Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Standards Corroborated

Ross Douthat calls out Andrew Sullivan but his criticisms apply to everyone questioning McCain's cross-in-the-dirt anecdote:

It is, of course, possible that Andrew's suspicions are justified and McCain invented (or at the very least seriously embellished) the story to pander to the dread Christianists; all sorts of things are possible when you're dealing with a story that almost by definition can't be corroborated. But if this is the standard we're establishing, it's also possible that Jerome Corsi is right when he insinuates that Barack Obama is deliberately concealing the extent of his childhood exposure to Islam in order to maintain his political viability. After all, who can really say?
But this is decidedly not the standard I am applying, nor the one I believe anyone else is applying.

In and of themselves, McCain's anecdote about the cross and Obama's childhood exposures to Islam lack corroboration -- witness accounts are spotty to fleeting to nonexistent, time travel is not an option.

But in McCain's case, we have something rather more substantial: starting almost immediately after his release, McCain wrote of his experiences in captivity, including his experiences of Christmas, when the cross-in-the-dirt incident is said to have taken place. The cross-in-the-dirt tale does not appear in any of these accounts before 1999, twenty-six years after his release. McCain now presents it as a singularly significant moment in his religious life. Why would he say nothing of it for so many years?

Moreover, the cross-in-the-dirt tale bears a striking resemblance to a tale previously circulated but never attached to McCain before McCain did the attaching in 1999.

McCain has made his POW experience central to his political career and to his current campaign for the presidency, and he's within his rights to do so. It does demonstrate a "grace under pressure" quality that few others can equal. But the cross-in-the-dirt story, which attempts to link his patriotic commitment with a crowd-pleasing belief system, appears on good evidence to be a fabrication. It is fair to point this out, and it is fair for voters to consider whether they want a candidate who would lie about such a thing, or at best, to muddle his own recollections to such a degree.

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