McCain's near miss: What the story didn't say

John McCainUPDATED: The media reports that U.S. Sen. John McCain had a close call with a missile while visiting Georgia, the republic, not the state.

The ministry released a statement Sunday saying a surface-to-air missile was fired from the separatist territory of South Ossetia and that the helicopter was not damaged.

The helicopter was accompanying Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and a delegation of six senators led by McCain. Local6 also missed that Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., was on the flight.

The propaganda arm of the Georgian government said that helicopter carrying the U.S. delegation was not the target. Instead they claimed that an escort helicopter, accompanying a second helicopter with President Saakashvili and a group of visiting U.S. Senators on board, was targeted by an antiaircraft missile. Saakashvili and the U.S. senators were en route to the Svaneti region in northwest Georgia.

I wonder how the government of Georgia knew Saakashvili was the target? The New Republic seems to have the best take on the story here. The New Republic observes that a successful attack could have put U.S. politics in disarray for years -- not that it isn't already. But the New Republic has solid reasoning on its side.

In addition to McCain, the delegation included Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Mel Martinez, R-Florida; Richard Burr, R-North Carolina; and John Sununu, R-New Hampshire. Sununu said Sunday night that he was not aware of any problems with security during the 2-½-day trip.

I am not an expert on aviation or surface to air missiles. Once in the air, the SAM could have locked on to the craft carrying the Senate delegation or it could have locked on the chopper carrying Saakashvili.

Sen. McCain certainly is no stranger to being shot at in an aircraft. During one legendary incident, the aircraft he was piloting over North Vietnam was destroyed and he spent the next seven years in a prisoner of war camp.

I'm betting that McCain, who exemplifies mental toughness, provided a unique perspective to his fellow solons. It was probably enlightening to Sen. Sununu who said he was not aware of any security problems during the junket. I think Sununu may have other problems best not described here.

If the rebels were not intending the U.S. Senators as a target, they succeeded at one task: They made Sen. McCain very angry -- a foolish thing for Georgian rebels.