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John McCain's Walter Reed puzzle

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, LA Now.

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: Associated Press/Ron Edmonds

Comments () | Archives (14)

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That was a school behind George W McCain? That sure looks a lot like one of his eleven mansions to me.

I am sure if the "APPEASEMENT KID" used it they would be saying how proud we are to have been included in this historic event. Well it was historic McCain had more viewers.

VJ Machiavelli
ps This is no longer your "GRANDFATHERS" Republican Party

It merely demonstrates once again the incomprehensible incompetence of this sad old relic and his last century retread reasoning. I'm sure someone said to one further down the chain of command within the fascist follies: "Go get a photo of Walter Reed from the Internets." And so someone Googled (more likely MSNed) it and came up with a North Hollywood middle school.

These idiots might well order up bomb strikes by such online "research," given the chance.

What a laugher, the LA Times "following" blogger speculation about an issue. Speculation means guessing. Wow, what reporting! What will the great LA Times give us for its next hot story. Every day yiur circulation drops and you become more and more irrellevant. This crap reporting is the reason.

Someone in his campaign didn't know how "the google" works. I thought it was one of his McMansions as well. Excuse of the "real estate investments" he was trying to help save in his speech.

Geez, it sounds like no one wants to be associated with the GOP these days.

Well, uh, "Machiavelli", it seems that you're right. It is no longer my grandfather's republican party, it appears to be the party of my schizophrenic uncle.

Are ya'll going to spend the next couple of months doing nothing but screaming spittle laced non sequiturs ? Cause that would be awesome.

I went to Walter Reed Middle School! Best 7 years of my life! (Just kidding, I really spent 2 years there) Mccain doesnt care about public schools anyway.

McCain does not know what kind of car he drives, how many houses he owns, what countries still exist in the 21st century or where the borders exist for the ones he does know about. Why should he know the difference between a medical center and a middle school?

Well, either a) the campaign is lying and they really did intend to use a picture of the hospital, but were too incompetent to find one, or b) they meant to show a school and think this is what a typical public school looks like - which it probably does in McCain's neighborhood.

I'd like to invite them to NYC to show them the reality of urban public schools, but then, they have showed complete disdain for us city dwellers ("why do small town rednecks mock US for being educated and diverse, oh hockey mom?") so I doubt they'd come here for anything besides a Wall Street fundraiser. I
am sure the campaign would like us to believe it was b), but even if it was meant to be a school they damn well should have asked for permission, like from the principal or local board of ed. But we know Republicans are never good at asking permission; they'd rather just do what they want and seek forgiveness when they get busted, as they have been here.

I believe the slide was meant to represent Walter Reed Hospital, rather than a middle school. But the gaff illustrates a glaring problem with the Republican agenda of privatizing public functions by sub-contracting management to for-profit cronies, whether the function is medical care for veterans or education for children.

The Rupublican Education Department is engaged in a stealth move, under NCLB, to take management of public schools away from the communities they serve, and put it in the hands of for-profit management consulting companies. This has gone much further under the Bush administration that the public realizes, and McCain promises to continue the drive.

Please notice what happened to the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed when they privatized management. The profit motive replaced service to patients as the core mission. McCain's proposals promise to continue the Republican crusades to extract private profit from public funding for veterans facilities, social security and public education.

this is one of the funnier, of a constant stream, of FUBARs his campaign has delivered. and I just love the famous Tucker Bounds (is he brainless) saying use of the picture was intended. in that case, he should walk the plank for putting the dreaded green behind the boss again.

i just love their incompetence. just think of them targeting bombs, money, etc.

what a bunch of losers

I work at Walter Reed and many of the pictures now being posted everywhere of the school I took. I certainly would not approve of anybody using the pics without proper copyright compensation or acknowledgment. In this case this goes to show the haphazard inept campaign he is running. Remember he even stated that he does not use email and has never seen a need to use it. This is just one more thing people should consider in that voting booth. If he cannot hire people to get a search right, what will happen when they are across the table from an important foreign dignitary

My sons go to Walter Reed. It was sad to me that their excitement that the school was shown during an address viewed by 40 million was slammed by teachers, etc. at the school. It seems to me it was a picture of a public building behind a public official running for a public office. Does the principal of Walter Reed have the authoriity to "approve" the photo? Every year I sign a release allowing images of my children to be used - is the building built by taxpayers off limits??? I'm trying here to show my kids both sides of the political spectrum - it's unfortunate that our teachers don't feel the same way. I guess they think freedom of speech means their allowed to tell children what to think! I definitely think the article would have been different if Obama used the photo which is ironic since he's asking for us all to come together! Good Luck


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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