December 20th, 2007
03:06 PM ET
15 years ago

McCain's Christmas ad puts cross front and center

McCain is out with a Christmas ad.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Another Republican presidential candidate is out with a Christmas television ad prominently featuring a cross, but no one will be able accuse this ad of telegraphing anything subliminal.

Sen. John McCain's campaign today released a new ad recounting a tale from McCain's time in a Vietnamese prison camp, and the image of the cross is deliberately placed front and center.

The ad will run in South Carolina and New Hampshire beginning Friday and will broadcast until "a few days after Christmas," according to a McCain aide. It's McCain's first TV ad in South Carolina.

"One night, after being mistreated as a POW, a guard loosened the ropes binding me, easing my pain," McCain narrates in the 30-second spot. "On Christmas, that same guard approached me, and without saying a word, he drew a cross in the sand."

The ad uses grainy footage to re-enact the moment as a man, off screen, draws a cross in the dirt using a twig.

"We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas," the ad continues. "I will never forget that no matter where you are, no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up."

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, was accused of subliminally using a "floating cross" in the background of his new Christmas ad as a nod to evangelical Christians. He denied that charge.

While he did not condemn Huckabee's ad, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said Tuesday that he hoped "we don't divide America on the basis of faith."

"I hope Gov. Huckabee, like all of us at this time, is sensitive to that diversity of faith and the liberty of peoples to worship God as they choose," Romney told reporters in South Carolina.

South Carolina's Attorney General Henry McMaster, a chairman of McCain's campaign in the Palmetto State, said at a press conference revealing the new TV spot that "it's perfectly appropriate and good" to use the cross in an ad about Christmas.

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: John McCain • New Hampshire • South Carolina
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Eli, NY

    Good for McCain! A McCain/Huckabee ticket would be awesome!

    December 20, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. Erick, St Louis, MO

    I had all the respect in the world for John McCain when he first ran for president in 2000 and had the misfortune of going up against the crown prince bush. But this is simply a disgusting ploy to appeal to the same evangelicals who torpedoed his last presidential run in favor of our dumbass in chief.

    This really gives me pause about the effect of washington and the quest for power there, from "maverick" to special interest lackey in 8 years flat.

    December 20, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. browndesk

    I guess with all these ads with crosses the message is
    "Jesus endorses my campaign"
    "I'm a Christian vote for me"
    "I believe in superstition that runs counter to logic and reason- just like you- pick me"

    Republicans why don't you just change your name to the Christian Party. Your not fooling anyone. We know you want to turn the United States into a Christian version of Iran.

    December 20, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. Independent in IA

    Sorry...not impressed in the least. There are compassionate human beings in every army in the world, and McCain was fortunate enough to encounter one.

    I suppose he became Born Again from that incident.

    For crying out loud, that happened almost 40 years ago, and doesn't have an iota of relevance to the fact that he's nothing more than Bush's pet pooch, doing his master's bidding instead of following the wishes of his constituents.

    December 20, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. Vince, Jupiter, Florida

    McCain is really milking the POW line. I guess political opponents are weary of being accused of Swift-boating him but if you do a little research you will find that ejecting from an F-4 Phantom will break both of the pilots arms 90% of the time. McCain wants the public to believe his arms were broken from torture. I commend Mr. McCain for his service to his country but I believe he is embellishing the facts for political gain. I have no doubt that life in the Hanoi Hilton was ugly but I also know that he was given the opportunity to leave if he wanted. It was very courageous of him to refuse to leave but the way he is using the POW experience for political gain is truly disingenuous.

    December 20, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  6. Chuck, Miami, FL

    Last time I check Christmas was about Christ, whod died on a CROSS. I wonder what the media will say about McCain's cross in his ad.

    December 20, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Phil Memphis, TN

    Ah yes. Here we go again. focus on religion and avoid the issues. a touching story, but of absolutely no pertinence to the presidential race.

    December 20, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Rafi, NY NY

    I'm assuming McCain's most devout supporters will object to his using their most sacred image for political gain.

    December 20, 2007 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  9. Karen Houston TX

    Thanks to Huckabee who is determined to manipulate the conservative vote with his relegious antics, almost every candidate has jumped on board of these relegious adds not wanting to be left behind. It feels like a,"My cross is bigger than yours boast fest".

    Don't get me wrong, I am a Christian and I am not offended, but I can't help but wonder about the issues.

    Huckabee has skirted around the issues with an,"It doesn't matter where I stand because I am a Christian attitude", and many of the candidates have followed along.

    I just really want to hear about the issues that face our country. Without jokes, Christian smoke screens or anything else designed to distract the voter from what is really important.

    December 20, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  10. Chris, Toledo, OH

    "When fascism comes it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

    December 20, 2007 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  11. Jim M. Gau; Hancock, MI

    My name is James M. Gau, of Hancock, MI. I support John McCain's candidacy, as well as his campaign ad with the cross in it...a loyal supporter, and I approve this message!!

    December 20, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  12. Dave

    I greatly admire John Mc Cain and appreciate the "cross" story from his days as a POW, however, we have more than Christians in this nation. I am a Catholic, but am getting tired of the candidates, especially Huckabee and Romney, parading their "faith" in front of everyone.

    Posted By Joseph W. Mathews, Manchester, VT

    Joseph, not sure how much you are watching what is happening but I would say that Huckabee is, or was until maybe McCain starts up, the only one wearing religion on his sleeve. I think Romney felt compelled to give a speech mainly because many feel Mormon's are not Christians. I honestly think he wishes he didn't have to make a speech like that. He focuses on the issues much more so than Huckabee pandering his status to the evangelicals.

    Don't make general assumptions unless you do your homework. Read the speeches, and lets stop making all these general characterizations. Thanks.

    December 20, 2007 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. ne,pa.

    You still won't get my vote!!!!

    December 20, 2007 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  14. Dan, Dallas, TX

    For all of you that think he is telling this story now just to pander to the "Christian Conservatives", please read Senator McCain's book Character is Destiny. He told this story in that book, and he told about how Christianity affected him in his book Faith of Our Fathers which came out in 1999. He is a genuine and authentic candidate.

    December 20, 2007 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  15. AH, Vegas Nevada

    The US Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment as not only prohibiting any government from adopting a particular denomination or religion as official, but requires government to avoid excessive involvement in religion.

    Another pro-war republican touting religion instead of upholding the constitution as a president is sworn to do.

    December 21, 2007 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  16. Eric, Seattle WA

    I wonder if he's making it up

    December 21, 2007 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  17. Jim, Columbus, GA

    As a Vietnam Vet (173rd Airborne Bde 68-68)and a retired Command Sergeant Major, I have a lot of respect for McCain's Service and time spent as a POW – I was a "Huck" fan due to McCain's stand for amnesty – I will take another look at him –

    If he would take Joe Liberman as VP – I feel he could win

    And for you stuck on stupid "Ron Paul" fans – ain't gonna happen Hero's – he shoulda remained a GYN cause he's just a big WUSS!

    December 21, 2007 05:36 am at 5:36 am |
  18. Dan (Baltimore, MD)

    At least Huckabee's cross was accidental. McCain is purporsefully exploiting not just religion (which should have nothing to do with the presidency) but also shamelessly tugging on people's heart strings. Can we shed a tear for McCain and then vote for the best presidential candidate? This guy needs to admit that being a Senator is no sort of experience to be the chief of the executive branch and endorse Rudy before he starts getting really dishonest.

    December 21, 2007 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  19. Michelle, AL

    Can anybody here look at the entire commercial and grasp the full meaning, instead of looking at it through religious/non-religious glasses? The point was that it was Christmas, a guard drew a cross on the ground in an effort to relate to/encourage McCain. While he was a POW, he remembered the "true light of Christmas." Today he notes that this taught him no matter what, someone will be there for you.
    How can you people take an honest, decent message like that and turn it into how McCain is pandering, selling out, force feeding religion to the non-religious, or whatever else.

    Not many in this country are PERSECUTED for their beliefs, per the following definition, as long as the definition doesn't include ridicule. When it does there will be a lot of people guilty on these boards. Learn to have some respect.

    Main Entry: per·se·cu·tion
    Function: noun
    : punishment or harassment usually of a severe nature on the basis of race, religion, or political opinion in one's country of origin

    December 21, 2007 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  20. thefishermen

    Merry Christmas 2007 John,
    God's plan for you was indeed wonderful, even though you couldn't see it in your darkest hour..

    December 21, 2007 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. RightyTighty

    I wonder what happened to the guard. Surely his simple act of kindness has been rewarded..

    December 21, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. marie,hampton roads,virginia

    Excellent ad about compassion. John McCain ... you got my vote.
    When your under-fire and death is staring you down, it’s pretty amazing how non-believers will turn to religion to comfort and guide them. Those of you, who have been there, you understand what I’m talking about. John McCain is not pandering to the religious. This story has been told before in his video “Courageous Service”(it’s on his website). I find this ad to be an excellent example of basic human compassion for fellow human beings.

    December 23, 2007 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  23. Danny, Summerville SC

    Once again religion is in politics. People should be charged for doing things of the nature.

    December 23, 2007 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. Ted Elinor, Chicago, IL

    Wow so many histrionics about seeing crosses! Seems similar to the histrionics of those sightings of the weeping virgin Mary, Jesus, and Elvis.
    Vampires always cringe at the sight of the cross.

    December 23, 2007 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  25. CD

    Jim, Columbus, GA

    You may think Ron Paul is stupid and a wuss. I see it differently, I see him as the only candidate with the GUTS to think outside of the box and to stand up for the Constitution. Mr. McCain wants to fight a war that has not been declared by Congress and welcome illegal aliens (criminals) as citizens. Sounds like he is the wuss (push over) to me. Why don't you read about what Ron Paul stands for and look at his voting record. You'll see he is the only REAL Republican in the race.

    January 7, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
1 2