Back in October 2008, the people making the McCain’s-no-hero arguments were not Republican presidential contenders, but liberal journalists, such as those who work for Rolling Stone. As I responded to their findings back then in the L.A. Times,
“[T]he most pertinent part of McCain’s heroism [is that by] all accounts, his noisy resistance to everyday humiliations, and his profane outburst at a made-for-propaganda Christmas service in 1968, gave great strength to his fellow POWs. McCain was an inveterate communicator in Hanoi, tapping code like mad to keep his comrades’ spirits up and even acting as chaplain when conditions in the prisons started to improve.”
Which is to say, the main driver of McCain’s heroism was not the fact of his capture, it’s how he comported himself under circumstances more trying than 99.9% of us could imagine, let alone endure. And let’s remember that, as I wrote in the LAT piece, “According to John G. Hubbell’s book, ‘P.O.W.,’ ‘No American reached Hoa Lo in worse physical condition than McCain.'” The guy still can’t comb his own hair due to the injuries he suffered in Hanoi, and yet he gave great comfort and inspiration to his fellow prisoners under duress.