Getting To Know John McCain

This is a column everyone should read. How well do you think you know John McCain? How well would you like to know John McCain?

Read what Karl Rove has to say in the Wall Street Journal:

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 complemented 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.

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’d be proud to have John McCain as my next-door-neighbor. I’d be equally proud to have him as President of the United States of America.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Getting To Know John McCain
Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
April 30, 2008

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