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  1. That Rolling Stone article captures something of what I believe might be the essence of John McCain, but is nevertheless a mean-spirited hatchet job. You can start with the quotes from John Dramesi — probably the only POW who didn’t break under torture, but a humorless martinet and an unforgiving man who would have gladly court-martialed scores of his ex-POW colleagues for not living up to his rigid standards. After the war Dramesi’s superiors in the Hanoi Hilton, the handful of senior colonels who were captured, laid out what was expected: sooner or later, everyone broke under torture and signed some sort of confession.

  2. Ralph, I’m absolutely entirely prepared to give McCain a pass on whatever happened in Hanoi. I’m in no position whatsoever to stand as his judge, and your description of Dramesi doesn’t encourage me simply to take him at his word.
     
    On the other hand, the overall picture — mean-spirited as it may be — seems to rest on facts undisputed even by McCain’s partisans. McCain has consistently shown an impulsive, choleric temper; he has shown a proclivity for self-indulgence at others’ expense; and his ambition has sometimes driven him to adopt the posture of a maverick, and sometimes to cultivate the favor of the same people he occasionally defies. He may be the best candidate for the job this year based on other criteria (if one wants a candidate who’ll nominate anti-abortion judges, for example, or if one wants a military adventurer to project the U.S. military’s power into other foreign hotspots); but calling attention to “character” strikes me as either a big mistake, or a Rovian attempt to cover a candidate’s weakness by questioning his opponent’s greatest strength.

  3. AKMA, I submitted my comment in haste, unfinished, which sometimes happens when real life (real work) intrudes. But I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. With my military background I see in John McCain a man who capitalized on his POW experience to jettison his family and reinvent himself in the most shameless fashion, and who never in his active duty career showed any of the disciplined intelligence that made admirals of his famously intemperate father and grandfather. He is an accident of history thrown up by a bankrupt Republican Party that put up perhaps the most pathetic array of presidential candidates in recent memory, a party that has far too much for which to apologize.

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