The POW Card (Again) (UPDATED)

John McCain just can’t seem to help himself:

Couric asked about McCain’s answer when Politico inquired about the number of homes he and his wife, Cindy, own. McCain referred the question to his staff, who said he had at least four. Records show the number could be twice that, depending on how you count the family’s properties.

“I am grateful for the fact that I have a wonderful life,” McCain said. “I spent some years without a kitchen table, without a chair, and I know what it’s like to be blessed by the opportunities of this great nation.

And, for once, Maureen Dowd nails it:

His brutal hiatus in the Hanoi Hilton is one of the most stirring narratives ever told on the presidential trail — a trail full of heroic war stories. It created an enormous credit line of good will with the American people.


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.


The real danger to the McCain crew in overusing the P.O.W. line so much that it’s a punch line is that it will give Obama an opening for critical questions:

While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?

UPDATE: Seems like John McCain has a whole deck of POW cards–take a look at this:

[The McCain campaign] will be prepared to show McCain’s “home” in Hanoi by using images of his cell. They claim they have not overused the POW element and insist they have “underused it.” They say Americans think most people in presidential politics are wealthy and will point out that Obama “made himself a multi-millionaire after he entered public life.”

Being a POW doesn’t give you political experience, nor does it  teach you about world affairs or foreign policy.  In reality, being a POW doesn’t make John McCain any more qualified to be President than anyone else. It was just an extremely difficult situation that he suffered though and came out on top of.

Reading that paragraph, though, I’m strongly reminded of Hillary Clinton’s campaign; John McCain is using the same playbook Clinton used.  He’s saying ‘I served, I suffered, I came out on top so now I deserve ro be President.’

If John McCain keeps going down this road, he might learn–like Hillary Clinton did–that in times of extreme hardship, in the eyes of the American people, nobody automatically deserves to be President.