- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After watching Sen. John McCain in a Senate hearing, Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came away believing that the Arizona senator "had a screw loose because normal people just didn’t behave in that manner." (337)
In his new memoirs, out this week, Shelton goes on to say that, "The John McCain that I knew was subject to wild mood swings and would break into erratic temper tantrums in the middle of a normal conversation." (404)
This wasn’t just an idle observation, Shelton adds. During the 2008 presidential campaign, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs writes, "I was extremely concerned about the possibility of someone as apparently unstable as McCain in the position of commander in chief, dealing with other countries and having responsibility over the nuclear welfare of ours." (338)
Tom’s view: I’ve actually long thought that McCain was one of the most human people in the Senate. But yeah, he does have a temper. That said, I’ll take his personality over passive-aggressive aliens like Jeff Sessions.
After Rumsfeld and McCain, Shelton takes shots at a couple of other lesser figures. One is Gen. Wes Clark, perhaps the general most disliked by his peers of any Army general in recent decades. He was "absolutely in it for whatever was best for Wes," Shelton says. (373) "For a smart guy he said some pretty dumb things," (383) he adds — at least until Defense Secretary William Cohen called Clark and ordered him, Shelton says, to "get your fucking face off the TV. No more briefings, period." (384)
Another target is Tommy R. Franks, who after becoming a four-star general, Shelton says, "developed a hell of an ego," (447) and then, after the invasion of Afghanistan, became even more "isolated and cocky." (482)
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s memoirs also are being released. Doesn’t look so revelatory. "One of my favorite songs is Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog," she confesses. (You know — "Hey hey mama said the way you move, / Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove.") Nothing about whether Cheney is the devil.