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One man found his winning message
In advance of the Potomac Primary on Feb. 12, 2008, Republican front-runner John McCain released a TV ad in Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland that has played to other markets in this primary process.
"Never Surrender" is a 30-second spot that shows images of Sen. McCain as a prisoner of war, walking alongside Ronald Reagan and on the campaign trail. Its claims are well supported.
• "One man sacrificed for his country."
McCain served 22 years in the U.S. Navy, including five as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down in Vietnam. He has been honored with the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Of his remaining Republican contenders, only Rep. Ron Paul has military experience. He served as a medical doctor in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1965 in San Antonio, Texas, and in the U.S. Air National Guard from 1965 to 1968. He did not go to war as McCain did. That appears to be the distinction drawn here. ( Read our fact sheet on "Who was in the military?" here. )
• "One man opposed a flawed strategy in Iraq. One man had the courage to call for change. One man didn't play politics with the truth."
Although he has been one of the Senate's strongest and most vocal advocates of the war in Iraq, leading recent debates against Democratic bills to set a timetable for withdrawal, McCain has also been one of the Bush adminstration's biggest Republican critics.
As far back as mid 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, McCain was warning that the United States needed to send more troops to Iraq and more money to Iraq reconstruction efforts, or else face a deep and long-lasting insurgency that would threaten America's mission there.
Which, of course, is exactly what has happened. He was also a strident critic of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, telling interviewers that he lacked confidence in Rumsfeld as far back as 2004 — meaty criticism for a top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
"There's not enough (troops), and we are in a very serious situation, in my view, a race against time. We need to spend a whole lot more money to get the services back to the people. We need to get the electricity going, the fuel, the water. And unless we get that done and get it done pretty soon, we could face a very serious situation," McCain told NBC's Meet the Press on Aug. 24, 2003.
"Time is not on our side. People in 125-degree heat with no electricity and no fuel are going to become angry in a big hurry. The sophistication of the attacks on U.S. and allied troops have increased. And what we do in the next several months will determine whether we're in a very difficult situation or not, and there's still time, but we've got to act quickly."
As for his claim that just "one man" opposed the strategy in Iraq, that's a bit of a stretch: Independent experts and many congressional Democrats have lavished criticism on the administration's strategy in Iraq.
But among his Republican competitors for the presidential nomination, McCain is right. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has suggested that he, too, would take a different route in Iraq than the president, but McCain was clearly there first.
• "One man stands up to the special interests."
This is a reference to McCain's strong opposition to what he calls wasteful pork barrel spending and earmark projects. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based group that watches for such things, says McCain holds the title of pork-fighter and has honored him with its "Treasury Guardians" award.
Overall, it's an effective TV ad with accurate claims. We give it a True.
Meet the Press, Interview with John McCain , Aug. 24, 2003
Council on Foreign Relations, John McCain speech , Nov. 5, 2003
Council on Foreign Relations, John McCain speech , April 22, 2004
Meet the Press, Interview with John McCain , Nov. 21, 2004
Fox News Sunday, Interview with John McCain , Aug. 14, 2005
American Enterprise Institute, Panel discussion with John McCain , Jan. 5, 2007
JohnMcCain.com, About John McCain
PolitiFact.com, FACT SHEET: Who was in the military?" Dec. 21, 2007
PolitiFact.com, "There are a few blips on the record," Jan. 6, 2008
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