McDaniel Witnessed McCain's Parachute Drop

Watching Helpless

One of the most brutally tortured prisoners of the Vietnam War, Eugene "Red" McDaniel, reveals to this columnist that he watched through prison bars in Hanoi as a critically injured John McCain parachuted helplessly into Truc Bach Lake and almost drowned.

"I know it was him because we lost only one that day," says McDaniel, referring to the doomed A-4E Skyhawk piloted by the future Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

The date was Oct. 26, 1967, and just five months before, on May 19, McDaniel was flying his 81st combat mission aboard an A-6 Intruder when he, too, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. The Navy pilot was listed as "missing in action" for three years until the Hanoi government acknowledged he was alive and being held as a prisoner of war. "They moved me 19 times within five prison camps," he says.

McDaniel would remain a POW for more than six years — "2,110 days, approximately," he counts — and upon his release in March 1973 would earn two Purple Hearts for the wounds he received at the hands of his North Vietnamese torturers.

"I saw John’s chute come down through the prison bars of what we called ‘the Zoo,’" he says of McCain, who was dragged from the lake and savagely beaten.

Both men were scarred for life, yet the pair of pilots when freed continued to serve their country. Ironically, from 1979 to 1981, McDaniel was serving as the Navy/Marine Corps liaison to the House of Representatives while McCain was the liaison to the Senate.

McDaniel recalls his POW years in the book "Scars and Stripes." He retired from the Navy in 1982, but not until he had become commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. He is the founding president of the American Defense Institute in Washington.

Americans in Wartime

Distinguished guests experienced firsthand over the weekend what will be the only national museum to represent every U.S. military branch — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their respective Reserves and National Guard units — and the battle theaters in which they fought: World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The National Museum of Americans in Wartime won’t open its gates until November 2012, but as witnessed during open houses held Saturday and Sunday, the future 30-acre site in nearby Prince William County is already roaring to life.

"You can go as fast as you want, just don’t hit anybody," quipped Allan D. Cors, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, before this columnist and other visitors climbed into the belly of an Army tank and, with expert instruction, maneuvered their way around a red-dirt track.

"My son loves this. He’s never driven a go-cart, but he’s driven a few tanks," noted the museum’s president and CEO, G. Craig Stewart III.

When completed, the nonprofit museum and the veterans who will serve as its tour guides will showcase wartime experiences of countless men and women who served their country. They will do so via interpretive centers and theaters, a one-of-a-kind collection of more than 100 operational military vehicles (tanks, planes and helicopters), military air shows, walk-through replicas of battlefront scenes called "Landscapes of War," wartime re-enactments, an obstacle course, laser-firing range, jet fighter and nuclear aircraft carrier training simulators, and a reunion center for nearly 24 million living American veterans.

NMAW’s board members include, among others, retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. P.X. Kelley; Charles S. Robb, a former Virginia governor and senator; and Blackwater USA CEO Erik Prince.

All Audiences

Last week, we reported that pedestrians strolling along King Street in historic Alexandria, Va., were doing double-takes when passing beneath the brightly lit Old Town Theatre marquee displaying the pair of featured movies: "W" — "Body of Lies."

This week’s features, wouldn’t you know: "W" — "Pride and Glory."

‘Fair’ Warning

Proposed legislation sure to get a heated airing in the upcoming 111th Congress will be a "Fairness Doctrine," which if enacted would require broadcasters to air both liberal and conservative commentators, conceivably sounding a death knell for popular ideological programs like those hosted by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

A number of Democratic leaders, including 2008 presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, have said they would support such controls. Now Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M) is among lawmakers adding his voice to the demand for so-called "fairness."

"Radio and media generally have a higher calling than to just reflect a single point of view," Mr. Bingaman opined this week while being interviewed on Albuquerque’s KKOB-AM.

But Chris Berry, president and general manager of WMAL-AM in Washington, KKOB’s sister station, believes that if Democrats push for a Fairness Doctrine they could be surprised at the response from their constituencies.

"Millions of people listen and enjoy programs such as those hosted Rush Limbaugh and Chris Plante," says Mr. Berry, whose top-rated station features a heavy lineup of conservative voices (we reported last month that WMAL won the National Association of Broadcasters’ [NAB’s] Major Market Station of the Year award, beating out other stations around the country).

He predicts that, if engaged, radio listeners from coast-to-coast "will respond in a massive way if [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and other Democrats try to mandate content."

Otherwise, Mr. Berry informs this columnist that a "Fairness Doctrine" is anything but fair.

"Just the name ‘Fairness Doctrine’ is misleading," he says. "Let’s call it what it is: it’s an attack on the First Amendment and puts quotas on free speech. We don’t need the government controlling our thought process and what we can say as Americans."

Electoral 101

With Election Day now one week away, no better time for a refresher course on the confusing Electoral College: 538 electors in all, one for each of the nation’s 435 congressmen and 100 senators, and three for the District of Columbia.

Few are aware that the National Archives, charged among other vital tasks with preserving the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, carries out another "little-known" function: the administration of the Electoral College, ensuring that the "complicated and sometimes confusing steps in the electoral process are followed exactly."

The steps being?

"Immediately after Election Day, the governors of each state and the mayor of the District of Columbia must prepare certificates of ascertainment that identify their slate of electors," Archives notes. "The states send these certificates by registered mail to the Archivist of the United States, who is required by law to administer the Electoral College."

Not until Dec. 15, more than a month after Americans will have gone to the polls, do the electors then gather in each state to cast their votes for president and vice president. It is then up to the National Archives to ensure that the votes, recorded in certificate form, are delivered to Congress and held under seal until Jan. 6, 2009.

Not until that day will Congress open and count the votes in joint session, and finally proclaim either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain the newly elected president of the United States.

Tough To Cut

Cost-cutting during these economically depressed times begins at home, and we can only hope that Congress leads by example when its new session convenes in January.

The Senate Historical Office, which serves as the institutional memory of Congress, recalls a particularly timely floor debate from 1967 involving then-Senate Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and efforts to abolish his subcommittee on federal charters, holidays and celebrations.

"Early that year, Senator Allen Ellender, a conservative Louisiana Democrat and member of the Joint Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Expenditures, recommended elimination of this two-member panel, with its $7,500-a-year clerk," the Senate historian explains.

At which time Mr. Dirksen launched his counterattack: "Mr. President, I rise in vehement opposition to the proposal to do violence to this little subcommittee. The most important reason that I can assign is that I am chairman. You are not going to do that to me, are you, and destroy my one and only chairmanship?

"I want the Senate to know that this subcommittee deals with holidays, and if you can think of anything more important in the American calendar than that, then I give up."

Lest anyone doubt his dedication to his turf, Mr. Dirksen recited the familiar George Pope Morris poem:

"Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now."

"Dirksen saved his little subcommittee," the historian concludes, "which continued even after his death, under minority chairmanship, until its elimination in 1977."

Eye For Fashion

"But who knows? He may land his own show on Bravo."

So surmises Joshua Green of the Atlantic, referring to veteran Republican political operative Jeff Larson, who is believed to have been Gov. Sarah Palin‘s personal wardrobe shopper to the tune of $150,000.

As Mr. Green points out, "[E]ven hateful liberals would have to admit that Mrs. Palin dresses awfully nicely."