04/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

John McCain Campaign AdWatch: Stop Snitching

John McCain's new ad is about Heroes, and Memories, and Teachers, and more Memories. Misty, water-colored, memories of a time when McCain was a wee lad, when dirigibles flew overhead and America was deep into the whole "sliced bread" craze. Back then, John McCain had a teacher named William B. Ravenal for whom McCain did yard work to work off his demerits. "He was the English teacher and football coach who led students to live the honor code," the ad says, "I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal, and I shall turn in the student who does." Good thing President Bush didn't go to McCain's high school, huh? Just kidding: I'm sure they would have been all huggy back then, too.

Anyway, one of McCain's classmates violated the honor code and it led to one of McCain's Formative Experiences. Except he doesn't really remember it all that well - and if the thick, billowing marijuana smoke that appears in the advertisement is any indication, I think we all know why the details have been lost to the haze. But McCain did his best to recall his time among the ancient Sumerians in a speech at his alma mater this morning:

McCAIN: In the fall of my senior year, a member of the JV football team had broken team rules. I cannot recall the exact nature of the offense, but it was serious enough to warrant his expulsion from the team. Mr. Ravenal called a team meeting, and most players argued the accused should be dropped from the roster. I offered the only argument for a less severe punishment.

The student in question had broken training. But unlike the rest of us, he had chosen at the start of the year not to sign a pledge promising to abide faithfully by the training rules. Had he signed it, I wouldn't have defended him. Moreover, he had confessed his offense and expressed remorse freely without fear of discovery. I thought his behavior honorable. So did Mr. Ravenal. But he kept his own counsel, preferring his boys to reason the thing out for ourselves. As we were doing so, Mr. Ravenal began to nod his head when some of the others began to take up the defense. Finally, he closed the matter by voicing his support for leniency. The team voted to drop the matter.

Okay, so he doesn't remember the classmate's name or the nature of the offense in question, but hey, great news: McCain recalls that the malefactor never promised to abide by any rules, so naturally, McCain defended him! All of which indicates that the bar for McCain's presidential pardons has been set hilariously low.