The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Ad Watch

McCain Seeks Reagan Mantle

By Howard Kurtz
The Ad: Narrator: As a prisoner of war, John McCain was inspired by Ronald Reagan. John McCain: I enlisted as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution. Narrator: Guided by strong conservative principles, he'll cut wasteful spending and keep taxes low. A proud social conservative who will never waver. The leadership and experience to call for the surge strategy in Iraq that is working. John McCain: The true conservative. Ready to be commander-in-chief on day one.

Analysis: This John McCain ad on national cable has one goal: reassuring conservatives at a time when Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other commentators are attacking his candidacy and Ann Coulter is even vowing to campaign for Hillary Clinton if McCain is the GOP nominee.

As the opening shot--McCain as a prisoner in Hanoi--makes clear, he has dropped the reticence he showed in 2000 about invoking his Vietnam ordeal. Ronald Reagan was California's governor during his captivity, but fellow POW Orson Swindle says they knew him from his movies and political advocacy and that newer prisoners told them that Reagan had taken up the POWs' cause. McCain, who was elected an Arizona congressman in 1982, during the Reagan administration, is within his rights in casting himself as a Reagan supporter. McCain was also an outspoken advocate of the Iraq troop surge by President Bush -- who, unlike Reagan, is not named -- when the war was at its most unpopular.

But the ad's claim of "strong conservative principles" simply ignores the spate of issues on which McCain has clashed with his party's right wing, including immigration, campaign finance reform and his votes against Bush's major tax cuts. McCain hopes the Reagan glow will help dim memories of those fierce disagreements with conservatives.

Posted at 12:51 PM ET on Feb 1, 2008  | Category:  Ad Watch
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The mechanics of this are hard to justify. Reagan was elected the governor of California in 1966 and sworn in in 1967. During this time, McCain was at sea. Later that year when McCain was shot down, he was held in solitary confinement for years. According to his own account in the 1999 book "Faith of our fathers," he went more than 3 years without ever communicating with another American. I don't see how this inspiration from Reagan took place unless you believe in ESP. Further, the book never mentions a Reagan connection at this time. This looks like a case of reverse swiftboating - as believable as McCain's walk to the market in Baghdad. It's too bad because his actual story is outstanding.

Posted by: terryballard | February 7, 2008 6:24 PM

For years the national media have lionized John Mc Cain as a "hero" of the Vietnam War. For an old grunt such as myself, I am puzzled by this phenomenon. At what point did being a POW become "heroic"? As a student of our military, I find myself unable to name a single "heroic" POW of, either, WWI, WWII or the war in Korea.
I readily admit that I would never want to be a POW. My time in the bush, while terrifying, seemed preferable to being captured, even if I got to sit out the remainder of the conflict. I have great admiration for ALL who survived their captivity, even John Mc Cain. But, living in captivity has NEVER been considered "heroism" but, survival.
There is absolutely no doubt that virtually ALL POW's break under torture. It is foolish to believe anyone can withstand constant, intense, physical pain without eventually giving in. In fact, the UCMJ recognizes that and does not punish those who hold out for as long as they can.
My basic problem with Mc Cain is that he is a bare faced liar who broke ranks with his brotherhood. Mc Cain's despicable performance while serving on the Senate Committee for POW/MIA's earned him the undying hatred of those of us who have followed that issue.
John Mc Cain is the abandoned serviceman's greatest threat.
Those who think me crazy should read Bill Hendon's An enormous crime.
Or, go to:
Next, see the new DVD; Missing, presumed dead The search for American POW's.
The very suggestion that all living POW's were returned after the conflicts in WWII, Korea or Vietnam is completely untenable and represents this country's greatest shame.

I've been a life long Republican but, I'd rather see Hillary Clinton be President before John Mc Cain. He deserves to be exposed for the low life he really is.

Posted by: Rmontg5805 | February 1, 2008 6:19 PM

Wake up everyone. McCain will move the republican party slowly but surely left - to the point that regular conservatives will be considered the "far right". Let's not fall into the same trap the Dems did...selling out our political beliefs because we think the guy will win (although I think that is propaganda the left is pushing on us). By the way, on all of the talk shows - look who is defending McCain the most...all the liberal commentators. That should be a sign that we need to rescue our party before it leaves us for good.

Posted by: pccu | February 1, 2008 5:08 PM

Here is the dirty BIG secret that Dick Morris, the Democtrats and libereal media don't want McCain and Huckabee supporters to understand:

1. a vote for Huckabee at this point in the race is a vote for McCain. Huckabee CANNOT win the primary and is almost out of money.

2. a vote for McCain in the Primary is a vote for Obama or Clinton in the general election. McCain CANNOT win the general election and he knows that wihtout the base of the party he like Dole before him will loose. The base will never support liberal McCain. Independants will flock to Obama.

For the reasons previuosly stated in this post, McCain who is hated by the Republican base will go down in flames in the general election. Anyone voting on super Tuesday and beyond who is considering McCain or Huckabee needs to think long and hard about who they are rally voting for. Do these folks prefer Obama or Clinton over Romney. If so my friends, you are playing right into the Democrat playbook to win the Whitehouse in '08.

Posted by: jared | February 1, 2008 3:15 PM

hispanicelectionwatch: if GOP Hispanics support illegal activity due to racial solidarity, then perhaps they're in the wrong party. Rosenberg is also jumping to conclusions; there may have been other reasons why McCain got more votes than, for instance, Rudy. Both of them support amnesty.

English-language media should indeed "keep an eye on what Spanish-language media will be doing to inform voters." That includes things like JorgeRamos - the Univision anchor from the Spanish-language debates - intentionally not becoming a U.S. citizen despite living and working here for over a decade. That includes virulent IllegalImmigration supporters like his co-host MariaElenaSalinas. That includes a network doing a citizenship drive with a group linked to the MexicanGovernment.

And, that includes Obama's Spanish-language ad which highlights an endorsement from GilCedillo, someone who's tried *eight times* to get drivers licenses for IllegalAliens and even tried to give them a better deal on car impound fees. He's basically a Mexican legislator who happens to serve in the CA legislature.

As for McCain, I have a strong feeling that if enough people do the job the MSM won't do and ask him the following question, he's not going to be the nominee no matter how much the MSM wants him to be:

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | February 1, 2008 3:02 PM

This is pretty absurd on the face of it. McCain's victory may be attributed in large part to how Republican Latino voters broke for him rather than Romney, as Simon Rosenberg points out here:

Hispanics are one of the main demographics that are going to drive this election and English-language media would be wise to keep an eye on what Spanish-language media will be doing to inform voters. Just consider this recent partnership between V-Me (Spanish-language TV) and ImreMedia: Despite the hard feeling among conservatives about Reagan's "mistaken" amnesty program, the harsh anti-immigration measure propounded by Republicans will continue to lose them votes in this key demographic. McCain has it right by bucking the more exteme views of the party on this issue.

Posted by: hispanicelectionwatch | February 1, 2008 2:43 PM

John McCain does not smile. That's a smirk. Both Bill Clinton and Gov Rick Perry have endorsed McCain. I would not cast a vote for any of these people.

Posted by: althusius | February 1, 2008 1:58 PM

Boy, Republicans are a strange breed. Not only do they eat their young, they euthanize (or murder) their old, too. Ann Coulter campaigning for Hillary Clinton if McCain is the Republican Nominee? If Ann Coulter would Campaign for ANY Democrat that person would lose, hands down. Keep shooting holes in the ship: It's interesting to see how many rats swim out.

Posted by: jrev7620042000 | February 1, 2008 1:36 PM


Bob Dole (at 73) was constantly labeled too old to run against Bill Clinton in 1996 and age is NEVER mentioned (at least yet) as a factor with McCain who's 72. John McCain's candidacy was dead and buried until a few weeks before the NH primary due to incompetent staff, mismanagement and lack of money. McCain himself admits that he's not well versed on economics...and voters are somehow convinced that this man can oversee the country's economy better than a highly successful private sector businessman like Mitt Romney?

Strip away John McCain's 40 year ago military experience, which we're NEVER allowed to forget about or question (it's just about ALL he ever references in speeches and debates no matter what question he's asked), and you have nothing but a tired, old, empty suited, Washington, D.C. political hack/insider. He is an extremely weak candidate and a terrible debater by every account, especially compared to Mitt Romney (or even Huckabee).

Without the assistance of his "Canes" propping him up during this farce of a campaign, John McCain candidacy would still be dead and buried. Day after day, the canes come out of the political woodwork to endorse ol' RINO (Republican In Name Only) Johnny.

MCCAIN'S CANE # 1...the Liberal biased Main Stream Media and Press. With orgasmic puff story after puff story, it resurrected McCain from the dead, elevating him to frontrunner status just in time for the election.

MCCAIN'S CANE # 2...Independent and Democrat voters, who, for some bizarre reason, are allowed to vote in the REPUBLICAN primaries. I'd LOVE to meet the rocket scientists in those states who allow THAT to happen.

In Florida, Mitt Romney was gathering tremendous momentum and soaring in the polls until the weekend before the election.

MCCAIN'S CANE # 3...Florida Governor Crist who endorsed McCain just TWO days before the election.. Unfortunately, it was enough to convince a woefully uninformed voting public to vote for McCain and against Romney who was soaring in the polls until that moment. While this was bad enough, the fact that so many thousands of Floridians had to be TOLD who to vote just TWO days before such an important election was despicable, shameful, if not downright scary.

MCCAIN'S CANE # 4...Rudy Guiliani, who ends his "campaign" with an endorsement of, who else but John McCain hours before the California debate. Even with THAT, McCain who always been a terrible debater, was crushed by Mitt Romney at every turn...imagine what Obama would to to him?

MCCAIN'S CANE # 5...California Governor, Arnold Schwartzenager who now is endorsing old Johnny just before the Super Tuesday primaries.

If John McCain is the Republican nominee (heaven forbid), it will be done SOLELY with his the assistance of his canes and without them he is nearly helpless and will be easily defeated by either Hillary Clinton or upstart, or half-McCain's-age, 36 year old Barack Hussein Obama.

Mitt Romney is by far the most qualified man in EITHER party and is a class act all the way. And yet since he became a GOP candidate for president, I have seen nothing but negative, trivial articles/stories about his Mormon religion, his money, his slick appearance, etc, all fully intended to sway a naive electorate that pays far too little attention to the most important 4 year event in our country.

Mitt Romney is a TRUE family man and very successful at turning failed or failing enterprises around and Lord knows the United States of America needs turning around. It should be run as a business first, with a strong military to protect it from harm. All other social, giveaway programs should be scrutinized (and certainly would be under a Romney presidency) as to efficiency and even necessity. The fact that he was even elected Governor in a state (MA) controlled by 85% Democrat legislature was a feat in itself. In spite of it, he did a very admirable job as Governor, turning a large state deficit into a surplus. Of course, his many justified vetoes were constantly overturned by those liberal Democrats which made for a lot of frustration.

If Mitt Romney does get the GOP nomination it will be MUCH to the chagrin of the Democrat National Committee liberal propaganda machine because he will be their worst nightmare and most difficult to defeat...Obama, Clinton, or otherwise.

John McCain's time has long since come and gone and it has become more than obvious during this primary campaign that he doesn't even have the ability to WALK up the White House "stairs" without his "Canes", let alone RUN the biggest economy and country in the world.

Posted by: mrunpc | February 1, 2008 1:19 PM

" ...the reticence he showed in 2000 about invoking his Vietnam ordeal"

He mentioned it at every opportunity in frequently forced segues, but for some reason Howard Kurtz is required to type this perfectly false claim. Why is that?

Posted by: zukermand | February 1, 2008 1:12 PM

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