Aug 212008

John McCain’s military service deserves the thanks and respect of the American people, especially given his time spent as a POW in Vietnam. However, the over-use of this status for political gain becomes laughable after a while, and erodes the respect with which it should be treated. It seems to be used by his surrogates to explain everything.

The other day McCain was asked about how many houses he owns (I plan to write more about this later), and he stumbled, and could not remember. As it turns out, it’s either seven or eight…no one else seems quite sure either.  It took less than 24 hours for for a McCain spokesperson to invoke the POW status to explain away the housing gaffe. Brian Rogers told the Washington Post, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”

Recently at the Saddleback interviews (where McCain received Rick Warren’s questions in advance), McCain told a story about his time as a POW when a guard came to him at Christmas time and quietly used his sandal to draw a cross on the dirt floor. It was certainly a moving story, but what exactly it says about McCain I can’t quite figure out. It seems to me to say more about that guard…but the krazy kristian kooks love it. Anyway, like some of Dick Cheney’s story, it might have been borrowed.

Let’s look at the timeline. McCain came back from Vietnam in 1973, and shortly after that wrote a 12,000 word story published in U.S. News and World Report, but never mentions this incident. In 1999, McCain writes about it as his story in his book, Faith of Our Fathers. But in 2000 he talks about the story, but says it was another prisoner.

OK, so just strike it up to his age (or his previous status as a POW). Except that story appeared in the book, The Gulag Archipelago, by recently deceased Alexandrja Solzhenitsyn and published in the west in 1973. Did the same thing happen to McCain? Certainly could have, but it could have also come from a distant memory in a ghost writer’s brain…especially since McCain attributed it to someone else himself. 

Of course everyone was all over Hillary (and rightfully so) for making up a story about landing under gunfire in a foreign country. Now it seems that Cindy McCain’s story is being embellished a bit. First off, she’s been touted as an only child. Well, that’s just not exactly true. She left behind two half-sisters with whom she has very little contact.

And previously, the McCain website had a very moving story about how the McCain’s came to adopt one of their daughters. According to the earlier story, now removed from the website, Cindy McCain led a series of medical missions to foreign countries…an admirable undertaking. But then along comes a little political myth making. The story was put out that during one of the trips to an orphanage, Mother Teresa herself implored Ms. McCain to bring home two young girls in need of medical attention. Ms. McCain did bring the two girls, and subsequently adopted one of them…again, an admirable story all by itself. The problem, Cindy McCain has never met Mother Teresa. The story is moving enough without the need to embellish…why do political operatives have to make everything bigger than life?

But perhaps the greatest irony of all…it turns out that John McCain was not tortured as a POW, but merely exposed to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Andrew Sullivan picked up the story. In McCain’s telling of his time while a POW, it involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. As Sullivan asks, “Sound Familiar?”

You got that right, these are all just “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved by John Yo, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney, and are not war crimes. Sullivan points out the real kicker:

In the Military Commissions Act, McCain acquiesced to the use of these techniques against terror suspects by the CIA. And so the tortured became the enabler of torture. Someone somewhere cried out in pain for the same reasons McCain once did. And McCain let it continue.

So this is the price McCain is willing to pay to be President…lie about anything and everything…oh, and shut about the tortured POW thing now. It’s gone beyond moving, and besides you agreed it wasn’t really torture.

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