John McCain is nothing if not ambitious. Born into the upper echelon of U.S. Naval society with both a grandfather and a father who made the rank of admiral. McCain was born to the destiny of that legacy. He was going to be a career navy man from the first breath he took.

Average grades and mediocre placement scores did not keep him out of the U.S. Naval Academy. While others are nominated to the midshipman program, based on academics and other criteria, there is no evidence that McCain was held to any standard other than his birthright.

McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 in 1958. That didn’t keep him from becoming a naval pilot, whereupon he crashed two planes, had another destroyed by fire on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal, and of course was shot down in a rather ignoble and truncated flight career.

Held captive for five and half years, along with several hundred other Americans in North Vietnam, he probably performed no more nor less bravely than his fellow POWs, some of whom were held far longer than McCain. Most of what we know about McCain’s years at the hands of the North Vietnamese comes primarily from the words of McCain himself.

There are alternative stories out there from other POWs who were held with McCain during those years, and these can be found rather easily on the internet. These alternative perspectives and remembrances make for interesting reading and speculation, but are probably no more verifiable than are McCain’s own stories. Suffice it to say that most Americans view McCain as a hero and accept his tales of captivity as genuine.

All of this said, I believe that John McCain just sullied his hero image beyond repair by hiring Republican smear tactician and political trickster, Tucker Eskew. Eskew, head of the Bush campaign in South Carolina in 2000, was one of the architects of the anti-McCain smears during those primaries.

The slurs against McCain included the charges that he had fathered two illegitimate black children, that he was a closet homosexual, and that his wife was a drug addict. They also spread stories that McCain was unhinged mentally from his time as a prisoner of war and would be too unstable to have his finger on the nuclear button.

The McCain family was deeply hurt by those attacks, particularly Cindy McCain who was then struggling with overcoming an addiction to prescription pain medications, and the McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh, Bridget, whose dark skin may have fueled the smear pertaining to McCain’s black children. Those smears were difficult to overcome, even in the ensuing eight years, and may have left permanent scars on those innocents who were dragged through the political mud.

McCain has now hired Eskew, as I noted above, presumably paying him a large sum of money. One might speculate, based on Eskew’s previous experience, that he was brought on board to smear Obama. Maybe to start the rumors that Obama has fathered two black daughters.

Oh right. That trick wouldn’t work this time.

Actually Eskew was brought on board the “Straight Talk Express” in order to prepare and coach Sarah Palin through the election season. Eskew wrote, or helped to write, Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention. Eskew is readying her for the Vice Presidential debate in October, and helping her through the minefield of policy positions not previously on Palin’s radar screen in the hinterlands of Alaskan politics.

John McCain wants to be president so badly that he would hire and work with one of the prime architects of the slime that was thrown on him and his family. What kind of man could do this? Not a hero. Not a champion of what is right. Not a maverick. Not a man who loves his wife and children. Not a man who has one scintilla of pride, courage, or morality.

If nothing else has told me who John McCain really is, the hiring of Tucker Eskew tells me all I need to know.

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