John McCain, vintage 2000, was wary of trading on his history as a prisoner of war who had endured years of torture at the hands of his Vietnamese captors. You didn't see it in his campaign ads and he didn't tend to talk about it on the stump in his brief but intense bid for the GOP nomination.
McCain 2008? Hello, trump card!
When articles focused on McCain's inability to recall how many homes he owns, campaign spokesman Brian Rogers dismissed any criticism of senator's wealth, pointing to Democrat Barack Obama's home.
And then the McCain spokesman added: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison."
When reporters questioned whether McCain really was in the promised "cone of silence" as the Rev. Rick Warren posed the same questions to Senator Obama that shortly he posed to McCain, campaign spokeswoman Nicole Wallace had a ready response:
"The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous," she told the New York Times.
And earlier this summer, when McCain was criticized for jokingly suggesting his wife, Cindy, should participate in a topless beauty pageant at the biker rally he was addressing, Rogers said that Americans voters know "John McCain's faith and character were tested and forged in ways few can fathom."
Presumably that was an allusion to his POW experience too. There were four other senators in the Keating Five, a searing political experience that McCain has cited for his interest in campaign finance issues, so one guesses the others could have fathomed that.
McCain's experience in Vietnam — and his resolute refusal to accept an early return ahead of some of his fellow captives — clearly has informed his life in the decades since. Apparently his campaign hopes it will shield the candidate from all prickly questions about that life as well.