And John McCain, Former Prisoner of War, Had Oatmeal for Breakfast

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 7:28 AM PDT

Okay, so expect some action on the blogs about this today. At Saturday's presidential forum at Saddleback Church — the one I said wouldn't seep into Monday's news cycle unless there was a controversy — the moderator, Pastor Rick Warren, assured the audience that while he was questioning Obama, "we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence." The idea was that McCain, who was to be asked the same questions after Obama was finished, couldn't hear what was going on.

When McCain's portion of the event started, Warren began, "Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?"

McCain responded, "I was trying to hear through the wall."

In actuality, McCain was in his motorcade when Obama was being questioned, meaning he could have heard the first part of the event over the radio or gotten information via Blackberry.

But the fact that McCain may have had a slight advantage isn't what caught my eye. What did was how sanctimonious his campaign got when asked about the situation by the press. Here's the New York Times:

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Nicolle Wallace, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said on Sunday night that Mr. McCain had not heard the broadcast of the event while in his motorcade and heard none of the questions.

"The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous," Ms. Wallace said.

That's pretty bold, isn't it? The assumption is that McCain is above question in this, and basically every, situation because he is a former prisoner of war.

Look, I respect John McCain's experience in Vietnam. Don't assume otherwise because I'm a DFH blogger. But this sort of thing happens all the time. McCain always insists that he doesn't like talking about his POW experience ("One of the things I've never tried to do is exploit my Vietnam service to my country because it would be totally inappropriate to do," he once said), and the mainstream media always buys it. But in actuality McCain has made his war service the centerpiece of many of his advertisements and videos, and he discusses it regularly.

For example, when Obama criticized McCain for not supporting the more generous version of the GI Bill that recently passed Congress, McCain responded, "I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did."

Here's more from Paul Waldman:

Accused by his opponent (completely accurately) of being a carpetbagger, McCain responded that people in the military move around a lot, and "the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi." (Dramatic though the moment was, his claim wasn't true; he had lived longer in Virginia). When he got caught in the Keating Five scandal, he responded to reporters' inquiries with, "Even the Vietnamese didn't question my ethics."

So can we put to rest this idea that John McCain, former prisoner of war, doesn't bring up his prisoner of war experience because as a former prisoner of war he has too much integrity to use his prisoner of war experience for his own political benefit? He has, he does, and his campaign is following suit.

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