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. AMERICA 08

    John Mccain: Can we talk about the supreme court justices:

    Rick Warren: Sure,

    John Mccain: announces the whole bench.

    Me: Come on, he must have been given a sneak preview of the event because why was he in such a rush to speak. Duh, it's because he didn't want to forget the names obviously.

    Will the real Christians please stand up!!

    August 18, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  2. been there done that

    what's the big deal? I was a p.o.w. in nam and I can tell you from personal experince you don't know day from night let alone what day or year it is. Most of the time I wished I could die.

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


    August 18, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  4. HG, VT

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

    August 18, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. oldsoldierboy

    I'm just sick to my stomach. John McCain was not in the cone of silence until approx 30 minutes after Obama started his portion of the session. THAT'S CHEATING. No wonder he was on top of his game. Can the republicans do anything but cheat, lie, & exploit general Petraeus and the troops. I have to vote for Obama. The republicans just can not change their ways

    August 18, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  6. Bill, Covington

    Dungons and dragons...

    I wouldn't call pro obana voters "demons" I would just suggest : They are pure evil and dumber than a box of rocks.

    August 18, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  7. Ian

    I also heard McCain was given a lobatomy while a POW.

    August 18, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  8. dormar

    Jsame is just a old fool

    August 18, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  9. JinNC

    I don't know about the cross story but McCain did vote for the bill that had the $3 million bear DNA pork, which he made fun of in the forum. Not only did he vote for it, but he didn't even fight to have it removed.

    August 18, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  10. Flip Flop Obama

    Very important answer, remember any household making over $250,000 a year is going to get taxed up the ying yang under Obamas plan.
    I am so glad this issue is out in the open. Lets hope Obama will not flip flop on this issue as well.

    If you have not noticed, you do not really get a clear picture when Obama answers a question. Very vague responses. You definately know McCains stance without a doubt. A man of his words and does not change his stance depending on who is listening.

    McCain a True American Hero.

    August 18, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  11. Tom in Kensington, CA

    ooooo-wwwww-eeeee! Is this John's Swift Boat?

    Come on folks get out of the gutter and talk issues! I know that Republicans won't, but at least we try and we can turn the other check to these hypocrits!

    August 18, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  12. aughhhh

    Who Cares!!!! Being a prisoner does not qualify you to be president. If he had been better at his job he would not have been shot down. I'm sorry for what he had to go through but he should stop trying to get the sympathy vote and get over it. Many soldiers never came home, he was lucky.

    August 18, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  13. Stop playing the "POW" CARD!

    McCain– Your POW story is getting old. I respect your service to this country and you are a hero!!! But being a POW does not qualify you to be the president of the United States of America.

    August 18, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |

    Plainly put...... this forum was worthless......... what did it accomplish besides Warren's 15 minutes of fame..........

    August 18, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  15. DH

    Sounds like someone rolled a 1 on their diplomacy check...

    August 18, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  16. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Politicians and political hacks, from the GOP in particular, seem to think that we are stupid. They think that if enough of them tell the same lie, or swear that the first lie is true, that makes it true.

    Why should I believe anything that can't be proven when it comes from known and exposed liers?

    Give me and millions of others a break!!!

    August 18, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  17. Black Truth, AZ

    War Hero... Ok, President.... don't make me puke!!! If Mc(fill in the blank) wanted better media coverage then he would talk about what he is going to do for the country not complain about what the next man is going to do.

    Here is some advice for Mc(fill in the black) "you can point the finger at someone else for your mistakes but there is always three more fingers point back at you."

    OBAMA 08/12

    August 18, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. Foreign Observer

    Hey, who cares if Alex Solsh. told it first - it's a good story and pleases the crowd. Just like "drill here and drill now" or "let's not raise taxes ever." Lol.

    August 18, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  19. Reasonable Observer

    Okay, let's investigate "the cross story." But, can we also find out what is going on at the University of Illinois at Chicago Library related to the "unavailable" records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, the foundation headed by Barak Obama and Bill Ayers between 1995 and 2000? Why are we not seeing anything about this on CNN, NBC, CBS, etc.?

    August 18, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  20. James

    It seems like every single time John Mccain got caught lying, he immediately blames the Obama campaign. How about taking responsibilities for your own actions? This country needs a real change. Don't trust nor vote for liars like John Mccain, his surrogates, his lobbiests, Mccain's staff and George W. Bush and his administrations.

    This country needs an honest leader who doesn't need to manipulate people for their votes for a seat in the white house.

    August 18, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  21. Son of Rush

    Have to reach pretty far to get some dirt on McCain, The Real American in this race. It won't work Communist News Network.
    We know the truth about your candidate (OBAMA).

    August 18, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  22. Peter

    They say in the end Ronald Reagan used to mix up stories from his movies with real life. Maybe we'll get lucky and this time the dementia will set in before the election.

    August 18, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  23. Peter (CA)

    His story is backed up by a "campaign surrogate"? Really? He didn't tell anyone else the story?

    Come on McCain, it's all fishy. You're just pandering to the right wing, aren't you?

    Shawn-I've been praying too. Praying that right-thinking citizens will see through the lies and distortions and hypocrisy that the Republicans trot out every election. It's time for a change.

    August 18, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  24. Rich

    So isn't the real story here that McCain didn't actually experience the event that he so vividly depicted at the forumn. This sounds alot like the Clinton scenario to me! And how does McCain expect to have bi-partisan relationships as President with such harsh attacks on supporters. First if the supporters where smearing McCain and lieing it would be one thing but all they are doing is telling the truth as admitted by the campain. Its the yes you caught me telling a lie but how dare you think I'm dishonest you non-war veteran. G

    August 18, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Pat Riot

    Sacto Joe, Democrats have been destroying this country to the core since the party's inception. FDR was a dictator that sat in the oval office for 16 years. He is the reason we have countless faulty social programs today, he spent this country into recession, ignored habeus corpus, imprisoned our Japanese citizens in internment camps during the war, and the list goes on and on. Basically he was Bush x1000. A lot of Obama's tax-and-spend policy sounds pretty similar and his arrogance makes him the spitting image of FDR. So, in my humble opinion if you ever vote Democrat you're an idiot. There are still good Republicans out there who want to take the party back and they will. People will remember the virtues of federalism and freedom when we get backed into a corner by a socialist.

    August 18, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
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