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. Ardnuas

    McCain HAS a serious ANGER problem....He has convinced himself that just because he was a POW 35 years ago, he CAN'T be critiziced for lying, cheating, stealing or anything!
    he is NOT very deep, he speaks from his head, not his heart.... I think WAR and only WAR is in his heart. God help America if this man wins.

    August 18, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  2. Goodson

    Sean Hannity was of the opinion that McCain's infidelity and maltreatment of his first wife was justified since he suffered for the country's sake. No wonder Republicans treat women like dogs, strip them of all rights, they couldn't vote till about 40 years ago, they can't use birth control, under no circumstance is abortion tolerated but their men are clamouring for their inalienable right to own handguns, dirty murderers.

    August 18, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  3. kayla

    mcsenile can only talk about war, am sick and tired of this man and his war stories. war is not gonna get you elected. you have pea for brain.

    August 18, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. Observer

    One of the most important elements of this story is that when John McCain discussed his Christmas's in captivity (in great detail) prior to 1999, there was no mention of the cross in the dirt story. Another interesting point is since he was a fan of Solzhenitsyn's and they seemed to share the same experience that he would mention that shared's just a little hard to swallow.

    August 18, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  5. lou

    we want to know everything about Mccain. go after him as the news media did obama . tell us all the truth about his war effort . i think he is a complete lier . and he most likely did sell his country out to help himself . what is this keating story? can you did this out and tell the truth. we should know before we vote. if he is not the lier i think he is it won't hurt him. this guy smells funny!............ saturday was sure a joke. no wonder he was so on the mark . he had a heads up ... shame on the preacher!

    August 18, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  6. Mary

    Wasn't Bush getting help with an earpiece or something during the last debates? Come on, McCain answered some of the questions almost before they were asked. And I resent his references to Obama supporters as dungeons and dragons and living in Mom's basement.

    August 18, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  7. Gene

    This is one of those stories that just sounds and feels so fake to me that I wonder if it was a farce just to try to suck up to the evangelicals. McCain doesn't strike me as a truly religious soul... for that matter neither does Clinton.

    The real story about this forum should be about the pastor intentionally lying to the congregation and on national TV, saying that McCain was in a soundproof bubble.. when in fact he wasn't even at the church when Obama was speaking... and though he denies doing it... had total access to be able to watch Obama answer the questions and hear the questions himself.

    August 18, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  8. RealBaptist

    What else would you expect from John SIDNEY McCain, a man who pretends to be a Baptist, but is really a tea swilling, Queen loving EPISCOPALIAN! Don't put this anti-papist in the White House with his MADE-UP war stories, send him back to Buckingham Palace where he belongs!

    August 18, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  9. Lesley

    By the way, the guy holding the microphone at the end of the forum on Saturday made reference to something Obama said about working with McCain on ethics reform, how was he able to get that information so quickly if the McCain campaign didn't already hear most of Obama's portion of the program and look it up? They also completely failed to mention that McCain voted for the $3 million bear DNA bill that he brought up. More unbiased reporting I suppose.

    August 18, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. Obama supporter:White, 60 year old woman

    Who's whining now....

    ...has the McCain camp shuffled a new card in the deck..the Prisoner of war card....can't question his credibility, can't question his memory, can't question his honest, can't question his motives....if that is the case, he MUST release the 540 pages of his 600 page military file...what is he hiding??

    McCain would have more crediblity if he showed his "humility" by disavowing all of the lies being circulated in emails about Obama...

    same old tired Republican attacks to avoid the issue

    August 18, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  11. Jim - Georgia

    Wow! Never heard such venom in comments before. If this is the attitude of common people, God help us! So hateful. I'll give Obama credit for not being nasty, so why are you, his supporters, being so nasty?! You can disagree with McCain as a good choice without having to hate the guy. I have no desire to see Obama as president, but I don't have to decide he is evil in order to justify my decision on who to vote for. Is it just possible that these are two good people running for office who have differing approaches and political phiolsophies? I've lived overseas for the past 10 years and return to find Americans in general have become plain nasty – too many argumentative talk shows perhaps.

    August 18, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  12. DCMI

    As a younger person, I am disgusted by the constant disparagement of my intelligence in this election. Despite my "lack of experience" and "youth," I somehow manage to succeed in my professional studies (medicine). My own peers and I are not blind followers of one candidate or another. We realize that both men are imperfect, but using the experiences I have I am going to make the best decision I can, and choose the candidate most likely to forge a new and better path. And, by the way, we don't seem to be too young to die in the wars the old people start or pay the social security and medicare taxes from which many of the old people live, so until you can survive without the contributions of Young Americans to the economy, to culture, and to society, stop whining about our "poor judgement skills"

    August 18, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  13. wm musson

    being in jail does not make a hero.....why does he keep whining about least he married his mistress......

    August 18, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  14. confused Obama

    Obama is surrounded by hypocrites like him.

    Why can't he accept McCain's service to the nation.

    Like him, all his supporters make fun of Army services rendered in those days.

    Guys, imazine if today you were to live under somebody's else control, you will realize. Forget Obama who is flying high and away from facts.

    August 18, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  15. Gene

    Why is it that whenever anyone is skeptical of McCain... his camp automatically blames Obama? Believe it or not... people out there can have their own opinions.

    And Obama stood up for you in this respect, McCain.. you should be thanking him.

    August 18, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. well well now

    “the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd.”
    LOL how they really think Americans are THAT stupid???!!! geezzzzz, John McCain has turned out to be a lier as well as a cheat. he can NOT be trusted, just ask the Georgian President who last week was asking where John McCain was. John McCain has 59 LOBBYIST running his campaign, he has ties to the explosion aboard the USS Forrestal 1967, he promised to run a clean campaign, his top advisor is lobbyist fro Georgia, John McCain is linked to shaddy deals and scandal, VOTED WITH BUSH 95% and really important....JOHN MCCAIN WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SERVE TWO TERMS...if he was really about "Country first" he would quit NOW...AMERICA CAN NOT AFFORD "DRILL HERE DRILL NOW, SURGE" MCCAIN

    August 18, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  17. Fareed H. Ansari

    McCain the "commander in cheat" is now also a "cone head".

    August 18, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  18. To Know

    McCain didn't have to cheat during the Saddleback Forum – all of his responses were from the standard Republicant party "we're all Christians" playbook.

    That said, he was overly sharp for McCain, and seemed almost alive, and well, he is from the party of deception, so I would naturally lean toward his campaign breaching the cone of silence. One item that raised eyebrows was the question on faith Based Initiatives – does anyone find it odd that McCain's answer was the example Warren used to describe the question to Obama?

    August 18, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  19. Emily

    "pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd"

    Wow, he just alienated a large group of Republicans right there. I play d&d, and, believe me, there are a lot of conservatives who like to roll their dice on weekends.

    August 18, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  20. James from bk/LI

    i wonder if mccain is a baptist or catholic, because if he is baptist i don't see why he would need to draw a cross to pray when the bible itself is against worshiping any object (cross include.) as christians, our cross is in our heart. mccrazy story seems to be made up to me. if he was such a faith base person, why has he been so silent about his faith untill now. this man would sale his mom for an electoral vote.

    August 18, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  21. yay of PA

    "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,” -Michael Goldfarb

    This one is a keeper! Politics is so amusing and absurd these days.

    Poor Goldfarb. Missed too many saving throws as a child, hmm? If there were such a thing as Integrity throws, McCain would roll a natural 1 on many of them. I'd be more concerned about your own candidate here.

    August 18, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  22. Max H.

    Ralph V must be the 5th dumbest person in the USA. McCain did not attend WEST POINT, but graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis. And yes, McCain was the 5th. from the bottom. A bottom that many of us couldn't even get close to.

    August 18, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  23. Marti

    If the country votes for McCain, then we deserve to have another 4 years of the Bush administration. I would rather have a president who is thoughtful and respected by other nations then to have a trigger happy old man in the white house. John McCain always talks of honor...what is honorable about destroying Iraq and lying to the American people.

    Obama tells us it won't be easy...McCain doesn't want to increase his and his friends taxes to pay for the war he wants and guess who will pay ...oh yes, our grandchildren.....McCain doen't need to worry about money, his wife is rich...way rich because she can spend $5 million every day!

    August 18, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  24. Erik

    OK, he's a nice old man who believes in a strong and proud America. Fine, elect him president fo the VFW. He's no longer U.S. Presidential material.

    August 18, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  25. EBC




    August 18, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
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