For a candidate who relies on his carefully cultivated image as a straight-talking, maverick, few issues are as symbolically important to John McCain as torture. No Republican has been as outspoken an opponent of prisoner mistreatment and abuse as McCain, and his own painful experience as a prisoner during the Vietnam War has granted him a unique moral authority on the issue.
So there is nothing the Democrats would like to do more than portray McCain as a rank hypocrite, someone who has sidled up to George W. Bush and flip-flopped on torture, all for political gain -- which is exactly what Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean claimed in March. "It is shameful that George Bush and John McCain lack the courage to ban torture," Dean said in a statement. "And it is reprehensible that McCain changed his position on torture just to win an election."