Last night on the Tonight Show, Jay Leno made a joke about John McCain not knowing how many houses he owns, and McCain replied:

MCCAIN: You know, could I just mention to you, Jay, and a moment of seriousness. I spent five and a half years in a prison cell, without—I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a kitchen table, I didn’t have a table, I didn’t have a chair. And I spent those five and a half years, because—not because I wanted to get a house when I got out.

A couple things about this struck me. First, why can't McCain make a joke of this himself? That's what people like Al Gore and John Kerry often did when late night comedians made fun of them (even for something unfair, like the rap that Gore claimed to have invented the internet.) McCain should be able to find a way to deflect this, rather than treat it as an assault upon his honor.

Second, as others have pointed out, McCain is perilously close to turning his POW record into a punchline. And it's not just that he's playing this card too many times, on issues completely unrelated to his war record. In this case, he's turning his war experience -- which is incredible  -- into a generic grumpy old man story about how tough it was in the old days: In my day, we didn't have a kitchen table! We just sat around and ate on the dirt, and that's the way it was and we liked it!



--Jonathan Chait