Who Are Some North Vietnamese War Heroes

politics : The war hero suffered five and a half years in North Vietnamese captivity, now he wants to inherit from Bill Clinton

You can eat well in the "Pinnacle Peak Patio". Above all, however, the rustic restaurant in a chic suburb of the state metropolis of Phoenix in arid Arizona is a shop for rough legs. The house specialty: cowboy steak. There is country and western music every night. Anyone wishing to enter with a tie will be cut off. Here the man is still a man: impetuous, civilizations and party bodies escaped, natural and hard. That was what it was about a year and a half ago. On May 22, 1998, a Friday, two politicians were sitting in the "Pinnacle Peak Patio". Volker Rühe explained to John McCain how he would become Federal Chancellor, and John McCain reciprocated with his plan to become President of the United States of America.

This meeting brought together two similar natures. McCain and Rühe like to slouch a little and give the flail. Both rumble when something does not suit them. Both have a weakness for everything military and have more self-confidence than political power. In February, Volker Rühe decides whether he will be Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein and thus a candidate for the Union's next candidate for chancellor. For John McCain, it will be decided in February whether his phenomenal rise will be enough to wrest the presumably safe nomination by America's Republicans from George W. Bush.

"There is no politician today who dares to overcome party lines with more energy and strength," wrote the New York Times about the man who was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936. McCain is like Rühe: not an old-fashioned moral conservative, but a modern patriot, liberal for free trade and social issues. In the US, for a Republican like McCain, this means not talking about abortion all the time, even if he rejects it on principle. And it means venturing far beyond the party orthodoxy: "Of course a woman, a black or a homosexual can become US President!"

McCain comes from a soldier's family; Father and grandfather were naval admirals. He self-critically admits that he had messed up his youth. As a two-year-old, he processed anger and anger by holding his breath until he passed out. As the son of a military migrant, he responded to frequent school changes with fistfights against new classmates. In the naval academy he was miserable; During pilot training in Spain, he cut a few power lines at low altitude and drowned half the country in darkness. When asked why she was proud of her John, his 86-year-old mother still answers: "Because he's such a bungler!"

Then came military service in Vietnam. McCain was shot down in October 1967 on his 23rd mission as a naval pilot over Hanoi and landed with a broken leg in a small lake near the center of the capital. North Vietnamese soldiers pulled him ashore and smashed his shoulder with rifle butts. In mid-1968 he was offered early release because of his father's rank. He declined in order not to allow a propaganda show of North Vietnamese humanity. The consequences were drastic. His ribs and teeth were knocked in and he ended up in solitary confinement for two years. After gruesome torture, he signed a "confession". That's why he's anything but a hero, he says today. In 1973 he was released and learned that the first human had landed on the moon.

Rühe describes McCain as "shaped by Vietnam and Asia instead of World War II, the Berlin Wall and Europe". In the early 1980s his political career began in the home country of his second wife Cindy, with whom he adopted an orphan from Bangladesh. He's a newcomer, shouted his opponents. "I lived in Hanoi the longest, should I run there?" McCain said.

He soon became an MP and, in 1986, Arizona's senator. The year 1998 then catapulted him into the front row of those presidential candidates who seek their votes in the broad middle - where Clinton showed how to win. McCain has no reservations about Democrats. With one of them he presented his bill on the reform of party donations. He failed. Then, as head of the trade committee in the Senate, he proposed making cigarettes more expensive and ending the billion-dollar subsidies for tobacco farmers. His Republican friends said that McCain wanted tax increases. This initiative also failed because of its own party.

"I hate the french"

McCain's temper is notorious. "You are a liar! You idiot!" He once yelled at an Arizona reporter. McCain's "volcanic" eruption is criticized by his local newspaper. That has changed radically since McCain became Bush's only serious rival. The new McCain is meek. "He's more approachable than hookers in Hong Kong," said Time. He's already spent 36 days in the all-important New Hampshire primary state, and he still answers every voter question with a smile. McCain has created something new: he is so open and honest, he convinces so much with authenticity and the renunciation of all formulas and empty phrases that America's press lets him get away with mistakes that would ruin other careers. For example, the heartfelt saying: "I hate the French!"

McCain pondered for a long time how one could capture the top job in one's own party without a strong house power - as a conservative in the middle who can give the tough guy, but draws his traction among voters from moderate views. Without communism and the economic crisis, Republicans will be missing the big issues, and the only thing left, calls for radical tax cuts, is a chorus that McCain does not join.

That is why personality matters. McCain is the anti-Clinton. And he has a topic that his biography translates into political: "Campaign finance", the reform of American campaign finance. McCain wants to forbid "soft money", the unlimited donations for party work ("hard money" are the limited donations for the benefit of individual candidates), because he sees it as the gateway to the lobbies that actually write America's laws. The problem is that its own Republicans are more dependent on business donations than the Democrats, who receive millions in union membership fees.

The Republican caste complains that McCain wants to pull the rug out from under her feet. "You are playing into the hands of the Democrats!", The extremely wealthy publisher Steve Forbes, the third among the more promising presidential candidates on the right, reproached him. And then there are constitutional concerns: In the US, giving unlimited donations is considered an expression of freedom of expression. McCain ostentatiously countered this with a further emphasis on his independence. On December 16, he met with Democratic Gore rival Bill Bradley and put his name under a shared promise to ban "soft money".

With both, with his heroic résumé and his opposition to the establishment, McCain succeeds in a magic piece: The Senator becomes the most credible opponent of the machine called politics. McCain has shed his skin perfectly and now shines as an upright outsider.

Its second mainstay is foreign policy. "I am very worried about the decline in spending on security in all European NATO countries," said McCain after the war in Kosovo. "In light of this, the debate on a European security and defense identity is not helpful." Kosovo was a great moment for the senator. He argued vehemently for including Russia, for the threat of the option of ground troops and for the doctrine of "overwhelming power" of the former Chief of Staff Colin Powell, who thinks highly of McCain. Henry Kissinger and Mike Deaver, Reagan's chief adviser, are other key figures in McCain's kitchen cabinet.

"Free the youth from cynicism"

"A war doesn't go according to plan, and even more so when you don't have a plan," said McCain. "Nato knowingly ignored all the lessons from Vietnam." The Senator was one of the major advocates of the war in Congress, even if he called for a stricter course. "Every war brings thousands of tragedies. That is why we should avoid it. It is even worse to lose it," he said in plenary.

His key experience caught up with him in the election campaign: Vietnam. Whispers came from the corner of his competitors that being a prisoner of war had undermined his psychological stability. His hot temperament is the expression of an unstable state of mind, the late effect of torture. McCain jokes today about the character assassination campaign: "Why do I want to be president? My wife says: Some Viet Cong hit me on the head five times with a bamboo cane, that's why!" America's public finds it vile that McCain should be twisted a rope out of his war fate. There was a broad solidarity campaign. Even the left-liberal press suddenly saw itself in the role of McCain's defender. America does not allow its heroes to be honored.

Physical Vietnam consequences have remained unquestionable. Severe arthritis in the shoulder and leg, a long-term consequence of years of untreated injuries, hinders McCain. But the stiff joints fit into the image America has of him: not a big boy like Clinton and Bush, more of a father. "We finally have a candidate who the press doesn't feel superior to, one who exudes natural authority," said an editorial.

McCain easily finds the bridge from Vietnam to the future in his campaign speeches. His key sentence connects Kennedy with Reagan: "I want to ensure that we manage to convince young people of the greatness of America again, to free them from cynicism and to inspire them to believe in joint tasks that are greater than their self-interest!" He wants to demand sacrifices, not distribute benefits.

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