Sen. John McCain praised former President Bill Clinton on Friday for overseeing the U.S. rapprochement with Vietnam in the 1990s.
McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential candidate, delivered his remarks at the Clinton School of Public Service of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Politico reports.
Clinton showed political courage by moving to recognize Vietnam in 1995 even though the former president did not serve in the military, McCain said.
“About twenty or so years ago, it seemed to some of us that Americans had been fighting about the Vietnam War long enough, and the time had come to begin a relationship with our former adversary that served shared interests rather than perpetuate old grievances,” McCain said, according to his prepared remarks. “So we began advocating for the normalization of relations with Vietnam.
“We only dealt with the Vietnamese on a single issue, an important one: accounting for Americans who were still listed as missing-in-action or as prisoners-of-war. … We had reached the point where we were finally putting the issue to rest. It was time to move on.
“That was a relatively easy position for me to take,” he added. “I think it was the right thing to do, and I’m proud I did it. But it didn’t require any political courage on my part.
“That was not the case for President Clinton,” McCain said. He wasn’t a veteran and wasn’t protected from criticism as I was. He had to risk his self-interest to do the right thing. He had to have courage. And he did.”
On Thursday, McCain was feted on Capitol Hill to mark the 40th anniversary of his release from a North Vietnamese prison. In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, McCain was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.
He was a prisoner of war until March 14, 1973.
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