The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

April 8, 2008

Rockefeller apologizes to McCain over Vietnam service comment

Sen. Jay Rockefeller issued an apology Tuesday for demeaning John McCain’s war duty as a Vietnam fighter pilot in a West Virginia newspaper interview.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was quoted in a Charleston newspaper as saying McCain unloaded laser-guided missiles from a vantage point of 35,000 feet in the air.

“He was long gone when they hit,” the Democratic senator told the newspaper. “What happened when they (missiles) get to the ground? He doesn’t know. That’s unkind, because that’s fighting for your nation and that’s honorable. But you have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues.”

Almost immediately, retired Marine Lt. Col. Orson Swindle blasted Rockefeller’s remarks as a “smear” not only against the Arizona senator but as an affront to all men and women in the military.

“Had Sen. Rockefeller served himself, he would appreciate and understand that most who have been to war emerge with a much deeper concern for humanity than they otherwise might,” Swindle said.

“If he knew what he was talking about, he would know that John McCain wasn’t dropping laser-guided missiles at 35,000 feet in 1967.”

In a statement issued by his office, Rockefeller expressed “deep respect” for McCain’s naval service in the Vietnam War. McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after he was shot down, badly injured and captured by the North Vietnamese.

“I made an inaccurate and wrong analogy, and I have extended my sincere apology to him,” he said.

“While we differ a great deal on policy issues, I profoundly respect and appreciate his dedication to our country, and I regret my very poor choice of words.”

Rockefeller released the question put to him by The Charleston Gazette:

“I’ve heard stories on his (McCain’s) hot anger. Wondering what sort of a stable guy he is, and if you have any impressions.”

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