August 23, 2008

Watching this two-minute bio-ad from John McCain's first campaign (1982), "you don't exactly get the impression of a candidate reluctant to discuss his war experience" That's because he never has been. McCain has relied on using his service and sacrifice to his country as a major campaign asset from day one, and repeatedly ever since despite claims to the contrary. Not that there should be anything wrong with that in that context, but, as Steve Benen pointed out:

Four years ago, when John Kerry campaigned in part on his military service, McCain criticized him for it, saying he was “sick and tired of re-fighting the Vietnam War.” McCain even disparaged Kerry personally, saying his emphasis on his military record is “clearly a tactical or strategic move.”

What makes McCain's claim all the more hypocritical is the fact that his campaign has recently been invoking the 'POW card' anytime their candidate is questioned, not just biographically for political benefit as the senator did over and over during pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Presidential Candidates Forum, but quite literally offering it as an excuse for anything and everything to the point many in the media have begun questioning the tactic:

Whether he's deflecting criticism over his health-care plan or mocking a tribute to the Woodstock music festival, Senator John McCain has a trump card: the Hanoi Hilton. ...

That was followed by Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Politico's Ben Smith, and Time's Ana Marie Cox (h/t Greg Sargent) all calling foul. The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen inferred that McCain is becoming the new 9iu11iani, and that's not all. McCain even caught the ire of Brandon Friedman at VetVoice and then Lt Gen Robert G Gard really took him to task in posts at DailyKos and Huffington Post:

We obviously honor and respect McCain's service and the five-and-a-half years of horror that he went through at the hands of the North Vietnamese; but it's not an excuse for everything. He has already used it to explain away his infidelities in his first marriage. He's used it to defend his healthcare plan. He just the other day used it to deflect accusations of having skirted the rules of the Saddleback forum.

It's time for the Senator to stop cheapening the war experiences of thousands of vets and his fellow POWs, and his own as well, by stretching the boundaries of logic to make his POW status a wild-card rebuttal to all accusations or an answer to all difficult questions.

And in today's NYT, Maureen Dowd hits on all of the above and goes even further by questioning whether what has been McCain's 'get out of gaffe free card' could actually be considered a handicap:

... While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?

You think?

Take the AOL poll on whether John McCain is overplaying the POW card below.

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