Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


McCain’s Changing Cross-in-the-Dirt Story

posted by swaldman

McCain tells the cross in the sand story in his 1999 memoir, Faith of My Fathers:

“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.”

In his campaign ad in December, he adds mention of “the true light of Christmas”:

“We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas. I will never forget that no matter where you are, no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up.”

At the Saddleback Civil Forum:

“For a minute there, it was just two Christians worshipping together.”

The story has gradually morphed from being about the humanity of the guard to being about the Christian faith of the guard and John McCain.



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Jim Pietrowski

posted August 17, 2008 at 6:40 am


Not surprising McCain would change it up a little, each time. Luckily he wasn’t under sniper fire!



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yarrrrrr

posted August 17, 2008 at 10:45 am


How postmodern…
Seriously though, I don’t see much difference.



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BRENDA

posted August 17, 2008 at 10:50 am


MCCAIN GOT THE CROSS DRAWN IN THE SAND FROM BEN HUR 1959′
RENT THE MOVIE. HE’S A SAD LITTLE MAN.



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Randomfactor

posted August 17, 2008 at 12:46 pm


Solzhenitzen, actually, not Ben Hur.



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Beth

posted August 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm


The story is lifted straight from Solshenitzen’s “Gulag Archipelago”. Check it out!



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Mimikatz

posted August 17, 2008 at 2:03 pm


Lifted from a 1994 book Bible Oases: Spiritual Refreshment from Unlikely Places by Ivor Power. Could have been read by Mark Salter, McCain’s ghostwriter, or McCain himself. Someone needs to find a record of him using the anecdote before the book came out/



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kansasgal

posted August 17, 2008 at 2:52 pm


His story also changed from a sandal to a stick.



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Steve

posted August 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm


How does the story demonstrate McCain is a “good” christian? The story demonstrates that the Guard is a Christian. If the prisoner in the story was a Jew, would it change anything?



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Anonymous

posted August 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm


Steve.
McCain lifted the story from Solshenitzen.
I kept trying to think of where I had heard the story when he said it last night. That story is directly from a series of books written by Solshenitzen.
You know McCain also lifted a passage from Wikipedia the other day in his speech about Russia.
And didn’t he change his story about giving information to the Vietcong from the Green Bay Packers to the Steelers when he was in Pittsburgh not to long ago?
McCain is playing with fire.



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Another Beth

posted August 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm


Aa href-”http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-sign-of-the-cross”>Here’s a link to the Solzhenitsyn story
As the other Beth noted above, it may be from The Gulag Archipelago published in 1973. We know McCain read and admired Solzhenitsyn as evidenced in this essay McCain wrote. So either it’s an amazing work of Christ both through communist prisoner guards in Russia and later in Vietnam, or else McCain has lifted this story from the wrong memory bank. I find this very awkward, as a Christian, to accuse McCain of that. But I also think people should know if they are being politically manipulated by appeals to such a sacred spiritual story that might be false.



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Robert

posted August 17, 2008 at 5:02 pm


And, the story does not appear in his 1973 account of his time as a POW.
http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/2008/01/28/john-mccain-prisoner-of-war-a-first-person-account.html
It makes you wonder when he first began telling the story.



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Veronica

posted August 17, 2008 at 5:44 pm


Plagiarism is the least of McCain’s problems.
When he answered “Petraeus” to “who inspires you, and “Ginsberg” in response to who he would not have selected for the Supreme Court, I was ill.
Wonder if he was dropping napalm on innocent women and children back in Nam when he was captured?



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Art

posted August 17, 2008 at 6:29 pm


Hilarious.



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GB

posted August 17, 2008 at 8:02 pm


He Also told the story about a completely different troop (not himself) in 2000
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9904EFDE1239F93AA15751C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
Many years ago a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam was tied in torture ropes by his tormentors and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening a guard he had never spoken to entered the room and silently loosened the ropes to relieve his suffering. Just before morning, that same guard came back and re-tightened the ropes before his less humanitarian comrades returned. He never said a word to the grateful prisoner, but some months later, on a Christmas morning, as the prisoner stood alone in the prison courtyard, the same good Samaritan walked up to him and stood next to him for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. Both prisoner and guard both stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.



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Carlo

posted August 17, 2008 at 8:16 pm


The story is a total fabrication. McCain stole it from Solzhenitsyn.
He also told the same story in 2000, but it was ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE:
As reported by the New York Times
“Many years ago a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam was tied in torture ropes by his tormentors and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening a guard he had never spoken to entered the room and silently loosened the ropes to relieve his suffering. Just before morning, that same guard came back and re-tightened the ropes before his less humanitarian comrades returned. He never said a word to the grateful prisoner, but some months later, on a Christmas morning, as the prisoner stood alone in the prison courtyard, the same good Samaritan walked up to him and stood next to him for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. Both prisoner and guard both stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.”
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9904EFDE1239F93AA15751C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
Also, per kos:
Shortly after John McCain came back from Vietnam in 1973, he wrote a detailed 12,000 word report of his experiences that was published in US News and World Report.
Even though McCain goes into a lot of detail in that story and mentions religion a few times, there is no mention of the cross in the sand story, even though it would have fitted in well with the whole narrative. There are numerous mentions of Vietnamese guards in the reports, mostly bad ones but also good ones, but there is no indication at all that any of them would have been Christian, although “[a] lot of them were homosexual”.
Let’s see if the press makes as big a deal out of this as they made out of Hillary’s sniper story.



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Anonymous

posted August 17, 2008 at 9:13 pm


In the Christmas Ad.. note the cross is drawn with a stick.
Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” trilogy of the 1970s shocked readers by describing the savagery of the Soviet state under the dictator Josef Stalin. .
But his account of that secret system of prison camps was also inspiring in its description of how one person – Solzhenitsyn himself – survived, physically and spiritually, in a penal system of soul-crushing hardship and injustice.
with a moving story…
As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. 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.
Solzhenitsyn slowly rose to his feet, picked up his shovel, and went back to work. Outwardly, nothing had changed. Inside, he had received hope.



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McCain isn't even baptized

posted August 17, 2008 at 9:21 pm


It was reported on CNN just before the forum that McCain isn’t even baptized. How can he believe in being saved if he hasn’t even been baptized?



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Denise

posted August 17, 2008 at 9:31 pm


Bud Day (Congressional Medal of Honor winner) was a prisoner with McCain and recalls the cross story.
This was a common way to secretly show your faith. I recall being in the Holy Land 40 years ago and hearing how Christians made the sign of the Fish to one another in Biblical times.
McCain was baptized as a baby in the Episcopal Church. He has the photos.



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The Same Bud Day who Swift-boated John Kerry?

posted August 17, 2008 at 9:44 pm


Really Denise, if you believe Bud Day then you believe in lies. Of course, Bud Day, leader of the 527 Swift-boat Liars, then you are honestly going to believe anything McCain tells you.



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Denise

posted August 17, 2008 at 9:55 pm


If they were lying, why didn’t Kerry sue them?



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Why Kerry Didn't Sue

posted August 17, 2008 at 10:47 pm


Denise, you are going to have to actually do some reading to learn the answer to your question. But I’ll provide a link for you. Don’t stress… it’s just words.
Here’s the reason Kerry didn’t sue Swift-boat Liars: http://althouse.blogspot.com/2004/08/should-john-kerry-sue-swift-boat.html



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Bob

posted August 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm


What do you mean “if,” Denise? They were lying. It’s been documented.



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blueoak

posted August 18, 2008 at 1:47 am


Thanks Bob and Others,
The links clearly document the lies of the Swift Boat folks. I guess we can forgive McCain for using his war experience to justify his personal ambitions, but lying is unforgivable, as the GOP often reminds us (see for example their disgust with Clinton and Edwards).



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Mary

posted August 18, 2008 at 1:59 am


Wow! McCain had the same soldier that author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, wrote about in in the book “The Gulag Archipelago.” Isn’t it amazing that they shared the same experience.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132×6652541



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Maydell

posted August 18, 2008 at 4:17 am


I would suggest that what is troubling about McCain’s cross story is not that it has gradually morphed into a story about his faith, but that he is lying about the story in general. His story is almost word for word the same as a story written by Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitzyn. This story appears in either his book entitled “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch” or in his book called “the Gulag Archipelago.”



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Mary

posted August 18, 2008 at 5:18 am


The ripoff of the Cross in the Dirt story is very irritating. Of course, he didn’t write his own books either, that he put his name on. And you can’t say you’re a saved Baptist just because you were baptised in the Episcopal Church as a baby. So he can’t say he’s saved either. You’d think he would want to get saved, at least to wash all that adultery off. I wonder why he hasn’t done it?



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Martha Williamson

posted August 18, 2008 at 9:20 am


There is more and more evidence that John McCain lifted the “cross in the dirt” incident from Alexander Solzhenitzyn’s “The Gulag Archipegalo” in order to make evangelical voters think he’s one of us.
Here’s a link to the research that people are doing to uncover the truth about the “cross in the dirt” story:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/8/17/173543/323/111/569427
It reminds me of Hillary Clinton’s yarn about her arrival under fire in Bosnia. If you look at McCain’s history, there is NOTHING in it to suggest that he shares true conservative values — he even floated the idea of a pro-choice vice president as late as last week.
McCain’s just trying to make us think he’s one of us so we’ll vote for him — but THEN, what will he really do?
I hate it that politicians think we are so dumb that we will fall for every fib they tell.



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juliesa

posted August 18, 2008 at 12:37 pm


I’m sorry, but I don’t see any difference in the versions of the stories you show here.
Could you elaborate on what these differences are?



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ryam

posted August 18, 2008 at 1:26 pm


In first quote: “Veneration of cross”
Venerate Means:
From Latin vener?tus, perfect passive participle of veneror “worship, reverence”
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/venerate
First quote, and latest are a simple re-wording of the same statement. No essential content is changed.
Far from being a point against McCain (who I don’t like) this article show your willingness to attack from a place of ignorance, I hope all your articles don’t contain such glaring mistakes.



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Silence Dogood

posted August 18, 2008 at 3:36 pm


Hi Carlos,
RE: “a prisoner”
McCain is very much a third person speaker. And, that is after his book was released.
He is very subdued in his communications….
…ropes tied your biceps behind your back…. “it was uncomfortable”
It is entirely consistent with who he is and how he communicates. That is the essence of John McCain.
And, it is conceivable that this incident happened to others besides Solshenitzen and McCain had similar experiences. Very few prisoners are held in Muslim countries. It is not unheard of for Guards to not agree with the actions their government is forcing them to pursue. And, while they cannot rebel, they can subtly demonstrate compassion true to their faiths to the extent their personal strength enables them.
I have no problems with any number of prisoners of war telling the same story. and, in fact, I would be more surprised if 50 prisoners of war DIDN’T tell the same story.
Finally, it’s not like McCain’s saying he sat in the pews of a church for 20 years and never heard his pastor….that is truly inconceivable for someone who is trying to pass himself off as a Christian.
Blessings



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Silence Dogood

posted August 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm


TO Mary,
RE: “Of course, he didn’t write his own books either, that he put his name on”
Successful people virtually always use ghost writers to clean up the drafts. There is no question there. In fact, publishers probably require that since few successful understand the art of publishing.
I wrote a chapter of a famous medical book for disabled children a few years ago.
I wrote every single word… but then the ghost writer cleaned it up, made it flow better, suggested things to be discarded and after discussions made suggestions of additions.
I still wrote every single world and ever single word was accurate and true in the finished copy.
Given McCain has been an extremely prolific Senator, I have to believe anything he did had help because of time constraints. It doesn’t change the story one iota.
But, conversely, Obama’s entire claim to fame and the presidency are the two books he wrote. He has nothing else (besides voting “present” 249 times in Illinois; and serving 143 days in the US Senate.)
Maybe we should take a look at who wrote his books….
Blessings



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Karen Brown

posted August 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm


So, lots of people had, at a moment of extreme despair, just as they were about to give up, in a country where Christianity was, even before Communism, an extreme minority (unlike Russia, where the Orthodox faith was the majority before the Revolution), had a Vietnamese guard draw a cross into the dirt with his sand.. I’m sorry, with his shoe.
Somehow, I have my doubts about that.



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Jeremy Brown

posted August 18, 2008 at 8:47 pm


Those 3 accounts show subtly different ways of contemplating the event’s significance, but they otherwise show that he has consistently told the story the same way as far as what actually occurred.
It’s hard for most of us to conceive of what it must feel like to live under a totalitarian regime that punishes people for what they may privately think or feel, whether in prison or not. You can only truly understand the power of a symbol like the cross when it has been banned. And when communicating a simple thought is punishable by torture, drawing a symbol in the sand (or tapping on the wall with your head just to remind a fellow prisoner he’s still alive, which McCain also has described doing) would not seem like something only one rare person would have thought of doing.
I agree with the commenter above who said that it’s inconceivable to suppose that drawing a cross in the dirt (or star of David, etc.) would not be a common occurrence in these kinds of settings. It hardly takes Fellini to have thought of performing such a basic human gesture.
A little imagination and compassion are in order here.



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Deward Bowles

posted August 19, 2008 at 1:30 am


McCain “borrowed” his cross story from a Russian writer. McCain’s website released a statement from Swindle saying he remembered McCain telling him the story in 1971.
Swindle is not telling the truth.
Politco ran a story about McCain’s cross story April the 4th 2008 and Swindle was specifically interviewed on the story.
“I don’t recall us talking specifically about our faith,” says Orson Swindle, one of McCain’s closest friends and a fellow POW. “We talked about our friends, families, our resistance posture, and that our country didn’t seem to have the will to win.”
Belief in a higher power helped them survive the routine torture and daily indignities, Swindle says.
“It would help us endure what we had to endure. But we knew God wasn’t going to come down and wave a magic wand.”
http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=1372E056-3048-5C12-00A06112B1C61A64
McCain is going to have to do better than Swindle on this one.



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Marie

posted August 19, 2008 at 5:46 am


My concern is not that John McCain recounted some story that he read in a book as his own. My concern is his willingness to tell it in a church. Where is the respect? Also, this seems to be indicative of a larger problem where he changes a story to fit the audience and in doing so sometimes overreach (Remember the Steelers in Pittsburg and Green Bay Packers). Is he someone who will tell us the truth or will he tell us what we want to hear? We are fighting two wars because someone told us what we wanted to hear for 7.5 years.
After that forum, I still don’t know John McCain besides the fact that he was a POW in vietnam. Is he a pro-choice candidate as he claimed earlier in his career or is he a pro-life candidate as he claimed on Saturday? Is he a bipartisan candidate that will work with everyone to do what is right or is he the partisan candidate that has voted with Bush 100% of the time. These and more my friends, I do not know and that is my concern with John McCain.
Many of us have experienced life events that have coul have broken us and we survive, but that does not mean that we have the experience or the judgement to do whatever we want. Meaning a prisoner of war does not a president make



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Oculus Dexter

posted August 20, 2008 at 2:49 pm


I believe I can speak with a degree of objectivity in this matter, since as a conservative I am not particularly enamoured with *either* of the major party candidates.
Marie, it is interesting that you would question McCain’s qualifications to be president. Two decades in the US Senate is good experience to understand how to get things done in our nation’s capital. Six years as a prisoner of war and the treatment he got which rendered him physically crippled is ample training to understand the folly of “understanding” them or negotiating with them.
Let’s compare this to McCain’s opponent, who got into the only two offices he’s ever held, by default. I am from Illinois so I’ve been privy to the rolling of the Obama juggernaut for a few years longer than most people.
Obama got into the Illinois Senate in 1996 by getting his opponents kicked off the ballot on technicalities. While in the Illinois Senate he voted “Present” almost 130 times. Not exactly in line with his PR lines of “taking on the tough issues” and “telling people what they don’t want to hear”. 30 of those times he was either the only Senator to vote present or one of a tiny group who did. One might say this reflects a certain unwillingness to take a stand even when others around him do. In 50 of those Present votes he did so in response to orders from the Democrat Party–not exactly an independent thinker.
When it came to the US Senate election of 2004, running for what was then a Republican-held seat, he faced a popular Republican in Jack Ryan, whose 1999 divorce from actress Jeri Ryan (who played the character “7 0f 9″ on Star Trek: Voyager, and “District Attorney Jessica Devlin” on Shark) became a subject of controversy. Their divorce court record had some embarrassing details of the Ryan’s conjugal life (imagine that–a politician having sex with his wife!) that both Ryans had agreed to have sealed for the sake of their son–the judge agreed and sealed the record.
Obama’s backers, while feigning the high road, and not commenting on the record, were secretly emailing reporters asking them to press for release of the court records. Just after they got a judge to unseal some of the records, Obama suddenly shifted positions and asked that they not be part of the campaign. But Obama’s operatives had done their damage–Ryan resigned from the race, which handed the election, again by default, to Obama.
Then came the crown jewel, the presidential election.
The state legislature of Illinois, assuming the favorite son would win the primary, literally moved the Illinois primary election to earlier in the primary season to give Obama a better shot at the nomination (and said that’s why they were doing it).
http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/206625,CST-NWS-obama11.article
http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2007/05/15/news/doc464a7b993e4c4031226476.txt
I would think that no matter what McCain said, Marie would find fault with him. Either she’d say “His story has been told differently over the last 10 years, so he must have made it up”, or she’d say “His story has been told word for word over and over for ten years so obviously it’s something memorized and not true.” McCain couldn’t win her over no matter how he handled it.
Again, I’m not particularly a McCain guy either, so this is not coming from a koolaid-drinker.
Here’s my take — Obama, if elected, will be President Carter II.
Carter was the worst president in US history for three reasons.
First Carter was ineffectual–as a Washington “outsider” he did not have the social network in place to accomplish anything. Obama is running as “the outsider” and so will suffer a similar fate. Having principles is only half the battle, one must know have the wherewithal to get them put into practice.
Second Carter was liberal–socialistic government-centered approaches to social problems have failed everywhere they’ve ever been tried. That Carter leans sharply to the left is not even debatable. Likewise Obama is arguably the most left-wing of any candidate for president-ever. His close friend BIll Ayers participated in the radical (Communist) Weather Underground bombing of the US Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972, and says they didn’t do enough, he has no regrets, and he couldn’t rule out the possibility of doing it again. Yet Obama does not distance himself from Ayers, and he even had Ayers and his fellow-bomber wife Bernadine Dohrn host fundraisers for him.
Third, Carter’s inexperience made him act unwisely. He gave away the Panama Canal, the most strategic point for naval operations in the Western Hemisphere, to a local petty dictator. He allowed the Ayatollah Khomeni to come to power in Iran, opening the age of Islamo-fascism that gave us 9-11. When he had advance warning of the Teheran embassy attack coming, he did nothing. Perhaps this was because the leftist Carter had decimated the military. Even when Carter finally turned the miltary loose to do their jobs, SIX MONTHS after the embassy takeover, the equipment was in such bad shape because of lack of maintenance that the operation was a miserable failure. Two of the helicopters that had to be abandoned in the desert because of mechanical failure are still used by the Iranian Navy. When the world price of oil jumped in the 1970′s Carter slapped on price controls that caused oil not to be delivered to the US–today we may have expensive gasoline relative to ten years ago, but we have never been without…that was not the case 30 years ago–there were days when one could not buy gasoline, thanks to Jimmy Carter and his naive left-wing policies. Obama is similarly a babe-in-the-woods when it comes to acting upon the world stage.
Obama may well win…I dont know if McCain can stop him, and again I’m not particularly a McCain admirer. But a President Obama will certainly damage this country. Hopefully there will be another Ronald Reagan in the wings to clean up after him.



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BoulderBill

posted August 28, 2008 at 5:26 pm


Objective my arse.
I am a registered Republican, and a Christian, who will be voting for Obama. Carter certainly was not the worst president in US history, though perhaps by some accounts the worst in recent US history… that is, until G.W. Bush.
There has not been another President who has so flagrantly, and successfully, stomped all over the Constitution and sacrificed our American Ideals. All for the sake of his “father issues” and a dream of a New World Order as envisioned by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz (Project for the New American Century). Read their 1998 letter to Clinton. It is clear they decided not to wait for an opportunity but set in motion the machinations which would culminate in Bush’s election.
Bush has certainly surpassed Carter as the worst President in recent history… and arguably in all U.S. history. John “100 years war” McCain having morphed from a “straight talker” into a lying out both sides of his mouth G.W. Bush II.
Thus, by your reasoning (Obama as Carter II) we should be, and most of us will be, voting for Obama.



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posted May 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm


I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you’ve hit
the nail on the head. The problem is something which not enough people
are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I found this
during my hunt for something regarding this.



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