Republican Sen. John McCain, 81, has diedafter a long battle with brain cancer.
The Arizona senator was diagnosed with an aggressive form of glioblastoma and began treatment for the disease in July 2017.
McCain appeared to be undeterred for several months after his diagnosis was made public.
He was seen back at work on Capitol Hill last fall and weighed in on major legislative policies, including the annual defence authorization bill and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I don’t mean to be repetitious, but to my Democrat friends and some of my Republican friends: I’m coming back,” McCain said during a Facebook Live event in August last year.
McCain made headlines upon his return – including when he dramatically voted no on the Republican version of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
His career as a public servant spanned decades of honorable service, and despite some challenges along the way, McCain established himself as a key figurehead of the Republican Party. Few lawmakers on Capitol Hill will match the legacy he leaves behind.
Here’s a look back at John McCain’s incredible life:
McCain graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1958 and served as a pilot.
Early in his career in naval aviation, McCain’s flying ability and judgment were questioned after he crashed three planes. His commanders were said to have sarcastically called him “Ace McCain” because of his record.
“John was what you called a push-the-envelope guy,” Sam Hawkins, who flew in McCain’s squadron in the 1960s, told the Los Angeles Times. “There are some naval aviators who are on the cautious side. They don’t get out on the edges, but the edges are where you get the maximum out of yourself and out of your plane. That’s where John operated.”
On October 26, 1967, during the Vietnam War, McCain was flying over Hanoi when a surface-to-air missile hit his plane’s wing, forcing him to eject.
“Some North Vietnamese swam out and pulled me to the side of the lake and immediately started stripping me, which is their standard procedure,” McCain wrote in USA Today.
“Of course, this being in the center of town, a huge crowd of people gathered, and they were all hollering and screaming and cursing and spitting and kicking at me.”
McCain broke both of his arms and his right knee. He had lost consciousness until he hit the water after ejecting from the plane.
McCain was held as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) for five and a half years. He was subjected to torture and solitary confinement in a Vietnamese prison nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton.”
Upon learning that McCain’s father was an admiral in the Navy, who would eventually command all US forces in the Pacific, NVA forces provided medical care to McCain. Doctors performed surgery on his leg, according to McCain, but made incorrect incisions on one side and cut all the ligaments.
McCain would spend the rest of his life walking with a noticeable limp.
McCain was released on March 14, 1973.
The North Vietnamese Army had previously offered McCain his freedom, but he refused, thinking that it would bring shame and demoralize his fellow POWs.
Carol, McCain’s first wife, raised three children while he was gone, and was reportedly recovering from a devastating car crash that left her impaired for months.
McCain made several trips back to Vietnam to bridge relations with the US.
McCain would eventually retire from the Navy in 1981 as a captain. His awards include a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross.
“I have watched men suffer the anguish of imprisonment, defy appalling human cruelty … break for a moment, then recover inhuman strength to defy their enemies once more,” McCain said to the Naval Academy’s graduating class in 1993. “All these things and more, I have seen. And so will you. My time is slipping by. Yours is fast approaching. You will know where your duty lies. You will know.”
Source: Stars and Stripes
Some areas of the prison where McCain was held were converted into a museum, dedicated to the historic link between his service and the Vietnam War.
During a visit to the infamous jail, McCain said he could not forgive the jailers who mistreated and killed fellow POWs.
McCain remarried to Cindy Hensley in 1980 and had a daughter, two sons, and adopted another daughter from Bangladesh.
Source: Los Angeles Times
After serving as a Navy liaison in the Senate, McCain took the leap into politics and was elected as a House representative for Arizona in 1982.
As a newcomer to the state, McCain was labelled a carpetbagger by critics. While being assailed by his political opponents about his lack of connection to Arizona “for the thousandth time,” he eventually snapped during a debate:
“Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”
“Looking back, I think the race was effectively over right then,” McCain recalled in his autobiography. “But I didn’t know that then. I was just mad and had taken a swing.”
Source: New York Times, AZ Central
And after serving two terms in the House, he sought Arizona’s Senate seat and won a landslide victory in 1986.
As a senator, McCain was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He would eventually become the chairman of the committee, weighing on a variety of matters involving the US military, such as funding and mission scope.
Source: AZ Central
But his time as a senator was also marked scandal.
McCain was one of the “Keating Five” – five senators who tried to persuade federal regulators to ease up on Charles Keating, a major campaign donor who became financially compromised during the 1980s savings-and-loan crisis.
McCain, who left relatively unscathed after the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation, was deemed to have exercised “poor judgment.” While the other four senators retired in the 1990s, he was the only one left standing after embarking on a de facto public affairs campaign and exposed himself to the public eye.
“Despite my recovery, the Keating Five experience was not one that I have walked away from as easily as I have other bad times,” McCain said in his memoir. “Twelve years after its conclusion, I still wince thinking about it and find that if I do not repress the memory, its recollection still provokes a vague but real feeling that I had lost something very important, something that was sacrificed in the pursuit of gratifying ambitions, my own and others.”
Undeterred by the scandal, McCain began to earn the nickname “Maverick” from colleagues on both sides of the political aisle as he advocated for campaign finance reform and against government waste.
In the 1990s, McCain took on special interest groups, such as tobacco industry, and pushed for raising taxes on cigarettes to pay for anti-smoking advertisements. But McCain’s anti-tobacco bill ultimately fell short after the tobacco industry launched a $US40 million advertising campaign.
“The losers are the children of America,” McCain said.
Regardless of the outcome for some of his ambitious reforms, McCain’s was easily reelected in 1992 and 1998.
Source: AZ Central
By now, McCain became a household name in politics. He set his sights higher and announced he was running for president in 1999.
After losing several states in the primaries to then-Gov. George W. Bush, McCain withdrew and endorsed Bush.
One of McCain’s crowning achievements in the Senate was the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002.
McCain, along with Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Winsonsin, helped enact the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, one of the first major amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. The regulation was designed to regulate financing for political organisations and curb the influx of soft money.
Following the 9/11 attacks, McCain supported the US-led coalition war in Afghanistan.
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, McCain explained his support for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“There is no avoiding the war we are in today, any more than we could have avoided world war after our fleet was bombed at Pearl Harbour,” McCain wrote. “America is under attack by a depraved, malevolent force that opposes our every interest and hates every value we hold dear.”
“War is a miserable business. Let’s get on with it.”
McCain also supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claimed Saddam Hussein was “turning Iraq into a weapons assembly line for al-Qaida’s network.”
Although McCain continued to voice his support for US military options in Iraq, McCain later admitted it was a mistake.
“The principal reason for invading Iraq, that Saddam had [weapons of mass destruction], was wrong,” McCain wrote in his memoir. “The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it.”
Source: USA Today
McCain announced another presidential bid for 2008.
McCain gracefully spars with Sen. Barack Obama
McCain secured the Republican nomination in the primaries and faced off against Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the general election.
As McCain trailed behind polls, Obama’s critics sought to discredit him by promoting the false theory that he was a Muslim. During a campaign rally in 2008, one of McCain’s supporters explained why she did not trust Obama.
“I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not – he’s an Arab.”
McCain grabbed the microphone and shook his head.
“No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
McCain selects Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.
McCain later said he regretted the decision and wished he selected Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut, for his running mate.
“It was sound advice that I could reason for myself,” McCain said in his memoir. “But my gut told me to ignore it and I wish I had.”
McCain concedes: “This is an historic election, and I recognise the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.”
On November 5, 2008, McCain formally conceded and congratulated Obama on his victory.
“A little while ago, I had the honour of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him,” McCain said. “To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.”
“This is an historic election, and I recognise the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” McCain added. “I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.”
As the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain provided legislative oversight of the military and became a leading voice on veterans issues.
But as the chairman of the legislative body of military affairs, McCain also had to account for the military’s failures.
For the most part, McCain maintained friendly ties with other lawmakers, regardless of their political party.
In July 2017, McCain announced he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
McCain received broad support for his recovery from both sides of the political aisle.
“I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support – unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!” McCain said on Twitter.
McCain feuded with President Donald Trump.
Prior to making a move to politics, real-estate tycoon Donald Trump threw jabs at McCain by throwing cold water on his military service.
Trump said the former naval aviator “was captured,” and expressed doubt on whether he should be hailed as a hero.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at a leadership summit in 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
“I think John McCain’s done very little for the veterans,” Trump later said. “I’m very disappointed in John McCain.”
Trump would continue to echo the remarks throughout his presidency.
McCain remained critical of Trump’s presidency and did not shy from letting his feelings known. On Trump’s controversial performance at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, McCain described it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
McCain also denounced Trump’s repeated attacks on the press: “Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets,” McCain wrote in an op-ed. “This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit.”
The decisive healthcare vote.
A few weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer, McCain returned to the Senate floor and cast his stunning “no” vote and scuttled Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s healthcare bill on a 51-49 vote.
“Watch the show,” McCain said to reporters as he walked into the chamber before the vote.
The Republican-led “skinny repeal” would have repealed major portions of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, and McCain’s vote was crucial in derailing that effort.
McCain’s vote has been a source of ire from Trump, who frequently disparages McCain’s decision in his numerous campaign rallies.
McCain also had a gruff, but affectionate relationship with journalists.
McCain discontinues his brain cancer treatment.
On August 24, McCain announced he would discontinue his cancer treatment.
“In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival,” McCain’s family said in a statement. “But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.”
In a passage from his memoir, which was published in May, McCain writes:
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here. Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe, with the advances in oncology, they will find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you read this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”
“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may.”
“It’s been quite a ride.”
“It’s been quite a ride,” McCain continued in his memoir. “I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”
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