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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

John McCain: Master of the Subtle Art of Compromise

Sunday Discourse by Philip Fernando in LA

The virtual Republican nominee for president, John McCain, Senator, navy pilot, war veteran, and POW in Vietnam, a pretty impressive record. His most satisfying achievement according to political observers was his ability to reach across the aisle in the US Senate where loggerheaded- partisanship reigns. One of his first efforts was teaming up with John Kerry to help normalize US-Vietnamese relations. He excelled in bipartisanship. It is no mean achievement for a man who was known for his blunt approach, sharp temper, and unwillingness to toe the status quo. Legislation he initiated or coauthored also spoke volumes for his uncanny ability to “tap into other peoples’ desire to join him,” said one close friend.

A bitterly divided Republican party among traditionalists, evangelicals, the Wall Street moguls and the ordinary folks, ultimately coalesced under McCain’s leadership and gave him the nod on Super Tuesday.

McCain has never failed to stand up for what he believes. He supported Bush's reelection in 2004 as he did not want to send the wrong message at a time when the country was at war. A laudable but hard decision to defend. He stood by the US invasion of Iraq even when over 60 percent of the people seemed dead against it. His defense of the “surge” may still vindicate him. When some Republican critics attacked John Kerry’s record in Vietnam during the 2004 election campaign he defended him, and also strongly disagreed with the president's backing of a constitutional amendment barring same - sex marriage.

He also maintained his determined opposition to pork barrel spending by U S Congress. McCain was right on target when he opposed former Secretary Defense Donald Rumford’s handling of the war in Iraq. McCain was reelected to a fourth term in the Senate in 2004. There was, once again, talk of another run for the presidency in 2008. But at 68, the senator was non-committal. He said then, “I want to keep a reputation which makes young people come up to me and say, 'I admire you, Senator McCain,' rather than being some old political hack who keeps running for president."

McCain hopes to cap his long career by becoming President at age 74. His records would not belie his goal. He has been a U.S. senator from Arizona since 1987. A 1958 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, McCain had a 22-year military career as a pilot and officer in the Navy. Five of those years (1967-73) were spent in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp after he was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

McCain was elected to Congress in 1982, and then was elected as U.S. senator from Arizona in 1986. In 2000 he ran for the Republican presidential nomination, but was defeated by George W. Bush. His 1999 book Faith of My Fathers told the story of his family's military history and his own experiences as a POW. McCain's father and grandfather were both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy.

McCain was married to the former Carol Shepp from 1965-1980. A month after their divorce, he married Cindy Lou Hensley, the daughter of a prominent Arizona family. He has seven children: sons Doug Shepp and Andy Shepp (adopted after his marriage to their mother, Carol Shepp), Sydney McCain (his daughter with Carol Shepp), and Meghan McCain, John Sidney McCain IV, James McCain, and Bridget McCain, all with Cindy McCain. Meghan McCain was born in Bangladesh and adopted in 1991 by the McCains.

On his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, his plane was hit by an antiaircraft missile and was forced to eject... That broke both his arms and a leg in the process; he landed in a lake near Hanoi and was captured. He spent the next five and a half years as a prisoner of war (POW) at the sarcastically nicknamed "Hanoi Hilton."

His father's position also a former Admiral helped his early release in 1968. McCain refused, as the U.S. Military Code of Conduct required that prisoners accept release on a first in/first out basis, and there were more than 100 POWs ahead of him. His refusal resulted in a round of torture that included knocking his teeth out, hanging him by his broken arms, and beating him almost around the clock for a week.

Although the abuse never succeeded in convincing McCain to accept early release, he did break down and sign a confession that he was a "black criminal" and an "air pirate." The shame of the confession led McCain to contemplate suicide at the time, and stayed with him years after the fact. "The only thing I can say is that the code says you will resist to the best of your ability," he stated but I failed myself. I failed my fellow prisoners. I failed my family, and I failed my country. Is there anybody else?" Most did not judge McCain as harshly as he judged himself; many, indeed, found his ongoing determination to remain in prison heroic. He was finally released on March 14, 1973, and returned home with a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He forgot his bitter experiences and went ahead joining the navy collage again in Washington, D.C. and receiving a promotion to captain in 1977. 1977 also saw his appointment as the Navy's liaison to the U.S. Senate, a position that laid the groundwork for his political ambitions.

McCain's life began to get back on the right track after his 1980 marriage to Cindy Lou Hensley, daughter of a prosperous Arizona beer distributor. He retired from the Navy the following year, and the newlyweds moved to Arizona to embark on McCain's new career. In 1982, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Republican. A longtime admirer of then - President Ronald Reagan, McCain generally embraced the party line for his two terms in the House. In 1985, he was elected to the Senate seat vacated by retiring elder statesman Barry Goldwater. And before too long, McCain began to make waves.

He soon earned the title Maverick Politician due to ability to do the “straight talk”. He served in many committees such as Armed Services Committee and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (which he went on to chair). Among the early issues he embraced were veterans' rights and the push to normalize relations with Vietnam (on which he joined forces with Democratic Senator and fellow war hero John Kerry, and which was finally realized in July of 1995).

- Asian Tribune -

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