Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John McCain Is The Man

I'm not a big fan of his politics, or of the manner in which he rose to become the Republican Party candidate for the Presidency, but to read these stories is to admire John McCain as a human being:

Getting to Know John McCain

By KARL ROVE April 30, 2008; Page A17

It came to me while I was having dinner with Doris Day. No, not that Doris Day. The Doris Day who is married to Col. Bud Day, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, fighter pilot, Vietnam POW and roommate of John McCain at the Hanoi Hilton.

As we ate near the Days' home in Florida recently, I heard things about Sen. McCain that were deeply moving and politically troubling. Moving because they told me things about him the American people need to know. And troubling because it is clear that Mr. McCain is one of the most private individuals to run for president in history.

When it comes to choosing a president, the American people want to know more about a candidate than policy positions. They want to know about character, the values ingrained in his heart. For Mr. McCain, that means they will want to know more about him personally than he has been willing to reveal.

Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.

Another story I heard over dinner with the Days involved Mr. McCain serving as one of the three chaplains for his fellow prisoners. At one point, after being shuttled among different prisons, Mr. Day had found himself as the most senior officer at the Hanoi Hilton. So he tapped Mr. McCain to help administer religious services to the other prisoners.

Today, Mr. Day, a very active 83, still vividly recalls Mr. McCain's sermons. "He remembered the Episcopal liturgy," Mr. Day says, "and sounded like a bona fide preacher." One of Mr. McCain's first sermons took as its text Luke 20:25 and Matthew 22:21, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Mr. McCain said he and his fellow prisoners shouldn't ask God to free them, but to help them become the best people they could be while serving as POWs. It was Caesar who put them in prison and Caesar who would get them out. Their task was to act with honor.

Another McCain story, somewhat better known, is about the Vietnamese practice of torturing him by tying his head between his ankles with his arms behind him, and then leaving him for hours. The torture so badly busted up his shoulders that to this day Mr. McCain can't raise his arms over his head.

One night, a Vietnamese guard loosened his bonds, returning at the end of his watch to tighten them again so no one would notice. Shortly after, on Christmas Day, the same guard stood beside Mr. McCain in the prison yard and drew a cross in the sand before erasing it. Mr. McCain later said that when he returned to Vietnam for the first time after the war, the only person he really wanted to meet was that guard.

Mr. Day recalls with pride Mr. McCain stubbornly refusing to accept special treatment or curry favor to be released early, even when gravely ill. Mr. McCain knew the Vietnamese wanted the propaganda victory of the son and grandson of Navy admirals accepting special treatment. "He wasn't corruptible then," Mr. Day says, "and he's not corruptible today."

The stories told to me by the Days involve more than wartime valor.

For example, in 1991 Cindy McCain was visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh when a dying infant was thrust into her hands. The orphanage could not provide the medical care needed to save her life, so Mrs. McCain brought the child home to America with her. She was met at the airport by her husband, who asked what all this was about.

Mrs. McCain replied that the child desperately needed surgery and years of rehabilitation. "I hope she can stay with us," she told her husband. Mr. McCain agreed. Today that child is their teenage daughter Bridget.

I was aware of this story. What I did not know, and what I learned from Doris, is that there was a second infant Mrs. McCain brought back. She ended up being adopted by a young McCain aide and his wife.

"We were called at midnight by Cindy," Wes Gullett remembers, and "five days later we met our new daughter Nicki at the L.A. airport wearing the only clothing Cindy could find on the trip back, a 7-Up T-shirt she bought in the Bangkok airport." Today, Nicki is a high school sophomore. Mr. Gullett told me, "I never saw a hospital bill" for her care.

A few, but not many, of the stories told to me by the Days have been written about, such as in Robert Timberg's 1996 book "A Nightingale's Song." But Mr. McCain rarely refers to them on the campaign trail. There is something admirable in his reticence, but he needs to overcome it.

Private people like Mr. McCain are rare in politics for a reason. Candidates who are uncomfortable sharing their interior lives limit their appeal. But if Mr. McCain is to win the election this fall, he has to open up.

Americans need to know about his vision for the nation's future, especially his policy positions and domestic reforms. They also need to learn about the moments in his life that shaped him. Mr. McCain cannot make this a biography-only campaign – but he can't afford to make it a biography-free campaign either. Unless he opens up more, many voters will never know the experiences of his life that show his character, integrity and essential decency.

These qualities mattered in America's first president and will matter as Americans decide on their 44th president.


Anonymous said...

I don't care about McCain's personal life any more than I cared about JF Kennedy's or WJ Clintons. I do, however, care deeply about their political history as that will have an impact on our lives.
McCain's temper may prove to be useful when the over-confident enemy strikes at the heart of this sleeping giant the next time. However, his open-borders agenda is not going to be easy to overlook.

In the few elections I have applied my privilege to vote, this one stands out as the most repugnant by far.

When a candidate is far more concerned with it's nations epitaph than it's future, it is difficult to resign to fate.

Christine said...

I have heard and read many stories like these about him. There are many more.

He is a man with integrity. And more in line with a Libertarian candidate. Of course, when you start "mixing" Democratic politics with Republican politics, you will always piss someone off. That's the good and bad with regards to Libertarians. Each has his/her own mix. In that case, it comes down to each person looking at there list of what is important, checking each item off and then making a decision on a candidate.

I am a Libertarian.
That is why I have chosen McCain. No, he isn't perfect. But, he is center enough for me at the moment. And I absolutely will not move to the left.

Pastorius said...

Why do you think McCain is more concerned with this nation's epitaph?

Pastorius said...

I don't understand your perspective, Christine. Libertarians are less like Democrats than they are like Republicans.

So, how is it the author of McCain-Feingold, the man who prides himself on "reaching across the aisle" is more a Libertarian than a Republican?

Christine said...

I don't look at Libertarians being anymore Republican or Democrat. I have had conversations with many people who call themselves Libertarians. It's more about each individuals desires. Do Republicans want pot to be legalized? No. That is a decidedly Democrat issue. But, I am in agreement with a number of Libertarians I have spoken with. Making pot illegal is a stupid waste of time, lives and money. And that isn't the only issue. There are many.

Here is what the Libertarian's say about themselves:

Are Libertaians liberal or conservative?

Libertarians are neither. Unlike liberals or conservatives, Livertaians advocate a high degree of both personal and economic liberty. For example, Libertaians advocate freedom in economic matters, so we're in favor of lowering taxes, slashing bureaucratic regulation of business, and charitable -- rather than government --welfare. But Libertarians are also socially tolerant. We won't demand laws or restrictions on other people who may not agree because of personal actions or lifestyles.

Think of us as a group of people with a "live and let live" mentality and a balanced checkbook.

In a sense, Libertarians "borrow" from both sides to come up with a logical and consistent whole -- but without the exceptions and broken promises of Republican and Democratic politicians. That's why we call ourselves the Part of Principle.

Christine said...

Jeez, I can't type tonight. :/

Christine said...

I don't agree with everything the Libertarians stand for. It's not perfect. But like I said above, when you start mixing Democratic politics with Republican politics, someone is bound to be pissed off.

Independence doesn't really have a party.

Pastorius said...

Libertarians do tend to be more in agreement with Democrats on issues of government interference in what we think of as morality issues. No doubt about that.

Libertarianism is a systematic philosophy, and as such it lacks common sense.

Pastorius said...

By the way, I write for a Libertarian blog; Astute Bloggers.

So, I do not hate Libertarianism.

JMJ said...

I have been a McCain fan since I "voted/wrote him in" for president in 2000. I thought he might be too old for this election but I am encouraged with his continued grit.

The far right Republicans have blown it and now is the time for a more centrist government.

I also think McCain realizes he needs the Hispanic vote to get elected and so he has "compromised" with the immigration issue.

No one can be absolutely pure and expect to get elected.

Compromise has been and always will be and should be the nature of politics.

And most importantly, as he said, "I will be Hamas' worst nightmare". I think this will be McCain's approach to all of the self rightious jihadists.

Global jihad was and continues to be the one and only issue for me in this election. Unfortunately, Bush has pushed our country to the edge of a financial cliff and now this is where we must fight this fight.

I guarantee you McCain would NEVER have tolerated Rumsfeld for as long as he did. Lincoln fired Generals every 6 months until he got one that was competent.

I also think, no matter what McCain says during the election (he needs the far rights votes), that he will wean us MUCH faster off fossil fuels than Bush ever dreamed of.

Where is our Manhatten Project to get off fossil fuels? Yes, it is not easy and very complicated. All the more reason to start NOW!!!

Anonymous said...

Why do you think McCain is more concerned with this nation's epitaph?-posted by Pastorius

McCains utter lack of genuine concern regarding national border integrity (north & south), his alliance with "Mexico First" Dr. Juan Hernandez of "We must not only have a free flow of goods and services, but also start working for a free flow of people." should have us all deeply concerned. . .rather than concern about how folks from south of border view us.

Pastorius said...

Ok, I understand.

He, like every other politician, has betrayed us on the border issue.

Pastorius said...

I hope McCain is as good as you believe he will be. You are correct, and thanks for reminding me, that compromise is the essence of political wisdom.

One thing I want to be clear about, though, is it is wrong to assume that we must wean off fossil fuels.

We have larger known reserves than Saudi Arabia. We could be the biggest oil-producing nation in the world, if Congress would only approve the drilling.

JMJ said...

Ignoring whether global warming is real or man made, our cities (the world's cities) are still bastions of smog and only getting worse.

No matter our HUGE reserves, it is still limited in its supply. IMO, Congress should approve drilling. We should be using this huge supply as a transition away from fossil fuels while we develop and solve this very REAL and DIFFICULT issue for an alternative energy source.

Ultimately, its the world's addiction (even if the the US can supply itself) to fossil fuels that will drain that supply of oil faster than can be imagined. Especially with China's and India's recent development.

Its not either - or. Its both. Short and long term development. Why can't we be both a supplier of oil like Saudi Arabia as well as the pioneers and entrepreneurs of the next source of energy for the world. Why can't we be capitalists that are also good stewards of our planet.

And let the Middle East eat shit.

Short and long term.

JMJ said...

Re: McCain. He sure is not perfect but he blew the other Republican candidates out of the water.

That leaves Hillary and Obama.

I think Hillary will be tough on terrorism but will spend like crazy. And Obama will not be tough on terrorism and will spend like crazy.

McCain will be tough on terrorism and understands that tax cuts need to be counterbalanced with cuts in spending. I think he will actually ask people to sacrifice and not just tell them to go shopping.

GW should have done this long ago. He never vetoed one spending bill. (Maybe one!) Now whoever the next president will be will have to function while the nation stands on this very dangerous economic cliff.

Why anyone would want to be president during this time is beyond me!! :)

JMJ said...

And McCain is an old codger. He does not need this. He could easily say "I am too old to put up with this shit". As we all have at one time or another.

Yet he persists. Why?

I think your article in this post indicates why. He sees a very real need and has the integrity and character to step up and try to fill it.

The article shows he does things for the right reasons.

NOT out of self interest, the MO of so many in our nation's political elite.

He was the "maverick" in politics long before Obama even dreamed of being in politics.

Pastorius said...

It is inevitable that you and I will not agree on everything.

About smog. My wife is from a third world country, so I have her testimony as well as evidence that I have read about. The USA is one of the least polluted industrial countries in the world. The lesson to be learned, in my opinion, is that newly industrialized societies are sloppier. Over time more money and more care is given to eliminating pollutants.

You are a scientist. You know that there is a byproduct to every energy source, and there is a reaction to every action. An example of this is Al Gore's ethanol inititative. The reaction is that world food prices are going haywire. So, he tried a new idea, and it hasn't worked. There will be a problem with every solution.

Pastorius said...


You said: No matter our HUGE reserves, it is still limited in its supply.

I say: I want to recommend a book to you. It is called The Bottomless Well:

Energy sources all have their prices. As we run out of oil, new forms of energy will be found whose cost will be affordable. As long as oil is plentiful, which it is, it will be considered to be the most affordable, efficient energy source. The only thing that can interfere with that, other than running out of oil (which, again, we are not near about to do) is for government to interfere with the pricing of oil. I am a free market guy. I think the government should stay out of pricing of commodities.

Pastorius said...


Everything else you say in those two comments, I agree with.

JMJ said...

Oh I think our differences are pretty miniscule.

My main thing is getting off Middle Eastern oil. The GREATEST weapon we have against global jihad. We just differ on how to get there.

Whether that would be tapping our oil in the US or developing alternative sources of energy, the outcome would be the same.

I just see how oil has caused so many of our problems of today and we have seen this thing coming since the mid 70s and have not acted.

OPEC has sabotaged the market forces and the democratic congress is sabotaging tapping oil here in the US. A congress that is the result of the poor performance of the majority republican congress of previous years. One that also did not begin tapping the US oil potential.

And unfortunately I don't see the democratic congress going away anytime soon.

We are being severely burned by oil now and I think going down that road has many proven, negative consequences, including the environment.

And no, I do not think the environment is at a critical juncture.

But I could also be wrong.

Overall, I am a free market guy too as I am a democracy guy. But both can be easily sabotaged by the "real world".

ie - Bear Sterns (free market) and Iran (democracy).

I am a 75% capitalist and a 25% socialist. They both need to be there to counterbalance the natural tendencies of the other.

And if global warming is real and is really from CO2 emissions made by man, I will at least know that we did make an effort without being in denial.

If I am wrong on that, then maybe a few more cities may get a little cleaner a little faster than otherwise would have occurred. Certainly not a bad thing.

Re: a threat to the economy. Using the oil we do have now as a transition energy source while we also push for development of other energies would help cushion that threat.

Ethanol is the perfect example of trial and error. Like FDR said, try it. If it does not work, try something else.

But create an environment that promotes the spirit of human ingenuity and entrepreneurship.

Let the market work but it will need a hand up initially to make it cost effective for people to explore the possibilities and still feed their kids.

We don't plan long term in this country because self interest is our MO.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Pastorius said...

You said: We don't plan long term in this country because self interest is our MO.

I say: Yep, that's definitely true.

We're in a pickle right now. Will we get out of it?

Yeah, I think we will.