Keep an eye on this: Andrew (and others) are poking around McCain’s cross anecdote, and so far can find no reference to it (not in a prior retelling of McCain’s Christmases in captivity, not anywhere before 1999 when it appeared in Faith of My Fathers).
If this has legs — that is to say, if McCain lied about an apparently transformative experience in captivity and exploited others’ faith in an attempt to curry favor with the Evangelical community — it would be a profoundly stupid move. Hillary’s comments about sniper fire in Bosnia were dumb, but ultimately harmless — they just showed her trying to maximize political gain by showing how tough she was under fire (literally, in that case).
My first reaction when I heard the story retold on Saturday night was that it was a great story, and I was puzzled about never having heard it before. Seems like the kind of thing that should have been indelibly connected to his public life as a candidate — and perhaps I’d just missed it (admittedly, I don’t follow him as closely as I follow Barack). But something here doesn’t add up. (As I’m writing this, Andrew finds further evidence it’s not McCain’s story — he first told it as if it happened to someone else.)
If he’s lying about this, it makes it extremely hard for him to use his captivity as a proxy for his character, faith and duty to country. Which is why it would be so dumb to embellish… but he’d hardly be the first politician to fall victim to that trap.
Time will tell…
Update: Andrew’s most recent post on this more or less puts this story to bed:
Day said “the only friendly thing the [guards] ever did was hit me on the leg instead of on the head.” But, according to Day, McCain wouldn’t condemn them all, telling the other men of the occasional act of decency he’d witnessed from his captors. Day says McCain told him how one of those guards had “made a cross with his foot and wiped it out.”