09/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Take the Bait

As the presidential campaign enters a particularly combative phase, John McCain is turning to his trump card at every turn: his famous stay at the Hanoi Hilton.

Liberal commentators like Maureen Dowd, Rachel Maddow, and HuffPost's Sam Stein have pointed out the ridiculousness of McCain overuse of the "I spent five and a half years in a POW camp" defense. McCain turns to his wartime service as a means to explain away everything from why he can't remember how many houses he has, to why he hasn't come up with a plan to solve American's health care crisis.

By going back to this line of defense over and over again, McCain is on the verge of doing something that once seemed impossible: Turning his horrific Vietnam experience into a punchline. As Joe Biden might say, McCain's sentences these days are nothing more than a verb, a noun, and 'did I mention I was a POW?'

But a message to Biden (and any others in the Obama campaign who might be tempted to point this out): Don't do it.

The McCain campaign, already pinning its hopes on proving Obama to be something less than wholly patriotic, wants nothing more than for someone in Obama's camp to say something less than congratulatory about his war service.

McCain's repeated reliance on his POW experience isn't only because his campaign has nothing better to say; it's because they desperately want Obama's people to respond by saying something that can be construed as anti-American or anti-military.

Obama himself has been careful not to tread anywhere near these waters, but it's no mistake that McCain has upped his use of this defense right as Obama has brought on Biden, a candidate notorious for putting his foot in his mouth.

To Obama's staffers and surrogates who may be tempted to point out how ridiculous and irrelevant McCain's favorite line of defense is, just don't do it.

McCain is doing a great job trivializing his service himself; there's no need to give him a helping hand. Don't take the bait.