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Monday, August 18, 2008

Maverick Moment of the Day

posted by on August 18 at 9:05 AM

There’s an anecdote that John McCain likes to tell about a guard at his POW camp in North Vietnam drawing a cross in the dirt to communicate their common faith. And, well, it sounds a bit familiar.

Here’s a commercial in which McCain uses the story:

And here’s a story recounted by Solzhenitsyn about his experience in the Soviet gulag:

Leaving his shovel on the ground, he slowly walked to a crude bench and sat down. He knew that at any moment a guard would order him to stand up, and when he failed to respond, the guard would beat him to death, probably with his own shovel. He had seen it happen to other prisoners.

As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.

As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed.

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McCain totally ripped off the whole cross-in-the-dust BS, but honestly I think it was a pretty shrewd political move. It's the kind of feel-good "taking a stand for your faith" story that will creep into thousands of sermons nationwide, and before you know it Christian conservative leaders will be comparing him to the apostle Paul.

Posted by Hernandez | August 18, 2008 9:43 AM

What's the Jesus perspective on LYING TO GET AHEAD?

Posted by Fnarf | August 18, 2008 9:49 AM

At least he reads books....

Posted by A Non Imus | August 18, 2008 9:51 AM

Nobody holds a copyright on stories of crosses in the dirt. It's a very probable coincidence.

Posted by raindrop | August 18, 2008 9:55 AM

maybe he stole it... but yeah... a cross in the dirt is probably the first thing anyone would think of... next to an arc representing half a fish.

Posted by infrequent | August 18, 2008 10:13 AM
Nobody holds a copyright on stories of crosses in the dirt. It's a very probable coincidence.

I think you are confusing the words "probable" and "possible." It is, of course, possible that McCain did not just plagiarize this inspirational story from a source that most of his audience would be unfamiliar with. It is, however, exceedingly probable that he did exactly that.

The tradition of candidates making up appealing anecdotes in order to illustrate their own exemplary characters has a long and storied history. Hell, Reagan was the acknowledged master, in certain cases referencing movies he had acted in as though they were real events. So it certainly is not beyond reason to consider every campaign trail inspirational story, no matter who is telling it, as suspect.

Of course, since we weren't there, we'll never know for sure, a fact McCain exploits with great alacrity every time he produces another gem of tough-as-nails patriotism in the face of unspeakable cruelty. We just have to take his word for it, and never for a second question any of the details or the story's relevance to his qualification for office.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 18, 2008 10:24 AM


Or maybe your man is as much of a liar and a hypocrite as you are.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 18, 2008 10:26 AM

This reminds me of the episode where McCain told a Pittsburgh TV station the story of how he would recite the great Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line of the mid-'70s while he was a POW in the early '70s.

Now, you might say this is proof McCain is either a liar or prone to senior moments, or some weird combination of the two.

And to that I say, that's just typical of you secular-humanist non-believers. It's truly a miracle that McCain was able to know the names of those players before the fact. If this is not evidence that John McCain was anointed by God to be our next president, I don't know what is.

Posted by cressona | August 18, 2008 10:29 AM

@8, he's also changed teams in that story. That's not a senior moment, that's creative storytelling.

Posted by Emily | August 18, 2008 10:33 AM

nice, kesh. what'd i ever do to you?

first, not that it makes a difference, but i'm not a mccain supporter (as evidenced by plenty of posts on this stie).

second, i was raised christian, and, yes, those christian types will likely eat this up. since you cannot prove it was made up, it does not good to suggest that it likely was. it seems petty at best.

finally, while i don't know about mccain specific upbringing, not the sincerity of his faith, we were told countless stories of drawing half a fish or half a cross in the dirt as a way of "secretly" communicating our faith to others.

but mainly, i think you are an ass for calling me a hypocrite... i can't even figure out how i'm supposed to be hypocritical here.

Posted by infrequent | August 18, 2008 10:38 AM

I'm with infrequent on this one. Maybe he stole the story, maybe at least two prisoners in the history of every have marked little crosses in the dirt. Shut the hell up, keshmeshi; you have no idea what you're talking about.

Posted by Levislade | August 18, 2008 10:49 AM

thanks... i guess i got a bit defensive about being called a closet mccain supporter. i don't think being a POW makes you above reproach: i'm certainly in favor of calling him on his bs... of which this might be another example.

i'm surprised at how well mccain is doing. i seriously thought obama would score a blow-out victory in the general. now i'm starting to get a little nervous.

i know obama can rise to the occasion. i want that to be based on better policy, not bickering about what was probably or possibly drawn in the dirt.

Posted by infrequent | August 18, 2008 11:08 AM

No, the story is BULLSHIT and is intended to dramatize his Christian faith for the purposes of vote-getting, which is REPULSIVE.

Posted by Fnarf | August 18, 2008 11:18 AM

I can't wait for when McCain comes to campaign in Seattle and tells the story of how, while he was being tortured in Viet Nam, he recited the names of that great Seahawks defense of Easily, Robinson, Nash...

Posted by elswinger | August 18, 2008 11:53 AM

Fnarf @ 13 -- Why is the story BULLSHIT? Leaving aside Soviet gulag (Christian prisoner) and Hanoi Hilton (Christian guard) stories, accounts from the Inquisition to Dachau to Gitmo are chock full of anecdotes involving covert kindnesses by camp personnel, with and without overt expression of religious motivation.

Best we can say here is that the story is unconfirmed, and convenient. Unusual or improbable? No.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 18, 2008 1:04 PM

"But he's lying... He's lying!!!"

eh, he might be lying, he might not. i'm not sure this can be made into a good campaign issue. that's just my opinion, that i don't feel that strongly about.

i would like to point out that i took offense to being called a hypocrite and a mccain supporter; i take no offense in someone suggesting my opinion isn't gospel.

Posted by infrequent | August 18, 2008 1:58 PM

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