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We know what John McCain hopes will propel him into the White House. It’s his 40 year old POW stories (cartoon) and other simplistic tidbits with as much substance as a Twinkie. He used his oft repeated tales from Hanoi to answer several questions at the Saddleback Church Forum and the audience ate it up. Love those Twinkies. No matter that Obama gave more compelling, if complex and nuanced, answers to the same questions. American likes drama in digestible segments, and that’s what McCain gave them.
Obama needs to find an antidote to McCain’s anecdotes, and he needs to find it soon!
My subjective applause meter indicates that the audience was thrilled by McCain and lukewarm at best to Obama. It hardly mattered to them that McCain gave them little to think about, often repeating self-serving anecdotes from his history which he’d used in his stump speeches and television ads.
McCain must have felt the love as he interjected the phrase “my friends” every three or four sentences.
Host and questioner Pastor Rick Warren must have felt it too because while he mildly admonished Obama several times not to use parts of his stump speeches as answers, he never called McCain on doing exactly that.
For those paying attention, the substantive differences between McCain and Obama were stark.
Those who believe in a woman’s right to choose and plan to vote for McCain best kiss both sexual intimacy and Roe vs. Wade goodbye. McCain believes that life begins at the moment of conception. Thus, since he’s against abortion, this means he’d also be against the morning after pill and any form of birth control that stops pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall.
Reading the handwriting on another kind of wall, you don’t need to have much imagination to predict what would happen once McCain had a chance to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court. Last night McCain made it clear he’d appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices.
I wasn’t sure why Warren asked Obama a question about what he’d do to address the plight of the some 150 million orphans in the world until he asked McCain the same question.
McCain deftly responded with another personal anecdote telling about how his wife bright home an orphan infant from Bangladesh.
POW! Take that those of you who dare to suggest he’d allow racial attacks to be used against Obama.
Warren also asked Obama a related question regarding what he’d do about human sex trafficking. Apparently McCain’s orphan tale threw him off stride because, unless I had a mental lapse and missed it, he never asked him the same question.
Too bad. I would have liked to hear McCain talk about the exploitation of women.
Warren posed a good question, asking each candidate to define what was meant by “being rich.”
Obama started with a joking reference to the wild success of the pastor’s book but then went on to answer the question.
McCain, who clearly doesn’t want to be viewed as a member of the super-rich class, told those of us without private jets to shuttle between our multitple mansions, that “some of the richest people I’ve ever known in my life are the most unhappy” and “I don’t want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich.”
I’m surprised he didn’t urge people to keep buying those $100 Million Mega-Buck lottery tickets, though more truthfully he could have suggested they marry into a fortune like he did.
Obama gave a personal answer to the question about which three wise people he’d listen to if he was president, naming his wife and maternal grandmother, and a number of congressmen from both parties.
When McCain was asked the same question for a moment I thought he was considering saying Jesus Christ. Instead he gave what I thought was his most interesting answer.
He named General David Petreaus, a no-brainer because it allowed him to throw out his I told you so’s about The Surge. But he then named Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.) as if this would enable him to distance himself from his campaign surrogates who are using his race against Obama.
Pssst, John, somebody is printing the “Keep the White House White” bumper stickers my friend who lives in a rural town near Atlanta has seen on cars.
Using his valuable last wisdom slot, named eBay CEO Meg Whitman who is a close adviser. The only reason I can think of that he did this is that he was stung by the remarks of his campaign co-chair, Phil Gramm, who got lots of negative publicity when he called America a “nation of whiners” whose economic complaints are mostly “mental.”
If you can’t discern the man behind the multiple masks, then what you see is what you get. A President McCain will get us, to paraphrase and quote Frank Rich (read The Candidate We Still Don’t Know), a courageous and patriotic former POW; a political maverick who “has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors”; who “strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war”; who “slammed the president’s response to Katrina”; who “fought the ‘agents of intolerance’ of the religious right”; who “crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers”.
As Frank Rich put it more diplomatically, every part of this except being a POW, is a lie. (Rich explains why in his OpEd.) And we don’t know for certain whether McCain is embellishing his accounting of his POW experience.
Last night doesn’t count for much since, although carried online and by both CNN and MSNBC, it was only watched by political junkies.
We’ll discover the impact today and through the week because we’ll see how the media cuts and pastes excerpts from this non-debate debate between the candidates. Despite the shortcoming of the format, it was the closest thing to a side-by-side comparison of the candidates because they both were asked the same questions.
Let’s see how the media spins this and let’s watch the polls to see whether the public saw through McCain’s canned corny answers.
8/23/08 Update: A what-if I forgot when I wrote this column on McCain’s relying on a 40 year old war story to answer any tricky question:
What McCain says makes him more of a war hero than just any old run of the mill POW is that he was offered an early release because he was the son of an admiral.
What if he accepted that release?
He would have broken the honor code among all POWs that says you don’t accept any favors from the enemy that your comrades don’t also get.
Getting out before those who were there longer than you is the ultimate favor.
If he came home under those conditions he probably would have ruined both any chance for advancement in the military or a political career.
Anyone who risks life and limb in service to their country can be called heroic. But those who embellish, let alone brag about, their heroism, diminish the stature of true heroes.
Be sure to read “A White House press conference from Hell” by Robert Kezelis. about how McCain uses a POW story to answer every question, and Maureen Dowd on the POW subject
“Too Much of a Bad Thing”, the later writing:
So it’s hard to believe that John McCain is now in danger of exceeding his credit limit on the equivalent of an American Express black card. 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.