Write a critical book about John McCain, and you will soon become a repository of many colorful rumors. These come in three general flavors: 1) Did you hear about his terrible temper? (The subject did come up, yes.) 2) Did you know he likes the ladies? (Fred Thompson invoked "Marie, the Flame of Florida" at the Republican National Convention, so, yes.) And, most popularly, 3) He wasn't really a hero in Vietnam at all; also, I think they did something funny to his brain there.
The answer to that last rumor, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is that that dog won't hunt.
Rolling Stone magazine this month came up with one of the best-sourced versions of the he's-no-hero argument, and by best-sourced I mean the article quoted one fellow ex-POW on the record as saying that "he wasn't exceptional one way or another." From there, the author went on to conclude that, for McCain in Hanoi, the military Code of Conduct, by which prisoners of war were supposed to abide, "went out the window."
These charges are scurrilous. According to John G. Hubbell's book, "P.O.W.," "No American reached Hoa Lo in worse physical condition than McCain." That alone qualifies him as exceptional, no? And although a broken and disease-ridden McCain did violate the letter of the Code of Conduct when he offered more information than just name, rank and serial number in an attempt to receive medical attention for his life-threatening injuries, such minor capitulations were typical. Indeed, they were part of the reason that President Carter amended the code in 1977 to append the phrase "to the utmost of my ability."