Senator John McCain told a moving story at the Saddleback Forum about a relatively compassionate Vietnamese guard approaching him and drawing a cross in the dirt in front of McCain as a way of signifying that he too was a Christian.
The presidential hopeful essentially repeated this story from his 1999 book Faith of our Fathers where he wrote:
“We both stood wordlessly looking at the cross until, after a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away. I saw my good Samaritan often after the Christmas when we venerated the cross together.”
Now Obama supporters, fresh on the heels of accusing McCain of cheating during the forum, are questioning the veracity of McCain’s ‘Cross in the dirt’ story. They’re saying he borrowed the story from the life of the recently deceased Alexander Solzhenitsyn whose story told by Chuck Colson goes like this:
Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.
As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.
To say McCain stole the story is, of course, ridiculous. The two stories have nothing whatsoever to do with each other other than drawing a cross in the dirt in a prison. Christians have been drawing crosses everywhere since the crucifixion.
And this story isn’t just the work of some individual left wing wacko. The uber popular Daily Kos is all over this story. Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic is covering this intently. The Dallas News recounts the brouhaha, as well. The Political Insider as well runs with the story. And it’s gaining momentum. The UK Telegraph now has a story on it.
Now, Byron York of National Review actually did what other journalists see as unthinkable and actually called one of McCain’s fellow POW’s.
So I called Orson Swindle, a fellow POW who is campaigning for McCain, to ask him about it.
“I recall John telling that story when we first got together in 1971, when were talking about every conceivable thing that had ever happened to us when we were in prison” Swindle told me a few minutes ago. “Most of us had been kept apart or in small groups. Then, in 1970, they moved us into the big cell. And when we all got to see each other and talk to each other directly, instead of tapping through walls, we had 24 hours a day, seven days a week to talk to each other, and we shared stories. I vaguely recall that story being told, among other stories.”
“I remember it from prison,” Swindle continued. “There were several stories similar to that in which guards — a very few, I might add — showed compassion to the prisoners. It was rare, and I never met one, but some of the guys did.”
This is the kind of story that really saddens me. I’m no huge McCain fan. I’ve made that clear. But to question his honesty and integrity, especially about his time as a prisoner of war seems beyond the pale to me. But this is just an example of muddying the political waters. They’re simply throwing as many accusations as they can find and seeing what sticks. The Obama camp and their fellow travelers in the media are clearly worried after Saddleback. Obama accused the NRLC of “lying.” The campaign then accused McCain of listening to the questions beforehand. And now this. All of this makes me wonder if Saddleback may just have been Obama’s Waterloo.