A trivial three paragraphs about how John McCain's teeth were being examined in the blogosphere has provoked a mini-firestorm, including a Mitch Berg dismissal that's three-and-half times longer than Molly Priesmeyer's original piece.
Well, not original exactly, since Priesmeyer is simply presenting a slightly embellished summary of what others are saying online.
If bloggers are saying one thing about John McCain this week it's that the 71-year-old has some serious grit. Of course, that grit comes in the form of McCain Mouth, a deformity that apparently causes teeth to look like a mess of yellowed and contorted Chiclets. Today, BuzzFeed.com has picked up on the mouth meme, turning McCain's piano-key chompers into an official phenomenon.
She tries to wrap up the snarky trend-spotting with a clumsy attempt at one more joke while almost making the point that it's unfair to judge any candidate by their appearance. A different slant might've made the little item almost substantive, but instead it simply managed to magnify a cheap shot at the GOP candidate, disrespect a former POW and stir one of America's deepest phobias — dental pain!
THE FACT THAT MCCAIN HAD MANY OF HIS TEETH BROKEN WHILE BEING TORTURED AS P.O.W.
In fact, McCain's teeth were broken at the gum while being tortured as a P.O.W:
In 1968 he was offered early release, and when he refused, because others had been there longer, his captors went at him again; he suffered cracked ribs, teeth broken off at the gum line, and torture with ropes that lashed his arms behind his back and that were progressively tightened all through the night.
The source for the "many teeth" claim is a British tabloid journalist's summary of McCain's story, possibly lifted from the Vanity Fair article, since it also contains the "gum" detail. McCain himself simply said, "They cracked several of my ribs and broke a couple of teeth."
Much of McCain's dental problems were more likely the product of poor prison nutrition and the difficulty of maintaining dental hygeine in terrible conditions — especially by a man who even today cannot raise his arms high enough to comb his own hair. There's no need to invent details of McCain's suffering or the persistent consequences. But that's what "many of his teeth broken at the gum" appears to be.
Priesmeyer's piece was dumb and insensitive, of course, and now it belongs to the polemicists like Berg and Brodkorb, who will make much more of it than it deserves.
Priesmeyer is not the only one a little vague on McCain's injuries, though. The Vanity Fair article — to which Brodkorb provides no link — concludes its description of the extent of McCain's war-related disabilities with another encounter of the clueless kind, this from someone in a far better position than Priesmeyer:
One of McCain's aides tells me that two years ago, campaigning with McCain, George W. Bush asked him if the senator would like to work out with him. Told that McCain did not, could not, really "work out," Bush replied, "What do you mean?"
And of course, today's critics would never stoop to mocking a candidate's war wounds.
UPDATE 2: And via a commenter back at the original Minnesota Monitor article, McCain apparently also broke some teeth on rocks in his food.