Newsweek cover story features McCain

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During the 2000 election, Republican smear artists trying to stop the presidential campaign of John McCain spread rumors that the former POW was "nuts" because he had been "in the cage too long"—in the Hanoi Hilton for five and a half years. The campaign decided to make public Captain (now Senator) McCain's medical records, which showed that he had an enlarged prostate and trouble lifting his arms (repeatedly broken in captivity), but had been judged perfectly sane by a series of Navy psychiatrists who had tested him for years after his release from prison.

The details of those medical evaluations make you wonder why McCain is not stark raving mad today. Tortured repeatedly to extract a confession, McCain "tried to hang himself X2 to avoid giving in," reads the report of a psychiatrist at Jacksonville Naval Hospital in Florida who had interviewed McCain in 1973. "Broke three teeth as a result of rocks in diet," records another. Last week, as I read to McCain from these long-ago documents, he chimed in, "And also a fist in the face a couple of times." McCain was relaxing in a luxurious suite at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, having just received the endorsement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (the two made an odd couple—the tanned, coifed, buff movie warrior and the pale, wispy-haired real one). His years in captivity were "terrible," McCain said, but, his voice gaining emphasis and urgency, he went on: "In some ways, it was the most magnificent time, because of the courage and bravery of those I had the privilege of serving with." He seemed to hear himself and quickly added: "Veterans really hate war. I hope there's no glorification of war in anything I've written or said."

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