Friends of Republican Senator John McCain have firmly rejected conspiracy theories that he is a brainwashed "Manchurian Candidate" bidding to become US president. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years, has been offered support by President George Bush, whose policies the senator strongly opposed in the early years of his administration until he radically and unexpectedly shifted positions to completely agree with them. "John McCain is an independent thinker and these crackpot accusations are beyond offensive," Bush told reporters, before turning to address McCain directly. "Lieutenant McCain... Lieutenant John McCain... John Sidney McCain... Listen," Bush said, holding up a Queen of Diamonds playing card.