"In the 2000 campaign in South Carolina, there was a whispering campaign that you had fathered a child, a black child, and it was a vicious slander against you, your wife Cindy, and your daughter, who you adopted from Bangladesh," Pelley says.
Asked if he believes the Bush campaign was behind this, McCain says, "I do not know whether the Bush campaign was behind it or not. I know that there were most likely supporters of the Bush campaign that were behind it. But I don't have hard evidence that the Bush campaign was behind it. And, yes, I was angry about it. And, yes, I remained angry for some period of time. And, yes, I'm over it. You move on in life. You can't dwell on past injustices."
"How is that forgivable?" Pelley asks.
"Many injustices have been done to me in my life. And people have come to me and said, 'I wanna move on,'" McCain says.
By 2004, McCain moved on to a tight embrace of the president. He supported making permanent the tax cuts he once opposed and he's the president's most important ally on Iraq.
"Let me bring up another issue that surrounded South Carolina in the year 2000. There was a political issue, a local issue about whether the Confederate flag should fly over the Capitol. You waffled on that," Pelley says.
"Yes. Worse than waffled," McCain acknowledges.
Asked what he means, McCain says, "Well, I said that it was strictly a state issue and clearly knowing that it wasn't."
"That's not what you believed in your heart?" Pelley asks.
"No," the senator says.
"What did you believe in your heart?" Pelley asks.
"That it was a symbol to many of, a very offensive symbol to many, many Americans," McCain says.
Why did he say that in 2000?
"I'm sure for all the wrong reasons," McCain says.
Asked what those wrong reasons would be, McCain tells Pelley, "For ambition."
Was it ambition this week that caused him to star in the show in the Baghdad market or worry that the American audience is leaving the theater even as the Bush administration is rewriting the script?
60 Minutes flew with McCain to Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni insurgency. On a U.S. base there he met with a Sunni sheikh whose father and two brothers were killed by al Qaeda. The sheikh told McCain that his tribe and others are now joining the U.S.
"Whoever points a gun at any American soldier, it's like he points a gun at our families, at our military, and it's the same thing," the sheik said.
To McCain it was a sign of progress, but he understands there's still a war to fight. Over the two days of his visit, eight Americans were killed in action.
"Senator, are you betting your candidacy that the surge strategy is going to work?" Pelley asks.
"Oh, I think that may be the case. But I don't worry about it or think about it," McCain says. "There's too many young people who have sacrificed too much for our country and their sacrifice is far more important than any than any ambitions of mine. And I've said a few times I'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war."
Produced By Tom Anderson