McCain Campaign Says POW To Its Critics

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.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

He is undoubtedly a former POW. This fact alone does not make him suited to be president, nor does it make him a hero. In fact, cynics might argue that he was a POW because he was a crappy pilot.

Sent by Bill | 8:22 AM | 8-23-2008

It's not a "card". The issue of PoW was studied by the Annenberg Foundation during the Swift Boat saga. Kathleen Jamieson discovered that the reason the Swift ads were so effective was because they featured PoW's stating Kerry's words being piped into the prison were akin to tourtue. She said there is a certain reverance in the American psyche for PoW's and in that regard you are correct, in that it can not be "trumped". Look at how many PoW/MIA flags still fly today. Many Americans still feel that the government let those guys down and now is the time for them to get paid in full and the only way to do it is to elect the American hero.

Sent by Ming Sai | 12:24 PM | 8-23-2008

I'd say they use it like a card, especially when they deflect questions like the 7 houses one by saying:
"This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison."
Its just become such a punchline to me these days.

Sent by yreesolu | 3:18 PM | 8-25-2008

We do not have the luxury of electing someone because of his past heroic (or not) service. We need a President that can deal with the REAL issues of the day. These are economic, unemployment and environmentally related issues along with GOOD foreign relations and an end to war on a soverign country.

Sent by Joe | 1:45 PM | 8-26-2008

Not sure I get how anyone can believe that being a POW qualifies a person to be president of the United States. I would be more concerned with the fact that his memory is faulty enough that he doesn't even remember how many homes he owns. What important decision will he forget to make that will cause more problems for this country. As to the topless that's was just plain stupid, sexest and degrading wonder what world leader he will joke about if he can say that about his wife.

Sent by Deb | 5:50 PM | 8-29-2008

Support comes from: