Wednesday, June 11, 2008

John McCain: character or 'a character'?

John McCain
Republican Nominee
(Image from Wikipedia)

I can't say that I know a lot about candidate John McCain, but I suppose that now is the time to begin paying attention, so I've read a couple of articles on the man to try to get a sense of his character.

The first article, from U.S. News and World Report, presents McCain's first-person report on his five-and-one-half years in captivity as a POW in North Vietnam: "John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First-Person Account" (May 14, 1973; posted online January 28, 2008).

In this account, McCain describes what happened to him from the moment that he ejected his Skyhawk dive bomber on October 26, 1967 until the moment that he boarded a U.S. Air Force plane on March 15, 1973, and a little bit more, so it's a long online article of 17 pages.

McCain doesn't boast about his experience, but his story is impressive, given that he survived beatings, torture, war injuries, poor nutrition, and bad health care for five and one-half years of imprisonment.

At the time of this article's publication, he had only been back to the US for two months, and he expressed gratitude for the support that his wife had given him through her faithful wait:
I'm proud of the part . . . my wife, Carol, played here at home. The temptation for the wives, as the years went by, was to say, "God, I want them home under any circumstances." When Carol was pressed to take this line, her answer was, "Just to get him home is not enough for me, and it's not enough for John -- I want him to come home standing up."

I received very few letters from Carol. I got three in the first four months after I was shot down. The [North Vietnamese] . . . let me have only one during the last four years I was there. I received my first package in May of 1969. After that, they let me have approximately one a year.

The reason I got so little mail was that Carol insisted on using the channels provided by the Geneva Convention for treatment of prisoners of war. She refused to send things through the Committee for Liaison with Families run by the antiwar groups.
And he tells us of what he learned about life:
I had a lot of time to think over there, and came to the conclusion that one of the most important things in life -- along with a man's family -- is to make some contribution to his country.
Pretty impressive, it seems to me.

I was thus rather disappointed in the McCain that I read of in the other article, published by Sharon Churcher in Britain's Daily Mail: "The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind" (June 8, 2008). Despite being a conservative paper, which might be expected to portray the Republican nominee more positively, the depiction of McCain as a family man is not very impressive. His then-wife, Carol, had suffered a horrendous accident at Christmastime of 1969 that had left her nearly crippled and a full 5 inches shorter that when he had married her:
When McCain -- his hair turned prematurely white and his body reduced to little more than a skeleton -- was released in March 1973, he told reporters he was overjoyed to see Carol again.

But friends say privately he was 'appalled' by the change in her appearance. At first, though, he was kind, assuring her: 'I don't look so good myself. It's fine.'
Reportedly, however, McCain soon grew unfaithful to his wife, met Cindy Lou Hensley in 1979, pressed for a divorce with Carol, and quickly married Cindy. This didn't set very well with some observers:
Ted Sampley, who fought with US Special Forces in Vietnam and is now a leading campaigner for veterans' rights, said: 'I have been following John McCain's career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is -- deceit.

'When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

'Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.

'This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.'
I can't entirely agree with Mr. Sampley, for I think that any man who could survive five and one-half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam under the conditions that McCain endured surely has character . . . as a soldier. He simply lacked the character required of a husband. He was thus more right than he knew when he said, "I don't look so good myself."

I won't say that McCain is unfit for the presidency. Nobody's perfect, and many men have been unfaithful to their wives yet have managed to serve their country with distinction -- even as president -- and some men have managed to grow better in their maturity, having learned from reflecting on the things that they've done. Perhaps McCain has. I don't know, for my view is partial.

Yet, I do have a fuller picture of the man who McCain is, an impressive but flawed man, and I'll have to pay close attention, as election day draws near, to this increasingly fascinating campaign.



At 5:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not surprising that some, if not all men have feet of clay. Only bloggers and other opinionators that stake out ground whereupon they stand and insist that their opponents are all bad have feet of steel.

I admire your ambivalence.

And Cindy Lou's Dad owned a liquor distributorship.


At 5:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read that story, too. There is something troubling about a returned POW ditching the wife who waited faithfully for him during his long captivity. Apparently, he has at least provided for her comfort, unlike Newt Gingrich, who refused to pay alimony and child support to his first wife and child and who discussed the terms of their divorce with his second wife while she was receiving cancer treatment in the hospital. Marriage isn't only about fidelity but also love. If the love is gone, then part amicably and generously.

The great thing about this election is that I'll be voting pro, not anti, for the first time in eight years and feel okay even if my less desirable choice, McCain, wins. We have big problems with no clear solutions - the economy and Iraq. Both Obama and McCain appeal because they are mavericks who will be open to innovative approaches. Both possess far more integrity than either Clinton or Bush Jr.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And it's said that Cindy Lou can taste a beer and tell you how fresh it is.

I can therefore understand her appeal...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Both Obama and McCain have baggage. Who doesn't, of course?

My biggest worry about Obama is that he is naive on foreign policy. He's made several remarks that he's had to take back. I think that he's a quick study, however, and can get a grasp fast, but he needs to learn first not to talk before he's looked into an issue carefully.

The most recent was his remark about supporting Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. The Israelis themselves are undecided on this, and back in 1999, Ehud Barak offered East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, but Arafat refused.

Our own Barack, therefore, needs to learn a bit about reticence.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:40 AM, Blogger The Expat said...

Unlike Sonagi, I will not be okay if St. McCain is elected. Perhaps if this was the McCain from eight years ago then maybe I could tolerate him, but he has changed and since becoming the GOP leader, it is apparent that he is not fighting for good anymore.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that he's a quick study, however, and can get a grasp fast, but he needs to learn first not to talk before he's looked into an issue carefully.

I think after one year on the job, Obama will have a better grasp of foreign policy than his predecessor ever did, and the inmates won't be running the asylum as they have for the past eight years.

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I would probably think that being a POW for five years during which McCain was confined to a box smaller than him; may have done psychological damage that would have made is first marriage impossible. We don't know how his second one faired either. I think we would need to know if he suffered from PTSD and if so, has been treated for it. Some Vets start to have symptoms very late in life.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the comment, TMC. I looked at your blog this morning. Looks pretty good, so I may need to update my blogroll.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, Sonagi, we may very well find out in about a year and a half.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's a good point, Hathor, one that I hadn't considered. I suspect that we'll be hearing more about these issues in the months to come.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:33 AM, Blogger The Expat said...

Much appreciated.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're welcome . . . and I appreciate the pun in your blog name. Rather clever, also, in that it retains the meaning of 'silence'.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama is naïve, referring to some comments on North Korea. Either he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about (and neither does the staff that did research for him), or he knows and is just saying what he thinks people want to hear to get elected; both make me cringe.

For those who actually take orders from the Commander in Chief, there is no contest.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Richardson, I agree about the naive statements, as you know, but I'll wait to see what Obama says over the next several months.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:56 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

I'm no fan of McCain, but I was impressed by this article written by Karl Rove: Getting to Know John McCain

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, CIV, I'll take a look at it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks CIV, for the article I mean. Of course there will be those who would choose to "shoot the messenger" and infer that since he wrote it, "It's BS."

I admit that just now I'm leaning one way but depending on a VP choice for the other, I could see myself pulling the lever in the other direction.

I find myself in Sonagi's camp, however-unlike some (not implying anything untoward here Sonagi) I'm unfamiliar in my thirty some odd years of voting, of ever seeing a Saint on the ballot.

Well, not one who actually was elected.


At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feel the need to add one more thing. Not that it really matters now, it's been some decades since a C in C was ordering me around, shuttling between Asia and the Mid East.

But I still have acquaintances on active, friends too. I think there may be more contest than we realize.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm not leaning yet, but I also will never tell my leanings.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well to tell the truth, I'm not really reporting any specific leaning either. Due to several factors I might best describe it as wobbling.

Not in the Thatcherian sense however.


At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find myself in Sonagi's camp, however-unlike some (not implying anything untoward here Sonagi) I'm unfamiliar in my thirty some odd years of voting, of ever seeing a Saint on the ballot.

I've found likewise in my twenty some odd years of voting. Definitely not expecting a saint, but I am expecting a big improvement over the current occupant of the Oval Office.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sonagi wrote:

"I am expecting a big improvement over the current occupant of the Oval Office."

Oh, c'mon! Cheney's not so bad.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At this point, there's nowhere to go but up.

Actually what I was afraid of implying was that you might be more of a "seasoned" voter.


At 2:19 PM, Blogger Lee said...

I think Obama is wrong about Iraq, but that's a complex and polarizing issue. I'm mainly concerned about some of Obama's economic plans. He says he'll raise the minimum wage every year and end tax breaks on companies that outsource jobs (IMO a legitimte business practice to save cost and beneficial to countries like India), none of which will improve the economy. The "Windfall profit tax" is a terrible idea that failed in the past. Obama generally shares the democrats' "Let's make the establishment PAY" theme on economuy sure to appeal to frustrated Americans, but it won't get much done.

I'm conservative socially and libertarian economically, and barring a drasatic turnaround from the Obama camp, I'll be joining independents who will support Mccain in the election. We're all ready for change, but you need to do more than "I'll be nothing like George Bush" to convince some Americans. A de facto Jimmy carter presidency will be as troublesome as the Bush presidency, just in a different direction.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Lee, for the remarks. These are definitely things to think about.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you Lee,

Obama is wrong (at least insofar as "electionese" goes- it does not translate you know) on Iraq.

As far as the economy goes well that's a cat of a different cow. The kitten may suckle from the big ol' cow but the kitten hazards getting stomped on. But one must admit there is that one in a million chance that the kitten will grow into the biggest cat the world has ever witnessed.

Were I a bettin' man, I'd say the kitten will get stomped.

I'm an Independent too but must admit I've never voted for a Democrat for the Executive. But, depending on VP choice, say Zinni perhaps, there's a first time for everything?

Professor? As written-that does require that punctuation, does it not?


At 6:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Per request:

"Professor? As written-that does require that punctuation, does it not?"

Well, there is the matter of penning a true dash between "written" and "that" -- not merely a hyphen!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Penning" you say, what's that?

But I think I might get it, leave two spaces right? One preceeding, one proceeding?

But then when one clicks on the "publish your comment" thingy, how does one know that the punctuation, if gramatically correct still isn't messed up in some way?

Here I started ending with liquor distributorships and have risen my GPA by beginning to end about punctuation.

Might you send a transcript?


At 9:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Maybe you've been studying too much 'liter'-ature?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:49 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

"Both possess far more integrity than either Clinton or Bush Jr." - Sonagi

How so?

Oh...I understand the lack of integrity offered by Clinton...but how is Bush's integrity lacking?

Besides, of course, giving in to the hawks concerning the ridiculous War on Weather?

McCain is not fit for the presidency. But then...neither is Obama.

That's why I'll cast my vote for someone else or cast it into the rubbish bin.

"I'm not leaning yet, but I also will never tell my leanings." - Jeffery

Neither am I...noone to lean on.

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, it's usually the lesser of two evils that one has to choose, isn't it?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:27 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

"Daddio, it's usually the lesser of two evils that one has to choose, isn't it?" - Jeffery

Yes it is...and that's the whole point. I'm not falling for that this time.

It's what has eroded our nations morality and greatness.

This time I'll vote for someone I trust. Or I just won't vote.

But I WILL NOT vote for evil...whether it's the lesser of two or not!

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, keep me posted on the choices.

Jeffery Hodges

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