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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
Comments () | Archives (471)

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I am sorry, but I have to call it as it actually is...
this article is too worthless in content to actually deserve any comments.

To the aurthor of this article. If you sometimes find yourself without something relevant to write, it's ok to just take a pass and not wrtite anything.

Those of you who are demanding that McCain use voice recognition software....GET A GRIP.

He's a US Senator and he doesn't need to type his own emails. He doesn't even need to use emails.

The only time I use emails is for online ordering. I personally detest emails as I find them to be far too impersonal and lazy.

Add the word arrogant and that just about sums up Obama.

So what if he can't use the computer comfortably. He's found a solution: having his assistant or wife do the typing for him. If it works for him, then who cares? McCain isn't the one who brought it up anyway. Seriously, Obama really needs to find a better line of attack than this. Making fun of old crippled people? That is stupid. It may give his young tech-savvy supporters a good laugh, but the young are notoriously unreliable voters. Old people, on the other hand, always vote.

If he gets to be president will he be able to sign his name to any legislation? If he can sign his name he should be able to learn how to type.

As one of the people who worked on the design of the Web back in 1992, I can assure you that specially adapted Web browsers have been available for practically every imaginable form of disability since 1995.

We have people using the Web that are quadraplegic. John McCain can drive a car, he has even been photographed driving a car at 50mph and taking a cell phone call at the same time.

This claim is clearly false and the LA Times should be considering how long they are going to allow this farce to continue.

The world is surely getting tired of John McCain trying to use his term as a POW as a get out of awkward questions free card. What are we going to be told next, that he could only have fifteen minutes of conversation with Palin before he decided to make her his veep pick because he was a POW?

If John McCain is not fully fit to become President of the United States for whatever reason he should never have run for office. Disability need not be a disqualification for high office but it should not be an excuse either.

you bots are too too cruel. I guess yall are young. There is this thing that happens when you get older that sets into poorly healed injuries....

McCain's arms were broken. and then broken again...and again. And oh yeah and again.

So although able to type he lets others do it for him....

poor little bots. so young and so unwise.

Wow, so Laura Bush's former press secretary Andrew Malcolm writes for LA Times now. Amazing how he gets away with writing the same Republican-slanted crap he peddled for Laura, but now its supposedly under the guise of "journalism" for Big Media. Bravo!

I'm almost 70 and I use the internet and send emails.
Mostly, I use it when I have nothing better to do. Since that's often, I waste a lot of time planning trips, trying to buy things cheap, and checking ball scores.
If McCain doesn't use the net much, maybe he has somebody arrange his trips and buy stuff and tell him the scores. He might be a little too busy to screw around with surfing. Although I find it fun, he seems to like to talk to people and phone them.
And run for president.
Really, do you think Obama spends a lot of time on the net? Maybe looking at pictures of his little kids at home?

For those saying 'the POW card' lets talk about the race card with Obama *rolls eyes* if i hear one more time about him being a 'black man' and how that is SO revolutionary, I'm going to vomit.

Apparently in america its OK to be a sexist but racism isn't okay. Wow

Nice work, wanna be.

Stephen Hawking is disabled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The illness has progressed over the years and he is now almost completely paralyzed. Yet, he can still use a computer? Lots of disabled use a computer every day.

You are such a fool for falling for unsubstantiated lies

Maybe you should go back to being Laura Bush's spin miester.

Your new motto: "Be all the hack you can be."

McCain lose his integrity when he choose a partner that was in a separation party if US do not have problem with this, it say to me a lot of the believes that you have about patriotism... He lose credibility when use the lie as a way to distract, when he use the war crusade to sold to us the necessity of a for ever war.

Anyone who is expecting classy behavior from a black power marxist is a fool.

BO is sinking... is this ad representative of the "new" politics he has run his campaign on - is this the change he has talked and talked and talked about?


NO on BO!

I worked with a man who had all but two fingers blown off by a grenade. He held a pencil in one hand and hit typewriter keys with the pencil and his two fingers. He did quite well.

And about McCain not wanting to talk about the details of his POW experience. Oh, please! Also, John McCain is alive and living quite well thank you. My husband died of an Agent Orange disease from his service in Vietnam.

Ever heard of voice recognition software, Andrew (seriously, Mr. Malcolm, what is your problem with Barack Obama?)? Apparently, neither has John McCain. McCain doesn't talk about his wartime experience? Are you kidding me? It's almost ALL he's talked about during this campaign.

This ad certainly represents the "new" politics Obama has been talking and talking and talking about. You know - focusing on issues, not personal attacks.

Is this the "change" we have been waiting for?

NO on BO

This is truly pathetic. McCain uses a blackberry. And why does Laura bush's former press secretary control the Obama narrative at the LA Times? Oh, yeah, that's right, because the press is liberal.

Hey andrew malcolm: Let's not forget the Republicans mocked John Kerry's purple heart--at the RNC you all had purple heart bandaids. So its a bit rich for a conservative liar to get choked up about this ad.

Disgusting--you have should posted a more accurate update: premise of this post disproven by facts. But facts are uninteresting to Republicans

Excerpt, Forbes Magazine 2000:

"In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate’s savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. “She’s a whiz on the keyboard, and I’m so laborious,” McCain admits."

All this silliness of how McCain should at least use the "hunt and peck" method is just a frantic search for some way to excuse detestable behavior on the part of the Obama camp.

Newsflash folks... we're talking about a United States Senator with a full administrative staff to take care of his correspondence. And when he needs to personally communicate with someone, we have this great new gadget called... The Telephone. They're even pocket-sized and portable these days. How nice is that? :)

And after a full day of communicating and corresponding, Sen. McCain still checks his personal email every night... and wife Cindy types out his responses for him.

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

What planet are you living on? That's all he talks about, except when he's lying about that bridge to nowhere.

It is my understanding that US Presidents are not allowed email. I remember reading an interview with W shortly after he was elected where he said something about missing the emails he used to share with his Dad, but such emails are not allowed a president for security reasons. This Obama ad was pathetic on so many levels.

From the newsweek blog on this topic, where they quote the same Boston Globe article posted above, comes an even more illuminating paragraph.

And from Forbes Magazine around the same time:

In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate’s savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. “She’s a whiz on the keyboard, and I’m so laborious,” McCain admits.

The computer has transformed every aspect of our country and our connection to the world. To not have access to that (and not just to blog or email, silly) or to require someone to just tell you, then you are seriously out of touch.

Who types when Dragon Naturally Speaking will do it for you!

The article is silly as many people above note - he can write after all.

However, there is also excellent voice recognition software out there that takes very little time to get up and running. Lots of computer people have repetitive strain injuries and can't type. But they can send email and do far more demanding things with computers.

So the assumptions that drive the blog post are also just plain wrong.

Ah, the Democrats. Seems like there all upset that they cound't even dream up something like a POW story to help aid the slipping liberal party. McCain's damage was done during his stay in Hanoi. Obama's damage is self-inflicted. Do your really think that either candidate is spending all their time e-mailing their parties. Publicity, face-to-face , not facebook, is the determining factor. Democrats are upset that they didn't get somebody with the backing of McCain and Palin.

Mr Malcolm: ya think your brief stint as Laura Bush's mouthpiece might be coloring your... assessments? C'mon, video of McCain using a Blackberry is everywhere, he can certainly mash a keyboard as well as I can.

What is this "liberal media" the right's always yelping about?

Not the frickin' POW card again???!!! Good grief, if this adulterous old coot is that damaged and infirm then why would we want him in the White House to begin with? He should be in physical therapy 24/7. What a joke! The new film footage of McCain being released from Hanoi shows him vigorously saluting with his arms easily raised very high, plus he looks like he just got out of a spa, not a prison cell. I think he's lied about everything that allegedly happened to him as a POW. I think he received VIP treatment because of his family's position, rank, and contacts, but he's been riding that POW pony to fame and fortune for decades. He's really a crook and his bus should now have a vanity plate reading: HATE TALK EXPRESS.

Hilarious! Would you just look at the number of commentors laboring under the same derrangement as D. Foster, who, in full blither, opened his/her comment with: "Here we go again. Another McCain supporter is spreading scurrilous lies about the Obama campaign and using John McCain's war time experiences as cover. " No doubt, if asked the time of day, D. Foster would respond something like "due West."

Talk about a short attention span. The article subject to comment is about an ad fielded and approved by Obama -- NOT McCain. I swear, the more I read and hear from "progressives" (read: Brownshirts and/or fascists) and the intellectually unhinged Left like those who whine the same mantra as D. Foster, the more I'm forced into the McCain camp, a place where -- believe it or not, for reasons other than Internet savvy -- I really didn't want to be.

I suppose, in a morbid way, thanks is due to D. Foster and kindred for spotlighting precisely what is wrong with the Left today. It would appear to be a form of bigotry, and that's just awful.

Really? John McCain was a POW? I had no idea!

Listen losers... He does send email. He has been dictating it to his wife for years... it was written in Forbes magazine 5 years ago... Obama is going to get tough huh! Well he just lost about 5% more votes when the seniors get a hold of this information... It starting to spread all over the web on sites just like this and the comments from you compassionless souls really helps.

Bill's comment of September 13, 2008 at 07:56 AM, nails it on the head. Sure McCain, with his disabilities, could laboriously 1 finger type emails or spend his time painfully correcting the mistakes that voice recognition software makes but it's simply not an efficient use of his time. There's a big difference between using devices like mobile phones (with 1 touch speed-dialing) to using a keyboard with 100+ keys efficiently for email or more extensive writing. Anyway, it's inherent in the role of a Senator or a President that staff do the 'legwork' including the typing for you, whether you are disabled or not. I doubt Obama plans to do without a secretary in the White House, if he gets there.

Ever heard of voice recognition? Even the most severely handicapped people can and do use their computers everyday without ever touching the keyboard. With little effort, a computer can be trained to recognize a person's voice and will react by doing whatever it is told to do -- even writing and sending an email.

"And he has excellent staff support. Why should he waste his time dictating into a computer and then spend his time editing the flawed transcription that appears on his computer screen. Especially when the editing process will be slower than for any of the rest of us because of his injuries?"

Fine, entry of large passages of text would be a waste of his time. But it still leaves his failure to adopt computers as information sources. Which, these days, leaves him at the mercy of the people he hires. Also, it's slow.

"Information dashboards" are all the rage these days.

I understand Mike Bloomberg has one of his company's information terminals right next to his desk in the mayor's office.

sh wrote: "It is my understanding that US Presidents are not allowed email. I remember reading an interview with W shortly after he was elected where he said something about missing the emails he used to share with his Dad, but such emails are not allowed a president for security reasons. "

Oh please. Bush's administration emails, they just 'lose them'. Bush himself may not email, but that's because he knows he'd be risking impeachment if not war crimes prosecution.

The Bush administration's email handling is essentially their way of pleading the 5th preemptively.

Who is Andrew Malcom and how much did the McCain campaign pay him to write this nonsense?

OOPS! Quadruple amputees can and are using the internet and know how to send emails.

You can add this fabricated spin to all the others the McCain camp have come up with.

One more excuse for the rednecks among us to use as their reason for not voting for a non-white candidate.

T this is Joh n Mccaaaain aand I ma lernnnnnin g hoow too usssse eemail and typee on a computtte r. and i DO have an interne t at hooome and look at It aLL tttthe timmme.

The bottom line is... Why is it so important that he can or can't send email, or use the internet? If he can read and make good decisions, that's what the job requires. Anyone ever think he just wants to do things differently, is that so bad. The fact that Obama's wasted money on a non issue more would make me question Obama's decision making

Two months ago I respected John McCain but since his pick of a Pailin for V.P. it's become clear that his 'I'd rather lose the Presidency than lose a war' has been over shadowed by the reality that John McCain would rather put 'Presidency first and Country second'.

'ats cool...yeah 'ats cool....

Obama is soooooooo hip...I wish I'as he is...

Whoever you are voting for this election, it is absolutely inexcusable to deride a man who was tortured for 5 years over whether he can send an email or not. To minimize his injuries by saying he could use special equipment if he really wanted is disgusting. Guess what though, he spent those five years getting tortured defending you lowlife's right to spew your hatred. There's a special place in Hell for you lot. BTW, seniors, the LEAST tech savvy voting bloc, turns out to the polls more than any other group. I have a feeling that a lot of them will feel like Obama is saying that THEY are out of touch. This is one of the stupidest attack ads I've ever seen, it will alienate a lot of those voting seniors.

Just one quick question:

If you are a company share holder, do you want your CEO to read/write mails all days? You can calculate how much you pay them to type the emails.

The whole internet/email things is stupid. They are just tools, nothing technical.

Let me give me one quote:
"Computer Scientist never needs to touch computer". They are all algorithms and data structures.

Oh Yeah !
I don't think that this disability was mentioned in the release of his medical records. So they will be glad to pull the ad if John McCain releases his REAL medical records.

I find the comments here distressing, to use the kindest language.

NRO's the Corner points out a Forbes article from 2000 that describes McCain's awareness and use of the Internet:

"In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate's savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. "She's a whiz on the keyboard, and I'm so laborious," McCain admits."

McCain recently admitted he doesn't send e-mail, perferring other communications channels, but he clearly reads e-mail and browses blogs.

The Obama ad is yet another low blow from a campaign that keeps trumpeting how it's changing the face of politics while continuing to engage in the same old negative campaign tactics of running down the country and the opposition while offering the same tired old high-tax, statist solutions.

That Obama supporters won't acknowledge that is human nature. That some of them won't acknowledge a detail that the Obama campaign clearly either got wrong or fudged (again, the nice word) is a sign that many on the left are politically invested in an Obama win to the exclusion of everything else, including the supposedly elevated tone Obama was going to bring to the campaign.

Even more dishonest that mischaracterizing McCain's use of e-mail technology is the idea that the use of e-mail is somehow an important issue. McCain, more than Obama ever has, has spoken to the real problems in Washington - a culture of money and power, blind partisanship (as opposed to principled disagreement), and fealty to special interests. Obama has co-sponsored a couple of bills dealing with some general issues on lobbying but has yet to even begin to challenge his own party's decadent practices and crooked politicians ("Cold Cash" Jefferson for starters, anyone).

Obama's camp can crow about McCain and Bush all they want. Obama is firmly in the pocket of a Democratic-controlled Congress with even lower approval ratings than Bush.

McCain cheapens his war experience with his constant playing of the POW card as a "get out of trouble" ticket,
every time he can't answer a question intelligibly or respond to an issue honestly.

The constant hiding behind his POW-ness
is a sign of deep and pitiful weakness for McCain.

Has he really got nothing else left?

The commercial is about JM not having a clue, about the issues we are facing in 2008. Economy, Budget, Tax cuts for big business, nothing for the middle class. These are all things JM has said with his own mouth. Even if the far right was pulling the strings ... at least it was his mouth saying, I'm illiterate with computer, i don't know much about economy, I believe in the trickle down approach.

Computer is great enabler for the handicapped. This fake outrage about McCain's typing ability is offensive to the countless of handicap people who find computer a help.

Just look at the extreme example of Stephen Hawking who is paralyzed and can't speak. But writes books and gives lectures, not to mention making incredible contributions to our understanding of the Universe.

Now, McCain doesn't have perhaps a need not knowledge for extensive use of computers himself, but this uproar about his typing abilities is just a diversion.

Computer is a great enabler for handicapped, and blowing smoke of the pretended outrage is ridiculous. Or perhaps those that this it are honestly computer ignorant.

get off it Obama folks . . . email is no big deal. And for those of you would insult McCain for his injuries just thank God you haven't had to go through the same. Shame on all of you that have overstepped the limits of good sense and respect.

A 2000 article from Forbes Magazine makes it clear that McCain can technically use a keyboard; he prefers not to because, as the article noted, it is "painful" for him to do so. This does not mean though that he doesn't use email. His wife checks his email and he dictates emails for her to type. What's so wrong with this?

And BTW, his injuries were not so much to his fingers as to his shoulders and wrists. The Vietnamese would tie his hands together behind his back, and then tie a longer rope around his wrists. They would throw this rope over a rafter and hoist him off his feet, leaving him hanging from the ceiling by his wrists behind his back. This would dislocate his shoulders (and strain his already broken arms). It's the positioning of the keyboard that is painful for him; that would naturally not apply to cellphones.

When FDR ran for office the democrat party and its many friends in the press lied to the American people and told them he could walk. Elaborate ruses were set up. When JFK took massive doses of amphetamines for his severly injured back (a war wound, by the way, which he ran on both for the senate and as president-remember PT 109?), the press helped him to hide his imparement by staging pictures of him "playing touch football." McCain, himself has rarely talked of his imprisonment, mostly in response to questions from the media and most recently when introducing himself to citizens at the convention. Obama, too, told his life story (although much of it was either deleted or did not stand the truth test).
"Stand up, Chuck! Stand up and let the people see you!" Joe Biden said earlier this week to a parapalegic, wheelchaired man he had just identified as "Our good friend." Do you know which of your "good friends" are in wheelchairs? I know mine.
Obama should have realized McCain's injuries are more serious than carple tunnel. The insensitivity of Obam and Biden to people who are physically impaired (yet obviously intellectually experienced and superior) is saddening and shocking.
There is a solution. Obamamessiah could raise Chuck from the chair and heal McCain's war wounds. Just what kind of savior is he pretending to be this week anyway?

You liberal fools are revealing much of the ugliness that lies ever so slightly under the surface of your psyche. You are furious that your anointed one is in serious trouble in this campaign. Your fear is manifested in lashing out with personal attacks, rather than reasoned discourse of the issues. Get comfortable with your fear.

Obama, rather than rising to his manifest destiny as POTUS, will be relegated to a mere footnote of history. Prepare to wallow in anger and impotence.

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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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