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Hayden’s McCain Problem By: Lloyd Billingsley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 04, 2008


People have their reasons for opposing John McCain, but New Left icon Tom Hayden has advanced one that calls for some reflection.

“I have met John McCain and I like him as an earthy sort of guy,” Hayden wrote in a recent issue of Sacramento News & Review. “But I am constantly aware that he bombed Vietnam at least 25 times before being shot down in a war that never should have been fought, in a defeat that still cannot say its name.”

Hayden is counting on ignorance of history.

John McCain actually bombed North Vietnam, a Stalinist police state backed by the USSR. At the time, the United States was militarily engaged in a quest to keep North Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam, an ally of the United States. The aggressor in the conflict was North Vietnam, but that has never troubled Tom Hayden.

Imagine that in 1988 someone held against George Bush senior his World War II service fighting imperial Japan. Or someone in 1996 finding fault with Bob Dole’s involvement in military campaigns against Nazi Germany.

Assessment of a candidate for previous military action against America’s enemies is not likely to resonate with mainstream voters, but that is not Tom Hayden’s fan base. As the author of his article, Hayden comes billed as “a lifelong peace and human-rights activist.” That too requires some reflection.

Tom Hayden was not opposed to war in general or to the conflict in Southeast Asia, only to American participation in the conflict. His reference to the “war that never should have been fought” means never fought by the United States. The military campaigns and human rights violations of North Vietnam got a free pass from Tom Hayden at the time, and the regime’s torture and imprisonment of John McCain and other POWs did not motivate him to protest. When veterans returned home the New Left vilified them.

North Vietnamese officials are on record that the stateside protests against American involvement only spurred them to continue the conflict. The United States was not militarily defeated but withdrew in 1973. Two years later, when the Soviet tanks of the North Vietnamese army rolled into Saigon, Tom Hayden and his fellow radicals broke out the champagne. But peace did not follow.

The Communist regime was more repressive than its Soviet sponsors, and its reeducation camps and other repressions sent Vietnamese people fleeing in anything that would float. When singer Joan Baez criticized the regime, the soi disant peace activists attacked her. A major critic of Baez was Jane Fonda, who posed for the North Vietnamese regime while John McCain and others were being tortured.

Appropriately enough, Jane Fonda married Tom Hayden and helped to buy him his own political office, a radical-to-riches story. Once Vietnam was safely under Communist control, Tom Hayden could move on to oppose the “U.S. war in Central America,” as the Left had it. But if the criticism of John McCain is any indication, Tom still has a soft spot for Vietnam’s Communist regime. Maybe its leaders are an “earthy sort of people.”

The United States fails to live up to the Left’s domestic political wish list, primarily for a nanny state and a command, redistributionist economy. Therefore, whenever the United States acts in the world, from Panama to Iraq and Afghanistan, any such action is seen as illegitimate. That’s why a Stalinist police state can torture downed American pilots without fear of criticism by the American Left. And that’s why John McCain takes heat from the likes of Tom Hayden for bombing a Communist tyranny then at war with the United States.


Lloyd Billingsley is the author of From Mainline to Sideline, the Social Witness of the National Council of Churches, and Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s.


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