The unlikeliest endorsement

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal carried a page-one story by Yaroslav Trofimov reporting the unlikeliest endorsement of this campaign season:

[T]he jailers who once tortured Sen. McCain are lining up to offer effusive — if somewhat embarrassing — endorsements for his presidential candidacy.

“If I had a vote in the U.S., I would choose McCain,” beams retired Col. Tran Trong Duyet, the [Hanoi Hilton prison] camp’s former commander. “I want him in the White House.”

Col. Duyet’s sentiment is not an eccentricity:

This unlikely sentiment is widely shared in this fast-growing country of 85 million. “The majority of the people in Vietnam know Sen. McCain and feel comfortable about him,” says Duong Trung Quoc, a member of Vietnam’s National Assembly and secretary-general of the Association of Vietnamese Historians. “Nobody here knows about Obama.”

Col. Duyet denies that McCain was mistreated at the Hanoi Hilton, but Trofimov even made progress on this count:

Among a handful of interviewed former Hoa Lo personnel, only retired Col. Pham Cong Khoi, who served as a cell guard responsible for Sen. McCain, offered a reluctant admission that the “Hanoi Hilton” was not quite the paradise it’s made out to be.

“I personally did not beat anyone,” he said when asked about Sen. McCain’s accounts of frequent thrashings. “But it is very normal that something like this happens in prison, when you question someone and they don’t want to answer you.” Minutes later, Mr. Khoi returned to toeing the party line. “We saved McCain’s life and treated him well,” he insisted with a broad smile. “And in return we think McCain will do something good for Vietnam.”

It’s a strange year.

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