Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that Chuck Hagel’s experience as a soldier in Vietnam gives him more credibility on national security issues than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was a naval pilot in Vietnam.
“I think the notion in some ways to say ‘because Chuck Hagel doesn’t believe what John McCain says you question his judgment’ [is wrong],” Gibbs said today on Meet the Press. “I think for somebody that– that– that carried a gun in the jungles of Vietnam, I’m going to trust their ability besides a group of politicians.”
Hagel and McCain both served their country very honorably. McCain, of course, served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. He spent five-and-a-half years being tortured as a prisoner-of-war after being shot down over Vietnam. His captors offered to release him at a politically-convenient moment, but he refused.
“What they wanted, of course, was to send me home at the same time that my father took over as commander in the Pacific,” McCain said during a 2008 interview. “This would have made them look very humane in releasing the injured son of a top U. S. officer. It would also have given them a great lever against my fellow prisoners, because the North Vietnamese were always putting this “class” business on us. They could have said to the others ‘Look, you poor devils, the son of the man who is running the war has gone home and left you here. No one cares about you ordinary fellows.’ I was determined at all times to prevent any exploitation of my father and my family.”
Hagel also sacrificed himself during his time in that war. “As a young private, and then a sergeant, he served with honor, alongside his own brother,” President Obama said when announcing his choice to run the Pentagon. “When Chuck was hit by shrapnel, his brother saved him. When his brother was injured by a mine, Chuck risked his life to pull him to safety. To this day, Chuck bears the scars — and the shrapnel — from the battles he fought in our name.”