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John McCain's Walter Reed puzzle

September 5, 2008 |  8:09 pm

Walter Reed Middle School in Los Angeles John McCain drew many heckles from the left for the speech he gave accepting the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night.

That's hardly a shock. But here was a surprise: some of the fiercest criticism had nothing to do with what he said, but concerned what he was standing in front of.

As McCain delivered his opening remarks, those watching from home saw a color flash on the screen behind him. It was green -- a vision that made politicos all over the country groan. (They remembered McCain's appearance before a green background in June, an aesthetically unfortunate incident that was ridiculed by bloggers and comedians alike.)

Many were relieved when the camera panned out and revealed that McCain was actually standing before a larger image of a stately-looking white brick building (the green, it turned out, had actually just been a close-up of the place's perfectly groomed lawn).

But then, perplexity sank in. The building in the photo, you see, was Walter Reed Middle School, located in L.A.'s North Hollywood neighborhood.

That revelation sparked a new question: Why would McCain choose that as a backdrop for the biggest speech -- so far -- of his political career.

If you listen to the speculation from bloggers, he didn't.

Many of them today suggested that McCain's campaign actually meant to stage the candidate in front of Washington's Walter Reed Medical Center. That seemed plausible -- an army hospital would be a relevant choice, given that McCain spent a lot of his speech talking about the years he spent as a badly injured captive in a Vietnamese prison camp.

Eventually, the McCain camp today issued a statement insisting that that no mistake had been made. "The changing image-screen was linked to the American thematics of the speech and the public school was simply part of it," said spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Donna Tobin, Walter Reed Middle School's principal, would rather the facility had not been included. She posted this statement Friday on the school's official blog:

It has been brought to the school’s attention that a picture of the front of our school, Walter Reed Middle School, was used as a backdrop at the Republican National Convention.  Permission to use the front of our school for the Republican National Convention was not given by our school nor is the use of our school’s picture an endorsement of any political party or view.

For more on the local angle, check out another blog on LATimes.com, LA Now.

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: Associated Press/Ron Edmonds

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