The most revealing reports are from the early years. In March 1973, two weeks after McCain's release, a psychiatrist deems his "emotional status" to be "stable" and says McCain has an "overdeveloped superego," or sense of conscience and morality, and an "unrealistically high" need for achievement. "He may tend to expect too much of himself and take it hard when/if things don't go as planned." Imprisonment seems to have cured one of McCain's problems as well: as one who had long sought to escape the shadow of his famous Navy father, McCain "feels his experience and performance as a POW have finally permitted this to happen," according to his 1974 evaluation. McCain also tells a psychiatrist that among the benefits of his POW experience "he learned to control his temper better, to not become angry over insignificant things." Included in the records is a 1984 IQ test. His score, 133, would rank him among the most intelligent Presidents in history.
There are a few unflattering disclosures. References are made to McCain's "histrionic pattern of personality adjustment" or "mildly hysterical traits," but the technical terms sound more dramatic than they really are. In essence, the doctors were saying McCain was prone to emotional excitability. But they said he could control it. The campaign blotted out most references to his feelings about his family during the years when his first marriage was unraveling.
Most of the documents pertain to the wreck of a body McCain brought back from Vietnam, specifically the five or so shattered bones that had either gone untreated or were mistreated by his captors. In recent years, McCain has had several skin cancers removed from his face and shoulders. But the report from a 1980 physical included a potentially embarrassing mention of what the doctor believed to be "herpetic lesions" on his genitals. Navy doctors who reviewed his records in the past few weeks, however, say McCain has never had a recurrence of the lesions, making it "very unlikely" he actually suffered from herpes.
That McCain felt compelled to release all this information is testimony to two things: first, to the power of the whispered allegations against him; and, second, to McCain's instinct for candor. At a holiday party last Friday night, McCain joked about how the moderators at last week's debate seemed obsessed with his temper. "They kept asking, 'Are you crazy? Are you crazy?'" Answer: No crazier than anyone else who would run for President.