The New York Times' front-page story about McCain declining promotion to admiral lacks credibility for other reasons as well. For example, McCain had been promoted to captain on August 1, 1979, so he wouldn't have been due for another promotion by March of 1981.
Retired Admiral Peter Booth, who was promoted to rear admiral in 1981, flatly disputes Lehman's claim about McCain. "No, John McCain was not selected for flag rank, for admiral. With all due respect, I think I was selected that same year, and I have never heard anything even remotely like that. To begin with, John Lehman did not select Navy flag officers. That was done with a very august selection board headed by a four-star admiral. The Secretary of the Navy does not appoint. He is in the approval chain, but he is not on the committee.
"I have never heard a story, even remotely, that John McCain was going to be a flag officer. I was early selected for captain, in 1976, and I was regular selected for admiral in 1981. So it's probably five or six years, I guess. I've never heard of anybody being selected for flag rank within three or four years of making captain, ever."
Is McCain now getting away with more by hiding his official history and by having his national security adviser inflate McCain's resume with a bogus promotion to admiral humbly declined? If so, McCain may be attempting to hide why the Navy was in fact slow to promote him upwards despite his suffering as a POW and his distinguished naval heritage.
One possible reason: After McCain had returned from Vietnam as a war hero and was physically rehabilitated, he was urged by his medical caretakers and military colleagues never to fly again. But McCain insisted on going up. As Carl Bernstein reported in Vanity Fair, he piloted an ultra-light, single propeller plane -- and crashed another time. His fifth loss of a plane has vanished from public records, but should be a subject of discussion in his Navy file. It wouldn't be surprising if his naval superiors worried that McCain was just too defiant, too reckless and too crash prone.
Regardless, McCain owes it to the country to release his complete naval records so that American voters can see his documented history and make an informed decision.