by Jordan Zakarin
Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee John McCain made a brief stop in his Middle Eastern tour early Sunday to visit the grave site of a close childhood friend. The Arizona Senator, one of the many early morning visitors to the site just outside Jerusalem, paid his respects to a friend he described as inseparable from him while growing up.
Aside from his family’s brief move to Egypt, McCain and the friend grew up down the street from each other for their entire childhoods. “He was always the more outgoing, rambunxious one. He would do things to get attention, and was prone to wandering off. One time, his parents found him leading a group in prayer, which was funny because he had no idea what he was talking about.”
Eventually, McCain admits, the two would drift apart, not unlike many close childhood friends. As they grew up, the pair formed different political views, and often debated both domestic and foreign policy. “While I became more of a conservative, in favor of personal responsibility and a muscular foreign policy, he was much more of a liberal; much more in favor of welfare programs, and a dove when it came to issues of war and peace.”
The gradual drift was also partly a result of circumstances neither had any control over. Each young man, eager to please his father, chose divergent paths; McCain would follow his father’s footsteps and enlist in the Navy, while the friend chose a less rigid, more spiritual path.
“I think it was a big shock to his system when he found out the man he thought was his father wasn’t really his father at all. That set him off on his own journey, and our relationship kind of faded from there.”
McCain kept tabs on his friend’s adventures through a mutual friend named Luke, and the stories he was told did not surprise him. “Growing up where we did, there were many chances to get caught up in some bad things, and it made you grow up real quick, made you strong. I remember hearing about at least three instances where he could have given into the temptations offered by some pretty shady people. He kept his nose out of trouble, though, and I’ve always been proud of that.”
Having shown a proclivity for card tricks from an early age, McCain’s friend took his illusions act on the road, gaining a devoted following of magic fans along the way. “He was always a charismatic guy, and I can see why people really fell for his act, even if some of the things he did and said would seem a bit inane by today’s standards,” the Republican said.
Despite the distance, like many childhood friends, the two would in many ways share mirroring stories. McCain, whose plane was shot down in Vietnam, was tortured for five years by North Vietnamese soldiers. The friend, treading deeper and deeper into enemy territory, was also caught and tortured by hostile forces, though unlike the Senator, he did not make it through the inhuman treatment.
“It’s funny how things work out,” McCain reflected. “We went in seemingly very different directions, but in the end, we weren’t so different. We both went through a lot for what we believe in, and stayed true to ourselves, and, in a way, to each other. I think that’s a testament to our upbringing, and I feel that we both made our fathers proud. I just wish he could come back for just one day, so I could give him a proper goodbye.”