August 18th, 2008
05:28 PM ET
6 years ago

McCain camp slams cross story skeptics

A still from McCain’s cross ad, which ran this winter.
A still from McCain’s cross ad, which ran this winter.

(CNN) - John McCain’s campaign blasted critics who questioned the senator’s account of an incident during his time as a prisoner of war Monday, citing an account from his former fellow POW Orson Swindle and blaming the controversy on “the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd.”

During a presidential forum at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church on Saturday, McCain told a story of a guard who wordlessly drew a cross in the dirt one Christmas, describing it as a moment that gave him strength.

Critics in the blogosphere said that McCain, who was released in 1973, had not mentioned the incident until shortly before his 2000 presidential bid, and had relayed it in the third person on at least one occasion. They also pointed to similarities between McCain’s account and a similar story in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, his account of life in the Soviet labor camp system.

McCain aide Michael Goldfarb, in a message posted on the campaign’s Web site Monday, said Swindle – now a campaign surrogate – told him the presumptive Republican nominee had related the story “’when we first moved in together [in captivity].’ That was in the summer of 1971, Swindle said, though ‘time blurred’ and he couldn't be sure,” wrote Goldfarb.

He also said that it was logical that Christians in both Russia and Vietnam might have used many of the same subtle signals during that era.

“It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others,” he wrote.

“John McCain has often said he witnessed a thousand acts of bravery while he was imprisoned, and though not every one has been submitted into the public record, they are remembered by the men who were there (one such only recently reported by Karl Rove though it escaped mention in any of Senator McCain's books). But as Swindle said, this is a ‘desperate group of people trying to make something out of nothing.’”

In December, shortly before the primary season began, McCain's campaign used the story of the cross as the basis for a Christmas-themed campaign ad.


Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Susan from Scotts Valley, CA

    Obama was not a waffler. He was thoughtful instead of spewing his stump speech. Some of the lines he threw out I've heard so many times I could repeat them verbatim. Instead of having a sincere conversation with Pastor Warren, he just gave us more campaign rhetoric. At least with Obama, I felt like he thought about the answers and spoke from his heart. How refreshing!

    As far as this latest flap, I wouldn't doubt that what really happened and what he thought happened have evolved over time. It happens all the time to people and after all this was 40 years ago!

    August 18, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  2. truth

    Looks like McCain’s Christmas tale is also his “Sniper Fire in Bosnia”!

    August 18, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. TCE

    I'm not a McCain advocate, but this time, I'll give him some slack. The trauma and PTSD potential for being a POW I can't even fathom, so memory distortions concerning this time in captivity I can understand. What I can't is his "Dungeons and Dragons" rhetoric. John, just be direct and stop the campaign slander.

    August 18, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  4. well well now

    Alan Boyer August 18th, 2008 6:08 pm ET

    It's amazing. Every time someone challenges John McCain, Obama gets blamed. It's like being a POW means you can't be challenged. Being a POW is not a prerequisite for being president.

    It is quite possible that John McCain is fighting an internal demon that reminds him that he didn't measure up to his dad or grandfather who were both Navy Admirals. John was a pilot.
    ______________________________________________________
    B...I...N...G...O...!!!!!!! mCcAIN KNOWS HE IS UNFIT TO BE POTUS, BUT HE HAS HIS DADDY COMPLEX THAT WONT LET HIM SEE THE TRUTH

    August 18, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  5. Robert 4560

    It is interesting that after 25 years of telling the story of his POW experience that he remembers the most significant event in 1999. It is such a good story.

    As to the cone of silence. Politics ain't bean bags. Of course both sides would do anything for an advantage. Does anybody believe for a second that it did not cross the minds of both parties how they could take advantage of the "cone of silence"?

    As to the POW experience, why cannot I find his tapes on YouTube? There were more than 30 broadcast interview. Who has them? Why have they not been released? Who is protecting McCain from his own word?

    August 18, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. Rich in Seattle

    So does he do honor to his fellow POW's by taking their experiences and using them as his own to futher his own political ambitions? Is that honor?

    Just because he was a POW doesn't mean he can cheat and lie about his military experience and get away with it. If it is a lie and this is not his own story, then that's shameful of McCain to have stolen it.

    We should honor our men and women in the military, not steal their stories and vote against their interests.

    August 18, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  7. David

    Wow. I don't care of you don't like his story about the cross in the sand, but challenging his patriotism is asinine. He spent 6 years as a POW and repeatedly turned down prisoner exchanges and going home early because of his father's rank. Challenege the man's story all you want, not his courage or patriotism. As for McCain not being vetted, are you serious? He was in the House of Representatives since 1982 and the Senate since 1986. I seem to remember he was a candidate for President in the Republican primaries in 1999-2000, But you must be right, he's never been vetted.

    While no one's saying it, do you really want a President with such little Foreign policy experience? The Illinois Senate for 7 years and a Senator for less than 4 (of which more than 2 have been spent campaigning for President) doesn't make you experienced. Remember the last President we elected who didn't have much foreign policy experience?????? W, that's right. I for one want a president who has actual foreign policy experience. And no, saying you're against the war in Iraq while you're an Illionois Senator trying to get elected to the US Senate doesn't count.

    August 18, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  8. Brian MacDougall

    The guy's name is Swindle: say no more.

    August 18, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  9. NickNas

    McCain is a fragile old manwho is obviously being protected by ALL the powers that can be mustered. ANYTHING he does or says wrong is INSTANTLY pushed under the rug. If ANYONE bothers to report ANYTHING about him that is TRUE they are painted as negative and against the US or the troops SOUND FAMILIAR!!??

    August 18, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  10. Sue

    He was in the 'cone of silence' – RIIIIIGGGGHHHTTT. He was listening to the interview on the radio.

    August 18, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  11. Mike Dallas

    McCrypt has forgotten that the reality he remembers involving a cross in the dust, was acutally a story he read. Of course, if one graduates 894 out of 899, maybe it was read to him.

    August 18, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  12. JAMMAC

    Holy crap no credibility in this forum – you're all probama wankers ....

    August 18, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  13. Brian, Quad Cities

    D&D? Haven't heard that in years.

    These fools really need to avoid trying to sound like us commoners. Better stick with the namecalling.

    August 18, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  14. Dee

    Maybe McCain should have noted his greatest moral failing was that of he and his wife not acknowdleging Cindy's half sister. Very Christian of them to totally disown her sister!! I wonder why only the Huffington post has reported on this story??

    August 18, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  15. KISS

    We will never know the truth. Unlike the sniper fire story, there is no video.

    August 18, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  16. MorningJoeCheeto

    John McCain the true American Drama Queen. McCain's campaign should stop whinning/complaining to NBC and all other media outlets about TPMs. Stop bashing voters when they call McCain out on misrepresentations and listen to their own candidate's advice to fight the smears: "relax and get a sense of humor."

    August 18, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  17. Eric

    For those of you who still think Obama has not the right kind of experience, I recommend you read the article on Huffingtonpost who makes the case that Obama has, in all categories, the right kind of experience similar to the great Presidents in american history. May be that will shut your mouth for once, so you can move on talking about issues.

    August 18, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. deroy

    on this topic leave mccain alone.

    August 18, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  19. Marvin Shelley

    There is a National Organization-American Ex POW's. Unfortunately McCain has been unable to support this group–POW's from WW2, Korea, & Vietnam, he has never attended their National convention, never has joined or supported our Chapters here in Arizona. He only uses the POW bit when he is running for public office. The Am POW's motto is "We help others who cannot help themsrlves" McCain should be ashamed!!!

    August 18, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  20. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW

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    August 18, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  21. Michele, Oregon

    Very good Molly Weasley!
    Let's get the media involved with keeping a tally of how many times he uses his POW card!

    August 18, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. Hillary's destiny

    Watching CNN- it is unbelievable how easy it was for McCain to cheat during the 'faith forum' and still come out clean. It is proof that the republican party can lie their way out of anything, and still get the evangelical vote.

    That says a lot about the integrity of the Evangelical vote, I think.

    August 18, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  23. ANGIE

    MCAIN is not only a phoney liar fake but he sure is a BIG WHINER CRY BABY, whines about media whines no one pays him attention whines when someone(ANDREA MITCHELL) pointed out what alot of other people think about the forum mccain stop whinning already!!!!

    August 18, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
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