One of the standard defenses John McCain’s surrogates deliver when the topic of his faith comes up is that while he is “deeply faithful,” he is also “a very private man” who doesn’t like to discuss it in public – something that has been a source of great consternation to the Religious Right.
But McCain has been trying to appease them by working it into his addresses to right-wing conferences, but he hasn’t been particularly successful:
McCain, an Episcopalian who attends a Baptist church in Phoenix, turned to a well-worn tale of the guard he met when he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. The man once loosened the ropes binding McCain, and later shared his Christian faith with McCain by silently sketching a cross in the prison yard with his sandal.
The story played well in an ad before the New Hampshire primary, but it was deeply disappointing to many at the New Orleans gathering, conservative activist Richard Viguerie recalled.
“He blew that question off by telling us about the faith of his jailer,” said Viguerie. “It was very obvious to those three or four hundred conservative leaders there… . The vast, vast majority of them were either sitting on the sidelines or unenthusiastic about his impending nomination and he didn’t move a single person.”
Presumably, Viguerie and others on the Right won’t be particularly impressed with McCain’ new essay in Time magazine in which he again recounts this story:
My father would have been surprised to know what unlikely forms God’s mercy could take. In prison, my captors would tie my arms behind my back and then loop the rope around my neck and ankles so that my head was pulled down between my knees. I was often left like that throughout the night. One night a guard came into my cell. He put his finger to his lips signaling for me to be quiet and then loosened my ropes to relieve my pain. The next morning, when his shift ended, the guard returned and retightened the ropes, never saying a word to me.
And its unlikely they’ll be any more moved by the recent email sent out by his campaign’s Americans of Faith team obtained by The Brody File which consists of excerpts from his book “Faith of My Fathers” and, once again, includes the same account:
After one difficult interrogation, I was left in the interrogation room for the night, tied in ropes. A gun guard, whom I had noticed before but had never spoken to, was working the night shift, 10:00 p.m. to 4 a.m. A short time after the interrogators had left me to ponder my bad attitude for the evening, this guard entered the room and silently, without looking at or smiling at me, loosened the ropes, and then he left me alone. A few minutes before his shift ended, he returned and tightened up the ropes… One Christmas, a few months after the gun guard had inexplicably come to my assistance during my long night in the interrogation room, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw him approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me. Again, he didn’t smile or look at me. He just stared at the ground in front of us. After a few moments had passed he rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. 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. But he never said a word to me nor gave the slightest signal that he acknowledged my humanity. (Pages 227-228)
It is obvious that McCain is aware that the Religious Right expects him to openly discuss his personal faith on the campaign trail and it is equally obvious that he is reluctant to do so. Yet he continues to try to win them over, primarily by recounting this one episode in particular – an episode which is obviously significant to him – even though it is abundantly clear that, to the Right, this tale of compassion and kindness woefully fails to meet the faith commitments they demand from their candidates.