When examining the chart it's important to note that although most of the candidates seem quite different, in substance they occupy a relatively restricted area within the universal political spectrum. Democracies with a system of proportional representation give expression to a wider range of political views. While Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader are depicted on the extreme left in an American context, they would simply be mainstream social democrats within the wider political landscape of Europe. Similarly, Obama is popularly perceived as a leftist in the United States while elsewhere in the west his record is that of a moderate conservative. For example, in the case of the death penalty he is not an uncompromising abolitionist, while mainstream conservatives in all other western democracies are deeply opposed to capital punishment. The Democratic party's presidential candidate also reneged on his commitment to oppose the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He sided with the ultra conservative bloc in the Supreme Court against the Washington DC handgun ban and for capital punishment in child rape cases. He supports President Bush's faith-based initiatives and is reported in Fortune to have said that NAFTA isn't so bad. Despite all this, some angry emailers tell us that Obama is a dangerous socialist who belongs on the extreme left of our chart. In an apparently close race, genuine leftists McKinney and Nader may attract sufficient votes from Obama to deliver McCain to the Oval Office.
There is no question that McCain suffered hideously in North Vietnam. His ejection over a lake in downtown Hanoi broke his knee and both his arms. During his capture, he was bayoneted in the ankle and the groin, and had his shoulder smashed by a rifle butt. His tormentors dragged McCain's broken body to a cell and seemed content to let him expire from his injuries. For the next two years, there were few days that he was not in agony.
But the subsequent tale of McCain's mistreatment — and the transformation it is alleged to have produced — are both deeply flawed. The Code of Conduct that governed POWs was incredibly rigid; few soldiers lived up to its dictate that they "give no information . . . which might be harmful to my comrades." Under the code, POWs are bound to give only their name, rank, date of birth and service number — and to make no "statements disloyal to my country."
Soon after McCain hit the ground in Hanoi, the code went out the window. "I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital," he later admitted pleading with his captors. McCain now insists the offer was a bluff, designed to fool the enemy into giving him medical treatment. In fact, his wounds were attended to only after the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a Navy admiral. What has never been disclosed is the manner in which they found out: McCain told them. According to Dramesi, one of the few POWs who remained silent under years of torture, McCain tried to justify his behavior while they were still prisoners. "I had to tell them," he insisted to Dramesi, "or I would have died in bed."