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

McCain camp slams cross story skeptics

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Stacey Ellis

    The first to recognize McCain's posible plagerism was a republican blog in 2005- not a democrat. See Dailly Kos for explanation.

    August 18, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  2. Ex-Republican for Obama

    Does McCain ever do anything besides complain?

    He whines about lacking media coverage, but any time he is given the spot light he throws himself on the floor and begins kicking and screaming like a brat that isn't getting his way.

    McCain gets a mic in front of him and all you get is a complaint and someone to blame. Perhaps using the opportunity to inspire rather then pitch a fit would get him a bit more attention.

    August 18, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  3. sh

    MCcain is a cheater who knew the questions before he went for the forum. I do not trust anything this guy say any more. No Cedibility. How Pathetic.

    August 18, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  4. Melvin

    Dungons and dragons? Are you calling pro -Obama people demons?You sound like the Anointed One!

    August 18, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  5. Gene

    So now if you're an Obama supporter you're part of the Dungeons and Dragons crowd?

    Gary Gygax (I think that was his name) is going to be richer than all these politicians put together soon if that's the case 🙂

    August 18, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  6. dittohead with forty names

    Stop your whining John.Yes John we think your a liar,like most of your lobbyist friends and advisors.Phil Gramm comes to mind first.

    August 18, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  7. Sacto Joe

    I don't know whether they cheated or not, but if they didn't want to get accused of it then they should have been a lot more careful.

    Also, why would you trust ANYTHING politicians running for office say?

    Bottom line:

    1. Republicans, including McCain, got us into the mess we're in.

    2. McCain is a Republican.

    3. You'd have to be an idiot to vote Republican again!

    August 18, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  8. anonmouys

    all mccain does is run ad thats how theyer going to win state

    August 18, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  9. Ralph V.

    What a joke! McCain panics when people question his heroism; it's because he is a counterfit hero. A former traitor to his nation who accepted special favors from the enemy! The songbird who gave up information that got American soldiers killed as a result.

    Oh, and did I mention he was the 5th dumbest guy in the whole school at West Point.

    August 18, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  10. Alan Boyer

    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.

    August 18, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. LT for Obama

    Campaign says – "but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others,”

    How does one learn from John's memories when they are NOT his memories? I would like to hear from one of the other soldiers that was there at that time to confirm this really happened.

    August 18, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. Ian

    I'm sure the story is true. The part McCain is leaving out is that it was an upside down cross.

    August 18, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  13. Fritz

    Got to love that Swindle is character reference – whenever McCain is in trouble, it is the lobbyists that come to the rescue.

    August 18, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  14. Mark

    Obama will do anything to smear McCain because he is desperate to win the Presidency. Obama is the most unqualified candidate to ever run for the Presidency. McCain08; Hillary 2012!!

    August 18, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  15. Proud to be Canadian

    I just spent an hour reading John McCain's role in the Keating 5 scandal as well as Cindy McCain's connection to Keating and how she made almost 15 million through an investment in just a couple of years.

    John McCain lacks credibility. He has yet to be vetted properly. The DNC should pay someone to write a best seller just like the RNC did with Obama Nation.

    John McCain allegedly committed adultry and left his first wife for Cindy. He saw $$ signs and a young beauty. Barack Obama is a terrific family man and you can tell he will never abondon Michelle and his children. That means a great deal to me. DON'T BE FOOLED BY JOHN MCCAIN. HE'S A SERPENT WITH A SMILE.

    August 18, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  16. Lacy

    This faith forum fundamentally annoys me.

    I am a proud atheist, and I am sick of this idea that I must respect religion and religious "values" when they don't have to respect my lack of religion or logically derived morality.

    These "Evangelical Christians" don't even follow their alleged savior's teachings. I respect Jesus as a mortal man the things he stood for, was about tolerance, forgiveness, leaving judgement to his god, and charity. Yet all these people do is spread hate and judgement and claim they're doing god's will.

    That's absolute rubbish, if there was a supernatural all knowing all powerful god, it wouldn't you to do it's will.

    Atheists and secularits need to unite and organize to form their own influential voting bloc and PAC's.

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  17. Molly Weasley

    This story comes from some 1997 writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. McCain made no mention of this in any of his recollections of his POW experiences (including many lengthy reports over the years) until 1999, when coincidentally he was running against George W. Bush, who went overboard every time to remind evangelical voters that he was a born-again Christian.

    But I guess we can never accuse John McCain of lying because, as he and his campaign keep reminding us, "he was a POW." How dare we.

    That's called playing the POW card. Someone should be keeping a tally of how often the McCain campaign brings up his POW experiences, especially when he says, "I don't like to talk about it" - then talks about it.

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  18. Mike B in Toronto

    McCain You are running to be President of all Americans. Clever to choose to disparage a whole swath of voters while you take another cheap shot at Obama.

    I know McCain doesn't know how to use the Internet and all, but probably not wise to inspire yet another group of web-savvy people against you with this kind of stupidity.

    I think the Republican campaign play book's key directive says to take shots at your opponents, but I am sure that it specifically says that one should not insult voters like this.

    Keep up the good work McCain '08 and we will happily greet President Obama in Ottawa when he makes his first official visit.

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  19. SCOTT

    McCain is a fake!!

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  20. Linda from Prescott AZ

    Let's just say this, can McCain relate to anything that is not connected to his time in a pow camp. He is banking on sympathy for his heroic time in Hanoi. So sorry, you had to be there Senator, sorry you had to suffer so much pain. However, that does not give you any special road to the white house.
    You are part of a failed system, why haven't you made any efforts to make changes in the last 26 years? You are a day late and a $ short.

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. Lesley

    What does that war story, or any of McCain's war references that evening as a matter of fact, have to do with the context of the faith forum? We were supposed to get a glimpse of how the candidates think and how they feel and what makes them tick. Mostly what McCain did was repeat stump speeches, prefaced by his standard my friends, and talk about war. I am very sorry for his time as a POW, but let's be honest - we've heard the stories before and we were looking for some insight into his values and how he got them, not more stories. I suppose I can conclude that McCain thinks more about war than any other topic. That scares me. What about the rest of his life? Doesn't he have any other "stories" except the ones that pertain to the military? He appears to have a one-track mind.

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  22. Shawn - GA

    Amen, that is what people are missing.... the rock star has his following with the kiddies, as well as responsible adults. The young, arrogant, who think they know it all... in the comments and the wording and the sheer volume of them. All of this points to young people who for the most part do not hold jobs. No ONE else would have the kind of time it takes to dedicate him or herself to arguing on forums.

    I was once a young know-it-all, as we all were... I only pray that these kids watch the debates (the few there will be) and once they see that pretty words from Obama do not amount to much nor can do anything to improve this country for THEM the future of this country... I pray they see the error of their thinking and vote for Mr. McCain

    August 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  23. Angelo

    I heard that McCain and his senior economic advisor use the “Cone of silence” whenever they come up with these crazy ideas!!!!

    Excerpt of McCain using the “Cone of Silence”
    McCain: What kind of tax credit should we give the rich?
    Advisor: What?
    McCain: I said tax credit for the rich?
    Advisor: Yes, I know you are filthy rich McCain. You made $500,000 last month and Cindy made $2.5 million!
    McCain: Ok, great idea $500,000 tax credit to people making $2.5 million.
    McCain: Bush was right, we can get lot’s done with this “Cone of Silence”!!!

    August 18, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. JB

    It's interesting that the campaign automatically slams critics as being Pro-Obama when Obama had defended McCain's military service in the face of critics.

    Way to thank someone who stood up for you. Is that how he's going to treat our allies, foreign and domestic?

    August 18, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. Christine

    I certainly hope that CNN will take its responsibility to their viewers more seriously and uncover ,and report upon, the gaffes, blunders and inaccuracies stated by John McCain in this presidential race nearly every day. It was very clear to me that he was somehow prepared for at least some of the questions at the Saddleback Forum. If he was in a motorcade, as Rick Warren confirmed to Rick Sanchez Sunday night, then why isn't this being talked about more intensely? I wish you in the media would spend a fraction of your air time talking about McCain's deliberate distortions and less time scrutinizing every single word Barack Obama says.

    August 18, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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