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Monday, August 18, 2008

McCain’s Cross

posted by on August 18 at 14:07 PM

The unraveling of John McCain’s prison camp cross tale continues, and Andrew Sullivan is now suggesting three question that journalists should be asking:

Here are the perfectly legitimate questions reporters should now, in my opinion, ask McCain:

why did you not mention this transcendent story in 1973? Why, in discussing three Christmases in captivity in Vietnam, was this story - far more powerful than any of the other anecdotes - omitted? How was it possible for the gun guard of May 1969 to be present at Christmas that year when McCain had been transferred to another camp? Is it possible that McCain’s memory has faded with time and that he has simply fused his own memories with other stories - as Clinton did with Bosnia sniper fire and as Kerry did in remembering another Christmas he could not have actually witnessed where he said he did?

And why are we not allowed to ask these questions, when they relate to one of the most important questions anyone can ask about a president: the question of integrity? If McCain has fabricated a religious epiphany for political purposes, it is about as deep a betrayal of core integrity as one can imagine, and the latest example of how pernicious the religious domination of political life in America has become.

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And that may well be the last word we hear from Mr. Sullivan, who will no doubt "disappear under mysterious circumstances" any minute now...

Posted by Company Goon | August 18, 2008 2:12 PM

Quick answer? We live in an Age of Credulous Hackery.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | August 18, 2008 2:20 PM

He probably misremembered something he read, which moved him emotionally, in his confused and pain-induced torture memories of his time in Vietnam, back when he was willingly complying by broadcasting on international TV about how evil the US was, to ingratiate himself with his captors and say anything they wanted.

Besides, when you're that old, memory is a very fungible thing.

Now, did I already press the red button, or should I just issue the launch codes on Czechoslovakia and the Persian Empire again?

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 18, 2008 2:21 PM


We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by Slog Hating Internet Troll | August 18, 2008 2:28 PM

It really is a slow day in the blogosphere when this mild story is so volleyed over. Meanwhile McCain is gaining in all battleground states except Michigan:

Posted by raindrop | August 18, 2008 2:29 PM

Meanwhile McCain is gaining in all battleground states except Michigan


"The McCain campaign has outspent the Obama camp by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases by as much as a million dollars or more, in virtually all of the nearly dozen battleground states where both campaigns are up on the air, according to a firm that tracks national advertising."

Posted by stinkbug | August 18, 2008 2:31 PM

On the other hand, it could be that the guard drew an "X" on the floor, to mark the place he was gonna knock McCain's teef, and McCain just misinterpreted it.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | August 18, 2008 2:34 PM

@5 - that's strange, raindrop, rasmussen shows him losing by almost 200 electoral votes.

If we lived in a democracy, that might matter, but we don't.

WSJ has an analysis of funds raised and spent showing McCain is running on fumes and Obama's still got plenty of reserves but is registering voters.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 18, 2008 2:56 PM

Seriously, McCain is overspending like there's no tomorrow - because so far as his campaign is concerned, there isn't.

He did pretty good in terms of fundraising last month, but Obama has wisely been holding back on doling out his considerable war chest. Come late September, you'll see those hundreds of millions flowing out to the media, effectively obliterating anyone's memory of what McCain did in the previous six months, and putting the GOP in the unenviable position of having to blow what remains of their considerably smaller wad in the few key states they have a snowballs chance of winning.

Posted by COMTE | August 18, 2008 3:20 PM

"Raindrop" - keep falling on your head.

Posted by Truth Hurts | August 18, 2008 3:28 PM


And, from what I understand, McCain has to spend everything he has before the convention to qualify for federal funds. Since he spurned federal financing, Obama has no such obligations.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 18, 2008 3:37 PM

Per latest filings, McCain + RNC combined had a slight cash on hand lead over Obama + DNC ... and McCain gets $84M in public campaign finance next month (which Obama opted out of).

stinkbug @ 6 -- "virtually all of the nearly dozen battleground states" decodes as "8 of 11 states". Obama's purely uncontested (and purely ineffective) spending in Florida alone exceeds McCain's total lead in all 8 of these contested swing states.

(Keep in mind we're talking about broadcast ad spending only, not total campaign resources, and a total of about $6 million in a billion-dollar national dollar-throwing contest.)

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 18, 2008 3:46 PM

Returning to the piont of the post, Sullivan raises much more incisive and potentially productive questions about McCain's cross story, compared to the earlier Slog post (and most other commentary on the subject).

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 18, 2008 3:50 PM


Fellow POW Orson Swindle asserts McCain told him the cross story while still in NVA confinement (and double-dog-dares Obama supporters to push their luck on this question).

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 18, 2008 4:18 PM

#14: So, friend of McCain steps in after fact and backs his story. This is a bit like when the defendant's mom swears to the press that her boy could never do such a thing. Might be true, but doesn't prove a damn thing either way.

But I agree that it would be a bad idea to push this storyline, mainly because it's all a red herring. True or not, none of McCain's colorfully-embellished war stories offer any reason to believe that McCain's policy positions, which are virtually indistinguishable from those of the current administration, would lead to different results than the hemorrhaging economy and shattered international standing of the United States that eight years of those policies have brought us.

Hey, grandpa may have stormed the beach at Normandy, but he still has to take an eye exam before he gets a driver's license. Same exact idea.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 18, 2008 4:33 PM

he says he heard a story like that. not that he remembers the event. McCain is either lying, confused, or doesnt know that stealing stories for political gain is wrong.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 18, 2008 4:36 PM

The circumstantial evidence that he made it up - and I suspect he actually believes it now - is strengthened by a previously published account of his three Christmases in captivity, which don't mention the incident at all. That's a pretty huge dog that didn't bark.

There isn't going to be a youtube to prove him wrong, the way there was with Clinton's Bosnian-sniper-fire lie, but that's pretty good. I don't say the dems should be pushing it, but someone "neutral" should. Like, for instance, the press.

Posted by Phoebe | August 18, 2008 4:42 PM

Even if it's shown to be fake, the McCain campaign's surrogates will probably try to push something like "Se non e vero, e ben trovato."

Posted by Greg | August 18, 2008 4:55 PM

Bellevue -- Yes, he says he heard it from McCain. The question on the table was whether McCain had mentioned this event other than in recent political context.

Per Swindle, McCain mentioned it before he could conceivably have come into contact with Gulag Archipelago (though as pointed out in earlier comment thread, the story itself is unexceptional).

Sullivan raises some questions of consistent detail and reliable memory, and we may still discount Swindle's account as the word of one friend vouching for another, but the residue is an unprovable allegation that plays well enough on Hate Street but got no legs on Main Street.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 18, 2008 5:03 PM

Hanoi Hilton POW Veterans for Truth!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | August 18, 2008 5:13 PM

Zen koan: If an "unravelling" of a campaign ad claim occurs in this Andrew Sullivan guy's apartment or home office or whatever and it's worth about two dozen comments on this blog on the ass end of noplace, most of them from the same three people, did it truly happen at all?

Posted by tempest in a chamber pot | August 18, 2008 5:19 PM

even if mccain made it up, you can't get traction on this one. it's too believable a story. the conservative sites are all over this one, and -- surprise surprise -- they believe mccain. how will this affect the undecideds? well, those shouting "liar" come off looking a little worse. let this one go.

Posted by infrequent | August 18, 2008 5:24 PM

tempest @ 21 -- The controversy is playing nationally ... at the urging of Obama partisans, and to the apparent net benefit of McCain partisans.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 18, 2008 5:25 PM

Lol, @20 for the sad sad win by the Liars that back Republicant candidates.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 18, 2008 5:26 PM

@23, what tempest? Here's a test - turn to twenty people around you, on the bus, in the elevator, on the sidewalk, wherever. Ask them who is running for President this Fall. Of the two that answer correctly, if any, ask what the last campaign ad was that they'd seen from either candidate. Assuming anyone at all comes up with any ads or campaign claims, ask what they think of the "controversy" over whichever ad they remember.

Don't bother asking them to name any "pundits" or what they imagine any one pundit had to say about what another one said.

Posted by tempest in a chamber pot | August 18, 2008 5:55 PM

Remember the rules: Repulican makes shit up; you're the ass for pointing it out. Republican says Democrat made shit up; deft, devastating blow by the R. Plus McCain thinks evil is bad, so he wins all the votes of people who agree with that.

Posted by Quincy | August 18, 2008 10:16 PM

Andrew Sullivan is a fucking moron and anyone who cares what he thinks is already on the internet and knows where his blog is.

If the best you can do to post something on Slog is to quote Andrew Sullivan than maybe writing and reporting is just not for you.

Posted by Rain Monkey | August 18, 2008 11:55 PM

The McCain website issued a statement saying Swindle remembers McCain telling him the story in 1971.

Sounds great right?

There is one problem, apparently the McCain campaign forgot to check a previous interview of Swindle's about McCain's cross story.

Swindle did and interview for Politico in April of 2008.

Swindle was specifically ask about McCain's cross story and said....

“I don’t recall us talking specifically about our faith,” says Orson Swindle, one of McCain’s closest friends and a fellow POW. “We talked about our friends, families, our resistance posture, and that our country didn’t seem to have the will to win.”

Belief in a higher power helped them survive the routine torture and daily indignities, Swindle says.

“It would help us endure what we had to endure. But we knew God wasn’t going to come down and wave a magic wand.”

Swindle is not telling the truth and the record proves it.

The McCain campaign has now painted themselves in to a corner. This story in my opinion has the potential to destroy McCain if it continues to grow larger and larger legs.

Posted by deward bowles | August 19, 2008 7:01 AM

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