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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 15:18 GMT
John McCain:The legend was not enough

From day one of his campaign for the Republican nomination John McCain was marketed as the all-American war hero.

At a time when America searches for heroes to lead us, it has the genuine article in John McCain

Introduction to John McCain biography
The Arizona Senator certainly had a compelling life story commensurate with that of a living legend.

But after a bitterly fought campaign, in the end it seems even that was not enough to compete with the massive financial resources and party favour behind his only serious rival, Texas Governor George W Bush. McCain withdrew from the fight for the Republican candidacy in March.

McCain first came into the public eye when his US Navy jet was shot down during the Vietnam War in a bombing raid on Hanoi in October 1967.

At the time his father was an admiral and Commander in Chief of Pacific forces. The North Vietnamese recognised the propaganda value in offering the young pilot early release.

Keeping to the code

But McCain, whose broken body had been seen on television screens around the world, refused to break the military code that prisoners of war are released in the order that they are captured.

Thus began five hard years of imprisonment, during which he was subjected to beatings and torture at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison.

He eventually returned to the US walking on crutches and still finds it difficult to move one of his arms above shoulder level.

And so a modern American legend was born - a marketing opportunity used to great political effect.

At speaking engagements, he is usually introduced with reference to his war record.

Campaign launch pad

An aggressive opponent of the tobacco industry and the influence of money on US politics

His best-selling book, Faith of my Fathers - which made much of his early life, family background and experiences in Vietnam - became the launch pad for his presidential campaign.

McCain has gained a reputation as a tough maverick and during his career in the Senate has become a important voice on foreign affairs.

But McCain is also notorious among Republicans for refusing to toe the party line on big issues.

He is an aggressive opponent of the tobacco industry and the influence of money on US politics, two issues that have brought him immense media popularity.

Despite the maverick image though, he remains a conservative through and through particularly on the key issue of abortion.

Patriotic challenge

But his record has not been entirely glorious. His marriage to his first wife, who had waited for him to come back from Vietnam, fell apart after he had a number of affairs. He remarried in 1980.

And soon after entering the Senate he became embroiled in a scandal related to allegedly corrupt contributions to his and other political campaigns.

Others have claimed that McCain's stance on campaign finance reform does not meet proper scrutiny.

Launching his presidential campaign in September last year, McCain called for a "new patriotic challenge" that would fight "against the pervasive cynicism that is debilitating our democracy ... a fight to take our government back from the power brokers and special interests."

It was a powerful message and one that brought him early success in the influential New Hampshire primary.

Ultimately though that did not give him the momentum to see his campaign through against the might of the Bush machine.

Bowing out of the race after a poor showing in the Super Tuesday primaries he pointedly did not endorse Governor Bush as the Republican candidate, instead wishing him well for his campaign.

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