Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, said Friday that Republican Senator and presidential candidate John McCain’s military history is more of a liability than a benefit. "I think one of, one of the problems John McCain has, is that his grandfather was an admiral, his father was an admiral. He comes from a long line of just military people so I think his whole world view, his life view has been shaped from a military viewpoint, and he has a hard time thinking beyond that, and I think he’s trapped in that," Harkin says.
"And I think that can be pretty dangerous. It’s one thing to have been drafted and served or volunteer and serve for a few years or something and get out and get on with your life. Quite another thing when you know, you come from generations of military people, that’s just how you’re steeped, that’s how you, that’s how you learned, that’s how you grew up, it’s hard to shake those things."
Harkin made his comments during his weekly conference call with reporters when he was asked about how military service impacts the way a senator views issues. Harkin says McCain’s background gives him the wrong view of the country. Harkin says the books McCain has written are "all about the military," and "everything is looking through that lens of the military experience", and Harkin says "I think that distorts reality, distorts what we’re really trying to do in this country."
McCain says his military background and experience in the military and as a prisoner of war in Vietnam give him the advantage in leadership. Harkin says the opposite is true. Harkin says the military view is something we have to guard against.
"There are reasons why our forefathers set up our country they way they did, and why our forefathers were against a standing army," Harkin says. Harkin says George Washington and others were against a standing army and were in favor of a militia and a standing army. Harkin says it’s what Dwight Eisenhower warned against, "this military industrial complex that would take over and consume more of our goods and services, and I think that’s something we have to guard against," Harkin says.
One of the criticisms of presumed Democrat nominee Barrack Obama is that Obama lacks experience in a lot of areas. Harkin says McCains military history should be discounted as a benefit in the presidential race. "Again, I want to be very clear, there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military, I have a lot of friends, I have friends who are generals and admirals that served their country well," Harkin says,"but now McCain’s running for a higher office, he’s running for commander in chief and our Constitution says that should be a civilian….In some ways I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need to have a whole lot, (that) they need to a lifetime experience in that."
Harkin says McCain’s views continue to be tempered by his military history. Harkin says Senator McCain still says, unless he has changed his mind lately, has still said that the U.S. could have won the Vietnam war. "That’s sort of a bizarre thing to say at this point in time," Harkin says, "and he’s still talking about winning in Iraq, but he can’t define what winning means in Iraq." Harkin served in the navy from 1962 to 1967 as a pilot.