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A McCain Moment...and the Questions That Followed

3:03 PM, Oct 9, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Waukesha, Wisconsin -- One of the highlights of the McCain-Palin rally here today came when Scott Southworth, an Iraq War veteran from Mauston, Wisconsin, stood and told McCain that he was personally offended by Barack Obama's suggestion, recently amplified by the McCain campaign, that the US military was just bombing civilians in Afghanistan. The most important issue, Southworth said to loud applause, remained winning the war on terror. Southworth then introduced his son, A'laa, who was sitting in his wheelchair next to his father and who, he said, had been brought to the US from Iraq.

McCain asked Southworth to tell the story of the adoption and Southworth explained that he adopted A'laa from the Mother Theresa orphanage in Baghdad after he learned that A'laa was to be transferred to a state-run facility, which Southworth believed would be unsafe. As he told the story, several women in the audience wiped away tears. It was, for the audience at least, a powerful moment.

Reporters were more skeptical, in part because it came just minutes after Sarah Palin fielded a question from a young woman who runs a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with Down Syndrome. She thanked Palin for her example and for promising to speak out for special needs children in a McCain White House. Several reporters in attendance immediately suspected that the McCain campaign had planted the questioners and that the candidate had called on them for effect.

After the rally, Southworth laughed off any suggestion that he was a plant. "I had my hand up for the entire time," he said. Sarah Jordan, a friend from college who accompanied Southworth and A'laa to to the rally, seemed surprised when I asked her whether they had had contact with the McCain campaign before the event and, in a perfect Wisconsin accent, dismissed the claims. "If I had any idea that was going to happen -- that I was going to be on TV, I would have applied more make-up," she said.