The Best Defense

Shelton II: John McCain is too damn crazy to be trusted with the presidency

After watching Sen. John McCain in a Senate hearing, Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came away believing that the Arizona senator "had a screw loose because normal people just didn't behave in that manner." (337)

In his new memoirs, out this week, Shelton goes on to say that, "The John McCain that I knew was subject to wild mood swings and would break into erratic temper tantrums in the middle of a normal conversation." (404)

This wasn't just an idle observation, Shelton adds. During the 2008 presidential campaign, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs writes, "I was extremely concerned about the possibility of someone as apparently unstable as McCain in the position of commander in chief, dealing with other countries and having responsibility over the nuclear welfare of ours." (338)

Tom's view: I've actually long thought that McCain was one of the most human people in the Senate. But yeah, he does have a temper. That said, I'll take his personality over passive-aggressive aliens like Jeff Sessions.

After Rumsfeld and McCain, Shelton takes shots at a couple of other lesser figures. One is Gen. Wes Clark, perhaps the general most disliked by his peers of any Army general in recent decades. He was "absolutely in it for whatever was best for Wes," Shelton says. (373) "For a smart guy he said some pretty dumb things," (383) he adds -- at least until Defense Secretary William Cohen called Clark and ordered him, Shelton says, to "get your fucking face off the TV. No more briefings, period." (384)

Another target is Tommy R. Franks, who after becoming a four-star general, Shelton says, "developed a hell of an ego," (447) and then, after the invasion of Afghanistan, became even more "isolated and cocky." (482)

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's memoirs also are being released. Doesn't look so revelatory. "One of my favorite songs is Led Zeppelin's Black Dog," she confesses. (You know -- "Hey hey mama said the way you move, / Gon' make you sweat, gon' make you groove.") Nothing about whether Cheney is the devil.

WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AFP/Getty Images

The Best Defense

Reader comment of the day: After being in combat, garrison life sucks!

"Recon Runner" contributed this observation the other day, in our discussion of how to think about the rising rates of suicide and indiscipline in the Army and Marines:

Garrison life is the pits. The difference is now we (combat vets) have seen the "other side/combat." Nothing pushes up urges to kill yourself like spending 10 hours of work/admin paperwork for every one you're out at the range or training, or doing risk assessments to drive your car to a town that doesn't suck for the weekend, having your car inspected, having your room inspected, asking your boss if its okay to go outside of the 60 mile radius for the weekend, sitting through your pre/post deployment health assessment, sitting through power point suicide prevention classes, "reunion" classes, etc. Nothing beats mass punishment too. You have to love being called in after a 90 hour work week on your weekend b/c someone else got a DUI.

Here's the bottom line; nothing is going to get solved, but the Army/Marines will add another semi-annual requirement for some class/PowerPoint. What would really solve the problem are friends taking care of one another and leaders taking care of the soldiers/Marines. Like one of the other posters said though, you want to be involved with your subordinates but you need some time and space to maintain you own sanity. I've got over 36 months deployed; many other leaders have many more months and leaders need that space and those weekends/nights with their families.

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