- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. 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.
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |