Better people than I are covering, in more detail, the following:
a) General Wesley Clark talked about how much he honored and appreciated Senator McCain's wartime service, but mentioned that getting shot down and taken POW were not automatic qualifications for being, say, President.
b.) The press, all aswoon over McCain's manliness -- many of whom obsess over this because they're still working out their Boomer man-issues -- claimed that General Clark was somehow "attacking" Senator McCain or even more hallucinegenically "swift-boating" him.
c.) Then, even more trippily, McCain's camp actually hauled out one of the Swift Boat guys to run interference, claiming Clark was somehow distorting or attacking Senator McCain's war record. Which he didn't do, either explicitly or implicitly.
Let's make this perfectly clear. The Swift Boaters claimed Senator John Kerry lied about his war record. General Clark pointed out that serving in the military did not mean you were automatically a genius at international relations or national security. A five year old with a head injury could tell the difference between those two statements. Yet the press scurries about, buzzing like binge-puking sophomore girls over how Wesley totally dissed John at lunch hour and how this is totally THE BIGGEST THING EVUH.
This is what you get when you combine massive insecurity, a desperate need for the approval of authority figures (hellllo pretty much everyone working in entertainment/news), and a culture of people generally unfamiliar with those who serve in the military. My grandfather, who I loved dearly, got his ass shot up in the Batle of the Bulge. If you said that somehow made him more eligible to be President than, well anyone, we both would have laughed ourselves silly. But for many Americans, servicemen and women are fetish dolls upon which we project our insecurities and craving for heroism rather than being, say, very nice brave people who need some goddam medical care and maybe a better GI Bill.
If anything highlights that there's a whole segment of modern men in American society seriously fucked up about their identity, it's this knee-jerk reaction to currying favor with the cool jock who's got the testes-cred they feel they lack.
Please, please, in my adult lifetime, could I have a presidential election where Vietnam isn't an issue? Just one where people's service in a war that ended over thirty damn years ago isn't one of the over-riding psychological factors of the election?
Christ, I can't wait until we have the first Boomer Candidate-free election. Not because I don't like Boomers, but I desperately want to at least argue over some different goddam issues.