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Documentary on John McCain's Life. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 26, 2018 - 21:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you to all of you who shared their stories of an amazing man and to you at home for spending part of your weekend with us. The CNN premiere of "John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls" starts right now.


JOHN MCCAIN III, REPUBLICAN SENATOR: I have lived an honorable life and I am proud of my life. I think all of us think about death, but I think more about life. There's so many days in my life that are more than coincidental, that it has made me believe that I am here for a reason.

I've been tested a number of occasions. I haven't always done the right thing. And I think I understand, given my family's history and given my experiences, the important thing is not to look back and figure out all the things I should have done, and there's lots of those, but to look back with gratitude. You will never talk to anyone that is as fortunate as John McCain.


You ready or not. You ready? One, two.


CINDY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: Ain't she so great? I love that.

JOHN MCCAIN III: Yeah, look at her. Come on, Ernie (ph), come on. That's it, girl. Come on. Come on.

CINDY MCCAIN: Bring the ball.

JOHN MCCAIN III: Come on, Berma.

CINDY MCCAIN: Come on, Berma.

JOHN MCCAIN III: Come on, Ernie.

JOHN SIDNEY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S SON: I got a phone call from my mom that said, "Jack, you're going to see some stuff in the news. Your father has -- has brain cancer. I'm with him right now. He knows his diagnosis, and he's the same as he's always been. He said all right, let's push forward."

JOHN MCCAIN III: You know, these doctors keep talking to me about people who, if you tell them the truth then they just give up and die, that you really want to -- and I -- I keep saying to them, "Just tell me, just tell me. That's all I want to know." You know? Some say, "Well, it's -- it's not good." And others say, well, you know, it's just bullshit and it really drives me crazy. But then I talk to other doctor friends of mine and say that most people that's not what they want to hear.

Why wouldn't they want to hear it, you know? Why wouldn't they want to spend a few more days here, you know?

Yes, honey, I'll throw the ball in a minute.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: He's better in Arizona, I think, health-wise, but we sort of collectively made the decision that if he doesn't work that he would -- he would probably get sick faster because work feeds him, and it's so much of a part of who he is. So, I'm very supportive of him being in D.C.

JOHN MCCAIN III: All right, guys. Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning. Back, back. Come on, come on. You can -- you can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, (inaudible).

JOHN MCCAIN III: Good morning. How are you, my friend from TMZ?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you watch the football game last night?

JOHN MCCAIN III: Yes, I did. That's why I'm in such a bad mood this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope things get better.


MARK SALTER, JOHN MCCAIN'S STAFF AIDE AND SPEECHWRITER: He's authentic. He can help himself. Sometimes his authenticity is a problem and other times is a great advantage.

DAVID BROOKS, THE NEW YORK TIMES JOURNALIST: None of us want to be unpopular in our workplace. And I've seen McCain be unpopular time and time again, sometimes for excellent reasons, sometimes for not great reasons.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, US SENATOR: We don't always agree. I've got a job to do, he's got a job to do, but I never doubt his motivation as to why he's doing it.

JOHN MCCAIN III: You're not going to bet against the United States of America. You know?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER US SENATOR: He tries to study an issue. He tries to come to a conclusion that's in keeping with his values but also, you know, rooted in reality.

GRANT WOODS, CONGRESSIONAL CHIEF OF STAFF: He knows this is not a straight line in life. There's going to be curves and corners, and that's the way it goes. Nobody is perfect. You're going to make mistakes. The question is, how do you handle those mistakes?

JOHN MCCAIN III: What's going on in Syria? Good morning. How are you? Good morning.

JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER US SENATOR: I wouldn't bet against him. He faces his mortality now with the same kind of fearlessness that has characterized his life.

JOHN MCCAIN III: We're going to keep people waiting here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to really know him, his favorite book is "For Whom the Bell Tolls." And the protagonist in that, Robert Jordan, goes to fight the Spanish Civil War and he knows that it's a hopeless cause and yet, he gives his life for it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Army nominee secretary, are we going to get a hearing soon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a very McCain ask a view of himself in the world. The harder the cause even lost, the better the cause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, on health care ...

JOHN MCCAIN III: I got to go.

When I was 12 years old, I found a four-leaf clover. I went to my father's library to put the four-leaf clover in a book. I started reading that book and I was mesmerized, and I didn't stop reading until I was finished. It's still the load stone, the guide I have and it's called "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Robert Jordan is my hero then when I was that age and Robert Jordan is my hero today. Nothing is better than the story of someone who sacrifices for causes greater than themselves, and Robert Jordan was that.

I was born on the 29th of August 1936 at a naval base in the Panama Canal Zone. My family goes back militarily all the way to the Revolutionary War. And my life seemed to be charted out for me. I did feel pressure from the time I was very small to do well. As a young man going to the Naval Academy, I was following in the footsteps of my father and my grandfather.


JOHN MCCAIN III: Yes, I was once one of you, six decades ago in the age of sail. I was ...


... I was non-distinguished member of the class of 1958. My superiors didn't hold me in very high esteem in those days. Their disapproval was measured in the hundreds of miles of extra duty I marched in my time here. But I realized a little later in life that I hadn't fully appreciated all that the academy was trying to teach me, lessons about sacrificing for something more important than yourself, lessons about courage and humility.


JOHN MCCAIN III: God only knows how I graduated from the Naval Academy. I didn't enjoy studying. I just knew what I had to do to get by. There is no doubt that I was a rebel and always breaking the rules. Everybody knew who my father was, and so I thumbed my nose at him. But, at the same time, I didn't want to embarrass my family.

FRANK GAMBOA, JOHN MCCAIN'S NAVAL ACADEMY CLASSMATE: John's father has emanated power and strength. One day his father came down on a Saturday to take us to lunch. And -- and for some reason, they got into a bit of an argument. John was alking at a fast pace swinging his left arm. I remember his father was walking the same way, swinging his left arm. I said, "These guys are so much alike."

They are combatants with a penchant of leadership. They're just a natural ability. You can't teach that kind of leadership. You have to be born with that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral McCain, what would you say about the importance of leadership in the Navy?

JOHN MCCAIN JR., JOHN MCCAIN'S FATHER: Leadership is the single most important factor as far as achievement, success and the completion of a job to be done. And further more, you have got to have a tolerance for the failings of individuals because all of us have them. And I ...


JOHN MCCAIN III: My father was a submarine commander in World War II in the Pacific. My grandfather was the commander of the aircraft carriers in the Pacific. But I always knew that I was going to be a naval aviator. I was going to go out there and fly airplanes and shoot MiGs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far in 1967, the number of U.S. troops killed in Vietnam has nearly doubled. Air power is the one thing we most conspicuously have and the enemy has not.


JOHN MCCAIN III: During that period of time, they decided to escalate the air war over North Vietnam. We started striking targets inside Hanoi, which we had never done before. I got over the target and rolled in. And just as I released my bombs, a missile took their wing off the airplane. So I ejected. When I hit the air stream, it broke my arms and also my leg.

Strangely enough, I landed in a lake in the center of the city of Hanoi. Someone took a picture of the Vietnamese pulling me out of the water, and they were not happy. One of them stabbed me with a bayonet and another one smashed my shoulder. And then some North Vietnamese Army came and they took me to the prison camp that we called the Hanoi Hilton.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday, over Hanoi, three American planes were shot down and at least two of their pilots captured. One of them was Lieutenant Commander John McCain III, the son of the U.S. naval commander in Europe.


DOUG MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S SON: I came in from school one day and my mother was sitting at the kitchen table crying. And I said, "What's the matter?" and she said, "Well, your father has been shot down. And that's all I know right now, but I expect to hear more from your grand dad pretty soon."

CAROL MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: When I first found out, I didn't understand it all myself. I wasn't dumb and happy. I didn't really understand what it was all about. It never occurred to me that anything would happen to him. He was always kind of invincible in my mind.

JOE MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S BROTHER: I got a call in the middle of the night, and my father and mother were both on the phone, which is very unusual. Usually one would call, not the other. And they told me that John had been shot down. And I rember pausing and I said, "Well, what do we do now?" And my -- and my father said, "We just pray for the boy."

JOHN MCCAIN III: It's hard to describe the military heritage of my family. Yes, my dad was worried about me, but the fact is, he knew that McCains were doing what McCains were bred to do. And if it takes you into harm's way, that is our profession.

The injuries that I experienced were severe. And they said, "We'll give you medical help if you give us information." I said, "I can't." A few hours later, interrogator came and said, "Your father is a big admiral." And I said yes. He said, "We're going to take you to the hospital."

CAROL MCCAIN: I got a letter from a Frenchman who said he'd been in North Vietnam and he's seen John.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?



CAROL MCCAIN: He's made him tell him about him. He gave me a copy of it. John Spokes (ph) watched it. I watched it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is your father?

JOHN MCCAIN III: (Inaudible) name is Admiral John McCain.


CAROL MCCAIN: This guy kept telling me, "Carol, this could be years." I didn't believe that, but he kept telling me it could be years before he gets home.


JOHN MCCAIN III: I would just like to tell my wife if I don't get well, I love her and hope to see her soon. And I appreciate if you tell her.


JOHN MCCAIN III: One day the interrogator came in and he said, "Our doctors tell me that you are not getting well." They took me into a room with two other Americans. They wanted me to die there rather than in the hospital. And those two literally nursed me back to health. And the love and affection both of those guys bestowed on me was something I will never, ever forget. But as soon as the Vietnamese found out I can walk, the next day I found myself alone in a cell.

I was about two and a half years in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement's great strength is it makes the person feel alone. And when you're alone, then you don't have the encouragement, the camarederie, the strength. There's a reason why throughout history they have used solitary confinement.

And then one day I was taken up to interrogation. There was a guy there, erudite, spoke perfect French, perfect English. He sat down. And there was cigarettes, and there was tea. And finally he said, "Well, you know, everybody wants you to go home because the doctors say that you can't live." And I said, "Our code of conduct says that we go by order of capture." He said, "Except for sick and injured." And I said, "But I'm not that sick and injured. I'm getting better. I can get around, and I know what this is. I know it's for propaganda."

And he kicked over the chair behind him, and he said, "They taught you too well," and walked out and slammed the door, leaving me and one of the interrogators in dead silence for two minutes. And he said, "Things will be very bad for you now, McCain." And the fun began.

JOHN FER, POW, JOHN MCCAIN'S CELLMATE: We call it either the bar and strap or the bar and ropes treatment. And that has to do with putting my hands with my wrists opposed behind my back and fastened with handcuffs. They took the strap and they tied it to the handcuffs. Each time he laced that strap, he pulled and pulled and pulled until my arms are virtually parallel to one another and touching.

JOHN MCCAIN III: They were really, really rough, I mean, to the point where they rebroke my arm. They did all kinds of -- of stuff. It was so bad that I thought I was going to die. And so I wrote out a confession, war crimes confession, and I will be ashamed and embarrassed about that for my whole life. I was aware that they were going to use it for propaganda purposes, and I thought about the honor of my family.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I knew his father. His father was a Pacific fleet commander. So all the military action we ordered in Vietnam was carried out by him. But I never heard Admiral McCain talk to the president about his son. It would be against the Code of Honor of the McCains.

JOE MCCAIN: My dad never talked about John, especially never asked anybody to do anything for him or about him. But dad made a practice every year that he was commander-in-chief on Christmas. He would helicopter to the DMZ where the North and South Vietnamese were officially divided, and he would walk away from those escorting him. And he would just look across that border trying to somehow feel John or send a message to him.


JOHN MCCAIN JR.: I want you to understand that for those of you, and there are many in this command who will spend this christmas away from home and your loved ones, that what you have done and the sacrifices that you have made in the pursuit of your individual duty will more than make up for this separation.


SIDNEY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: It was a year and a month when he was shot down. My recollection of him is next to zero. It was my mom and my brothers and I for a really long time. Those memories I have.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. McCain has received several letters from her captured husband, but none in six months.

CAROL MCCAIN: The most recent one I have was written last June. It says, "Dear Carol, I hope you can still think of the really great times we had together. It is time for our fifth anniversary this year and I am hoping I will see you soon."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does he sound in that letter?

CAROL MCCAIN: He sounds kind of depressed to me. When he says, "I hope you can still think of the really good times we had together," it sounds like he -- you know, he's worried that I might forget or something. That bothers me. It makes me feel very badly. There isn't anyway I could possibly forget.


CAROL MCCAIN: You know what, you don't really know but in your heart you're like, of course, he's going to come back. He told me he's coming back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doug, how long do you think that the Vietnamese are going to keep your daddy prisoner?

DOUG MCCAIN: Probably until (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long will that be?

ADNY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S SON: Probably until summer.


ANDY MCCAIN: To me, nothing else mattered materially other than I was told my dad is still alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it will be over sooner?

ANDY MCCAIN: I want it to be over sooner.


ANDY MCCAIN: I just want him back.


JOHN MCCAIN III: After about four years, they changed the treatment and put us into large rooms with, say, 20 or 25 in each cell. The beatings stopped and there was clearly a change in policy towards the prisoners.

JOHN FER: All of a sudden, on the 18th of December, the whole sky just lit up with explosions and from then round the clock bombing.

HENRY KISSINGER: The Christmas bombing was the use of B-52s against tactical targets in Hanoi. President Nixon decided and I agreed that we had leads to point that only a shocking event would show to them that we were absolutely determined to bring the war to a conclusion.

JOHN MCCAIN III: We applauded, and we cheered, and we sang the Star Spangled Banner. And the North Vietnamese were panicked. They were panicked.

JOHN FER: When that bombing was over, there was very strange silence, and then the announcement on the radio that on the -- that they were going to -- they were going to sign an agreement to end the war. JOHN MCCAIN III: A few days later, all the prisoners were called out

and the commanding officer of the camp read off the provisions of the settlement. And one part of the settlement is prisoners will be returned by order of capture. While we were waiting, they said, "McCain, come on, we need to talk to you." And there was about eight Vietnamese in this room, officers, and they had a tape recorder. They said, "McCain, you are going to be leaving now. And we saved your life as you know. Don't you want to have a -- a parting message of thanks for the doctors who took such good care of you?"

And I looked at them and I said, "You want me to thank the doctors?" They say, yeah. "Well, first of all, I would like to say where the (BLEEP) have you been for the last five years? Could I say that?"

Going home was something that we looked forward to for so many years. I hate to tell you, but it was also anticlematic. Been waiting so long for it, in some ways, we're almost hard to believe we were going to do it.

JOHN FER: Nobody cheered until the airplane actually lifted off the ground and the landing gear was retracted.

JOE MCCAIN: I remember really clearly him stepping off that plane into Clark Air Field. And I'll tell ya, when he appeared in that hatchway, it was hard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Commander John S. McCain, III, United States Navy. His wife Carol, sons Douglas and Andrew and daughter Sydney live in Orange Park, Florida.


CAROL MCCAIN: I just rember he was really skinny. He was just kind of all bones in his face, and he was limping quite noticeably. One of his arms he couldn't lift any higher than about this. But I just rember the smile was the same, the humor was the same. There was still a twinkle in his eye. It was like right out of the movies.

SIDNEY MCCAIN: I don't think I really understood what was going on. I was really like who was this guy? What is he doing here? I did not understand the whole concept of his return from Vietnam.

CAROL MCCAIN: John was not angry. He was just happy to be home. He told me every single thing that he could remember, and I wanted him to. I wanted him to just talk and talk and talk, did not keep that stuff locked up.

JOHN MCCAIN III: When we came home, I wanted to know what happened during all those years. Think of yourself going five and a half years with only information provided to you by your communist captors. I wanted to know how the anti-war movement began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the Committee come to order? The Committee

continuing its hearing on proposals relating to the ending of the war in Southeast Asia.


JOHN KERRY, FORMER US SECRETARY OF STATE: John and I were on different paths with respect to the war in Vietnam. My war was down in the delta mostly, and seeing the war on a ground level led me to believe we are on a quixotic errand. And it weighted on me in a way that made me a very vocal and determined anti-war activist after I came back.


JOHN KERRY: Each day, to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam, someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we cannot say that we've made a mistake.


JOHN MCCAIN III: It didn't change my mind, but what was very revealing was how mishandled the conflict was and how there was never a strategy for victory.


JOHN KERRY: Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, the first president, to lose a war.


JOHN MCCAIN III: The most offensive to me was that we didn't tell the American people the truth. The American people become disillusioned when they're being told that victory is just around the corner, which was not.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Though it hardly seems possible, it's been more than five years since the nearly 600 American POWs came home. Two hundred eighty of them gathered for an anniversary celebration this weekend.

JOHN MCCAIN III: We've been treated very, very well, and we've been a few times embarrassed by the attention we received because we don't feel that we did anything that any other American wouldn't do under the same circumstances. But as far as our adjustments have been, all the studies indicate we've done very well.


JOHN MCCAIN III: The period of adjustment was not as hard as you might think. I was able to go back to a squadron, a commanding officer of a squadron, which is what I always wanted to do.

ANDY MCCAIN: It was important for him to be able to fly again, so he did very aggressive physical therapy to get his body back in shape. Then he went to be the liaison for the Senate. And I think he got a real bug for politics there.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER US VICE PRESIDENT: I ended up in the United States Senate in 1973. John came shortly thereafter as a Navy liaison. When you travel abroad, you have a military escort with you. And every time I traveled, I tried to make sure I had John, and I think John did the same thing. And we traveled all over the world together.

JOHN MCCAIN III: I went everywhere. That's where I really became familiar with the Senate and how it works. I learned one heck of a lot.

ANDY MCCAIN: As dad progressed, he was gone a lot. He was doing a lot of international travel, and he was putting a little stress on the marriage.


JOHN MCCAIN III: I talked to (inaudible) since I've come home. He asked me how my marriage was, and I told him it was fine. And then he told me about the fact that he was getting divorced for (inaudible).


CINDY MCCAIN: I was a teacher of special education at the time in Arizona. And it was spring break and we were invited to a reception that was being held for a group of United States senators on their way through Hawaii to china. He introduced himself to me, and I just didn't know what to expect. And what I saw was just this incredible human being that's a lot of fun to be around.

CAROL MCCAIN: This was about the time our marriage was falling apart. He was looking for a way to be young again and that was the end of that. I didn't know anything about it. I had no idea what was going on. I was pretty much blind-sided and it broke my heart.

SIDNEY MCCAIN: I think it was the last thing that she was expecting. We were all shocked and heart broken. It caused quite a -- a rift within the family.

DOUG MCCAIN: It left a bad taste in my mouth because I knew it's not what my mother wanted, but by the same token, you know that sometimes things are beyond your control. I think the divorce rates among the POWs were extraordinary high. So in hindsight, it's probably not unexpected.

CINDY MCCAIN: I really didn't think that he would propose. You know, he was older. I knew he cared very deeply for me. I did know that.

SIDNEY MCCAIN: Cindy, I think, she was very young, too. And you can't help who you fall in love with. I truly believe that my dad is very much in love with -- with Cindy, and I think she is very much in love with him. And I think there's something really beautiful about that. At the time, it was really awful.

CAROL MCCAIN: I got a telephone call from the Navy. They wanted to know did I know where John was. And I said, "Yes, I did know where he was. He was now remarried." I had the phone number, and I called him. And he knew by my voice that something was wrong. And he said, "What is it?" And I said, "Your father has died."

CINDY MCCAIN: We hadn't even married a year. No one ever wants this kind of insight into a family, but what I observed was a family of great strength, great honor, great dignity. The importance of legacy and tradition was never more apparent to me than that day.

JOHN MCCAIN III: There's not an exaggeration when we say Navy family. There's a lot to the Navy family. My grandfather was commander of the carriers in the Pacific during World War II. The day of the peace signing, my father and grandfather were together. My grandfather flew home the next day, had a heart attack and died. My father was a very dedicated naval officer. I never got as close to my father as perhaps I would have under normal circumstances, but I was so proud of what he and my grandfather were doing.

CINDY MCCAIN: John had retired from the Navy just during that week, and so finished the retirement process during the days of the funeral. And we left the next day to go home. That's a lot to absorb.

JOHN MCCAIN III: I was unable to maintain flight status that puts a ceiling, and I had a make a tough decision, and I decided since I was not going to be able to reach all the heights that I wanted to that I would get out of the Navy and that we would go to Arizona.

CINDY MCCAIN: I felt he had some political ambitions, but he hadn't really outwardly said it to me. But I knew he was good at what he does, he was engaged in Washington, and he was a smart thinker.

GRANT WOODS: I think if he had his choice, he would have gone on and become an admiral, and there would have been that symmetry there with his father and grandfather. Whether he likes it or not, that would have been something, okay? But that wasn't possible. However, he was going to serve his country in some way.


JOHN MCCAIN III: I'm announcing today my decision to become a candidate for the Republican nomination.

CINDY MCCAIN: He was running for what had been John Rhodes' seat. And one of the first things I remember was a gentleman at a rotary club that said, "Well, you're not from Arizona. What do you know about Arizona? You're not a native Arizonaen."

GRANT WOODS: He threw a line on them in the first debate that ended the carpet bagger controversy. He said, "Well, you know, sorry, but the longest I've ever lived anywhere in my life is in Hanoi." And that was the end of that discussion, frankly.

The idea was to get him in front of as many people as you could. So he, every day, was out knocking on doors, door-to-door to door to door to door all summer long. He would just engage with them, he just talk with them. Now, if someone was rude, John being John, you know, he'd walk and turn around and say, "Oh, thank you very much," and turn around and go what an (BLEEP) that guy. I mean, that happened 100 times, you know, but that's John.

If he would've had the energy of a regular candidate then he would've lost. But we won so that was -- that was awesome. But our goal from day one was for John to be in the Senate, not to be in the House.

JOHN MCCAIN III: It became known that Barry Goldwater was going to retire some two years, three years later, and so right then I started positioning myself for running for Barry's seat in the Senate. I didn't make a lot of bones about it. I was always looking the next step down the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he came to the Senate, he was already a well- known commodity. He was already respected. I don't think John missed a beat coming over to the Senate.

CINDY MCCAIN: When John was first elected and we started having children, it was a conscious decision by both of us to raise our children in Arizona.


JOHN MCCAIN III: Hi, this is John. Can I speak to Deb? Good. Jimmy, let me see you're phone in. Where did you get that phone, huh? How are you doing? Oh, the kids are getting ready to go for their swimming party today for the last day of school. And one of those parties is here.


CINDY MCCAIN: We knew there would be a huge sacrifice, mainly for him because, I mean, he's the one that had to commute.

The way I portrayed it to the kids is kind of a deployed manner. He is serving his country. He is away, he has to be away but, you know, you'll see him on the weekends. With that said, he never missed a weekend.


JOHN MCCAIN III: Yes, it's the first time that I had -- that I had done that, and -- and I -- I promise you the cat will come out if you leave her alone.


MEGHAN MCCAIN: I know that people think it's sort of an unorthodox way to grow up having your parents divided, but they made such an attempt to make sure that we had family time and traveled together that it's just as when it's your normal, you don't think of anything different.


JOHN MCCAIN III: Good, okay. Good, okay. See you later. All right.


JOHN MCCAIN IV, JOHN MCCAIN'S SON: When my dad was in D.C., it was mostly my mom. She has a very kind demeanor generally, but when the -- the mom needs to come out, she will. But depending on how much we had misbehaved, it was always the threat of you want me to call your father? He has the ability to out-argue or out-think any member of our family, which is very frustrating when you're young.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man is a United States Senator and you are about to hear him say something that very few senators have ever said before.

JOHN MCCAIN III: It was a very serious mistake on my part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain is talking about the role he played in Charles Keating's attempt in 1987 to secure senatorial protection against the federal government taking over his Lincoln Savings and Loan.


JOHN MCCAIN III: Charles keating was a very big builder. He was probably, at that time, the biggest in Arizona. He also was very patriotic and he took a liking to me, and he helped me with my campaigns.

GRANT WOODS: He was a big Arizona player. He would support candidates and get behind candidates and raise a lot of money. Then he bought some savings and loans, and that's where it all kind of went south on him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Examiners from the federal hol home loan bank found what they described as a ticking time bomb. The examiners also uncovered evidence of improper bookkeeping and possible fraud, then the federal examiners were summoned for an extraordinary meeting with five United States senators. Each senator had gotten large campaign donations from Keating, his family and their associates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the most explosive testimony yet, Edwin Gray, the former chief regulator of savings and loan industry told Banking Committee Chairman Henry Gonzalez that four U.S. senators asked him to ease regulatory pressure on troubled Lincoln Savings and Loan.


CINDY MCCAIN: John still tells me when he walked in the door of that meeting that had been arranged for this he knew that this was going to be a problem. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN III: I'm doing everything that I can to try and set the record straight, again admitting that I made mistakes and serious ones, but I did not abuse my office. And I think that's the key to this issue here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told me this was the political crisis of your life.

JOHN MCCAIN III: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just tell me why it is.

JOHN MCCAIN III: Because -- because my reputation is at stake here. I've never had my ethics and my standards of conduct questioned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you'll survive it?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hearings begin this week into what has already been called a major congressional scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never before have five senators been accused of intervening with federal regulators to help a campaign contributor. This case raises troubling questions about money, power and political influence in Washington.

JOHN MCCAIN III: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Once again I'm glad to have the opportunity to fully and public account for my relationship with Charles Keating.


CINDY MCCAIN: The hearings took place day in and day out. And watching my husband being dressed down by people, in my opinion, that couldn't hold a candle to him killed me. I mean, it broke my heart.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. McCain and his family took several flights on ACC Corporate aircraft and charted aircraft. Two, prompt reimbursement was made for only one of the flights.


CINDY MCCAIN: He has his own worst critic and holds himself to a higher standard. He really does. He tries his hardest to be the best and do the most honorable thing, and that was just a -- it was a mess.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, that statement does not show in evidence of

intent to reimburse for family members. Once again, I have nothing to gain personally ...


CINDY MCCAIN: It was not a good time for any of us. And I became ill. I -- I was medicating myself. I mean, it was all -- you know, it did a number on both of us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, let's talk a little bit about ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn't it be a proper time we take a recess.



JOE BIDEN: John would come over to my office (inaudible), and we'd sit and talk. And I'd say, "John, look, you've just got to -- everybody is going to understand and just tough it out here, tough it out. But it killed John.

MARK SALTER: First and foremost, it was a matter of honor. The second thing it challenged was his restlessness and his impatience. It just dragged on. He needed to get to a place where he could put it in his rearview mirror like he put every bad thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The committee concludes that Senator McCain exercised poor judgment in intervening with the regulators. Senator McCain has violated no law of the United States or a specific rule of the United States senate, therefore, the committee concludes that no further action is warranted with respect to Senator McCain on the matters investigated during the preliminary inquiry.


JOHN MCCAIN III: I was found guilty of bad judgment. That will always be a black mark on my record. Even if it was only using, quote, "bad judgment," it was wrong.


JOHN MCCAIN III: Until we abolish soft money, Americans will never have a government that works as hard for them as it does for special interests. That is a sad but undeniable fact of contemporary politics.


CINDY MCCAIN: I think campaign finance reform was a result of what happened of the Keating (inaudible). He saw a system that was really corrupt and really needed to be reformed.


JOHN MCCAIN III: The process must begin. Campaign finance reform is contributed to the level of cynicism that is prevalent in the American citizens today.


JOE LIEBERMAN: He stepped out, he stepped away from most members of his party. He formed a bipartisan coalition with Russ Feingold and others, and he fought like hell for it.


JOHN MCCAIN III: I think we're toidoing the right thing by trying to do this on a bipartisan basis because I think it's the only way that campaign finance reform can occur.


JOE LIEBERMAN: The basic John McCain public image is the tough guy, the maveric, the fighter, if necessary in your face maybe occasionally showing temper. But visions of him as the stubborn, immovable McCain don't allow for the reality that he's at a very productive career as a U.S. senator because he's not been stubborn and immovable.

VICKI KENNEDY, SENATOR TEDDY KENNEDY'S WIFE: Teddy loved working with John McCain. He said they could sort of go at it and then come back and still be friends. And I think that was the essence of being able to really do a deal. I think that's why they worked so well together. They were all moving towards something that was good for the country, and they might have a different way of getting there. But as they talked it out, if they worked it out, they could find that common ground to move things forward.

JOE BIDEN: Around the mid 90's, John and I used to sit on the floor together where there's a debate. I'd go over and sit next to John on his desk, and he puled over and sit next to me. And some senator said, "Why are you sitting with McCain?" I said, "He's my friend." Well, it doesn't look good. I mean, my God.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER US PRESIDENT: He was always open to doing something that people didn't expect him to do like support campaign finance reform. And McCain, I think both for noble motives and out of practical experience, was always willing to break the mold he was in if it was clearly the right thing to do. And that's an invaluable commodity.

DAVID BROOKS: Campaign finance reform made him very unpopular in the conservative movement, but I really don't think he cared. He was driven by a sense that something dishonorable was going on. He was really a missile that aimed itself at anything dishonorable. And wherever he saw a stain, he was driven to go after it.


held prisoners of war will be released. That will be the fullest possible accounting for all of those who are missing in action. I would like to say a word to the families of our prisoners of war and the missing in action. Nothing means more to me, at this moment, and the fact that your long vigil is coming to an end.

JOHN KERRY: We're here because almost 19 years after the formal termination of the war in Vietnam, the POW/MIA issue still haunts America. The task of this Committee, therefore, over the next year, is clear. It is to prove to all concerned that we will leave no stone unturned, no question unasked, no effort unexplored in order to try to resolve this issue. Some might ask, what will make ...


JOHN MCCAIN III: John Kerry and I were in strong disagreement concerning his activities against the war, but I also respect the fact that John Kerry served.

JOHN KERRY: John, in his spirit of trying to reach out and put history in its proper place, became friendly with a lot of people who had opposed the war. And we began a conversation, which ultimately led the two of us to the same conclusion, which was the war still raged in too many hearts in our country. We were not at peace with ourselves, and both of us saw a strategic value in trying to move to a different place with respect to the relationship with Vietnam.

JOHN MCCAIN III: We agreed to work to get a full accounting of those who are missing in action and normalized relations between our two countries.


JOHN KERRY: There are too many families who, for whatever reasons, are not getting the answers that they deserve to have, not being treated the way that they deserve to be treated, and that has to change.


JOHN KERRY: John and I understood that whatever strategic interests we might have had in moving to a different relationship with Vietnam would never be possible unless those questions were put to rest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, the U.S. government has new information from Vietnam that could help determine what became of many of these Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The promise to come clean was made over the weekend in Hanoi to Retired General John Vessey and Senator John McCain. Vessey and McCain returned from Hanoi last night carrying an inventory of documents and photos hidden away in the Vietnamese archives. JOHN MCCAIN III: The Vietnamese provided us with a lot of

photographs. They were kind enough to give me several that -- that I had not seen before, which I'd like to show you I'm much better looking in those days than I am today. And I want to stress what General Vessey said, just again, this is a beginning, a beginning.


MARK SALTER: There was this theory that the Vietnamese were holding thousands of Americans still prisoner, which McCain intellectually understood, informed by experience, was highly implausible.


JOHN MCCAIN III: May I say, Mr. Chairman, that Mrs. Alphon's (ph) remarks in a written statement are far stronger than what she just alleged. Quote, "The recent 4,800 photograph fiasco is yet another example of committee duplicity." I'd like you to tell that to some of the families who have finally had this nightmare ended, Mrs. Alphon. I'd like if you can tell it to them.

MRS. ALPHON: I've been speaking to them, Sir.


MRS. ALPHON: I've been speaking to them.

JOHN MCCAIN III: No, I've been talking to them, and they are grateful, and they are happy. And this is a -- this is a -- in the view of most experts a significant breakthrough. Now, we used to call it ...


JOHN KERRY: What we did was put together the single most exhaustive, most transparent accounting for missing in war ever performed by any country in the world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any evidence that there are anymore alive missing?

JOHN MCCAIN III: There's still no evidence that would prove that there's Americans alive. They're getting down to not a whole lot of cases that are still unresolved. And we continue to get cooperation from the Vietnamese. Senator Kerry and I are going to meet with the president next week, and we'll give him a report and he will have to make up his mind from there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, come over and talk to us.


MARK SALTER: In the last meeting about the normalization of relations with Vietnam, they still hadn't convinced Clinton to do it. Kerry made the informed, logical, compelling case for it, and then Clinton turned to McCain, and I'll always remember it. He just said, "Mr. President, I'm tired of looking back at Vietnam, and I'm tired of my country looking back. It's time to move forward. And if you normalize relations, I will defend you every step of the way."


BILL CLINTON: Today I am announcing the normalization of diplomatic relationships with Vietnam.



BILL CLINTON: I realize, because I hadn't served in the military, and because I had openly opposed the Vietnam War, I had to have the support of American veterans. If McCain hadn't been there and been willing to step-up, I don't think any of it would have happened.


BILL CLINTON: Let this moment in the words of scripture be a time to heal and a time to build. Thank you all. And God bless America.