by David Safier
I'm no John McCain fan for reasons too numerous to mention. And everything I've seen tells me he's grown worse with age. All of his temperamental tics have become more pronounced, and his temper flareups seem to be more frequent.
But this latest incident makes me wonder if the man is still harboring serious psychological hurt from his POW experience that he refuses to acknowledge.
As everyone knows, or should, suicides are way up in the military, and reservists tend to be in an especially dangerous situation. Because they are neither on active duty nor veterans, their PTSD-related problems receive little attention. Rep. Russ Holt (D-N.J.) put a measure to address the problem into the defense appropriations bill. It passed in the House and was stripped from the final version in the Senate, twice. Holt finally discovered, it was McCain who got rid of the provision.
When Holt confronted McCain about the block, our senator gave the kind of curt, angry response he's famous for. "Don't lecture me about military suicides," McCain snapped.
Even worse, he added, "Maybe you need this in New Jersey. We don't need it in Arizona."
That last statement, frankly, reeks of denial of a problem — possibly McCain's own problem. "No in Arizona needs help with PTSD or suicide prevention," McCain seems to be saying. "We're strong here. We handle things on our own without all that sissy-boy psychological mumbo jumbo."
Real-man chest thumping like that is always suspicious, and especially so in a man who suffered through much publicized torture and confinement as a POW, attempted suicide while he was imprisoned and came back a wreck. But denying there is even a problem in the state he represents — criticizing, not the approach or the cost, but the suggestion there is a problem — speaks of a man who has buried his psychological wounds under a layer of bravado and is afraid to admit them, even if it costs other soldiers the care they need — and possibly their lives.
MEDIA NOTE: This specific incident has been covered on Huffington Post, on a New Jersey news site, because Holt is from New Jersey (I don't know if it was in the NJ papers), and in a column by a man whose son took his own life when he was a reservist (the bill is named after the young man, Coleman S. Bean). But it hasn't been covered in Arizona, so far as I know, except in this post and one earlier today by AZ Blue Meanie.
This, in my opinion, is more than newsworthy enough to deserve coverage by the Arizona dailies, weeklies and TV news programs. The battle over health care is raging in Arizona right now, and this is yet another instance of an Arizona Republican politician telling people in need of medical help, physical or psychological, that they can go to hell. Arizona Democrats should be expressing their outrage as well.