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. Stephanie

    I have come to the realization that in this presidential campaign, we should not rely on the stories we hear (or do not hear for that matter) in the media. Barack Obama will continue to receive negative press no matter what he does and John McCain will continue to receive positive press no matter what he does. We voters have got to use discernment and intelligence in making our choice for president. Do not make the mistake of allowing the media to be your deciding factor. Wake up!!!!

    August 18, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  2. MemeForObama

    what a copy cat Mcshame really is- I dont' think mccanin is any more brilliant than the current President. Let's not make the same mistake America. the media doesn't want to show us the nagative side of mccain just because he's a pow. being a pow doesn't exempt you from criticism and neither does it make you qualified to rule the greatest country in the world. I actually think it make u more mental.

    August 18, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  3. texas democrat

    so am i to believe that pastor rick warren would not lie? well i don't know the guy . he said mccain was in a cone of silence and then they say he was late getting there and i have to believe that there wasn't any device that he could use to watch what was going on. please give me a break. i am nobody's fool. rick warren should not have said a word because apparently he did not know.

    August 18, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  4. Joe Kiloz

    M c C A I N = H O N O R

    August 18, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  5. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Raph V. McCain went to the Naval Academy not West Point. Talk about dumb.

    Obviously McCain won the night Saturday. Obama was a waffler on many questions. McCain was direct and to the point. So equally obvious that the oborgs have to claim McCain cheated and was listening. Well, he wasn't but if helps you to think that, go ahead. It doesn't explain why Obama looked like a deer in the headlights. Without a teleprompter the man can't talk. The polls are getting closer, and Obama's going down!

    August 18, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. Bill Tampa

    I don't trust Mccain. Just like he said told the V ietnames guards he named the Pittsburg Steelers as members of his unit in his book, and then when in Wisc. Said he named the Greenbay Packers as the memebers of his unit. Which was it.? There's no doubt in my former Marine Corps Mind, McSame heard and knew the questions in his limo on his way to the forum. Cone of Silence?. Yeah Right!!..And I did play Dungeon and Dragons in College, And proud of it!!!!!!!

    August 18, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. Cynthia - Arkansas

    McSame tells so many lies, they just start to run together. He either can't remember what he said yesterday, or doesn't care. Either one is scary! We have already had 8 disasterous years with someone just like him. I had dinner with some Republican friends this weekend and was amused by the political discussion. They still think of McSame as he probably was 10 years ago. I guess people truly do see what they want to.

    August 18, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  8. DocReal

    I wonder if McCain knows that people play these games on computers now?

    What a sad old man. McCain will make up any story and change any position to get to the top.

    August 18, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  9. Goodson

    Why still worry about McCain's fabrications, he forgets so easily and that's his real strength, or is it that the Vietcong military were run by Christian guards, well it's been a long time.
    Wow, but McCain is a real cheat, he deliberately evaded the "cone of silence" very un-American, sorry he was born in Panama, between the Canal and the Caves.

    August 18, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  10. Mary in CA

    Wow, what an insult to D&D. I'm surprised he even could reference it, let alone badly.

    August 18, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. Debby

    Well they say McCain doesn't wear his faith in his sleeve so what if he told the story in 2000. This was a religious forum Sat. night so thats why he mentioned it.

    August 18, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  12. Matt

    McCain failed his saving throw.

    August 18, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. Tony

    Finally, we have learned the Repuplican playbook. Charges don't need to be true, they just need to be repeated.

    I heard that McCain beat his wife and killed the first child she adopted. I heard it, it must be true!

    August 18, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  14. Jake

    McCain sat out the war making pro-commie movies, after bombing babies. What does he have to complain about. Like all Republicans, he can dish it out but he can't take it!

    August 18, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  15. Bill P.

    I did not realize John McCain was a sacred cow.

    My, my, what a winer.

    August 18, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. mike

    Some new wrinkles have come in from bloggers who note that in a 1995 book that details the three Christmases McCain spent with 5 other captives, titled The Nightingale's Song, there's no mention of McCain's story.

    August 18, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  17. Edward Noble

    Ralph V., if only McCain had gone to West Point... get your facts straight before you look like a moron. McCain went to Annapolis (U.S. Naval Academy).

    August 18, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  18. Debbie

    I watched both Obama & McCain on Saturday.
    I am also totally A-religios, to be honest I don't really care what religion you are so long as you are a decent, honest human being with a high moral code.
    You could tell Obama was hearing those questions for the very first time on Saturday night.
    McCain didn't stumble at all – he was totally prepared. You could tell he had seen the questions before and was well rehearsed on every, single question. He kept his answers very short, no room for error. Plus I suspect he probably had read the questions well before Saturday. He didn't need to think at all before replying, and sometimes was answering before the questions were even finished.
    Even now – I still don't think I konw more about McCain than before Saturday. I certainly don't know if he believe's in Jesus – and if I have to hear another POW story – it was like listening to an old grandpa recount war stories – what has any of this to do with running a country – it's totally irrelevant.
    Something I really don't understand about all the anti-abortion/Pro-Lifers is – if you are pro-life, shouldn't you be anti war too!
    If you are anti-abortion – shouldn't you be voting for free contraception under medical coverage and against going to war Mr. McCain???

    August 18, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  19. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    This is McCain's "Bosnia sniper fire" tall tale.

    August 18, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  20. tricia

    The Repubs jumped all over this obvious plagiarism in 2005, noting that McCain had spun out this fabrication in advance of a 2008 run for the White House.

    Busted AGAIN, McSame!

    August 18, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  21. K. Ferguson

    It seems so ironic, that just a couple weeks ago, the McCain camp was blasting Obama for being away on vacation in Hawaii while an energy crisis ran its' course.
    I find it interesting that McCain makes no comment about Bush vacationing in Texas while Russia flexes its' muscles.
    It would seem his level of accountability is only one that serves the interest of his election and those of the Republican party.

    August 18, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  22. Elrey Jones

    The word is out that Obama can't communicate without a teleprompter. In other words, the Annointed One is more an an Airhead.

    August 18, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  23. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    McCain = Cheater and plagiarizer!

    August 18, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  24. Lee

    Uh-oh MSM, looks like you may have to do some actual investigative reporting on this one…you know, the kind that leads towards the FACTS, or at least gives objective information for voters to make a decision on? McCain's word is not his bond. And after watching him the other night practically tripping over himself to give his pre-fab answers (see: 'Can we talk about judges, judges are very important…') I am absolutely amazed that people think this guy is for real. Let me break it down: BEING A FORMER POW DOES NOT MEAN YOU'D BE A GOOD PRESIDENT–OR THAT YOU TELL THE TRUTH. Can someone please tell me if CNN's 'Revelation' of the true presidential candidates on Wednesday will include McCain's first marriage, his and Cindy's ties to Keating 5, his horrible temper, or his many, many gaffes over the past few months?? Could you point out an area in which McCain doesn't lean on those 5 1/2 years as a POW as representative of his true character or experience? Because after he got back, he proved himself a real tool over and over again. I am tired of McCain's 'honor' being shoved down my throat when he hasn't got a consistent or loyal bone in his body.

    August 18, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. Lee

    Uh-oh MSM, looks like you may have to do some actual investigative reporting on this one…you know, the kind that leads towards the FACTS, or at least gives objective information for voters to make a decision on? McCain's word is not his bond. And after watching him the other night practically tripping over himself to give his pre-fab answers (see: 'Can we talk about judges, judges are very important…') I am absolutely amazed that people think this guy is for real. Let me break it down: BEING A FORMER POW DOES NOT MEAN YOU'D BE A GOOD PRESIDENT–OR THAT YOU TELL THE TRUTH. Can someone please tell me if CNN's 'Revelation' of the true presidential candidates on Wednesday will include McCain's first marriage, his and Cindy's ties to Keating 5, his horrible temper, or his many, many gaffes over the past few months?? Could you point out an area in which McCain doesn't lean on those 5 1/2 years as a POW as representative of his true character or experience? Because after he got back, he proved himself a real tool over and over again. I am tired of McCain's 'honor' being shoved down my throat when he hasn't got a consistent or loyal bone in his body.

    I will keep posting...

    August 18, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
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