Defending the aggressive campaign rhetoric at recent McCain-Palin events against criticisms made by Rep. John Lewis, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis raised John McCain's history as a POW on Sunday.
"Look, Chris, I think we have to take this very seriously," Davis told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. "And the kind of comments made by Congressman Lewis, a big Obama supporter, are reprehensible. The idea that you're going to compare John McCain to the kinds of hate spread in the '60s by somebody like George Wallace is outrageous. Where was John McCain when George Wallace was spreading his hate and segregationist policies at that time? He was in a Vietnam prison camp serving his country with his civil rights also denied."
The use of such a line of defense came one day after Lewis warned that the Arizona Republican - through his recent campaign rhetoric - was "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" in scenes reminiscent of segregationist George Wallace. The McCain campaign was quick to jump on the statement and demand an apology from Obama. The Illinois Democrat's aides said that while the Wallace comparison was over the line, the longtime civil rights figure's underlying message was, in fact, true.
David Axelrod, sitting across from Davis, would echo that stance arguing that McCain's ads were designed to "inflame" but not to be compared to George Wallace.
Later in the Fox appearance, meanwhile, Davis distanced the McCain campaign from some of the more inflammatory crowd rhetoric - including calling Obama a "terrorist" and a "traitor" and yelling "kill him" when his name comes up. But he dismissed the suggestion that McCain or Sarah Palin were in any way responsible for inciting such ire.
That he could weave in McCain's history in Vietnam was not particularly unique or difficult. The reference to the civil rights era did provide an entree into reminding voters of the Arizona Republican's biography.
"Nobody knows sacrifice like John McCain does," said Davis. "And the idea that Barack Obama didn't address this issue directly, had his campaign walk out there with a half-baked statement that didn't even address the comments made by Lewis as related to John McCain. Barack Obama should apologize to John McCain directly for the kinds of comments made by John Lewis yesterday and that should be the end of this sordid affair."