Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

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)

The comments to this entry are closed.

What a dumb article.

McCain can't send eMail because his fingers were broken 40 years ago?

I know people with excrutiating arthritis, others with carpal tunnel, still others with missing digits - and they all have found a way to be "connected".

In fact, I have severe nerve damage in my right hand. I can only feel and control two of the fingers. Yet I earn my living holding a complicated camera and post-processing at the computer for at least 7 hours a day.

Disabled is Stephen Hawkings with ALS. Yet he manages to write, eMail communicate and more with a puff of breath in a tube.

Your entire article was a misrepresentation, a clear attempt to smear Obama with (once again) the ol' POW thing.

My mother took up the computer at the age of 74 and later became our "booth babe" when we showed the software I developed at Comdex. For years after her passing we still got calls from major industry players who were impressed with her knowledge and her heart and saddened to learn she was no longer here.

Shame on you. Shame on McCain. We all need to live in the age we're in, not in a bubble of memory 40 years old -especially if you want to run a great nation that is also a great technology leader.


You wrote: 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.

It never fails to amaze and amuse me how you right wingnuts always manage to do the Rovian thing: take the worst traits and behaviors of your own candidate and accuse the opposition of them.

99% of the negative crap that's been slung in this election is straight from the McCain liars and hacks. The sad thing is, you know it, too. The ads that claim Obama will raise middle-class taxes, that he's such a traitor thta he's willing to "lose a war" in order to win an election, the pig-lipstick ad, the kindergarten-sex ad, the endless lies of Giuliani, Palin and McCain at your smarmy hate-filled Convention. It's not just me. Every major newspaper and magazine has been going nuts over the garbage being spewed by the McCain machine.

So, you accuse Obama of negative advertising.

Well, I, for one, am glad you did because I needed a bit of a laugh before I turned in for the night.

You right-wing bigots are so predictable.


I see that the knee-jerk reaction among Obama supporters is actually to defend the ad instead of moving forward. Everyone seems absolutely convinced that THEY know the easy solutions available for torture victims, and how DARE those victims whine like a bunch of babies.

Do you all even hear what you sound like? It's pretty appalling to say the least.

And for what it's worth, the Boston Globe profile (I believe), notes that McCain DOES use email - he dictates to his wife who types, because typing is too painful for him.

Oh, and now that we know that McCain is physically incapable of raising his arms above his shoulders, I have a new ad suggestion for the Obama team:

"McCain is so anti-American, he can't even raise his arms to salute the American flag....McCain: not ready to lead!"

Why don't you idiots mull that one over...

Comments are simply disgusting, as is the Ad.

It is easy to disporve the ad factually.
As Forbes points out, he used internet already in 2000, and better, as we see, than Obama does it today. He reads blogs and e-mails, and dictates replies to his wife.
Those who speak about voice-recognition soft will jump to any mistake this soft will do. And, interestinglyl, how many e-mails Clinton wrote himself, without using secretaries?

But this is not the point. The point is that Obama's famous team either does not know this or does know this.
In the first case they are incredibly ineffective, not being able to goole, and this speaks tons about Obama's skills as a manager. I would not trust them with anything important.

If they knew and still put this bs, then this is the most
stupid (even leaving aside the moral aspects) thing to do, as the backslash is evident. Which again raises question about their effectiveness.

In any case, this story proves to me that Obama is not able to collect people capable to do even the simplest tasks, like ad, without critical faults. What will happen if he will be given much more difficult things to manage?
Forget about differences in programs, the guy seems to be uncapable to perform even simplest things.

As a conservative I didn't want to fel to giddy about the recent swing in the polls but after reading the comments oh the Obama supporters on this blog I'm buying champagne and getting ready for a fifty state McCain blowout. You people have problems.

I don't know why people are criticizing McCain for this story, since McCain hasn't actually responded to the ad. The story takes a quote from 8 years ago, in a completely different context, and makes a story out of it. Possibly valid, possibly not, but don't blame it on McCain.

My advice to Obama supporters: Keep digging!

Shifty McCain needs to stop using & hiding behind Palin's skirt


What a load of lying crap! McCain himself said "I use a Blackberry, I don't use e-mail". If his fingers can manage a Blackberry (with much smaller keyboard) then he can certainly use a normal keyboard. Just stop lying, you are hurting America!

We need to make an informed choice and you are not adding anything useful to the discourse!!!

Come on people, honesty and fact checking are the last things you would expect from someone who was once Laura Bush's press secretary.

When was the last time you saw a computer on the desk of the president in the oval office?

John McCain has admitted openly that he doesn't know how to use computers or e-mail. It has nothing to do with any disabilities from the war or his time spent in captivity. I am on social security & I certainly know how to use a computer and send e-mail. I agree with Obama's campaign. This man is out of touch!!!! Republican's who know better keep stating the same old BS and expect that the American Public will be stupid enough to believe it. Why shouldn't they. "Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public". They're planning on it!

"I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don't expect to be a great communicator, I don't expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need." --New York Times interview, July 13, 2008.

Republican's LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The question of whether Sen. McCain knows how to use a computer or send e-mail is really about how he responds (or doesn't) to change and how curious or knowledge-hungry he is. Where does he get his information? What does he read? What does he do when there are conflicting points of view? What does he do when things don't go his way? You would think that we would not have to ask these questions of a presidential contender, but if you search through the wreckage of the current administration, you will discover that a lot of the bad decisions came from George W. Bush's lack of curiosity and his over-reliance on a handful of advisers with agendas of their own. With McCain's last-minute pick of Sarah Palin, whom he did not know and did not vet properly, it seems John McCain may have similar weaknesses as a leader.

Hurray, McCain will manage the country not his in-box. As a manager of people, creator of websites, and electrical engineer I can see a real upside to a President not using e-mail. This is not a skill needed for the position. It does not indicate a man that is out of touch with the world. Look at the crap coming across the blogs and e-mails now. I hope our Presidents make decisions based on face to face meetings and discussions and well written briefing papers. You folks with e-mail centric lives need to push away from the computer and go talk to real people.



Seriously, the internet is quickly replacing many important communications and business channels in this country. It is truly important that our national leadership understands how it works.
My mother, bless her, started emailing at age 88, and until her frailty clouded her mind and fingers at 92 was most concerned about moving her webTV when going into assisted living.
It is a myth that "seniors" aren't internet savvy - as their mobility decreases, they flock to the net.

McCain is not asking for sympathy, but Obama sure is supplying him with a lot. This is just another example of Obama’s inexperience. He tends to shoot before he thinks (and researches) the ramifications of his actions. We can’t have that kind of bad judgment in the White House. Think of the consequences!!

Hello! where is everyone? there is software available for anyone with a disability. people with no hands, who are blind, who cannot speak.. they all use the internet.. Poor John and his sad hands.. poor john.. get with the program John! you have staff, you have wife! you have advantages no one else has.. Learn to use email and the internet.. you might learn something.. poor POW John.. i am soooo sick of this same sing song.. get a grip! he was not the only POW.. he didn't die like my friends.. and brother in law.. good grief.. !

that ad emphasized so much more than McCain's lack of computer skills. He isn't up to speed on the economy is enough to make him incompetent to be President. He's just as useless as Sarah, who's state gets the most Federal taxes per person as more than any other plus Oil money.




Give me a break. The Republicans have two pity party candidates trying to cash in disabilities. Stepford Palin on her lack of experience and being a female and McCain on his POW experience.

While we all have the ability to empathize and respect what McCain went through as a POW, it does not entitle him to feel sorry for himself and use it for the rest of his life as a convient excuse on one hand and a power play on the other.

There are people who don't have any hands at all who email. What kind of garbage is this whiny excuse for sympathy and attempt at crying ... "you're being so mean to me... wah". Just stop and get back to the real issues. We the American public are just sick of it.

My physically challenged friends quickly found and learned Dragon software and they can do anything on their computers. They are interested in keeping up with and even ahead of 21st century technology. McCain may not be a Luddite, but he is clearly out of touch in so many frightening ways. And his choice of neophyte Palin, considering his age and health status, can only leave one to conclude that he does NOT put country first. I call it political malpractice.

First off, using email is not a way to judge anyone....and I am a computer geek. Whoever is elected, they will hopefully not be spending their time checking emails and playing poker on facebook.

The truly hilarious thing is that the Obama campaign had no one do a check to make sure that there were no other reasons for John McCain to not use email. So who exactly has a problem using the internet?

For those who continue to say "he could if he wanted to", I point out that obvious, since he was already reading his emails with his wife, maybe he just liked it better that way.

Wow. I can't believe that just about everyone on this thread is missing the point. It isn't about whether McCain can or cannot actually use a computer, and what software is available to those with disabilities. It is about what the independent voters, the ones who are going to decide this election, think when they hear the reasons why McCain can't use a computer keyboard. From that perspective, raising the issue of McCain's inability to use a keyboard or send an e-mail (especially if there is evidence that he has in fact been moving in the direction of acquiring computer skills) was a completely boneheaded move that is going to backfire on the Obama camp. The momentum has been shifting to McCain, and this misstep is simply going to accelerate it. Not only has the electoral college vote dramatically shifted in McCain's favor over the past few days, but the double-digit democratic lead in congressional races has dropped to an anemic three points.

Democrats are not only in danger of losing the presidential election, the possibility exists that we're going to lose Congressional majorities. Dismissing McCain as "McSame" or "McBush" and claiming he's too old to win, while assuming that the country's dissatisfaction with the past 8 years of Republican rule is sufficient to ensure that people vote Democratic in downticket races as well as the presidential race, is dangerously naive

Then again, the Democrats have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Why should I be surprised that in this election, they seem to be raising that ability to an art form...

Let's not forget that Bill Clinton wasn't computer literate when he became president either - and he had absolutely no excuse. There was a very funny skit he did showing himself being taught how to use the computer so he could use eBay. I think we can be very sure that if McCain becomes president he will have more than enough staff to send his emails. This is a non-issue. If this is the worst complaint Obama has against McCain, then I think McCain deserves to be elected.

The point is... he has no interest in learning, times have changed and he hasn't. No big deal. My problem is with all of the morons on here crying about his fingers. He already said he uses a computer, so stop with the war injuries already. As for his flying capabilities, how many planes did he crash? 4? 5? The one shot down doesn't count of course, but the others? And why do you get so upset when Obama runs an ad, but are conspicuosly silent about the McCain lying ads? I think it comes down to nothing more than inherent racism. Can't see past the color of his skin, and are willing to sell this country down the river. Don't get me wrong, I'm not playing a race card, not at all. But there is nothing wrong with Barack Obama, and to make up silly stories shows me and everyone else the underlying problem. By the way, I'm white and female. I urge you to really look at the issues, the candidates stance, and ask yourselves if you really believe putting a 72 year old in office with this choice of vice president is good for your children. Think hard. They may have no future if you make the wrong decision. (think Russia=Nuclear).

To those who think McCain's injuries are faked, and he's milking it, try 66 months is a Vietnamese torture chamber, even the prisons there these days are awful. You guys can't even handle a non-decafe moccafrappucinno, and when the low paid immigrant gets the order wrong, how many times have you used the story of the immigrant who gave you the wrong starbucks coffee? Respect no matter Republican or Democrat is all that is needed and some humility

Being computer savvy doesn't mean someone is more qualified than someone else. My daughter-in-law received her RN license before she met our family. Several years ago my grade school aged grandson had to help his mom use the computer. Are you trying to tell me that my grandson is more qualified in nursing because he knew how to hook up the computer to the internet and she didn't?

We are looking for someone qualified to be the Commander-In-Chief of our military and President of our country. Obama's resume doesn't beat McCain's or Palin's.

Obamism – Disguising your character faults by accusing opponent of it.

i.e. Disguise displaying false outrage by accusing opponent of it. Disguise lying by accusing your opponent of being a liar. Disguise sexism by accusing your opponent of being sexist. Disguise despicable campaign by accusing your opponent of running adespicable campaign.

Typical low life lawyer spew

I think the disability just made typing on the keyboard unpleasant and so he just never spent the time or effort to figure out another way. I type about 120 wpm, have a few fingers that I have broken in the past, and frankly do feel the aches and pains of those injuries. The thing is mine are minor to his and because apparently he can't tie his shoelaces either nor comb his hair which is downright sad. He probably doesn't talk about all this for obvious reasons, but Obama had to have known about them and still decided to exploit them. Age, and now his disabilities due to being a POW. Make me wonder what Obama would have said about FDR being fit for office since he needed the use of a wheelchair.

mabe he should have left when he had tje opportunity, then his fingers would be in tact!

one other thing I believe he pick sarah because shes a hot lil mama and he could be one up on bill clinton.
with her qualifications, at this point shes an intern.

Can McCain drive a car? Open a door? Put on his own clothes? Read and turn the pages of a book? If he can do any of those things, then he can send an e-mail if he chosses to. If we are to believe this republican BS, why should we choose a president , who can't even wipe his own behind.

OMG!!! Thanks for destroying any credibility I thought you had, Andrew Malcolm. He broke his ARMS, not his hands. Take a look at the picture you yourself have on your post: his cast ends before his hand, and his fingers aren't even splinted. And we've all seen him move his fingers repeatedly gesturing during speeches.

And I'm not even going to get into the fact that various POW groups are raising doubts about whether are not John McCain was ever tortured at all.

Interesting. Your own paper published a fairly encyclopedica article about McCain's injuries, entitled "John McCain: Physically fit to serve as 44th president? --- A host of health issues from skin cancer to torture as a POW could be a liability for the active 70-year-old Arizona Republican senator" (since the URL, linked here, now redirects to an article critical of Obama and Clinton, I'll help you out — it's now here, with a more supportive title (McCain faces question of fitness to serve, physically Age and health issues could be campaign liabilities for the GOP presidential candidate).

And oddly, it never once mentions his fingers. Sloppy. You'd think the reporter would have spoken to someone like Mr. Malcolm who knows this stuff.

This ad is the dumbest ad I have seen yet in politics. OOOOOH, I shouldn't vote for someone because they don't (can't physically actually) do email. That is really a nail biter. When I go to vote, I will decide: McCain doesn't email, and Barack spends his money on Greek columns. Ummm, is that what he might do with my money? Barack is overspending to look good and McCain is himself and just is good!

I guess McCain hasn't had time to play on his computer because he is busy working. He can actually make decisions and vote in congress unlike Obama who prefers to vote present, I never even knew that was an option. I'm just glad the media is so biased liberal, it WILL GURANTEE A MCCAIN/PALIN WIN, THANKS MSNBC. I'M SICK OF THE AMERICA BASHING. I'M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN AND SO IS MCCAIIN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't wait to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket, so I was discouraged to see all the people on this page thinking emailing (directly) is important to be a CEO or president until I realized I am only hearing from people who do web/email/typing.

I am young enough to do it, but old enough to relate to those who don't.

If a person makes great decisions, but needs to drag someone along to do the typing, we should have no problem with that. If a person makes horrible decisions, but can type them himself, we should have a huge problem with that person.

My mother and all her friends are more likely to vote for McCain becuase of the Obama ad.....think about it.

Just proves the left are haters no matter what. If we were discussing physical limitations of "the one" it would have caused for more sympathy.

When you type, you extend your arms out. He can't do that for a long period of time.

Anyone here have their arms broken and in their 70's? I have frozen shoulders from being on the net as much as I do...I am 60 and sitting at the computer with shoulder problems is painful. You can do it but it is painful. And I am sure his pain is greater than mine.

You guys make me sick. And since he can't tie his shoes you would probably have some sick way of spinning that...Obama should know all of this. Get back to basics was Obama's claim...just words from an Alinsky follower. pfft

Hello? What? Are you serious? I know it is hard for the older "outraged" crowd to understand these rocket-science concepts, but, unlike clay tablets, computer software nowadays comes with accessibility options, voice recognition, etc... Check them out. Use "the Google" as your current president does sometimes.

(Apart from the obvious Stephen Hawking example, you may want to check the writings of the "liberal" NY Times' technology reviewer David Pogue, who suffers from tenosynovitis and regularly shows the newest tech products that help people with hand ailment type.)

Unfortunately, computers do not yet come with tools which can help one cluelessness, cynicism and senility. Oops.

Utterly bogus and typical of Goldberg, and another throw-down of the sympathy card. Quadriplegics use computers every day; in fact, they depend on them.

Assistive technologies, especially voice assisted, are so advanced that even a former POW can use them.

Whether this claim about using a computer is germane to Obama's casting McCain as "out of touch," is moot; the fact is, if McCain wanted to, he could use a computer, irrespective of his injuries.

The comments to this piece reveal not only the utter viciousness of the Obama campaign and voters, but their comple inability to comprehend what they read, and follow a cogent argument.

Not only was the ad, aproved by Obama, a smear against a diabled veteran, it was a lie.

MCain and his campaign have shown themselves to be very tech savvy, and McCain uses a blackberry, which means that he obviously knows how to send an email. DUH. It is a lie to say, as Pfeiffer blatently does, that he doesn't know how. He just doesn't regularly type, because repetative movements are painful for him.

Keep it up Camp Obama! The American people are seeing first hand how nasty and dumb you are!

TV dinner mentality?

The dinner table community is slowly dying and the privacy fence community is taking over.

Where computers replace the family.
Where email replaces face to face engagement.
Where text messages grabble our speech.
Where freedom to choose is a selfish choice.
Where society turns inward not upward.
Where our Great and Grand parents values are lost.
Where the people perish because of lack of knowledge.

Last time I checked the phones are still working and the US Post office is still open.

Could it be that we can still use ancient technology to forge change and new paths? I am sure communication without hexadecimal coded gibberish is quite possible.

Well I just check again and yes there is a dial tone!


Put a stick in his mouth so he can hunt and peck a response? People outraged because keeping his hands outstretched in front of himself for extended periods ot time causes him great pain?

This man underwent horrors that you and I cannot fathom and the Dems MOCK him for that? I am not talking about Obama, I am talking about the rank and file Dems like the ones posting here. Where do you people get off???

I used to be a democrat but left the party when I realized that the Dems really don't have a firm grasp on reality. I couldn't bring myself to cozy up to the Republican party due to the religious zealots that partially make up the base. So, as an independent I don't have a dog in this fight but I do plan to vote McCain because the man has dedicated his life and sacrificed his body for this country and has the experience necessary to lead us through these difficult times.

Dems just don't get it. They are wrong on national defense, international relations and are consistently wrong on the economy. Don't go off about President Clinton and surpluses. I have a masters in econ. Clinton inherited a recovering then thriving economy from Bush1 then was the unwitting beneficiary of the dotcom bubble. When his economic meddling finally caught up to him, he was leaving office. Republican policies and pure blind luck caused those surpluses. It SURE wasn't President Clinton.

Obama doesn't think women or people with physical disabilities can be president, how about people with giant egos. sorry Barak but your ego won't fit in the white house plus I'd rather have my president working for America instead of being hip and cool and on facebook.

Wow .... the liberal Democratic comments on here show just how ignorant and uneducated you guys reallly are. A fair debate of the issues is acceptable ... your ignorance is not! If Obama does somehow miraculously get elected, I will enjoy watching your miserable lives fall apart under his partisan and inexperienced ways. Good luck!

When I dial my cellphone I use my thumbs (no fingers). I bet John McCain uses his thumbs also. Even text messages can be sent using thumbs only. This will not work very well on a keyboard.

Facts! Get Your Red Hot Facts!

Pointed it out to Jake Tapper. Pointed it out to Ben Smith, who was not aware the answer was first given to Politico in July 2008. You might want to take a look.

John McCain goes online

"Q: But do you go on line for yourself?

Mr. McCain: They go on for me. I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need — including going to my daughter’s blog first, before anything else.

Q: Do you use a Blackberry or e-mail?

Mr. McCain: No.

Mark Salter: He uses a BlackBerry, just ours.

Mr. McCain: I use the Blackberry, but I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail. I read e-mails all the time, but the communications that I have with my friends and staff are oral and done with my cell phone. I have the luxury of being in contact with them literally all the time. We now have a phone on the plane that is usable on the plane, so I just never really felt a need to do it."

As in...











Please pass this along to as many people as you can.

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

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.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: