ABC News gives us this glimpse from an appearance on Face the Nation:
"I think it’s up to Sen. Obama now not only to repudiate [Clark] but to cut him loose," McCain said.
McCain became visibly angry when I asked him to explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Presidency.
"Please," he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question.
See? He doesn't like to talk about it, which is probably why you didn't know he was a POW.
Of course, there was his first general election ad -- which was about the fact that John McCain was a POW. Before that, there was an ad attacking Hillary Clinton for supporting a Woodstock concert museum. "I’m sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event," McCain says in the ad. "I was tied up at the time."
Then there was "Love," an ad where McCain oddly runs against hippies who partied while he was "Shot down. Bayoneted. Tortured." And "Safe," where he talks about how much he hates war -- see, he was "shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW." Or "Service," an ad that tells us that McCain is principled because he went to Annapolis and a "calamity of fate delivered him to North Vietnam."
But other than that McCain doesn't make a big deal out of being a POW, right? I mean, that'd be using his experience as a political crutch, as training wheels to keep his campaign from tipping over into the rosebushes. He wouldn't do that, would he? All them terr'ists and Iranians and Vladimir Putins wouldn't care much whether or not he was a POW, so it's a good thing he doesn't use it to get out of political jams. McCain doesn't need that, he's got all that experience and stuff.
OK, so maybe he plays the POW card occasionally -- and, by "occasionally," I mean constantly. Even when it doesn't make any damned sense.
Facing a Democratic Party positively giddy over his recent admission that he didn't know how many houses he owned, John McCain quickly returned to a political trump card: his POW experience.
Speaking to the Washington Post, aide Brian Rogers, in full damage-control mode, acknowledged that his boss had "some investment properties and stuff," but added: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison."
And this has what to do with anything? That's nothing even close to a rebuttal -- that's a dodge. Team McCain also played the POW card when he was busted for cheating at Rick Warren's Saddleback forum. "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous," the McCain campaign responded.
Sometimes, McCain's use of the POW card is about the worst argument possible, Taking flack for his position on health care reform from Elizabeth Edwards, Team McCain pointed out that their candidate knew what it was like to get bad care "from another government." In other words, if it's better than what a freakin' POW got from the Viet Cong, your health care is fine -- now quit whining. Talk about setting the bar low.
The reason this is happening is the same reason why GOP campaigns have taken the low road in recent decades -- their arguments suck. They can't possibly win on the issues, so the campaign isn't about the issues. It's about the fact that John Kerry windsurfs, that Barack Obama eats arugula, that Bill Clinton was "too slick," that Michael Dukakis looked stupid in a tank. It's "who would you rather have a beer with?"
It's not about ideas, because Republican ideas are all losers -- this year especially. Once every four years, Republicans treat Americans like children and the office of the President of the United States of America as the prize in a personality contest. It's ironic and hypocritical that McCain's busy accusing Obama of celebrity when he's busy running as America's Most Famous Veteran -- complete with appearances on Saturday Night Live, Letterman, and Leno.
McCain always likes to point out when he's about to give you some of his patented "straight talk," so let me take it for a spin -- I'm going to give you some straight talk. If this sort of thing -- that Obama eats arugula and is an elitist -- is what's going to decide your vote for you, you're a freakin' moron. If you're going to vote for the person you'd most like to have a beer with, you're a chump. If you're going to vote for McCain because he was a POW and he "deserves" it, you're three pints of smart in a fifty-gallon drum, with stupid making up the difference. The election is about who can do the goddam job, not about who's the friendliest guy. If you don't understand that, you shouldn't be allowed to handle anything sharper than an underinflated beachball.
There's your straight talk; notice how little you liked it. For the record, "straight talk" doesn't mean "a line of BS you want to hear." If the only answer John McCain has to criticism, if the only argument he has for his presidency, is "I was a POW," then he doesn't have any answers and he doesn't have an argument.
Cleaning up the huge mess the last guy everyone wanted to have a beer with is going to be a big job. It's going to take the smartest guy. Playing the POW card isn't going to get you out of anything when your sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office. It's an intellectually lazy and emotionally manipulative device designed to avoid tough questions. If it's the best McCain can come up with, then he can't come up with anything.