Monday, August 18, 2008

McSame: The Audacity of Self-Aggrandizement

John McCain spent upwards of five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, during which time he was tortured. That's an amazing and commendable thing to endure for one's country, and I am hardly one to cavil with the details of the psychological and mental work a person does to survive hardships of that magnitude. If John McCain says that his faith in god was part of how he got through his days, I take him at his word.

But thirty years on, as he attempts to win the presidency, McCain has gotten very specific about some of the ways his faith informed his wartime perseverance, and some of the specifics he has cited as recently as Saturday's forum with Pastor Rick Warren -- about a guard drawing a cross in the sand of his holding cell and the two of them, McCain and the sympathetic Vietnamese guard, sharing a moment of Christian community -- are not holding up to scrutiny (Cf. here, here, here).

The anecdote does not appear to have appeared in any of McCain's several accounts of his captivity written before 1999, and it bears a striking resemblance to an anecdote offered by Alexander Solzhenitsyn about his experiences in the Soviet gulag system.

So what is to be made of this? McCain's biography and reputed penchant for "straight talk" are central to his presidential campaign. His former POW status is invoked regularly, and if today is any indication, flagrantly. In the context of a relatively minor spat over whether McCain did or did not gain an unfair advantage in Saturday's forum, his campaign issued a statement that implies that his former POW status exempts him from the routine give and take of electoral politics:

“The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” [emphasis mine]
McCain seems determined to "connect with" Christian and Christianist voters, and by all accounts his cross-in-the-sand anecdote went over very well in Saturday's forum.

It seems to me that the truth and the transparent political expediency of the anecdote should matter to people who fancy themselves "values voters." Relying on faith to endure hardships is blameless, and for some, even commendable; lying about it is not honorable. And mixing your own biography with someone else's indicates, at best, a decline of mental capacity that should give pause to would-be voters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment. If McCain conveniently picked this little ditty up from another author then this alone should disqualify him from the presidency. I'm quite tired of being lied to, bold faced, from sleezy politicians who will stooped to anything to get elected.