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Oops, Obama ad mocks McCain's inability to send e-mail. Trouble is, he can't due to tortured fingers

(UPDATE: An updated paragraph citing McCain learning computer skills is appended below.)

As part of its effort to show the 72-year-old Republican Sen. John McCain as old and out of touch, the Democratic Party's hip campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, which frequently says it honors the former POW's military service to his country, Friday released a new ad.

As noted Friday by our blogging colleagues over at the Technology blog here, the ad says, among other things: "1982, John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't.

"He admits he doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail."

Here's the ad. Listen for yourself.

Like many of his generation, McCain does not like to talk details a lot about his wartime experiences, certainly not about any lingering physical symptoms. To be honest, it could sound like complaining and, as he's ruefully noted, unlike many others, McCain did come home.

The former pilot does joke sometimes about flying his plane into a telephone-pole-sized North Vietnamese missile.

Last week in his speech to the Republican National Convention, McCain opened up more than usual, mentioning his two broken arms and broken leg from ejecting over Hanoi, and his 66 months of imprisonment and torture, calling it simply working him over.

But something he did not go into in that speech were ...

... some of the lingering results of his poor medical treatment and brutal beatings.

Here's a passage from a lengthy Boston Globe profile on McCain that was published the last time he ran for president. It was headlined "McCain character loyal to a fault." It was written by Mary Leonard.

And it was printed more than eight years ago, on March 4, 2000.

It is available online, where Jonah Goldberg of The Corner blog at the National Review found it.

"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."

(UPDATE: A spokesman for the Obama campaign and numerous Ticket readers point out a Huffington Post item from July in which McCain says he is learning how to go online and "I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need." That complete post and a photo of McCain using a cellphone is available here.)

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer denied that the freshman Illinois senator's ad was making an issue of McCain's age. "It's extraordinary," he said, "that someone who wants to be our president and commander in chief doesn't know how to send an e-mail."

The Obama campaign has seen some significant and disturbing poll shifts since its convention in Denver, including a broad movement of white women toward the GOP ticket after that party named Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin its vice presidential nominee. And some local and congressional Democrats have begun to fret and grumble over a perceived softness in the Obama-Biden ticket.

According to the Associated Press, Obama campaign manager David Pfouffle issued a stern campaign strategy memo Friday that said, in part:

"Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign. We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain's attacks and we will take the fight to him, but we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people."

The "big issues."

Like fractured fingers?

-- Andrew Malcolm

Navy pilot John McCain as a prisoner of war in Hanoi
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Can McCain write? If he can write than he can send an email.

It has NOTHING to do with his injuries. That's a bunch of crap!!!

I'm thinking people are now paying attention and realizing that Obama is an empty suit. How many bills did he put before the Senate for his causes? He's never been tested and it shows.


Can McCain push a button even? Or will he delegate that to Palin?

Nice shill, Bush-boy (and Laura at that, not even George).

It's not that he's physically crippled. The problem is McCain's crippled integrity, judgment and mental condition.

I'm sorry, but the sympathy card cannot be played here...nice try, none the less. Get with the program! There are dictation programs that allow hands-free composition of emails and word documents. If McCain wanted to compose on the computer, he most certainly has the tools available to him if he wants them. He's still living in the past.

Granted, that internet/email "attack ad" is too lame; if that's what they call "fighting back," heaven help us.
Of all the legitimate problems McCain has, that's the best the Dems can do?!
But come on-you're the one to connect "fractured fingers" to "big issues."
Pfuffle is talking about jobs, taxes, etc.
And McCain is milking that "heroic" wartime "experience" to no end.
That man had better learn to eat what he's been dishing out.

Furthermore, you've been suggesting in your article that heros don't whine. He's been the biggest whiner this season. Come on McCain, be a man! Quit yer snivveling!

With all respect to Sen. McCain's injury recieved during his imprisonment, people who wish to learn about and use technology will make an effort. Not being able to type is not an issue when it comes to email. There are voice recognition and other software packages that are geared to handi-capable people who want to join the cyber community. Shame on you for using his injury as an excuse for his lack of interest. If John McCain can use an IPod and a cell phone, he can use email.


"McCain does not like to talk details a lot about his wartime experiences"??????????????????????

He was a POW...? Gee... I had no IDEA...!!!!!!

He's never even MENTIONED it... Has he...?????????

There are many with far more serious handicaps who make the internet part of their daily lives. Next!

Not to excuse the ad (I personally disagree with any ad that talks about the opponent, rather than their own issues), but it's not entirely true to say McCain "can't send email due to tortured fingers".

I used to work as a technical assistant to a disabilities support officer. Depending on the level of difficulty, there are numerous solutions that would let him send email if he really wanted to, including alternative text entry solutions, or voice input. It depends on the level of disability.

McCain has also described himself as computer illiterate in general (his exact words were "I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance that I can get"). Now granted, I realise he may be reluctant to say he's unable (or that it's difficult for him) to use a computer due to disability, but by saying he's computer illiterate instead he does run the risk of someone pointing out that, well, he said he's computer illiterate.

It's his call whether he'd rather have people think he's illiterate instead of disabled, but having made that call, it's hard to object if people then treat him as if he's illiterate. Having worked to help people who are disabled use computers, I would also disagree that people who are disabled can't be computer literate. They most certainly can.

But for emphasis, I'd like to reiterate that I personally disagree with this Obama ad regardless, on the grounds that it talks about McCain, rather than Obama.

So now the question is, Will obama admit that his latest ad campaign was making fun of a person's war wounds and pull the ad?

I bet that obama keeps the ad and then quietly retires it when the time comes. I hope that McCain swallows his pride and makes it an issue in the debates.

"My opponent ran ads saying that I cannot use a computer. He is right, but he is correct because the North Vietnameese broke my fingers. I suffered those injuries in the service of my country and for that I do not apologize!"

If you can punch telephone numbers into a phone, button your shirt, push a button to vote on the senate floor, or tap your fingers you can use e-mail if you take the time to learn how to do it. Don't give us a tortured finger excuse.

'Does not like to talk details about his wartime experiences," Have you been on vacation for the last four months?

Also, I do not believe that this would stop him from being able to know how a computer works. Sorry. Nice try. This, like many other issues, is not about his time spent as a POW.

If that is the excuse for McCain, there are many people who are handicapped that use computers everyday for work. My sister, who does occupation rehab, says there are tons of tools and techniques for those who aren't fully able bodied to make using the computer easy. Is this just more whinning and victimhood being played by the McCain/Palin ticket for pity votes?

There is really no excuse for McCain to not be able to use a computer other than his laziness, being out of touch and pi$$ poor additude. As someone like yourself sits and uses a computer with a debilitating condition, be it temporary, I am suprised you would be playing the victim card for Senator McCain. Talk about the presidential ticket of low achievers. Holy Mackeral!

John McCain has admitted that his favorite gadget is his cell phone. If his damaged fingers can manipulate the oh-so-small keys of a cell phone, they most certainly can type on a standard computer keyboard, whose keys are 5-10 times bigger.

And McCain has even SAID that he is in the process of learning how to go online, instead of claiming that he's physically incapable of doing so.

Sorry, but your assertion is completely illogical and without merit.

Granted, that internet/email "attack ad" is too lame; if that's what they call "fighting back," heaven help us.
Of all the legitimate problems McCain has, that's the best the Dems can do?!
But come on-you're the one to connect "fractured fingers" to "big issues."
Pfuffle is talking about jobs, taxes, etc.
And McCain is milking that "heroic" wartime "experience" to no end.
That man had better learn to eat what he's been dishing out.

Furthermore, you've been suggesting in your article that heros don't whine. He's been the biggest whiner this season. Come on McCain, be a man! Quit yer snivveling!

The POW card again!

McCain is really out of touch.

He doesn't need to use his "fractured fingers" to send an e-mail message, just his voice.

That's absurd that McCain cannot use a computer because of war injuries. I bet he has sex no problem. Ive watched him point that finger with his messed up arm. He is lazy that is an excuse....... He could put a stick in his mouth and type away.... If he is handicap I am sure there are devices he can us........................ McCain is over exploiting his military in more ways than one.
Nothing like beating the same old story to death.
He is old and needs a retirement home............

What a cruel, insenseitive ad. I had had enough of the vile treatment of American war vets coming from the left. It is deplorable.

you have got to be kidding. First, he uses his status as a POW as an excuse or shield for a myriad of issues. But this one takes the cake. Haven't you noticed him talking on a cellphone? I assume he can type in the numbers to make calls, which takes at least as much dexterity as hunting and pecking on a much larger keyboard. What a joke.

McCain does have use of his fingers. His inability to use a computer has nothing to do with his war injuries. At some point McCain needs to stop being a professional veteran and he must come to grips with the fact that the Vietnam war ended long ago.

You stay classy LA Times. Taking an Obama add to showcase McCain. You know that the ad means McCain is ignorant when it comes to how to send an email, not that he is physically incapable. The fact that you are insinuating this is disgusting and shows once again that both of you are in the pocket of the GOP. This is not without precedent as we know republicans paid off reporters to write favorable stories during the build up to the Iraq invasion. Stop making up false accusations against Obama and talk about the issues. Does McCain understand life in the 21st century and how the world works as well as Obama? The answer is no and that is why Obama will win the election. Your racist attacks against Obama never seem to stop and I wish you two would get some class.

Do we really need a president who makes fun of senior citizens abillities or war heros who cannot send emails because thier fingers were broken in a prisoner of war camp? He won' get my vote... I am a proud american and I do not like or want this kind of change.

Here's another effort to try to make Obama look bad by screaming POW! POW! Quadraplegics and other people who are much more severely injured than Senator McCain send e-mails all the time. So do many people who are much older than he is. He could do it if it were important to him. If it's not important to him, that's his choice, but it is a sign, one among many, that he's not involved with current technology.

Obama keeps sticking his foot in his mouth...I can't wait until his next idiotic ad. It's one thing to attack a person's record...quite another to attack the person personally.

leaving politics aside for just a minute if possible, it's really important to recognize that people far more damaged by war, accident, birth defects, disease -- paralyzed, missing limbs, deformed fingers, cut tendons -- use computers every day through voice recognition software, special tools or hardware and other technology. Sen. McCain chooses not to. To suggest otherwise does all these other people a great disservice.

The point is not whether he can send an e-mail, the point is whether he knows how to send an e-mail; if he physically can't then I understand; if he doesn't know how then I don't understand. How can you run a country that is arguablly the most technologically advanced in the world if you don't have any idea of how the most basic technology operates. It is beyond me to comprehend.

McCain can move his fingers, and can hold a mouse (there are pictures) and the fact that you guys are so quick to quote jonah is just trashy.

Get a life and get on time.

Fractured fingers that never heal ?
If John McCain can't push a button on a computer, then he can not handwrite . It's much harder. He can not hold a fork. He can not button his shirt.

I guess, what I'm saying is, is before you jump to publish something by a partisan hack, you should check to see if it's actually true.

Am I correct to assume that if I am a senior Citizen and I do not know how to use the internet or Email; that I am somehow unintelligent? I would like to just remind the “Teknowennie” Mr. Obama and the rest of the Democrats’ that think like him, that there are millions of Senior Citizens in this country that while they may not know how to work a computer, they most certainly know how to vote!!

Congratulations on another foot in mouth moment Mr. Obama!

Barak Obama should remember that " a closed mouth attracts no feet".

Here we go again. Anything said or done to John McCain -"Wait - he's a War Hero."

Your blog would have an ounce of dignity if it included all of the slime that McCain et. al. have been slinging.

Typical Republican Crap! If he can write, he can type or use a mouse or use voice activation programs.

And being a War Hero does not qualify one to be President. That was 40 years ago.

I am someone who also is older like McCain, and I have my own set of ailments. Unlike McCain, I need to keep working because of what this administration has done badly in so many different ways.

With Senator McCains resources, his inner circle should be well aware of all of the accesiblity features that make using a computer doable.

Perhaps he is just not that into technology, or perhaps he is following the strategy of both Bush and Cheney....don't do email so you don't leave an electronic trail behind. I find it of interest that Gov. Palin used a personal Yahoo account for official Alaskan can only surmise why that was being both done and allowed.

Did anyone notice what happened when Senator McCain, Senator Obama, and Mayor Bloomberg laid the small wreaths at the 9/11 memorial? Senator McCain and the Mayor ben down and tenderly and respectively laid the wreath. Senator Obama was too important to bend down and show some respect. He just tossed the wreath down.
Senator Obama is also the candidate that insulted the middle class by saying the just wanted to hang on to their Bibles and firearms. And that is the person that the media and all socialists minded people want to be President of The United States. Lord help us!

I am much more disabled than McCain and I use a computer. I live with horrendous pain every day of my life. Every day is like being in prison for me. One of the main reasons is because I cannot get adequate healthcare and unfortunately I am not wealthy like McCain. I'll take my chances with Obama.

I think once again many democrats miss the point. If you are in favor of Obama, wake up, this was a stupid move. While you can make a case about various ways the disabled can access the internet, what you are missing is that there is a wealth of people that will be sympathetic to McCain in this. When Obama is already slipping in the polls, the last thing his campaign team needed to do was lob an underhanded pitch that the GOP can slam back at them. Dumb ad and tactically, incredibly stupid. Team Obama has been chasing their own tails since the GOP convention and the polls are showing the effect. And lastly, I would counter that if McCain can use different methods of accessing the internet, then one would think people who CAN type like David Plouffe can use Google and find out why McCain doesn't send emails.

What a silly issue. You know the Obama campaign is in grave trouble when they are relegated to attacking their opponent on the use of email. Sorry folks, but this story does not exactly rise to the level of international significance. But if it really bothers you that much, I recommend you send McCain a letter and tell him so.

If my special education kids with massive cerebral palsy and other handicaps can use a keyboard or mouse, so can McCain. If he can't do "touch typing", neither can I.

Did NOBAMA ever do anything to defend the USA? None
There is no question about McCain willing to defend the USA.

There is too many questions about NOBAMA. He will surrender USA to the his muslim friends if they ask.

If you tax the rich there is no doubt that they will pass the tax to you, poor folks. If you complaint about tax, get some education, do not play sport and think that you will automatically make big bucks. Another suggestion buy lottery tickets with your welfare check then may be you poor people get rich then don't have to worry about tax.

i thought that obama was gonna attack the issues. Why is he going after mccain's age and inablility to use a computer. No one is gonna know what pain or discomfort he has because each of us have our own problems that only we live with. Whats absurd is alot of people acting like they know his pains and limitations.

Typical Obama/Liberal do whatever it takes to push their misguided agenda...including smearing McCain because he is physically handicapped and is unable to type without pain...simply unbelievable as if knowing how to e-mail makes an individual qualiified to lead.......

My boss never learned to type, but he still punches out emails with one finger.

Yes, McCain has war injuries, but I'm sick of them being his every excuse. And now? He doesn't even have to pull that excuse out of nowhere - you did it for him.

I love how pointing out Obama's skrewups is somehow "Racist" now. Play that funky race card, black boy!

Now that's a Racist Comment(tm)...or not. Wild Cherry, anyone?

McCain might be able to use a cell phone, but you don't need to be a genius to know that the way you "type" on a phone and the movements and positioning required to type on a keyboard is completely different.

And yes, there's a veritable plethora of programs available to turn speech to text, typing by voice, etc. But they haven't always been around. If McCain never learned to use a computer because it hurts his fingers to type at a keyboard, that could explain his computer "Illiteracy"

Not that I think it matters, myself. I'm not worried about how "Cool" or "Hip" or "Connected to the Intarwebz" McCain is.

I'm worried about the judges the next president would appoint or the taxes he'd raise.


He's so Cool, Hip and Connected, he should understand that.

Setting aside the specific target of the ad, for a moment, aren't staffers for handling things like e-mail ? I'd imagine both candidates receive thousands of messages each day, both legitimate traffic and spam. Does Obama spend all day going through those messages, to determine what's of value and what isn't, and then take some action on what is legit? Somehow, I doubt it.

That said, congrats to the Obama campaign for insulting millions of senior citizens by implying they're unintelligent because they don't or can't use e-mail. Some seniors may not know how to operate a computer, but they darn sure know how to operate a lever or a hole-punch at the voting booth, this November.

Noun, Verb, POW.

Readers should remember that this is a claim by Jonah Goldberg the McCain's injuries are so severe that he can't find any finger to type with. I don't hold it against John McCain that Jonah Goldberg would try and peddle almost any story, knowing he could back away from the distortion later. He's that kind of commentator. Nobody should believe this stuff coming from a surrogate. If McCain himself makes the claim PERSONALLY, I'll take take it more seriously.

It's simply amazing how he can sign autographs but can't punch a button. wow

All of the comments have missed the point.

McCain is not applying to work at the Apple Store; he is applying to be Commander in Chief. The question is if it is better to have a President with military experience or have to teach military strategy to a novice during a crisis.

Talking about computer savvy deflects from the real experience issue. Maybe if Russia gets really of of line Obama can just Facebook Putin?

I'm really surprised that the Obama campaign wants to start a comparative debate about what McCain was doing in the 70's and 80's compared to what Obama (by his own admission in his books) was doing during those years. Enough said!

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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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