But that doesn’t make him more fit to lead the US military and exercise the measured, calculated, deliberative judgment that is required if that White House phone rings at 3AM. Rather, it raises questions about whether his decision making ability is clouded (and if you listen to his republican Senate colleagues, it certainly isn’t for the better) by his experience.
Of course, John Kerry, who heroically served in Vietnam and receive Purple Hearts is a terrorist loving traitor, and the press will no doubt be just as fair to someone whose fellow soldiers in Vietnam remind us as the one who lost 5 US Navy aircraft and was a below average student in the Naval Academy.
Our own CIA declassified documents that were prepared in the 1960s that dealt with brainwashing and torture. Other than the fact that there are “interrogation techniques” referred to as “torture” in these documents that are way less extreme than some that our own administration and much of the republican party thinks is just peachy keen, there are some interesting notes.
For starters, note the passage in bold regarding isolation. John McCain spent approximately 2 years in solitary confinement. That’s a helluva long time. The CIA document referenced in the link above (the link in the diary is broken but if you play around with it, you can get to the entire document) has the following to say about isolation and the impact on a person subjected to it (emphasis mine):
A major aspect of his prison experience is isolation. Man is a social animal; he does not live alone. From birth to death, he lives in the company of his fellow man. His relations with other people and, especially with those closest to him, are almost as important to him as food or drink. When a man is totally isolated, he is removed from all of the interpersonal relations which are so important to him and taken out of the social role which sustains him. His internal as well as his external life is disrupted.
After a few days it becomes apparent to the prisoner that his activity avails him nothing and that will he will be punished or reprimanded for even the smallest breaches of the routine. His requests have been listened to but never acted upon. He becomes docility of a trained animal. Indeed, the guards say that prisoners are “reduced to animals”. It is estimated that in the average case it takes from four to six weeks of rigid, total isolation to produce this phenomenon.
Four to six weeks in isolation will produce that. John McCain was in isolation for two entire years. And within those two years, he was also bound into painful positions with rope and beaten every two hours.
This is terrible to do to any human being and way more than McCain should have ever had to endure. But it changed him. That is a fact, not a guess. And certainly not his fault, nor is it something that should be looked down or poorly upon. Sadly, we have seen from the far too many of our troops who are coming back to the US with PTSD and a life that revolves around emotional or physical therapy as well as just trying to get through the day - let alone trying to piece their lives back together.
There is, of course, the quote from none other than republican Senator Thad Cochran, who has known McCain for over 30 years:
"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Cochran said about McCain by phone. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."
Is there any doubt that McCain feels some level of anger, bitterness, holds a grudge or wants revenge for what was done to him? Hell, I know I would. I’d be permanently pissed off and looking for a fight - and I’m a pretty mild mannered guy. But, do we want to have a Commander in Chief who is even more hawkish on foreign policy than Bush is? On Iraq? On Russia? On China? Someone who talks openly about more wars, especially at a time when we are hated around the world for our confrontational and reckless foreign policy, not to mention with troops already stretched to the breaking point?
It is extremely telling that McCain would not vote to outlaw torture, yet he tells 60 Minutes that torture is wrong and the US shouldn’t do it anymore.
Can we afford to have someone who endured such horrific treatment that has been well documented to have profound negative effects on their personality and judgment? The fact that McCain served this country is admirable. The fact that he was tortured is horrific and more than regrettable - in fact, it is inexcusable.
However, it is a fact that is far from helpful for someone that would be our Commander in Chief, even more so at this time in history, and who would be answering that hypothetical phone call at 3AM.