tv Book Discussion CSPAN November 29, 2014 10:16am-11:01am EST
next on booktv senator john mccain recounting america's armed conflict through the eyes of 13 soldiers which he profiles joseph flom martin, a 15-year-old soldier in the revolutionary war, army reservist mary rode to serve in the persian gulf war and michael munson war, navy seal in iraq and many of his. he speaks at the national press club in washington d.c. for 45 minutes. >> senator john mccain, you know about him. i will tell you a little bit, served in the u.s. navy from 1964 to 1981, he was elected to the u.s. house of representatives from arizona in 1982 and the senate in 1986. he was republican presidential candidate in 2008, now serving his fifth term in the senate.
myron belkind is at 107th president of the national press club. the trochlear 2 year career with the associated press and he has covered many world leaders. he received his b.a. in 1961 from ohio state university and an m s with high honors in 62 from columbia university, graduate school of journalism where he won a pulitzer traveling fellowship. when he retired in 2004, myron solyndra national press club, assumed leadership of the national correspondence committee, he worked to expand the club's international activities and attract more members from the international media, international organizations and diplomatic missions in washington d.c.. also in that year he began his
second career as professorial instructor at george washington university. as far as the rest of it, i am going to leave this up to mr. myron belkind. you can tell by his journalistic background that he is going to do a great job with senator mccain and ask some pertinent questions about the book. we will talk to you later for the q&a. it is all yours. [applause] >> senator mccain, i am honored to welcome you on this veterans day. in my capacity as the club at 107th president of the fresco -- >> at least you were president of something. [applause] >> my classmate at buchanan made
a similar remark. i am also honored to welcome you as a member of the national press club american legion post 20. your book, published today, i want to acknowledge, your co-author, and in the back. [applause] >> senator mccain, your book published today appropriately on veterans day profiles 13 soldiers from 13 wars from the revolutionary war to iraq. among all the millions who served in the military, how did you select those 13 to be the subjects representing each war. and could i just say thank you
to the press club for hosting this event, and slept like a baby boy, sleep two hours, wake up and cry. and not only to have my co-author and the hardest working of our partnership, and mary rode and her daughter samantha are here, the experience in the gulf war, and thank you for your service to our country. [applause] >> put your finger on the hardest parts because we tried to portray values and virtues
different individuals had in different conflicts, different times, and to try to put this in context to some degree in the conflict in which they fought. for example joseph, joseph plum martin, our first subject, 15 years old, joined the connecticut militia, went back in the army, the continental army, nearly starved to death, wrote many years later biography of this experience is remarkable. these soldiers went without eating for days. they were subject to privations, much less going against what at that time was the best professional army in the world, the british army and a couple times things were so bad they almost mutinied and he wrote about it later on, waited 30
years before he got a pension. he was of his time and the last one, monsour, navy seal, highly trained, highly capable, highly motivated to the point where he sacrificed his life to save the life of his fellow seal members. the distance between those two is quite remarkable and of course then we have monica lynn browne, who is the mannequin in the afghan conflict. when you read her story of how not only her courage but her capabilities and in our civil war, 20% of the casualties of anybody who is wounded actually lived. now thanks to what we do now, 90% of those who are wounded are saved. when you read of the training,
the capabilities, the equipment the medics carry with them, they carry everything but a weapon. she rushed in, one of the reasons we talk about her is it should dispense with any arguments about whether women are engaged in fighting combat or not. the argument should be over. young women today -- i guess -- sorry for giving you a long and to but that is one of the difficult parts, you want to portray people in the context of their times and their particular virtues they display in a way -- a couple of our people are scoundrels and some of these are not the most model citizens to say the least. at the moment of time they
performed and that is what we say here. >> senator mccain revealed a few minutes ago we were honored to have with us today sergeant mary rhodes. an army reservist in the fourteenth quartermaster the attachment from western pennsylvania. i know it might be hard, where did she choose her to be the subject of the one soldier profiled in the persian gulf war. >> part of the concept is a large standing army, the large standing army is all volunteers, got smaller and smaller. and the guy in reserve, years ago i will be honest with you, the guard with the kind of people, a fire or flood or
something, they were called out and direct traffic and that kind of thing. today our guard reservists do everything that our regular military army, marine, air force and navy do, and better in some respects. i think you would agree, flying see 130s around as the guy does, trained and ready to go. reservists heard the call, she answered the call and of course saw a very tragic event which frankly she thinks about every day. every single day. yet here was an ordinary citizen, pa. ordinary life. she went to a far off land and cradled her dear friends after it they were killed in an attack. one of the things we are trying to point out is that we now have
a lot of citizens soldiers who respond to the call. to me, mary e. epitomized that part of our society. but the way, our vietnam veterans were not well treated when they came home. that is a fact which are pows were the only ones who were treated as heroes. i am so pleased today to see all over america the honor we be so on our men and women who are serving, and most uplifting, one of the happiest days we ever had for me. women who are serving and have served. >> and the chapter on the coals and good as the persian gulf war. that occasioned the largest
single the plymouth of women to a combat zone in american military and the history. 13 of them will be killed as you point out. my question is when you graduated from the u.s. naval academy in 1958 did you ever envision that women would in your lifetime play such an active role including combat in the u.s. military. did you initially favor that development and did you feel there was any need for restrictions today placed on the way women serve in the u.s. military? >> in answer to your question, no and no. when i graduated i obviously did not have that. in world war ii, there was the much greater service than women are given credit for in world war ii whether it is rosy the rivet oral the women's army corps.
we call them by different names and it was great service including the nursing corps but i don't think women ever got the credit they did for their service in world war ii, but now there are certain standards we expect everybody to meet, male and female, gender neutral, as they meet those standards, as they serve. i have run into some really capable professional women that rose to positions of come and. hour number 2 member of the united states navy, second vice chief of naval operations is a woman. very proud of that. they command squadrons and command ships, i think the argument is over to be honest with you. is done and it should be done. there was time in our history
when women had a different role in our society and now saying god they have as far as i can tell an equal role in our society said they should have equal opportunity to serve. >> turned to vietnam where you flew combat missions until you were shot down in october of 1967, captured by the north vietnamese and held as a prisoner of war until 1973. i know many persons, someone else was the author of 13 soldiers you would be the service man selected to be profiled as a soldier representing vietnam. for that reason you chose the pilot, the recipient of the medal of honor. and dozens of other pows to give us a perspective of the valor
throughout the book, why was leo so special? >> he was a special friend. he received the congressional medal of honor for what happened on up combat mission weeks before he was shot down and became a prisoner. i try to make this as short as possible, but the most heavily defended air space in history was the air space over north vietnam. there were literally tens of thousands of anti-aircraft guns, thousands of surface to air missiles, they also made aircraft at various bases that would come out on vacation. they didn't come out of time because they couldn't match up to ours but they were a constant threat. unfortunately we watched those being offloaded from a russian
freighter taken off and take up by truck and put in place and we were not allowed to strike that they were fired at us. don't ask me to explain that. >> 50 years later those restrictions still hurt. >> makes in the we lost so many good men, some of them we could have destroyed begot -- before we got to their placement. surface-to-air missile sites we have strong evidence were run by russians, not by the vietnamese. and the pilots we found out were most likely russians. in order to counter these very significant threats of surface to air missiles they had a group that would go in early to try to track and attack the surface to air missile sites in the area where the main attacks were
going to come in. they were before the main body came in and stayed until afterwards. it long story as short as possible, he came in with his wingman, the wind and was shot down and we had ways of rescuing pilots. we could send and propeller driven planes to sort of security area so helicopters could come in and pick them up. spent his time trying to protect the area where the plane went down, came back, was attacked by amide, shot down two megs, circled some more, more missiles fired at him, went back for another refueling and then came back again. remember he could have gone, left the first time. they were shot at, surface to air missiles were fired, they kept circling over where the two pilots came from the obvious shoot down. one of the aircraft the guy got
lost so they had to die him back to the tanker. he had no fuel left and to make a long story short he glided in to the base in thailand and as soon as the wheels touched down on the runway the engine stopped because he was out of fuel. one of these incredible stories of aviation skills and heroism. why is it valor? he was doing that because of the loss of his friends to try to help his friends on the ground so it was a combination of bravery, commitment, love called all of those that make up the real definition of the word valor. then, sorry to say a few weeks later leo was shot down and i ended up in this same cell with him many years later when the vietnamese put us all to get there but i tell you he was a wonderful man and remains an
inspiration to me. >> senator. [applause] >> senator. i wanted to turn to chapter 4 in the civil war, when your subject is oliver wendell holmes jr. who rose from first lieutenant to capt. as i member of the 20th massachusetts volunteers, who would go on to become one of the most eminent jurists in our country's history, serving the massachusetts supreme court and as u.s. supreme court justice for 30 years from 1902 to 1932. one of the most moving passages in your book was when you wrote of the memorial day address when he recalled the ones column friends from the civil war, holmes when john to refer to all
those who fought in that war, how these men had been transformed by war and by the suffering and loss that attended the transformation. recall it, quote, our great good fortune that in our youth, our hearts were touched with fire. it was given to us to learn at the outset that wife is a profound and passionate thing. that was oliver wendell holmes jr.. what says senator john mccain of how war transformed your life and how the experiences in vietnam shaped your life thereafter including as a united states senator since 1987? >> could i say a couple words about oliver wendell holmes? there was the regiment they called the harvard regiment and graduates of harvard but also some german speaking immigrants
were all put in this regiment together and they fought in some of the bloodiest encounters of the civil war. casualty rates were very high. he was wounded in the neck. you can imagine what that would have been like and he was missing on the battlefield. his father who was a famous author in those days, oliver wendell holmes sr. walked the battlefield searching for his son. and believed that he was dead and caught up with him later on. remarkable story. and he continued to fight in these battles. they took incredibly high casualties. we look back at all the conflicts the united states has been involved in and the bloodiest of all was our own civil war, brother against brother, family against family,
remarkable when you think it may have been necessary to figure out what kind of nation we were really going to be, it was a huge and terrible cost. oliver wendell holmes causes the butcher's's price to be paid. he was a remarkable man and he was forever changed. he left as an idealistic crusading young man and the realities of war transformed him into a realist but he never forgot and gave speeches-memorial days and all his days as a jurist he would bring his lunch to work in an ammunition box to remind himself of what he and his comrades had undergone. in answer to your question, it
is hard to define exactly what that experience did to me or for me. first of all the obvious. when you spend five years in captivity, you cherish freedom, you can imagine how much i appreciate every day of freedom and that has not diminished in any way in many years since. also i was blessed to serve in the company of heroes. i was blessed to serve with men who were senior to me, who led us, tried to keep us from communicating with each other which is why i spent three years in solitary confinement because they knew if we could communicate we could organize. that is what we were all about so we were able to overcome them by tapping on the walls and communicating with one another and i was led by men that were just outstanding leaders. they made us capable of doing things that we otherwise would
have been able to do because of their motivation and leadership. when i would go to interrogation, what they wanted from us, the vietnamese, was confessions of war crimes that they could use for propaganda. military information was nothing. confessed crimes, to attack our country, for the unjust war, that kind of thing. i knew when i came back from that interrogation i would cap on the wall and get the information to my senior ranking officer and i wanted my senior ranking officer to know that i had done whatever i could to resist these efforts and so you'll forge a bond. i remembered capping on one wall for one guy for two years and he was moved out. i never saw what he looked like until three years later. he was nothing that i had
imagined. didn't look anything like. love of my comrades who still call me literally every day, why did you give that speech? why don't you vote this way? i get a lot of constructive criticism from my fellow powss. that is one of the real take aways as we say from my experience there and also because of vietnamese, a couple times, one time, broke me and i signed a confession. i found out i was not a perfect person. >> we have one or two more questions i will ask the senator but those who filled out cards please hand them in and we will try to ask as many as we can.
normally when a political leader writes a book, the first is they are running for president. i think it is safe to say that wasn't the intent of this book. but i would like to ask a political question from 2014. one week ago today the republicans won control of the u.s. senate giving your party full control of congress. with an enhanced majority in the house. how optimistic are you that the gridlock of the past will be transformed into a new era of bipartisanship including on key issues such as immigration and what role do you plan to play as chair of the senate armed services committee? >> we are committed to going back to the, quote, regular order, bringing amendments, debate and votes and we have
committed to that. one of the reasons i am optimistic that we will do that in any effective way is because now is up to us to govern. i can to blame harry reid anymore. i love to blame harry reid but i am not going to be able to do that anymore. what we have to do if we have a chance to a lesser republican president in 2016 is to show americans that we can govern. there is significant motivation for doing so. i think that there are certain members across the aisle that i and others have had good relationships for a long time. the senate armed services committee we have always been a very bipartisan. jack reed, my beloved friend, carl levin is leaving, and leaving rhode island, is going to be the ranking member and
except for his education at west point he is a very fine man and we will get along fine. the rest of the question was -- >> what role the plan to play in the senate armed services committee? >> we are in sequestration which is decimating, harming our military very bad the. we have to change that but we also have to do two things. understand the challenge we are facing and have a strategies that shapes the budget and not a budget that shapes the strategy. that sounds fairly easy. we need to do that. the second thing is we need to have hearings because right now i say with all respect does anybody here know what the strategy is? the president has said the goal is to degrade and defeat isis.
does anybody here know what the strategy is to achieve that goal? we have to have hearings, we have to call them up, we have to say what we going to do? how are we going to do it? how much is it going to cost? what do you need to do it? i want to work with the president but the president is going to have to give us a strategy that we can help him implement. it is the job of congress to authorize and appropriate. that is our constitutional responsibility. so again i want to work with the president. there are too many things at stake. the isis threat is enormous and i think greater challenge we face since the end of the cold war, maybe since the end of world war ii if you look at it from some perspectives. in the front page of the new york times today, the radical
extremist islamic organization in egypt has now announced their allegiance to isis. this success of isis is breeding success which is attracting young men and some women from all over not just the middle east but also europe and even here in the united states so this is a growing threat and we have to work together. >> we are going to -- thank you for this conversation. the senator chose the format and we were honored to accept his suggestion and thank you again for taking part in the first part of the conversation with senator john mccain. we open it to the audience and i see i was handed a question from a representative of russian television we have here tonight. what is your expectation how
relations between the united states and russia and the u.s. and ukraine will change now that the republicans are in control of congress? >> first of all may i point out to my dear friends here i really covered a large spectrum. year ago i was censored by the arizona republican party for being too liberal. also i was sanctioned by vladimir putin for sanctioned by him after we sanctions russia, he sanctioned me. isis, on their first online periodical said there in any number one in the whole world is john mccain. and then and then, i think he must be in his dotage but a month ago fidel castro gave an interview and said the israeli secret service, john mccain, were responsible for isis.
we pretty well covered a broad spectrum of political bases around the world. i am very upset about russian behavior. i am as upset almost by american. we won't give the ukrainians weapons to defend themselves as the russians are dismembering their country. the latest news in the last couple days is more russian tanks and equipment is going into eastern ukraine. it is very obvious vladimir putin wants to take the whole eastern side of ukraine all the way down, a land bridge to crimea. does vladimir putin move over? he is putting enormous pressure on the baltics. in his own words russianand nova, he wants to restore the old russian empire. in my show solidarity, we have got to help particularly the ukrainians who are my friends.
i was in the square with 200,000 people in subfreezing weather where they stood for days because they wanted a free country and free of the government that was in power, and they are unable to achieve that. relations with russia have a great deal to do with the behavior of vladimir putin. >> what is your opinion on the u.s. military's drone program? do you think unmanned weapons are a key part of the future? >> an interesting thing happened a few months ago. a jerome land on aircraft carrier. it was kind of -- when historians look back, a seminal moment. no doubt in my mind that many of the missions that are now conducted by manned aircraft will be conducted by drones. later for 12 hours we will see
the technology get better but there are a lot of other countries developing the same capability by the way. we haven't got the exclusive franchise on it. we will see much greater role for drones and much lesser for manned aircraft. we all know what happens when an american pilot is captured. we know all the repercussions of that. if we can do the job with the drone that can stay on station for 12 hours, then why not? finally, from a moral standpoint, i do have some qualms about thinking somebody sitting behind a consul rains death don't on people. it is something i have little trouble, the dispassionate deep attachment of that kind detachm
warfare makes easy and attractive and it should never be easy and attractive. we could all along time on this issue but it is with this and will be with us in the future but i think also is going to present us with some real questions that i think we are going to have to work our way through. >> we at as a guest at one of our well-known televised lunches the new veterans affairs secretary bob macdonald, he spoke of his intent to move on from the past to deal with staff who are responsible for delays and other issues, but he spoke of his intent to cut down the waiting list to provide services faster and better.
how confident are you that secretary bob macdonald can fulfill his desires? >> he is eminently qualified. second of all, very often, not often that i am embarrassed about my country and even ashamed but when all started at the phoenix hospital, 50 veterans died because they were waiting for care. i can think adequately with a black mark that is on our honor. if there's anybody we owe it is our veterans. i think he is a good man. i hope he doesn't get caught up in the bureaucracy. a lot of us have been impatient at the delay of firing some of these people who were responsible. we gave him the authority and legislation senator sanders and i passed through the senate 93-3. i would like to see more efficiency, a lot of good men and women work in the va but
there's a lot of waste and inefficiency. i would like to see some firings. that gets people's attention. >> we asked him that question last friday and they said they were going through the process. as we both agree we have to wait and see. >> it has always been my belief, this is not shared by every veteran or every veteran's organization. i would like to see every veteran have a card. that is the choice card. veterans should go wherever the veteran wants to to get the care that veteran thinks he or she needs. [applause] >> as we approach the centennial of america's entry into the first world war do you think we will finally get a national
world war i memorial on the wall, our brave world war i soldiers have been overlooked this questioner says? >> interesting that that has been the case because i do study history and from a historical standpoint that war had more impact on the 20th centuries and any other event of the 20th century. the bloody flowering out of the youth of europe, the versailles treaty, the unequal terms imposed on the germans which gave rise to fascism, the bolshevik revolution, go down the list of the impact on the rest of the entire century that are being felt today. the boundaries drawn between iraq, syria, etc. by some british journals. the bloodletting is beyond
anyone's imagination. it staggers the imagination. the first battle the british lost 30,000 killed and wounded in the first day, the numbers overwhelm you. so i think even those the united states came in late in the war and one of the people we write about fog in the battle, the real seminal battle the americans won against the germans, american marines, it is entirely appropriate to be honest with you, not only to honor those who sacrificed but also so that we recognize that conflict was a proportion, still, my imagination does not encompass how terrible that bloodletting was. when i was a very young boy i read the seminal book i think it is called all quiet on the
western front. i recommend it for anybody who is not read it to understand the incredible horror of that war. >> you say in the book is the humility as much as training and courage that makes service people heroes. can you explain how that works? the word humility? >> i was in prison with some individuals who were korean in world war ii veterans and a couple who were aces in the korean war. one trade, i had the honor of meeting some congressional medal of honor winners and genuine heroes and they are all modest individuals, they are all very modest and we have to pry out of them the experience that they had and i think they are humbled, humble men i have met
because they had the kind of character that was willing to qualify someone for the congressional medal of honor. i have always been a little uneasy when i heard veterans bragging about this battle or that battle. everybody is proud of their exploits but it depends how you do it. i think humility is a very important aspect for all of us, whether it be as combat veterans or whatever we do in life. >> i am being told that we extended. we are going to do two more questions. i think the senator has the prerogative to say we will have two more. this is your sixth book starting with the first face of my fathers, is there a next book
coming? >> mark and i have been talking and we have been partners for all these years and most of the credit goes to mark's hard work. i was thinking maybe something in retrospect that we might talk about, presidential campaigns and some of the involvement i have been involved with in the united states senate. so i thought about that, it might be something we should do. >> when it comes out we hope you will have the beginning of the national press club. going back to this book, 13 soldiers, is there a movie or a mini series? as i was saying before we came into the ballroom. >> i think it would have to be a miniseries because of each individual experience. could i say i think all of you for coming tonight. i know the traffic is really
convoluted because of the events indy mall. i appreciate you being here. i appreciate you, we love you and we thank you so much for your wonderful service and again, it has been a great privilege to meet americans like mary and my friend leo that i write about it and many others and i do everyday express' my feelings inside for the wonderful men and women who are serving our country that we honor. after the war as i mentioned, unfortunately, we didn't honor our veterans and that is still kind of an embarrassment to me but i think we have more than made up for it by the way we honor them today. i'm a little by stabbing two sons in the military. i can tell you they are better than my generation was.
>> [applause] >> we have a tradition at the national press club. as a small token of our appreciation we present to our distinguished guests the traditional press club. to not want to begin by presenting the first one to you. send to you, senator mccain. we will always remember veterans day of 2014 with senator john mccain here tonight. thank you so much. i know you will state to sign the books and we can't think you enough for your service and all you do for the country and for