This February at CPAC I had a chance to hear Michelle Malkin speak at a luncheon sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation. Malkin criticized a number of recent statements by the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. I found myself in agreement with Michelle on every point.
Since February I have listened to Sean Hannity perhaps dozens of times on the Fox News show Hannity and Colmes. Sean has on several occasions enumerated points of disagreement between himself and John McCain. On each and every point I have found myself in agreement with Hannity, not McCain.
Since CPAC I have also had a chance to hear Ann Coulter enumerate her disagreements with Senator McCain. On each point of disagreement I side with Ann over the Republican from Arizona. But during one interview with Neil Cavuto she went beyond her usual hair tossing and eye rolling into a state of near-hysteria.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed that Ann was unusually angry. Neil noticed it, too. And he asked her why she was so angry. She responded by accusing McCain of lying on a regular basis. Neil then asked her why she had a more favorable opinion of Romney who has been accused of lying about his positions on abortion and gay rights. Coulter quipped that he had to lie in order to get elected in Massachusetts, adding that trying to get elected there was like trying to get elected in North Korea.
Strange as those comments were they were tame in comparison to Ann’s next assertion; namely, that John McCain “has no honor.” At the very moment Ann made her remark, I was reading McCain’s family memoir, Faith of my Fathers. In fact, I was reading the part about McCain’s transfer to solitary confinement. I was touched by his statement that he “prayed more often and more fervently than (he) ever had as a free man.” I wondered what freedoms Ann was exercising as a little girl while McCain was being tortured in a Vietnamese prison.
No other part of McCain’s account of prison life touched me like his reflections upon the humane treatment he received from one particular prison guard. The man pitied McCain after he was left overnight in a prison interrogation cell for his refusal to cooperate. Ropes were tied tightly around his broken arms causing him a great deal of physical pain. But without explanation the guard would enter the cell and loosen the ropes to relieve the future Senator’s pain. Then, at the end of his shift, he would retighten the ropes to avoid detection.
McCain did not understand the reason for this guard’s sympathy until next Christmas Day when the prisoners were given the special treat of being allowed to stand outside their cells for five minutes. During those few short minutes, the guard walked up to McCain and stopped just before him to draw the sign of a cross in the dirt. They both stared silently at the cross for a moment before the guard walked away.
That cross looks a lot like the one Coulter wears around her neck as she excoriates a war hero she says “has no honor.”
I must say that I was also touched by the part of McCain’s book that discussed the offer to release him on July 4th of 1968. Had he accepted he would have served less than a year in prison. But he turned down the offer saying “We must be released in the order of our capture, starting with Everett Alverez.” One has to wonder what McCain would have done were he a man of “honor.”
After John McCain was released from solitary he had one cellmate named “Mike.” Mike used a needle to sew scraps of red, white, and blue cloth into a small American flag during his spare time. After he finished, he, McCain, and a couple of other prisoners would salute the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Unsurprisingly, when Vietnamese prison guards found the flag they dragged Mike from his cell and beat him to a bloody pulp.
After Mike had been beaten senseless and left to sleep on the floor he woke up and crawled across the room to find his needle. He wanted to immediately sew another flag for McCain and his other cell mates to salute in defiance. Mike’s was among the greatest acts of heroic defiance one could imagine. But McCain displayed a similar defiance on many occasions – defiance that could only be mustered by a man of honor.
Of course, not everything of honor that John McCain has done was done as a prisoner. Years after his release, the Senator’s wife Cindy brought home a dying little girl from Southeast Asia. Shortly after seeing the little girl the Senator agreed that he and his wife should adopt her. Today, she is their teenaged daughter. Few could doubt that it was an act of sacrifice and honor that helped save the little girl’s life.
I hope that no one reading this column misconstrues my point. I agree with Ann Coulter on every policy difference she has with John McCain. But in the personal battle between the two I must side with Senator McCain. In the heat of the battle, he has conducted himself with greater honor.
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