Another in a series evaluating the accuracy of political advertising.
Candidate: John McCain
Market: New Hampshire
Time: 60 seconds
Producer: Stevens Reed Curcio & Co.
Audio: [NARRATOR:] He was a young Navy pilot who volunteered for duty in Vietnam and was shot down over Hanoi. Lieutenant Commander John McCain, dragged off by an angry mob. When found to be the son and grandson of admirals, was offered early release; he refused. McCain's commitment to country and fellow prisoners brought him repeated beatings and 51/2 years in prison...Navy officer, congressman, senator, taking on the establishment. And defying special interests. And never forgetting those heroes with whom he served. Today John McCain is ready to lead America into the new century. His mission: to fundamentally reform government. More experience and more courage than anyone. Ready to be president and leader of the free world.
[McCAIN:] I swear to you, from my first day in office until the last breath I draw, I will do everything in my power to make you proud of your government.
Analysis: The haunting images -- an exploding plane, young McCain in a North Vietnamese hospital, an older McCain walking through a cemetery -- capture the emotions of his POW ordeal. Other scenes reinforce the patriotic theme: McCain hugging veterans, draped by a giant flag, alongside GOP hero Ronald Reagan.
In attempting to connect McCain's war service to his candidacy, the ad relies on catchphrases and lacks specifics. The degree to which McCain would "fundamentally reform government" is open to question and never explained. Not one congressional achievement is cited. The "special interests" McCain has challenged, from tobacco companies to his own party on campaign financing, are never mentioned. The "leader of the free world" phrase subtly tries to contrast McCain's foreign policy credentials with the more limited experience of George W. Bush and Steve Forbes.