August 18th, 2008
05:28 PM ET
14 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. Matt

    McCain's camp is right.

    These Obama supporters are the worst I've ever seen. Everything is blown out of proportion by these zealots.

    Not a lick of sense between the bunch.

    August 18, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  2. Paula

    We knew he was lying-not a good actor and totally out of character-he can't "do" humble.

    August 18, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  3. Big D

    I have no insight into whether the cross story is true. And I have no insight into whether McCain heard any of the interview with Obama during the time that he was supposedly in the Cone of Silence but wasn't. But doesn't McCain have to admit that it gives the impression of dishonesty when he didn't admit that he was in a car instead of being backstage? He's so quick to criticize anyone asking a question. He's been complaining about not getting enough media coverage, but increased scrutiny like Obama has already faced comes with that extra coverage.

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



    August 18, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  5. Kang

    "the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd"

    The what? I know McCain is old but can't his handlers use more current terms? Try "the blogosphere", we all know that is what you really mean.

    And why is it that it is never McCain making these comments? It is always one of his yes men. Too busy getting ready for Wheel of Fortune, John?

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

    omg... it's like Ronald Reagan's recollection of something that happened in a war movie....

    This is scary stuff.

    August 18, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. McCain ApeRape

    It's really hard to believe the neocons anymore

    August 18, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  8. EDW

    McCain didn't just steal from some Lefty writer - he stole from a man who had been through even WORSE than McCain had been through! In the Gulags of the Soviet Union, where he almost died of cancer. A man who was eventually exiled from his Homeland for standing up to tyranny! You should be ashamed and so should John McCain.

    August 18, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  9. Angelo

    So you complain McCain but how about all that other stuff that’s thrown at Obama?

    Oh , yes, I remember now. You said its ALL A BIG JOKE!!!

    August 18, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  10. Ron, NYC

    I watched the so called civil forum. I watched both candidates and I don't need any tv talking heads or so called "pundits" to confirm my suspicion that McCain saw the questions ahead of time. What a fraud, and CNN is actually covering up for him. The New York times ran a story confirming that McBush was not in a cone of silence.

    August 18, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  11. Eric

    Yeah, right. A little defensive on this one, aren't they?

    McCain's service and internment in Vietnam is beyond reproach, but his use of it almost 40 years later to get elected president is just repellent. McCain is lying – maybe both to us and to himself. Just watch as his people furiously spin this one. Pretty soon they'll have some poor Vietnamese sap up there saying he drew the cross. Ugh.

    August 18, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  12. Jamie of CT

    Mccain, you got caught lying again! You should take responsibility for your own words and appoligize like Hillary did instead of blaming Obama's campaign for everything.
    This country needs an honest and responsible leader, not a whiner, nor a liar nor another George W. Bush.

    August 18, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  13. nganenu

    Hi Budy,
    The man create a fable. was he not listening? how could bring up all those stories if he was not chating? Why do you guys not bring this up as the trait of the chararter of the man who want the awhite ahouse by all means. mcBush a lie like Bush who forged the doucuments for war. Shame on the likes of mcBush

    August 18, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  14. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    And we would believe someone named "Swindle" because....?

    August 18, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  15. McCain=the draft

    I honestly think McCain wants to win so badly he has become delusional. He is not a mentally sound person. The press should be on top of this, but they won't hold him to the same scrutiny as Obama, because he's a POW! And McCain knows this, so he's banking on the average Joe believing him!

    August 18, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  16. 18 million minus one

    It is very disturbing to me that anything dealing with John McCains military experience is off limits to question. John McCain has made his military life a focus of his presidental run. He is the one who brings it up but we are all evil and unpatriotic if we question it. This reminds me of the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. If you questioned Bush you were unpatriotic. If you are going to run on your military experience then you better be able to take the heat when those experiences are questioned. By the way, just how does being a prisoner of war show you know how to win wars? The only war McCain was in we lost. OOPs guess I'm unpatriotic.

    August 18, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  17. PUMA #1


    August 18, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. The Truth Always Hurts and Offends Liberals

    We are the "Land of the Free because of the Brave" – like McCain. Thanks John McCain for your service to our country.

    August 18, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  19. Voter

    Swindle won't swindle America!

    August 18, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  20. Arcticwolves172

    It was announced two days before the forum that McCain would be traveling during Obama's time. The Obama Campaign knew that. Now they plant a seed of doubt cause Obama his butt handed to him.
    Now wonder he wants nothing to do with McCain without a teleprompter or MSNBC moderating. As the Mccain camp said..."if you think we cheated, our proposal for a weekly joint town hall meeting is still on the table.

    August 18, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  21. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    He's a plagiarist...he stole from Solzhenitsyn's book and account of the cross in the sand. Remember, folks, if McCain is not talking about Obama, he is very scant on original material... even so, still a bit surprising he had to borrow this type of story and tarnish the very foundation of his claim to fame as a politician: his POW history.

    August 18, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  22. Sherry, Atlanta


    August 18, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  23. Venus

    Another lie from McSame!!!

    Also... POW = war hero? How?

    Many men fought in Nam and lived. McSame was sitting on his butt as POW. He didn't even fight in the war!

    Also... he wants to follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell? What's stopping McSame from going after Bin?

    McSame is just tough talk!

    Even now with the PM of Iraq saying starting next year US troops will start leaving Iraq. What does McSame say... Obama wants to lose the war!

    McSame is an evil person!

    August 18, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  24. Ambrose Smith, Borrego Springs, California

    If Obama supporters are the 'Dungeon and Dragons' crowd--McCain folks are the BINGO crowd.

    August 18, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  25. HRG, VT

    There is no doubt in my mind that this happened. I question what difference it makes. He came home from Vietname, left his sick wife and kids–and ran around with Bimbo Cindy. End of the real story.

    August 18, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
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