The presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., smiles during a town hall meeting, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, in Las Cruces, N.M. McCain's personal character has been a dominant feature of his public image. This image includes his military service, his maverick political persona, his temper, and his close ties to his children from both his marriages.
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To Some, A Hero
U.S. Navy Lt. Commander John S. McCain III returned to the United States in 1973, after having spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. His fellow prisoners called him a hero, for his refusal to accept release ahead of POWs who had been there longer. More than three decades later, even his political rivals call him a hero. It is a word McCain uses often, but never about himself.
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To Some, A Maverick
Michelle Hartman, 6, held up a sign in New Hampshire in 2000. Though his reputation as a maverick was more pronounced in his 2000 campaign, McCain still takes some positions unpopular with the public (his support for the Iraq war), with many fellow Republicans (his support of a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants), or with other politicians as a whole (his push for campaign finance reform).
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To The Majority, A President?
John McCain -- a 23-year veteran of the United States Navy, 25-year veteran of the United States Congress (21 as senator) -- is running for a second time to be the president of the United States. "I'm not the youngest candidate," said McCain, 71, in a speech. "But I am the most experienced. I know how the military works ... I know how Congress works ... I know how the world works."
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John Sidney McCain III was born Aug. 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone. His father and his grandfather were both U.S. Navy admirals. (Bottom, from left: Sr., Jr. and III.)"My grandfather was a naval aviator, my father a submariner," McCain writes in "Faith of My Fathers," his 1999 memoir. "They were my first heroes, and earning their respect has been the most lasting ambition of my life."
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McCain, left, stands in military dress uniform next to his father, John S. McCain Jr. "I always wanted to be in the Navy," McCain told the New York Times in 1967. "I was born into it and I never really considered another profession. But I always had trouble with the regimentation." He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958, and became an aviator.
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On his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, his plane was shot down. This Oct. 26, 1967, photograph shows Hanoi residents recovering him from the city's Truc Bach lake. McCain said that upon capture he was struck, kicked, and bayoneted by several hundred Vietnamese before they were chased off by a nurse.
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A photo taken in 1967 shows McCain, then a major, being examined by a Vietnamese doctor. McCain says he was initially denied treatment by his captors, and beaten while interrogated, because they expected him to die of his wounds. This changed when they learned that his father was an important figure in the military, who would eventually be made the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific command.
McCain, here in a Hanoi hospital, was frequently mistreated during his five years of imprisonment -- beaten, malnourished, put into solitary confinement for two years, at one point tortured into signing a statement that began "I am a black criminal." He consistently speaks out against attempts to allow the U.S. to use torture, such as waterboarding: "We are a better nation than that."
Upon his release, McCain was welcomed by then-President Richard Nixon on May 24, 1973. A quarter of a century later, McCain wrote: "I am a public figure now, and my public profile is inextricably linked to my POW experiences ... Obviously, such recognition has benefited my political career ... But I have tried hard to ... not let the memories of war encumber the rest of my life's progress."
Returned, As A Senator
McCain divorced and remarried, moved to Arizona, and was elected congressman in 1981 and senator in 1986. In 1992, he returned to Hanoi as a member of the Senate Select Committee on MIA's (missing in action). Vietnamese officials, including Col. Pham Duc Dai, director of the Army Museum, gave him 25-year-old photographs of himself as a prisoner.
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McCain joined two Senate colleagues, John Glenn and John Kerry, in Vietnam in 1995. McCain was at first greatly hostile to Kerry, who had led anti-war protests, and made a point of campaigning against him when Kerry ran in Massachusetts. But in the Senate, they worked together on many Vietnam-related issues, including the resolution of the Missing In Action and establishing full diplomatic relations with Vietnam.
Gene Goodrich and his 2-year-old grandson, Vincent, attend a rally for McCain in Buffalo, in March 2000. His compelling war story, as well as his reputation for straight talking (he traveled in a campaign bus he named the Straight Talk Express), attracted excitement in his campaign among some Democrats and independents as well as Republicans.
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While McCain beat his closest rival, George W. Bush, by about 20 points in the New Hampshire Republican primary, and won in a half dozen other states as well, he wound up losing the nomination to Bush. McCain endorsed Bush in the 2000 general election. But he remained popular outside the party; indeed, John Kerry reportedly asked McCain to be his running mate in 2004. McCain endorsed Bush again instead.
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Campaign Finance Reform
McCain worked for seven years to reform campaign finance laws, eliminating unregulated "soft money" contributions. Here he is in his Capitol Hill office in Washington during the Senate debate of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill on Friday, March 23, 2001, which was passed into law. McCain tackled the system of campaign financing with like-minded Democrats, an issue which split him from Republican leaders.
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Environmentalists long ago saw McCain as Washington's most important champion of legislation to curb global warming. Here he holds another hearing into the phenomenon, greeting fellow Sen. Barack Obama in January 2007.
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McCain worked on compromise legislation on immigration supported by President Bush, including a provision to allow undocumented immigrants to work their way towards citizenship, which could take up to 13 years. His support prompted protests outside his state office in Phoenix in April 2006 -- and is said to have jeopardized his presidential prospects.
While once calling leaders of the Christian right "agents of intolerance," McCain has pointed out his consistently conservative record in the Senate on social issues. When Sam Brownback, a Kansas conservative and favorite of evangelical Christians, dropped out of the race, he endorsed McCain, calling him "the best pro-life candidate to beat Hillary Clinton."
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His stands on some issues are unpopular among many likely Republican voters, and critics say his time has passed, but supporters say McCain is an effective and tireless campaigner. Here he is walking across Main Street in Meredith, N.H., on his way to another campaign stop.
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McCain has written five best-selling books -- "Faith of my Fathers," (1999, "Worth the Fighting For," (2002), "Why Courage Matters" (2004), "Character Is Destiny" (2005), "Hard Call" (2007) -- all co-authored with his chief of staff, Mark Salter. "McCain's two most dominant traits are his restlessness and his fortitude," Salter recently told the Chicago Tribune.