Have You Heard McCain Was a POW?

Candidates whose biographies provide compelling campaign material use that fact to their advantage. And John McCain's biography does just that. Not only is it regularly mentioned explicitly by his supporters, but it underlies many of the implicit themes of the campaign. Which is really no surprise since it was his war record that launched his status as a political celebrity (feted by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan) and fueled his rise in the early days (I've seen a John Birch Society newsletter featuring an interview with McCain the "War Hero Who's Running for Barry Goldwater's Seat" from the 1980s) as a man without deep roots in Arizona sought to beat out rivals in a competitive primary.

There's nothing wrong with any of that, it's how politics works. But as Brendan Nyhan points out the press has a baffling habit of constantly claiming that McCain doesn't talk about his war record, or labeling each and every one of his frequent references to it as a rare break with his usual habit of not talking about his war record. He talks about it all the time!