A campaign ad mocking Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s computer literacy is backfiring on Democratic rival Barack Obama in some very painful ways.
While McCain himself has often joked about his ignorance of email and phone texting, the Vietnam veteran rarely goes into the reason: his hands and fingers were shattered by wartime torture, making it painful to keyboard for any length of time.
That revelation has been buried in a Boston Globe story for nearly a decade and was uncovered by National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg last week. The news has enraged McCain supporters and stirred up political blogs.
Goldberg included this passage from the article, published on March 4, 2000:
"McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan — Ted Williams is his hero — but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball."
You wouldn’t know any of that from looking at the Obama ad, which mocks McCain as a techno-dolt. In a photograph taken from the early 1980s, he’s shown wearing giant glasses and a period suit. To hammer home the point that he’s out of touch, the ad features shots of a disco ball, antique computers and large, first-generation cell phones.
"1982, John McCain goes to Washington," says the voiceover. "Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't. "He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail, still doesn't understand the economy, and favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class.”
The ad was supposed to be the first stage of the new, gloves-off, Obama strategy to counter the popular rise of Sarah Palin. But the campaign, now sensitive that it might be perceived as mocking the handicapped, responded that McCain has admitted numerous times that he is learning how to use a Blackberry and other devices.
“There's a whole economic revolution going on that has fundamentally changed the economy and fundamentally changed people's lives, and he's removed from that," Rahm Emmanuel, an Illinois congressman and key Obama supporter, told reporters Friday in unveiling the ad.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. McCain has long been praised as one of the tech-saaviest members of the U.S. Senate.
In 2000, Slate.com cited him for what it described as a web first: “the first-ever cyberfundraiser." The article also noted that McCain’s war wounds limited him at the keyboard, but described him as an enthusiast who embraced Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. That same year, Forbes magazine described McCain as the "Senate's savviest technologist."
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