McCain and the Other Vietnam Veterans in the Senate

Matt Bai’s article on John McCain for this Sunday’s New York Times was just released online.

Among other things, Bai reports that there is a quietly held belief among some of the other Vietnam veterans in the Senate that McCain is an unwavering backer of the war in Iraq, essentially, because prison spared him many of the embittering experiences of Chuck Hagel, Jim Webb and John Kerry:

There is a feeling among some of McCain’s fellow veterans that his break with them on Iraq can be traced, at least partly, to his markedly different experience in Vietnam. McCain’s comrades in the Senate will not talk about this publicly. They are wary of seeming to denigrate McCain’s service, marked by his legendary endurance in a Hanoi prison camp, when in fact they remain, to this day, in awe of it. And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington.
McCain and the Other Vietnam Veterans in the Senate