October 16, 2008

A Call for Some Admiral Restraint

Hatched by Dafydd

This is really apropos nothing, though it's yet another example of conservatives adopting the destructive, anti-Republican memes of the elitist Left; but it has annoyed me for months now... and I insist that it cease. Immediately. That is an order!

The latest miscreant is Ace of Spades, of all people:

If I had to guess... John McCain has always been fairly well-off. The son of an admiral isn't hurting.

This is especially galling, as Ace of Spades HQ is generally considered a milblog site (even worse, despite getting more hits per day than we get in two months, he doesn't link to Big Lizards). I have no idea whether "Ace" himself is a vet, since I don't even know who he is; still, he should know better.

But Ace isn't the first, of course; hundreds, probably thousands of negative stories have referred to John S. McCain the same way: having grown up as "the son of an admiral." The impression is clear: McCain is a rich, privileged scion of wealth and power, sort of like William F. Buckley, jr., without the vocabulary. His father was the little guy in the Monopoly game, with the top hat, cutaway coat, and spats. McCain grew up in a whirlwind of mansions, cotillions, and coming-out parties (I mean for 16 year old girls, not 40-something year old men tired of "living a lie")... so what the heck can he know about regular folks like us?

[Typically typed by "regular folk" liberals who believe in redistribution of wealth (other than their own), same-sex (and polyamorous) marriage, socialized medicine for the peons (not them), ultraviolence in TV shows and movies (shown on HBO at 7:00 pm), progressive sex education (for kindergartners), abortion for any reason (or no reason) anywhere up through the fourth trimester, hate-speech codes (for Republicans), and the basic decency and goodness of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Oogo Chavez, Bashar Assad, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad (P and E), and Jimmy Carter. Sadly, some "regular folk" conservatives have jumped aboard the bandwagon as well.]

My friends, let's get one thing straight:

John McCain did not grow up as "the son of an admiral," for God's sake.

John Sidney McCain III -- the current senator and presidential candidate -- is the son of John Sidney McCain, jr., naturally enough. And it is indeed true that McCain jr. became a four-star admiral (which rank is simply called "admiral")... but not until 1967, when Sen. McCain was 31 years old!

In fact, Adm. McCain didn't even make rear admiral until 1958, the year that Sen. McCain graduated from Annapolis and was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy... thus out on his own, in flight training at NAS Pensacola, drawing (and living on) his own meager salary. (That rank is typically divided into two: rear admiral lower half (a.k.a. commodore) and rear admiral upper half; judging from the time factor, I believe 1958 was when Adm. McCain was promoted to rear admiral lower half.)

At the time Sen. McCain was born (not yet a senator) in 1936, his father was -- wait for it -- a lieutenant (O-3) in the U.S. Navy, assigned, as we all know now, to the Panama Canal Zone. I don't know when exactly Adm. McCain became a lieutenant commander (O-4), the next step up the food chain; but in the normal progression, that would be about 1939. We know that he was already Lt.Cdr. McCain at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th,1941; but a lieutenant commander is still considered a junior officer rank, or "company grade."

He made O-5 commander -- the first indisputably mid-level officer rank ("field grade") -- in 1946, when Sen. McCain was ten, and O-6 captain four years later. Eight years after that, he finally became O-7 Rear Admiral John S. McCain, jr., when Sen. McCain was 22.

So that's when the McCains became rich, privileged fat cats, no? Yeah, right. Here is the salary breakdown of the military today; and bear in mind, we pay our officers comparatively more now than back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, when Sen. McCain was growing up (this table is entirely in 2008 dollars, of course; the "years" is how many Adm. McCain had actually served by the time he was promoted to that rank):


Current submarine officer pay
Rank and years Base pay Sub pay Annual
Ensign (0 years) 2,555.70 230 $33,428
Lieutenant j.g. (2 years) 3,353.10 305 $43,897
Lieutenant (4 years) 4,545.60 510 $60,667
Lt. Commander (8 years) 5,428.20 705 $73,598
Commander (15 years) 6,596.40 790 $88,637
Captain (19 years) 8,075.10 835 $106,921
Rear Admiral lower (27 years) 10,647.90 355 $132,035
Vice Admiral (32 years) 13,911.90 355 $171,203
Admiral (36 years) 16,555.50 355 $202,926


Note that consistently, at every paygrade, military officers make less money than corresponding professionals in civilian fields -- engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects... even schoolteachers make more money, bearing in mind that the later ranks correspond to vice principal, principal, district supervisor, and so forth.

Here is another way of looking at it: The moment that Barack H. Obama was sworn into the United States Senate, he personally -- not even counting Michelle Obama's hefty salary -- was making more money (in constant dollars) than McCain's father would have made until he was at least a vice admiral, when McCain was 27 years old... and possibly more than Adm. McCain would have made in his entire military career, considering that we didn't use to pay the military as well as we do today.

Not exactly white tie and spats, is it? At best, all we can say is that the McCains were low middle-income -- and would have done better financially in almost any other profession. You don't get rich soldiering or sailoring.

There are some other advantages; base housing or a housing allowance, for example. But there is one very huge disadvantage: The husband/father or wife/mother is absent for very long periods of time during the children's most formative years.

So can we please knock off the "son of an admiral" slam against Sen. John S. McCain? It's not only increasingly irritating, it's foolish. And I'm surprised that some very smart conservatives have fallen for yet another Democratic talking point.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 16, 2008, at the time of 1:13 PM

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The following hissed in response by: antimedia

Conservatives have been falling for all sorts of media memes this year; the race is over, McCain has lost, McCain needs a homerun to win the third debate, bringing up Ayers is a losing proposition, going "negative" will cost McCain votes, etc., etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

It's nothing new. It's somewhat understandable, because the media is indoctrinating you 24/7. You'd think conservative bloggers would know better. You'd be wrong.

The above hissed in response by: antimedia [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 16, 2008 6:41 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E


I wasn’t aware of the controversy. Guess I don’t get out much.

To me it just seems self-evident that you don’t become a career military officer in order to get rich. I don’t know what Ace and the others are thinking. Thanks for providing all the evidence that should be necessary to drive a stake through that one.

[BTW, a minor nit to pick: O-4 is a field grade rank. (See the DOD web page.) Something I didn’t know: The Navy calls its ranks junior grade (O-1 through O-3), mid-grade (O-4 through O-6) and flag (O-7 and higher).]

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 16, 2008 11:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Hal

For what it's worth, Ace isn't military (although I can't say for certain he wasn't a military kid). I'm pretty certain he's a lawyer by training and now a full-time blogger.

The above hissed in response by: Hal [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2008 4:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: Jay Tea

Um... Dafydd, you might want to expand your exploration of Senator McCain's genealogy. His grandfather, the original John Sidney McCain, achieved flag rank in 1941, was a genuine war hero and great commander, ended the war with three stars, dropped dead four days later, and was given his fourth star posthumously.


By the time Senator McCain entered Annapolis, he was the grandfather of a Navy legend AND the son of a Captain. In fact, there was a brand-new destroyer just in the fleet (DD-928/DL-3/DDG-36) named for his grandfather.

No, it didn't get him much play outside the Navy, and certainly no economic benefits, but inside the Navy McCain was certainly royalty -- a Prince Hal, as it were, with very little noblesse oblige, but royalty nonetheless.

This could also explain his relatinship with Ted Kennedy, who I have always thought of as the Falstaff of American politics...


The above hissed in response by: Jay Tea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2008 7:52 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 10/17/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2008 8:28 AM

The following hissed in response by: Karmi

Ace should know better.

The above hissed in response by: Karmi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2008 12:10 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Jay Tea:

I'm well aware of the lineage; but that's not the point, is it? The point of the attack on McCain is that he is somehow "out of touch" with ordinary people because he grew up as the rich, pampered son of wealth and privilege... which is flatly false.

The same argument for John S. McCain, jr. applies to John S. McCain, sr.: Sen. McCain's father did not grow up any wealthier, any higher class, or any more out of touch with the rest of us than the senator himself. McCain jr. was no more "the son of an admiral" than McCain III -- until he was thirty, even older than McCain III, whose father (McCain jr.) achieved flag rank when McCain III was 22.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2008 1:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Davis

Mc Cain is out of touch with ordinary people. He has lived at the government's teat his entire life. He nor his father have ever worried about putting a roof over their family's head. That's not in touch with ordinary people. They have also had to decide to launch bombing raids that might hit their son spending 5 years in a POW camp. Also not ordinary.

McCain's great grand-father was a Mississippi plantation owner, and his great-great-grand-father a slave owner. I doubt any of the McCains have been hurting financially in a long time. Neither did any of the Roosevelts. Or the Kennedys.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Davis [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2008 2:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: Jay Tea

Dafydd, I almost always agree with you, but I do have to quibble with you just a little. For 27 years (1954-1981) he lived in a world pretty much apart from mainstream society and where he was, by their definition, "royalty" -- first the grandson of an admiral and war hero, then the son and grandson of admirals and war heroes, then a war hero himself on top of it all.

I still agree with your thesis that he hardly qualifies as an "elite" or "privileged" in society, but it does tend to chip away at any perception of "the common man" experience.

I don't happen to think that is any kind of detraction or slight on the guy. He's an extraordinary man with an extraordinary life, and we are better as a nation for having had his service. (Remember the infamous "letter from Denmark?" "We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an election. On one side, you have a lawyer who is married to a lawyer, and a lawyer who is married to a lawyer. On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a blonde with a huge chest who owns a beer distributorship. Is there a contest here?") And I think he has more empathy for "the common man" than his rival, but that is more from his character than his life experiences.


The above hissed in response by: Jay Tea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2008 2:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Jay Tea:

The services -- all of them -- are filled to the brim with "common men" (and women)... both in the enlisted and officer ranks. Contrast military service with time served in elite, eastern universities, in Harvard Law School, and in state and national politics: Now that's out of touch with ordinary Americans!

I don't think you understand just how normal and ordinary is military life, except during those brief moments of actual combat. "Royalty" or not -- and bear in mind, McCain received many, many demerits at the Naval Academy (as did his father), so he was hardly treated like a prince -- McCain had to do everything that every other ensign, j.g., or lieutenant had to do... all the crap CDO watches in the middle of the night, reams of useless paperwork, management seminars that require toothpicks to keep your eyelids open (like Fred Flintstone), inspections, inspections, inspections, taking boatloads of garbage from the X, moments of sheer terror when you cannot find one of your enlisted guys, and you know he's either sacked out somewhere behind some machinery when he's supposed to be on watch -- or he managed to find a rail and tumble over it into the sea...

This is all stuff that's familiar to every other professional in every other profession (well, except for the "falling into the sea" part) -- but is completely alien to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, neither of whom ever held any normal type work-a-day job, except perhaps for working in a McDonalds or a Mann theater during high school summer break.

McCain's military career means he is far more in touch with ordinary people than nearly all of his Senate colleagues, because he spent years in a job with a boss, being yelled at, being held accountable, and having to make tough decisions that actually affect other people's lives.

The Democratic nominees never have.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2008 4:56 AM

The following hissed in response by: Greg Marquez

I'm kind of interested that you chose Submarine officer pay. My son, a plebe at the Naval Academy, assures me that sub officers are the best paid navy officers as they receive some type of hazardous duty pay.

From the little experience we have the children of the admirals are not treated as princes but the exact opposite. No doubt, as in every area of life, it helps to have connections but in this particular area it also makes you a target.

The above hissed in response by: Greg Marquez [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2008 9:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Greg Marquez:

I'm kind of interested that you chose Submarine officer pay. My son, a plebe at the Naval Academy, assures me that sub officers are the best paid navy officers as they receive some type of hazardous duty pay.

I didn't pick it; John Sidney McCain, jr. -- father of the current Sen. John McCain -- picked it; he was a submariner who became a four-star admiral.

(Junior tried to get into flight school to become a nasal radiator, as was his father -- John Sidney McCain, sr., of course -- but he didn't make it in; I don't know, maybe he had less than perfect vision. McCain III -- the current senator and possibly future president -- did qualify, of course, and served ably and honorably as a Navy pilot; but he never became an admiral, as did his father and grandfather. So it goes.)

Therefore, when I calculated how much officers were paid (actually, what they're paid today), I included submariner pay... albeit at today's rate, which is probably higher, even taking inflation into account, than in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. I didn't want anyone to accuse me of lowballing the McCains' income.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2008 2:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: Carbonel

Yes, I know that "anecdote is not evidence," but allow me to offer this "daughter of an admiral" insight. When my father was still a captain we were living so high off the hog that my mom had to make our own clothes to save money. I don't know how "royal," dad was within the Navy (he did, after all, go on to make admiral) but in high school I was mercilessly taunted for my home-made pants. When dad did reach flag rank, I remember getting to go the the Exchange and buy jeans! Kewl! For the first time.

"Admiral's son" = "out of touch fat cat" my left foot.

I also remember the wondrous joys of universal government military health care for dependents: No way I'll ever vote for someone who promises to force me into that again.

The above hissed in response by: Carbonel [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2008 10:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: TerryeL


Oh please, I had relatives who fought on both sides of the civil war too. So why bring plantation owners into this?

As for being on the public teat, Biden was US Senator when McCain was in a POW camp in Viet Nam. And Obama has been sucking up to government one way or another his whole career. Even when he was supposedly working for a law firm for a couple of years he was representing groups like ACORN. He makes more money than McCain and Palin and Biden combined.

The above hissed in response by: TerryeL [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2008 11:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: Xpressions

I believe both candidates would be fine during the financial crisis. That however, is not the question at hand. The question is what do the Lefty Illuminati propose happens to us that won't be fine? They give these socialist ideas, but that doesn't help, it creates more crisis.

The above hissed in response by: Xpressions [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 20, 2008 7:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: Xpressions

We must be fair, because the Ivy-League Illuminati politicians aren't hurting either. You can't say that one is well off, when they both are. With that being said, let's look at the socialist attack the left-wing want to take. They are well off, but want us to pay and share our wealth. Will they share their wealth, they are the ones who are well off?

The above hissed in response by: Xpressions [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2008 7:04 AM

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