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Throughout Military and Political Careers, McCain Tested by Adversity

During his years of military service and in Congress, Sen. John McCain has faced many personally challenging moments. The GOP presidential nominee's closest advisers detail how McCain has dealt with difficult situations during his life.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Anyone familiar with the heroic story of how John McCain survived five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam knows he is not a quitter. Orson Swindle was in a nearby cell.

  • ORSON SWINDLE, Former Vietnam POW:

    John McCain was tested in prison. He was tested by getting shot down and almost dying, being abused and having the opportunity to say goodbye to all of the hardship and possible death and go home, and he said, "No, I'm not going to do that."

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Friend and fellow Arizona Senator Jon Kyl says that when McCain finally was released, he made a point of turning to the future.

    SEN. JON KYL (R), Arizona: You know, for a long time, he wouldn't even talk about it — he certainly didn't dwell on his experiences in Vietnam. He really wanted to put it behind him. And you saw him do that.

    John deals with adversity in a way a little different than most people, and perhaps it's because he's been through so much. He shrugs it off.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    After he entered politics, McCain faced a different form of adversity, growing out of his involvement in the late 1980s with a big campaign donor, savings and loan executive Charles Keating.

    Federal investigators accused McCain and four other U.S. senators of improperly aiding Keating and his business. The scandal dominated the national headlines.

    Dan Nowicki is a reporter for the Arizona Republic.

  • DAN NOWICKI, The Arizona Republic:

    It looked really bad. It was like here are — here are five senators — I think 1/20th of the United States Senate is called by this one guy to go intimidate regulators. I mean, they deny that they were trying to intimidate them, but that's how it came out.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In the end, the Senate Ethics Committee accused McCain of exercising "poor judgment." Longtime McCain staffer Mark Buse.

    MARK BUSE, Chief of Staff, McCain Senate Office: It was a tough time, but, you know, he soldiered on. Every day, he showed up in the office every day. He didn't disappear. Every day, he was there. Every day, he fought. Every day, he still did his business.

  • SEN. JON KYL:

    It was very difficult for John because, first of all, one of the primary attributes that he thinks is important, both in his life, as well as others, is the concept of honor. So when his honor or his integrity was called into question with the so-called Keating Five issue, it hurt him deeply.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    After the scandal, McCain became a zealous proponent of campaign finance reform.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: We will pass campaign finance reform legislation and finally follow the American people's will.

  • SEN. JON KYL:

    His efforts at campaign reform, and lobbying reform, and all of the other reforms that he's instigated are partially to demonstrate that he believes in the kind of open and clean government that we all would like to see.

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