Independent Group Attacks McCain's Time as POW
By Perry Bacon
Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign responded forcefully today to a group called Vietnam Veterans Against McCain that has sent out mailers blasting the senator in South Carolina. On its web site, the group says the former prisoner of war and onetime Navy pilot did not deserve the medals he earned in Vietnam. The group charges that he earned "medals for valor" equal to nearly a medal-and-a-half for each hour spent in combat, and also alleges that he discussed U.S. military operations with the North Vietnamese while in captivity.
The flier put out by the group, which the McCain campaign provided to The Post, shows a bloated picture of McCain with the phrases "SONGBIRD" and "AN ENORMOUS CRIME, THE POWS I HELPED LEAVE BEHIND" beside his face. The mailer from the group repeats the web site's charge that McCain received medals despite putting in very few hours in combat.
McCain's campaign was quick to jump on the falsehoods promoted by the group, which are of a sort increasingly common in presidential contests. In 2000, McCain lost the presidential primary race in South Carolina thanks in part to a smear campaign alleging he'd fathered a black child out of wedlock, and, in 2004, a campaign by a group like the one now attacking McCain lit into John Kerry's military service and seriously damaged his campaign for the presidency.
McCain was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. Orson Swindle, a prisoner of war with McCain in Vietnam, countered the group's charges in a statement put out by the campaign. "Nothing could be further from the truth. I know because I was there," he said. McCain never told the Northern Vietnamese anything and refused release from a prison camp unless his fellow POWs were released, Swindle added.
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