Posted by: Randy Allgaier | August 24, 2008

A Noun, a Verb and POW: The McCain Campaign

Joe Biden said of Rudy Giuliani that his campaign stump speech didn’t amount to much more than a noun a verb and 9/11. Well- one could say that Mr. McCain’s campaign revolves around a noun a verb and POW. John McCain is a war hero. He should be thanked for that service. The nation owes him great thanks for what he went through. But in all due respect, his experience in Viet Nam does not translate into being a President. The McCain campaign tromps out the POW experience as its trump card every time the candidate’s integrity is questioned, as it should be for any Presidential candidate, or his casual relationship with the truth is exposed.

The POW card is being overused and is quite frankly embarrassing and disgusting. When the Obama campaign was right to expose that McCain was in a motorcade rather than in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being questioned by Rick Warren, Nicolle Wallace of the McCain camp retorted, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”

When Obama reminded a crowd that McCain forgot how many houses he owns, Rogers huffed, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”

But when the McCain makes veiled racist commercials- it’s all in good fun! Seems a tad like a double standard doesn’t it? Let’s not even get into the fact that one of McCain’s spokespeople is named Nicolle Wallace. Obviously no one in the McCain campaign has watched Law and Order CI. I can’t help but think that their spokesperson is a serial killer that is a recurring character on the series who is the quintessential example of pure evil wrapped in a package that is pretty and innocent. It’s an obscure reference- but one I find pretty funny and perhaps somewhat apt.

But back to the POW card that is being played often. It is in risk of turning from a trump card to a Joker.
Recently Representative Terry Everett, an Alabama Republican, let loose with a barrage at the Democrat John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who is the head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, calling him “cut-and-run John Murtha” and an “idiot.“ “And don’t talk to me about him being an ex-marine,” Everett said. “Lord, that was 40 years ago. A lot of stuff can happen in 40 years.

So why should Mr. McCain’s prison experience give him the equivalent of a “get out of jail card”? Simple answer- it shouldn’t.

Maybe Senator Joe Biden started to make the point when he said in his speech in Springfield IL that we need more than a warrior – we need a leader.

Having the McCain campaign use the POW card everywhere is just sleazy. I can only imagine that sooner or later it will backfire. In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd wrote today , “his campaign is cheapening his greatest strength — and making a mockery of his already dubious claim that he’s reticent to talk about his P.O.W. experience — by flashing the P.O.W. card to rebut any criticism, no matter how unrelated. The captivity is already amply displayed in posters and TV advertisements.”

I agree with Ms Dowd, but it does seem that much of our nation eats up cheapening up patriotism. Too many in this nation worship the flag and don’t really think about what it represents. Too many Americans hold on to some absurd notion that this nation was found on Christian principles and is a Christian nation rather than taking the time to look at the more complex meaning behind the philosophers that truly inspired the founding fathers- Locke, Rousseau and Kant.

Mr. McCain’s experience is a compelling narrative and fits nicely with those that wave the flag without thinking further about how we build a more perfect union.

On Meet the Press this morning- Tom Brokaw mentioned an email he got where someone had taken great affront to folks’ jumping on the number of McCain homes- since he had lived in a box for five years. I think that Mr. Brokaw was a little taken aback when Chuck Todd, NBC’s brilliant political director, pointed out the issues that Ms. Dowd rose about the danger of the McCain camp overusing this story. Mr. Brokaw seemed perplexed. But Mr. Todd and Ms Dowd spoke the unspeakable- John McCain should not be able to get away with anything he wants because of his POW experience.

It will be up to the press to expose the McCain’s use of the POW card to answer every and all criticism. Obama can’t- he would be eviscerated. Joe Biden can only allude to it as he did in his Springfield speech. Dowd and Todd are only two- and most of the press seem unlikely to expose this for fear of being labeled unpatriotic. Wasn’t that the reason the press didn’t do its due diligence in the lead up to the war in Iraq and why the press is culpable in the Bush fraud?

I don’t care that Mr. McCain’s wife is wealthy- although she just seems like a rich little daddy’s girl. I am happy for them. But it is how that wealth impacts McCain’s policies that are the issue. He like most Republicans protect the interest of the ϋber-wealthy and mega-corporations and get an ignorant electorate to vote against their economic interest by lies and deception. It exposes the Republicans as the elites- not Obama who grew up with economic difficulty. Sure Obama is well off now and Joe Biden isn’t poor- but they aren’t promoting public policies that will benefit them at the expense of the poor and the middle class. In short they have consciences.

Mr. McCain wants to trot out the POW card as his shield against every criticism but accuses Obama of playing the race card if anyone dares to suggest that there is any undercurrent of playing on racial fears in the McCain campaign. No one has accused McCain of being racist- just that his campaign knows how to play on racial fears. But God forbid anyone expose McCain for his playing the POW card.

If Mr. McCain wants to use the POW experience to quash any criticism, no matter how unrelated to that horrible experience the criticism may be, we should be free to examine how that experience has influenced his world view.

Maureen Dowd did just that in today’s column. “While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?

Please Mr. McCain stop using the POW experience as a crutch. It doesn’t become you.


  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptRecently Representative Terry Everett, an Alabama Republican, let loose with a barrage at the Democrat John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who is the head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, … […]

  2. There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.WilliamShakespeareWilliam Shakespeare

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