Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Redefining McCan't

In case you haven't been reading it, much has been discussed about a story about McCan't's time in captivity, when he encountered a kind Vietnamese guard who used a stick to draw the sign of the cross in the sand for McCan't to see, indicating that he too was a Christian. McCan't has used this event to define the moment when he found his faith. Fair enough, but apparently there has been some controversy surrounding this imagery. Some have argued (incorrectly) that the actual image belongs to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who wrote The Gulag Archipelago, while others attribute it to Charles Colson, the chief counsel for Nixon who became a minister after serving time related to the Watergate scandal, who appears to have made the Solzhenitsyn tale up.

McCan't biographer Mark Salter, who co-wrote Faith of My Fathers with McCan't, appears to have embellished the story in that book, unapologetically so. When confronted by a National Review contributor about the similarity of McCan't's story with the Colson myth, Salter responded:
I'll leave the ... controversy to people with a lot more time on their hands than I have and a lot less reason than your typical paranoid schizophrenic. Introducing a note of common sense — such as the possibility that an ad maker used a little artistic license — often disturbs them more than it helps.
No matter; it seems the Obama campaign is in consensus that McCan't didn't make it up.

All this, however, is prelude to a TPM post today that features a reader's observations about missing the target. The reader believes that going after McCan't in this way only helps McCan't by making him look picked upon. But he has an alternative strategy, one which I think is a good offense and points to how McCan't has consistently altered his public image to make him appear more electable, which Sullivan wrote about and I featured here. The reader's idea:
[The cross-in-the-sand story] can be used to neutralize his POW sainthood. Someone needs to compare working with the Rove proteges to working with the Vietnamese torturers. The construction can go like this: John McCain said that Karl Rove deserves a special place in hell for the false accusations against him in South Carolina [during the 2000 campaign]. I think this place in hell also holds his Vietnamese torturers and, in fact, anyone who uses torture. Well, John McCain is now working with Karl Rove's people to get elected. The very same people who slandered him. I guess he would work with anyone, maybe even his Vietnamese torturers, to get elected. We should judge a man by the company he keeps when times are tough.
TPM's Marshall thinks it's a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." I'm in the middle on this one. I think McCan't has literally made a Faustian pact with the Rove machine to salvage his campaign. And to some degree this has worked, if the latest Zogby poll is any indication (Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!). This is a great place for Obama to hit McCan't hard, especially given McCan't's earlier comments that Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election.

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