GRAVES REGISTRY: Land of the free, home of the no-beard


I guess we aren’t going to be able to bask in the glory of a Triple Crown winner or be allowed to celebrate the return of an American soldier after five years of Taliban captivity and abuse. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release shines more positive light upon the president. That’s unacceptable to certain factions, especially coming so soon after the success of the Affordable Care Act.

The good news, however, is that Leonardo DiCaprio refused to be filmed at a party when he found out that the footage might be used on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." What would we do without Leo to bolster our spirits?

Steve Coburn, co-owner of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, was notably ungracious when his horse finished a humbling fourth in the Belmont. He might have had a point, I’m not really up on the more grueling aspects of horse racing. Seems to me that carting gabby tourists around Central Park day after day would be much more wearing on a horse.

Mr. Coburn picked a terrible time to express his displeasure. His 10-gallon tirade tended not so much to verbalize an opinion concerning potential flaws in the scramble for the Triple Crown as to illustrate what spectacularly sore losers privileged people usually are. When Tonalist crossed the finish line, Mr. Coburn probably saw millions of dollars rising up and flying away like the birds in the jungle gym scene in Hitchcock’s movie.

You can’t really bring up the subject of sore losers without mentioning John McCain. Mr. McCain is the bullet this country dodged back in 2008, when it was easier to dodge bullets than it is in 2014. The man he contemptuously referred to as "that one" during a debate was elected President of the United States, a post McCain obviously felt was his birthright.

It struck me, watching some of the interviews with soldiers during the 70th anniversary observance of D-Day, how flatly unemotional they were about their participation in that momentous event, as if it was something that was so intensely personal that they were reluctant to even recall it much less verbally revisit it.

Mr. McCain, on the other hand, has built a political career around his military service during the Vietnam War and there isn’t so much as a hint of reluctance in the reiteration of his selfless sacrifice for his country. If you look a little closer, however, it may occur to you that John McCain’s priority has really always been advancing the cause of John McCain.

He is, to be certain, a much more reasonable legislator than someone of Ted Cruz’ intransigent ilk. (McCain was justly appalled at Cruz’ loony stunt of shutting down the government and, in the process, nearly derailing the nation’s tenuous economic recovery.) But, even given the fact that he has to survive on the whims of voters in a notoriously conservative state, self-serving hypocrisy has always been McCain’s bosom buddy.

Republicans en mass have been clamoring for the release of an American soldier who was captured in Afghanistan five years ago. Not to do so, they insisted, was tantamount to leaving a fallen comrade behind. That phrase was always a good attention getter in Hollywood films about comradeship in wartime so, of course, it works in Washington, too.

The exact circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture are vague, to say the least, but that hasn’t stopped Republican operatives from working overtime to fashion a hatchet job on the 28-year-old soldier that hasn’t been equaled since John Kerry’s Swift Boat demonization. Now, it seems, the nation can only celebrate the return of an imprisoned and tortured American serviceman if he meets a certain criteria. One of the paramount causes of concern to the fair and balanced folks at Fox News is the fact that Sgt. Bergdahl’s father’s beard makes him look suspiciously like a Taliban sympathizer. Honest. People get paid lots of money to dream up this stuff.

Sgt. Bergdahl doesn’t fit the mold of the returning hero either. He sent an email home to his parents decrying American arrogance and the futility of the carnage in Afghanistan. It is clearly a point of view that doesn’t jive with the image we like to cultivate in our collective minds of our country’s selfless motives.

A few short months ago, John McCain was front and center on the red, white and blue trimmed Bring Back Bergdahl bandwagon. The conservatives who are now howling about the soldier’s unworthiness to be freed were fully aware of Bergdahl’s history before he was released. But that was before Obama accomplished just that.

In this age of endless Benghazi jabber, the cynical destruction of an American soldier’s personal life by a directionless political party should come as no shock to anyone. For Sen. McCain, forever trumpeting his own sacrifice, captivity, and torture, to now claim to be "troubled" by Bergdahl’s release is the height of hypocrisy. But, the latest flip-flop isn’t surprising from a man who was perfectly willing to install Sarah Palin in the proverbial heartbeat away position -- just as long as it got him elected.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.


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