Well, there's an interesting life: both his father and his grandfather were admirals in the US Navy, so McCain himself went to the US Naval academy and became a pilot flying bombing missions from carriers. In late 1967 and on his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, McCain was shot down near Hanoi. He was a prisoner of war from them until 1973, during which time he was in solitary confinement for 2 years and was frequently subject to some brutal torture. He retired from the Navy in 1981, and in 1982 was elected for the first of his two terms in the US House of Representatives. In 1986 he was elected to the US Senate from Arizona for the first of his four terms.
In 2000 he was a candidate for the Republican nomination, but was beaten by George W. Bush (amidst some dirty campaigning). McCain is now 71 years old but is again a leading candidate for the Republican nomination in what looks like it will be one of the most open presidential elections in years.
He may be a conservative (and one that's vehemently in favour of the US military involvement in Iraq, to boot), but you can see why he appeals to voters, be they Republican or otherwise. Hillary Clinton may talk about the importance of her experience, and she is indeed experienced when compared to Barack Obama, but when she is compared to John McCain, she looks like a babe in arms.
Bearing in mind McCain's five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, how sensible was it of another candidate for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, to debate the issue of torture with him...
In response to the question, "Is Waterboarding torture?", Romney initally replied:
"I oppose torture. I would not be in favor of torture in any way, shape or form."
Seems fairly unequivocal.... but he foolishly didn't leave it there. He continued:
"...as a presidential candidate, I don’t think it’s wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use....there are people who, for many, many years, get the information we need to make sure that we protect our country. And, by the way, I want to make sure these folks [terrorists] are kept at Guantanamo. I don’t want the people that are carrying out attacks on this country to be brought into our jail system and be given legal representation in this country. I want to make sure that what happened to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists."
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the subject of water boarding at Guantanamo Bay as part of his interrogation, his children - 6 and 8 years in age - were also allegedly subject to abusive interrogation.
At this answer, McCain shoots Romney a look of what looks like contempt, and replies:
"I am astonished that you would think such a—such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our—who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that’s not torture. It’s in violation of the Geneva Conventions. It’s in violation of existing law. And, Governor, let me tell you, if we’re going to get the high ground in this world and we’re going to be America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years, we’re not going to torture people. We’re not going to do what Pol Pot did. We’re not going to do what’s being done to Burmese monks as we speak. And I suggest that you talk to retired military officers and active-duty military officers like Colin Powell and others, and how in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me."
I know very little about McCain's other beliefs and political policies, and I'm not saying that I would vote for him or anything, but for that one, utterly unequivocal answer alone, he has earned my respect...and Romney, for his evasion, has lost it.
[watch the question and the answers from both candidates here]
I've read that the coverage that we get in the UK on the US Elections is woefully ill-informed. I get mine mainly from the Guardian, but I'd be happy to make use of the magic of the internet to read some more well informed resources. Anyone got any suggestions?