For all of the compromises John McCain has been willing to make in his pursuit of the White House, there's been one principle he's resolutely stuck by: He has not used his two sons' military service--one son, Jimmy, is a Marine who's done a tour in Iraq; another son, Jack, at the Naval Academ--for political purposes. As recently as last week, in his "prickly" interview with Time--an interview that revealed just how much McCain has changed--he refused to yield on that point:
Q: A lot of people know about your service from your books, but most people don't know that you have two sons currently in the military. Can you describe what it means to have Jack and Jimmy in uniform?
A: We don't discuss our sons.
But last night, in his speech to the convention, Fred Thompson did what McCain hasn't done, discussing Jimmy and Jack:
As I speak, John and Cindy McCain have one son who's just finished his first tour in Iraq and another son -- (cheers, applause) -- going back for his second one on Christmas Day, I understand. (Applause.) And another -- and another son who's putting his country first and attending the Naval Academy. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, granted, there's nothing necessarily wrong--or even unusual--about a politician making political use of a family member's military service. Al Gore Senior did it with Al Gore Junior, cutting a commercial for his 1970 Senate campaign with Al Junior in his Army uniform about to head to Vietnam. Jim Webb wore his Marine son's combat boots throughout his '06 Senate campaign. And, in the current presidential race, both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin have both spoken about their sons' scheduled deployments to Iraq this fall.
Which made it all the more impressive that McCain refused to do the same. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that his refusal was actually honorable. That he has now evidently sanctioned the political use of Jack and Jimmy's service--if not by himself, then by his surrogates--is sadly consistent with the rest of his campaign.