Thursday, November 30, 2006

AF Gen. Tony McPeak Arrested For DUII

This story is notable more for who it happened to in a political context, rather than the simple details of the case, which are these: On November 15, a couple minutes before midnight, Lake Oswego Police pulled over retired Air Force General Merrill Anthony (Tony) McPeak in his silver Acura, on suspicion of DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants). Despite limited public information available (and owing to two unreturned phone calls to McPeak's home and office), it seems clear that McPeak failed field sobriety test(s), as he was formally arrested and lodged for a time in Clackamas County Jail. The county DA's office has received the case paperwork from Lake O, and is currently screening the file for further potential legal action.

As the Wikipedia entry above details, McPeak is a notable figure in recent Air Force history, having risen to the rank of Chief of Staff and even interim Secretary of the Air Force under the Clinton administration, before retiring in 1994. He began as CoS during the runup to the first Gulf War, helping to plan the Air Force's part of the invasion, and then working to dismantle portions of the service during the "peace dividend" years following the end of the Cold War. McPeak is also a veteran of the Vietnam War, flying over 260 missions in country before rotating out in 1970. Prior to that, he was a member of the Thunderbirds aviation acrobatics team during the 1960s.

Personally speaking, McPeak has long ties to Oregon, graduating from Union High in Grants Pass, and settling in Lake Oswego after retirement with his wife Ellie, who is now a member of LO's City Council. But it was his departure from typical military neutrality on politics that drew national attention in 2000, as he and other high ranking military officers declared their endorsement for George Bush the Junior. And as the policies of Bush's administration devolved into the clusterfuck we're now faced with, McPeak changed his mind and went about as far away from Bush as you could imagine, opting to back Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination.

Following Dean's flameout, McPeak shifted loyalties once again to fellow Vietnam vet John Kerry, and that's when his name surfaced again in the wake of the Swift Boat attacks. After dithering about whether to diginify the attacks with a response, Kerry finally enlisted Oregonians McPeak and Jim Rassman for support. McPeak filmed a commercial for Kerry in response to the attacks:
McPeak, who lives in Lake Oswego, said that Kerry has a “real strategy to make America safer” and would be a better leader than President Bush.

The Democratic ad starts airing today on national cable networks and local media markets in states the Democratic National Committee thinks are competitive. The independent expenditure arm of the DNC is paying for the ad but by law cannot coordinate such actions with the Kerry campaign.

In the ad, which was filmed Thursday, McPeak says that he endorsed Bush in 2000 but is backing Kerry now.

“Nothing is more important to me than protecting America,” says McPeak, a fighter pilot in Vietnam who rose to leadership in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. “John Kerry has the strength and common sense we need in a commander in chief.”

McPeak said he broke with the president regarding the war in Iraq.

“What I’m against is amateur hour (in Iraq) — the sloppiness in the postwar phase,” he said

The ad marks the Republican-turned-independent’s latest effort to help elect Kerry. He became a member of a Kerry “truth squad” earlier this month that will shadow the Bush campaign and challenge its claims from the Republican National Convention, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, through Election Day, Nov. 2.

Ellen Moran, who is overseeing the DNC ad, denied that the McPeak ad was a response to attacks on Kerry’s character and Vietnam War record by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
McPeak also joined Rassman and other veterans on stage at the Democratic Convention in 2004, backing Kerry and hoping to rally other veterans and military voters to his cause. Efficaciousness aside, McPeak played a central role in the effort to boost Kerry's standing and save his political cheese from Rove's attacks.

Should the Clackamas DA opt for a formal charge in the case, this primer by an Oregon DUII defense attorney suggests that (assuming this is McPeak's first offense) the former general may escape serious punishment if he completes a DUI Diversion course, which would ultimately lead to dismissal of the charges. No other plea bargains or charge reductions are possible however, and McPeak's license has likely been administratively suspended for 90 days pending the outcome of the case (it's not clear to me whether applying for diversion lets you keep your license or not).

This is no earth-shattering story, but I did find it curious that the arrest notice seems to have appeared only in the Lake Oswego weekly Review on Nov 22, as part of the regular (and regularly hilarious) police blotter section, which is unfortunately not reproduced online. Lake O Police confirm that a copy was also sent to the Oregonian, and I find no record of their mentioning it (although I was not exhaustive in my search).

As I said, this shouldn't bump the war off the front pages, but it IS notable for a semi-public figure like the 70-year-old McPeak to be arrested for drunk driving, and should be worth SOME kind of mention, shouldn't it? When I contacted the Review's police reporter Lee Van Der Voo, she admitted that she felt it was newsworthy, but "there simply was no time" to write up a proper article given other stories being worked on. When I asked whether the arrest would be noted more prominently in today's edition, she said "Now that's a good question!" If they ran it, they did it quietly; I can't find any mention of it online. So consider this our public service to the MSM, covering the stories they don't have time for...