Feminist leader Gloria Steinem attracted considerable attention this weekend after she rejected John McCain’s heroic period as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton as over-rated and suggested the Hillary Clinton was a better president because she was not “trained to kill.” McCain cannot lift his arms above his shoulders due to the beatings and torture that he endured in Vietnam.
Steinem is upset because she feels that Clinton’s gender should be more important in this election. However, she has a bizarre way of supporting her. She rejected the criticism of Clinton’s use of her time as first lady as part of her oft-cited experience. According to press reports, she stated that if successful people might “finally admit that, say, being a secretary is the best way to learn your boss’s job and take it over.”
Steinem raised McCain’s Vietnam imprisonment as she sought to highlight an alleged gender-based media bias against Clinton.
“Suppose John McCain had been Joan McCain and Joan McCain had got captured, shot down and been a POW for eight years. [The media would ask], ‘What did you do wrong to get captured? What terrible things did you do while you were there as a captive for eight years?’” Steinem said, to laughter from the audience.
Steinem mocked that getting shot down and being taken prisoner is a weird thing to be proud of: “I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don’t think so.”
In fact, during the war, McCain saw a lot of action including a near death experience on the aircraft carrier Forrestal. He was not captured until his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam later in 1967. He fractured both arms and a leg on landing, almost drowned iin Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi, and was then beaten and bayoneted by Vietnamese. He was then refused medical treatment for refusing to give up intelligence and his colleagues did not expect him to live.
One could easily dismiss this type of advocacy as what Obama called the “silly season” of politics, but it is far too disturbing. She seems to be attempting humor, but it hardly came across in this context. Feminists (including Clinton herself) will now have to do their own “denouncing and rejection” if they are to have any credibility at all. As for Steinem, she has succeeded in transforming herself from an icon into a cartoon.
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