today is that, because he has already been “tested”, no foreign power would dare risk creating an international crisis with the United States if he is president. McCain thinks he has been tested for two reasons: First, because he survived 5 years of torture and captivity and, second, because he sat in a jet cockpit on an aircraft carrier during the Missile Crisis, awaiting orders to bomb Cuba.

What McCain doesn’t realize when he tells the aircraft carrier story is that it was a calm, highly intelligent, relatively inexperienced young president who played a key role in preventing that crisis from escalating into a world-wide catastrophe. If John McCain had been president in September of 1962, it is doubtful that the outcome would have been the same.

As for McCain’s years as a POW, certainly that experience tested his ability to survive and overcome great personal adversity. But that is hardly the kind of testing that is relevant for a leader who has to remain cool, make thoughtful decisions on complex issues, and manage the people who carry them out. Being emotionally tough and resilient are good qualities, but they are not pre-requisites for an effective president.

Barack Obama has been tested all his life, but in different ways that make him better suited to be president. His intellect, communication skills and ability to master complex problems were constantly tested, and the results of that testing are self-evident. But the real question here is which candidate would be the most likely to make an impulsive decision if such a crisis were to unfold?

Considering John McCain’s temperament and pugnacious attitude, I suspect that he would be more easily baited. He has said himself that one his heroes is Teddy Roosevelt, the president who charged up San Juan Hill. Like Roosevelt, John McCain sees himself as a warrior first and statesman second. He’s been fighting all his life, trying to live up to the legacy of his father and grandfather, who were both Admirals. The problem is, John McCain never commanded a company, a platoon, or a squad. He was a “maverick” fighter pilot, and a mediocre one at that. As a senator, he has never played an executive role, a point which his own running-mate recently expressed.

So, the question remains, where has John McCain been tested, and how did he perform on this alleged test? Being president is not a contest of wills or a physical challenge. It’s not about being the one who is most willing to charge up the hill, in order to win that elusive “victory”. The job is considerably more complicated than that.



  1. Louise said,

    You are an ass hole go sit in the the hanoi hilton for 5 years and see if you have been tested

  2. johnrj08 said,

    I have approved your crude remark for publishing because I think it is indicative of the kind of anger that we’re seeing from McCain/Palin supporters. While I have no personal experience with being held in captivity, I am a Vietnam-era veteran, and I know the kind of psychological trauma that can be done to someone who is held for even a few short days. John McCain was held and tortured for more than 5 years, and that experience has had a profoundly negative impact on his personality, which has been in evidence since he joined the Senate more than 25 years ago. Furthermore, being held against your will in no way prepares or qualifies you for holding high office in this country, and it certainly does not function as a “test” for being president, despite what McCain says. If anything, exactly the opposite is true. If John McCain is going to use this claim as a campaign tool, then it is more than fair to question it. I would never minimize what McCain endured as a POW, but voters have a right to ask if it is relevant to the office he seeks. I can admire John McCain for his durability and will to survive under horrendous conditions, but that does not mean he has been “tested” for the presidency, nor does it mean that Barack Obama has NOT been tested.

  3. Jackie in Dallas said,

    If I may, Johnrj8, I’d like to add that McCain is seems to be suffering from Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome which is untreated. This affects his judgment, and is probably what is causing his erratic behavior, his flip flops on issues, and his rather arrogant behavior. Palin doesn’t even have this as an excuse.

    I agree, by the way, with your assessment. I don’t think McCain has been tested in the position he is seeking, which is the issue. Neither has Obama, but their individual characters are good markers for how they might react, and I’m not sanguine about McCain’s reactions. We’ve already learned from history (those of us who actually have read some) that you cannot fight on two or more fronts and do a decent job of it. Adding more fronts rather than seeking a diplomatic solution is not necessarily the right reaction!

  4. johnrj08 said,

    If you look further down in my blog, I have an article posted about his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I think is plainly in evidence to anyone who is being objective. He has all the physical and emotional manifestations of that condition, including the hair-trigger temper and manic body language. I feel great sympathy for the man, but not enough to think he’d be an acceptable president.

  5. Sandy Flavin said,

    I agree with you 100%. I think we may be in serious trouble if this man is elected as President of the US.

  6. Annette said,

    I beg to differ from your statement that he was tortured for 5 years. He was held for over 5 years but he was not tortured for all that time. Even he states the torture was not for the entire time of his capture. In fact his torture was only for a short period of time according to him and to others that were in the prison camp at the same time. After he started giving them information they quit torturing him and he was rewarded with medical treatment, girls and good food and other treats. He also has stated numerous times he was worried his father would find out and has felt guilty a number of times that he was ashamed of himself for breaking under pressure. So I would say that was a test he failed. And as for reminding everyone he was sitting in a cockpit on an aircraft carrier over 40 years ago as another test, all that does is remind everyone how very old he is to me.

  7. johnrj08 said,

    I don’t think I specifically stated that he was tortured non-stop for 5 years. That’s kind of a stretch. In any case, being held in confinement with inadequate medical treatment and suffering malnutrition for five years is certainly a form of torture in my book. You don’t have to pull someone’s fingernails out to torture them. I’m certainly not here to defend McCain, but I have never read that he was “rewarded with girls” after he broke. Where would that kind of information come from? The cogent point I was making, which was not intended to minimize what McCain went through in Hanoi, is that surviving years of captivity is not a relevant test for being President of the United States. In fact, being a war-hero of any kind is not a qualification for that job. McCain, who continually invokes his “I have the scars to prove it” slogan, seems to think it is. General Douglas MacArthur graduated at the top of his Westpoint class, but he would have been a disastrous president. Dwight Eisenhower’s military experience qualified him because his job of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during WWII was highly political and obviously involved tremendous organizational/logistical skills. Eisenhower, who graduated in the top half of his 1915 Westpoint class, was a fairly bright guy with leadership skills, which made him eminently more qualified for the presidency than John McCain, who graduated in the bottom 5 of his Naval Academy class of nearly 900 midshipmen and never led anybody.

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