Say what you will about John McCain positions on various issues (I have serious disagreements with him on several), but his life story is amazing. Take this article by Karl Rove* in the Wall Street Journal, in which he relates stories about McCain told to him by Bud Day, a former fellow POW with McCain at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Getting to Know John McCain:
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.
Rove goes on to describe other stories Bud Day told him, such as how McCain served as a volunteer chaplain for the prisoners and recited the entire Episcopal service from memory. Day’s stories involve more than wartime bravery, but evidence of tremendous compassion on the part of both John and Cindy McCain, for example in the adoption of their Bangladeshi daughter, Bridget. (Side note: I wonder if this is the origin of the scurrilous "McCain fathered a Black baby" rumor he was hit with during the South Carolina primary in 2000. If so, it’s an even dirtier trick than I thought.)
Like Karl Rove, I wonder why the McCain campaign doesn’t make more use of stories like these. In a campaign where character has become such an issue, and where the contrast between McCain on the one hand and Clinton and Obama on the other couldn’t be starker, one would think it would be a no-brainer. But Rove observes that the McCains are intensely private and that the candidate himself apparently refuses to use these parts of his past to sell himself to the American people. It may be admirably humble, but it could come back to hurt him in this, the biggest race he’s ever run.
Take the time to read the whole thing. I think you’ll be impressed.
*(OK, moonbats. I know it’s Karl Rove, but you can stop hooting and frothing for now. I mean, really. If this were another of his devious plots, do you think he’d be so obvious about it? Hey, maybe that’s the plot….)
UPDATE: Reader Q in the comments links to an article by Byron York that questions whether the commonly accepted version of the origins of the "McCain’s illegitimate baby" rumor is really a myth. York is a credible reporter, so I take this information seriously. (I note also the article covers the "Max Cleland was smeared" myth.) Thanks, Q.