It is just a matter of how much brainwashing (aka re-education or thought reform) did he receive. He also cooperated with the communists in certain propaganda acts, such as interviews with foreign journalists. Since McCain was an American pilot and son and grandson of American Admirals, it is a very safe bet that he received an extremely severe level of brainwashing or “thought reform,” as it is called technically by psychologists, in order to make him sympathetic to the communist way of thinking.
McCain admits that he was “broken” and signed a confession. This comes at the end of an intense brainwashing program for a high value target, like John McCain was.
Due to movies like the “Manchurian Candidate,” the public often thinks that brainwashing programs a person to do a specific act. That is not generally true. Rather, it changes your fundamental way of thinking. Different people may have somewhat different reactions, but some will have their thinking permanently altered, even when they have been long out of reach of their original communist tormentors.
Read the classic book by Robert J. Lifton to understand the brainwashing process better. Lifton did the first scientific study by a western academician of communist brainwashing. The goal is to destroy your identity and rebuild it in a way that is sympathetic to the communist philosophy.
The real question is how much does the brainwashing still affect McCain? The Examiner offers a number of examples of events, in which McCain appears to be supportive of anti-American causes and actions. It certainly seems that the brainwashing, re-education or thought reform, as you may like to call it, is still very much in effect for John McCain.
A person that has been through such a process should not be instrumental in national policy making, as McCain is. There is just too much risk that he would not be psychologically fit for it, as McCain reveals in some of his own actions and attitudes.