- Category : Political
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (12,36,59)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 3
John Sidney McCain III (born August 29, 1936) is the senior United States Senator from Arizona and a candidate for the Republican Party nomination in the 2008 presidential election.
Both McCain's grandfather and father were Admirals in the United States Navy. McCain also attended the United States Naval Academy and finished near the bottom of his graduating class in 1958. McCain became a naval aviator flying attack aircraft from carriers. Participating in the Vietnam War, he narrowly escaped death during the 1967 Forrestal fire. On his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam later in 1967, he was shot down and badly injured. He became a prisoner of war. He endured five and a half years of captivity, including periods of torture, before he was released following the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.
Retiring from the Navy in 1981 and moving to Arizona, McCain soon entered politics. In 1982 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona's 1st congressional district. After serving two terms there, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona in 1986. He was subsequently re-elected Senator in 1992, 1998, and 2004. While generally an adherent to American conservatism, McCain established a reputation as a political maverick for his willingness to defy Republican orthodoxy on several issues. Surviving the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s, he made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually led to the passing of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002.
McCain was a candidate in the 2000 presidential election, but was defeated by George W. Bush for the Republican nomination after closely contested battles in several early primary states. In the 2008 presidential election, he was the nominal front-runner as the cycle began, but suffered a near collapse of his campaign in mid-2007 due to financial issues and his support for comprehensive immigration reform. He is attempting a comeback as the 2008 primaries begin.
Early life and military career
Family background and early education
McCain was born on August 29, 1936 in Panama at the Coco Solo Air Base in the then American-controlled Panama Canal Zone to Admiral John S. "Jack" McCain, Jr. and Roberta (Wright) McCain. Both his father and grandfather were United States Navy admirals, and were in fact the first father-son pair to both achieve four-star admiral rank. His grandfather John S. "Slew" McCain, Sr. was a pioneer of aircraft carrier strategy who commanded all carrier forces in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II, led American forces into epic actions such as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and died four days after the conclusion of the war. His father was a submarine commander during World War II who won medals for heroism.
For the first ten years of his life, McCain was frequently uprooted as his family followed his father to New London, Connecticut, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and various other stations in the Pacific Ocean; McCain attended whatever naval base school was available, often to the detriment to his education. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, his father was absent for long stretches. As a child, John was known for a quick temper and an aggressive drive to compete and prevail. After World War II was over, his father stayed in the Navy, sometimes working political liaison posts; the family settled in Northern Virginia, and McCain attended the educationally stronger St. Stephen's School in Alexandria, Virginia from 1946 to 1949. Another two years was then spent following his father around to naval stations; altogether he would go to about twenty different schools during his youth. He then attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria beginning in 1951; it is a top private school with a rigorous honor code. McCain earned two varsity letters in wrestling, where he excelled in the lighter weight classes. He had a continued reputation as a fiery and contentious personality and graduated from high school in 1954.
Naval training, early assignments, marriage and family
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, McCain entered the United States Naval Academy. McCain was a rebellious midshipman and his career at the Naval Academy was ambivalent and lackluster. He had his share of run-ins with the faculty and leadership; each year he was given over 100 demerits (for unshined shoes, formation faults, talking out of place, and the like), earning him membership in the "Century Club". He did not take well to those of higher rank arbitrarily wielding power of him — "It was bullshit, and I resented the hell out of it" — and would sometimes intervene when he saw it being done to others. At 5 foot 7 inches and 127 pounds (1.70 m and 58 kg), he competed as a lightweight boxer for three years, where he lacked skills but was fearless and "didn't have a reverse gear." He did well in a few subjects that he was interested in, such as English literature, history and government. Despite his low standing, he was a leader among his fellow midshipmen, especially in organizing off-Yard activities; one classmate said that "being on liberty with John McCain was like being in a train wreck." Despite his difficulties, he later wrote that he never wavered in his desire to show his father and family that he was of the same mettle as his naval forbears. Dropping out was unthinkable and so he successfully completed his training and graduated from Annapolis in 1958; he was fifth from the bottom in class rank.
Upon his graduation McCain was commissioned an ensign, and spent two and a half years as a naval aviator in training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas, flying A-1 Skyraiders. He earned a reputation as a party man, as he drove a Corvette, dated an exotic dancer named "Marie the Flame of Florida", and, as he would later say, "generally misused my good health and youth." During a practice run in Corpus Christi, his aircraft crashed into Corpus Christi Bay, though he escaped without major injuries; another time he emerged intact from a collision with power lines over Spain. He was graduated from flight school in 1960 and became a naval pilot of attack aircraft.
McCain was stationed on the aircraft carriers USS Intrepid and USS Enterprise, in the Caribbean Sea. He was on alert duty on Enterprise when it imposed a blockade and quarantine of Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He then returned to Pensacola station, where he served as a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi, whose McCain Field was named for his grandfather. By 1964 he was in a relationship with Carol Shepp, a model originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; they had known each other at Annapolis and she had married one of his classmates, but then divorced. On July 3, 1965, McCain married Shepp in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. McCain adopted her two children Doug and Andy, who were five and three years old at the time; he and Carol then had a daughter named Sidney in September 1966.
McCain grew frustrated with his training role and requested a combat assignment. In December 1966 McCain was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, flying A-4 Skyhawks; his service there began with tours in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. During all this time, McCain's father had risen in the ranks, making rear admiral in 1958 and vice admiral in 1963;now in May 1967 his father was promoted to four-star admiral and made Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, stationed in London.
In Spring 1967 Forrestal was assigned to join Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam as part of the Vietnam War. The alpha strikes flown from Forrestal were against specific, pre-selected infrastructure targets such as arms depots, factories, and bridges; they were quite dangerous due to the Soviet-designed and supplied anti-aircraft system fielded by the North Vietnamese Air Defense Force. McCain's first five attack missions over North Vietnam went without incident, and while still unconcerned with minor Navy regulations, McCain had by now garnered the reputation of a serious aviator. But McCain and his fellow pilots were already frustrated by Rolling Thunder's infamous micromanagement from Washington; he would later write that "The target list was so restricted that we had to go back and hit the same targets over and over again.... Most of our pilots flying the missions believed that our targets were virtually worthless. In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war."
By now a Lieutenant Commander, McCain was again almost killed in action on July 29, 1967 while serving on the Forrestal, operating at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. The crew was preparing to launch attacks when a Zuni rocket from an F-4 Phantom was accidentally fired across the carrier's deck. The rocket struck McCain's A-4E Skyhawk as the jet was preparing for launch. The impact ruptured the Skyhawk's fuel tank, which ignited the fuel and knocked two bombs loose. McCain escaped from his jet by climbing out of the cockpit, working himself to the nose of the jet, and jumping off its refueling probe onto the burning deck of the aircraft carrier. Ninety seconds after the impact, one of the bombs exploded underneath his airplane. McCain was struck in the legs and chest by shrapnel. The ensuing fire killed 132 sailors, injured 62 others, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and took 24 hours to control. (This incident, with flight deck video, is still used in U.S. Navy Recruit Training damage control classes; the video has been made available by McCain's Presidential Exploratory Committee.) A day or two after the Forrestal incident, McCain told New York Times reporter R. W. Apple, Jr. in Saigon that, "It's a difficult thing to say. But now that I've seen what the bombs and the napalm did to the people on our ship, I'm not so sure that I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam." But a change of course was unlikely, as McCain said, "I always wanted to be in the Navy. I was born into it and I never really considered another profession. But I always had trouble with the regimentation."
As Forrestal headed for repairs, McCain volunteered to join the VA-163 Saints on board the short-staffed USS Oriskany. (Before McCain's arrival, on October 26, 1966, a mishandled flare caused a deck fire, resulting in the deaths of 44 crew, including 24 pilots, and the Oriskany underwent significant repairs; the ship's squadrons also suffered heavy losses during Rolling Thunder, with one-third of their pilots killed or captured during 1967.) By late October 1967, McCain had flown a total of 22 bombing missions.
Prisoner of war
On October 26, 1967, McCain was flying as part of a 20-plane attack against a thermal power plant in central Hanoi, a heavily defended target area that had previously been off-limits to U.S. raids. McCain's A-4 Skyhawk was shot down during its approach run by a Soviet-made SA-2 anti-aircraft missile. McCain fractured both arms and a leg in being hit and ejecting from his plane. He nearly drowned after he parachuted into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi. After he regained consciousness, a mob gathered around him, spat on him, kicked him and stripped him of his clothing. Others crushed his shoulder with the butt of a rifle and bayoneted him in his left foot and abdominal area; he was then transported to Hanoi's main prison. Although badly wounded, his captors refused to put him in the hospital, deciding he would soon die anyway; they beat and interrogated him, but McCain only offered his name, rank, serial number, and date of birth. Only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a top admiral did they give him medical care and announce his capture; at this point, two days after it went down, McCain's plane going missing and his subsequent appearance as a POW made the front page of The New York Times.
McCain spent six weeks in a hospital, receiving marginal care, was interviewed by a French television reporter whose report was carried on CBS, and was observed by a variety of North Vietnamese, including the famous General Vo Nguyen Giap, many of whom assumed that he must be part of America's political-military-economic elite. Now having lost 50 pounds, in a chest cast, and with his hair turned white, McCain was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Hanoi in December 1967, into a cell with two other Americans who did not expect him to live a week (one was Bud Day, a future Medal of Honor recipient); they nursed McCain and kept him alive. In March 1968, McCain was put into solitary confinement, where he would be for two years. In July 1968, McCain's father was named Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC), stationed in Honolulu and commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain was immediately offered a chance to return home early: the North Vietnamese wanted a mercy-showing propaganda coup for the outside world, and a message that only privilege mattered that they could use against the other POWs. McCain turned down the offer of repatriation due to the Code of Conduct of "first in, first out": he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well. McCain's refusal to be released was even remarked upon by North Vietnamese officials to U.S. envoy Averell Harriman at the ongoing Paris Peace Talks.
In August 1968, a program of vigorous torture methods began on McCain, using rope bindings into painful positions and beatings every two hours, at the same time as he was suffering from dysentery. Teeth and bones were broken again as was McCain's spirit; the beginnings of a suicide attempt was stopped by guards. After four days of this, McCain signed an anti-American propaganda "confession" that said he was a "black criminal" and an "air pirate", although he used stilted Communist jargon and ungrammatical language to signal the statement was forced. He would later write, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine." His injuries to this day have left him incapable of raising his arms above his head. His captors tried to force him to sign a second statement, and this time he refused. He received two to three beatings per week because of his continued refusal. Other American POWs were similarly tortured and maltreated in order to extract "confessions". On one occasion when McCain was physically coerced to give the names of members of his squadron, he supplied them the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line. One another occasion, a guard surreptitiously loosened McCain's painful rope bindings for a night; when he later saw McCain on Christmas Day, he stood next to McCain and silently drew a cross in the dirt with his foot (decades later, McCain would relate this Good Samaritan story during his presidential campaigns, as a testiment to faith and humanity). McCain refused to meet with various anti-war peace groups coming to Hanoi, such as those led by David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, and Rennie Davis, not wanting to give either them or the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory based on his connection to his father.
In October 1969, treatment of McCain and the other POWs suddenly improved, after a badly beaten and weakened POW who had been released that summer disclosed to the world press the conditions to which they were being subjected. In December 1969, McCain was transferred to Hoa Loa Prison, which later became famous via its POW nickname of the "Hanoi Hilton". McCain continued to refuse to see anti-war groups or journalists sympathetic to the North Vietnamese regime; to one visitor who did speak with him, McCain later wrote, "I told him I had no remorse about what I did, and that I would do it over again if the same opportunity presented itself." McCain and other prisoners were moved around to different camps at times, but conditions over the next several years were generally more tolerable than they had been before.
Altogether McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, ending direct U.S. involvement in the war, but arrangements for POWs took longer; McCain was finally released from captivity on March 15, 1973, having been a POW for almost an extra five years due to his refusal to accept the out-of-sequence repatriation offer.
Return to United States
Upon his return to the United States, McCain was reunited with his wife Carol, who had suffered her own crippling, near-death ordeal during his captivity, due to an automobile accident in December 1969 that left her facing months of operations and physical therapy; by the time he saw her again she was four inches shorter, on crutches, and substantially heavier. As a returned POW, McCain became a celebrity of sorts: The New York Times ran a photo of him getting off the plane at Clark Air Base in the Philippines; he published a long cover story describing his ordeal and his support for the Nixon administration's handling of the war in U.S. News & World Report; he participated in several parades and personal appearances; and a photograph of him on crutches shaking the hand of President Richard Nixon at a White House reception for returning POWs became iconic.
McCain underwent treatment for his injuries, and attended the National War College in Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. during 1973–1974. Few thought McCain could fly again, but he was determined to try, and engaged in nine months of grueling, painful physical therapy, especially to get his knees to bend again. By late 1974 McCain had recuperated just enough to pass his flight physical and have his flight status reinstated, and he became Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer of the VA-174 Hellrazors, the East Coast A-7 Corsair II Navy training squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Cecil Field outside Jacksonville in Florida and the largest attack squadron in the Navy. McCain's leadership abilities were credited with turning around a mediocre unit, improving its aircraft readiness and pilot safety metrics and winning the squadron its first Meritorious Unit Commendation, and while some senior officers resented McCain's presence as favoritism due to his father, junior officers rallied to him and helped him qualify for A-7 carrier landings.
During the time in Jacksonville, the McCains' marriage began to falter. McCain had extramarital affairs, and he would later say, "My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam, and I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. The blame was entirely mine." His wife Carol would later echo those sentiments, saying "I attribute more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again than I do to anything else."
Senate liaison and second marriage
In 1976, McCain briefly thought of running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida. Instead, based upon the recommendation of Admiral James L. Holloway III, in 1977 McCain became the Navy's liaison to the U.S. Senate. Returning to the Washington, D.C. area, McCain soon became the leader of the Russell Senate Office Building liaison operation, and would later say it represented " real entry into the world of politics and the beginning of my second career as a public servant." McCain was influenced by senators of both parties, and especially by a strong bond with Republican Senator John Tower, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain was still living with his wife, although they had had one separation during this time.
In 1979, while attending a military reception in Hawaii, McCain met and fell in love with Cindy Lou Hensley, 17 years his junior, a teacher from Phoenix, Arizona who was the daughter of James Willis Hensley, a wealthy Anheuser-Busch distributor and wife Marguerite Smith. By now it was clear that McCain's naval career was stalled; he would never be promoted to admiral as his grandfather and father had been.. McCain filed for and obtained an uncontested divorce from his wife Carol in Florida on April 2, 1980; he gave her a generous settlement, including houses in Virginia and Florida and financial support for her ongoing medical treatments, and they would remain on good terms. McCain and Hensley were married on May 17, 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona, with Senators William Cohen and Gary Hart as best man and groomsman. McCain's children were very upset with him and did not attend the wedding, but after several years they reconciled with him and Cindy.
McCain retired from the Navy in 1981 as a Captain. During his military career, he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and a Distinguished Flying Cross. McCain is one of five veterans from the Vietnam War currently serving in the United States Senate; the others are Thomas Carper (D-DE), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), John Kerry (D-MA) and Jim Webb (D-VA). A television film entitled Faith Of My Fathers, based on McCain's memoir of his experiences as a POW, aired on Memorial Day, 2005, on A&E.
Now living in Phoenix, McCain went to work for his new father-in-law Jim Hensley's large Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship as Vice President of Public Relations, where he gained political support among the local business community, meeting powerful figures such as banker Charles Keating, Jr., real estate developer Fife Symington III,, and newspaper publisher Darrow "Duke" Tully, all the while looking for an electoral opportunity. When John Jacob Rhodes, Jr., the longtime Republican congressman from Arizona's 1st congressional district, announced his retirement, McCain ran for the seat as a Republican in 1982. McCain faced two experienced state legislators in the Republican nomination process, and as a newcomer to the state was hit with repeated charges of being a carpetbagger. Finally at a candidates forum he gave a famous refutation to a voter making the charge:
“ 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. ”
A Phoenix Gazette columnist would later label this "the most devastating response to a potentially troublesome political issue I've ever heard." With the assistance of some local political endorsements and his Washington connections, as well as effective television advertising, partly financed by $167,000 that his wife lent to his campaign (which helped him outspend his opponents), and with support of Tully's The Arizona Republic (the state's most powerful newspaper), McCain won the highly contested primary election in September 1982. By comparison, the general election two months later became an easy lopsided victory for him in the heavily Republican district.
McCain made an immediate impression in Congress. He was elected the president of the 1983 Republican freshman class of representatives. He was assigned to the Committee on Interior Affairs, the Select Committee on Aging, and eventually to the chairmanship of the Republican Task Force on Indian Affairs. He sponsored a number of Indian Affairs bills, dealing mainly with giving distribution of lands to reservations and tribal tax status; most of these bills were unsuccessful. McCain’s politics at this point were mainly in line with President Ronald Reagan, from issues ranging from the economy to the Soviet Union. However, his vote against a resolution allowing President Reagan to keep U.S. Marines deployed as part of the Multinational Force in Lebanon, on the grounds that he " not foresee obtainable objectives in Lebanon," would seem prescient after the catastrophic Beirut barracks bombing a month later; this vote would also start his national media reputation as a political maverick. McCain won re-election to the House easily in 1984. In the new term McCain got the Indian Economic Development Act of 1985 signed into law. In 1985 he returned to Vietnam with Walter Cronkite for a CBS News special, and saw the monument put up next to where the famous downed "air pirate Ma Can" had been pulled from the Hanoi lake; it was the first of several return trips McCain would make there. In 1986 he broke ranks again in voting to successfully override Reagan's veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act that imposed sanctions against South Africa.
In 1984 McCain and his wife Cindy had their first child together, daughter Meghan. She was followed in 1986 by son John Sidney IV (known as "Jack"), and in 1988 by son James. In 1991, Cindy McCain brought an abandoned three-month old girl, who badly needed medical treatment for a severe cleft palate, to the U.S. from a Bangladeshi orphanage run by Mother Teresa; the McCains decided to adopt her, and named her Bridget. A drawn-out adoption process began, slowed down by uncertainty over the exact fate of the girl's father, but in 1993 the adoption was ruled final. McCain then stood by his wife when she disclosed in 1994 a previous addiction to painkillers and said that she hoped the publicity would give other drug addicts courage in their struggles. Beginning in the early 1990s, McCain began attending the 6,000-member North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona, part of the Southern Baptist Convention, later saying " the message and fundamental nature more fulfilling than I did in the Episcopal church. ... They're great believers in redemption, and so am I." Nevertheless he still identified himself as Episcopalian, and while Cindy and two of their children were baptized, he was not.
McCain decided to run for United States Senator from Arizona in 1986, when longtime American conservative icon and Arizona fixture Barry Goldwater retired. No Republican would oppose McCain in the primary, and as described by his press secretary Torie Clarke, McCain's political strength convinced his most formidable possible Democratic opponent, Governor Bruce Babbitt, not to run for the senate seat. Instead McCain faced a weaker opponent, former state legislator Richard Kimball, a young politician with an offbeat personality who slept on his office floor and whom McCain's allies in the Arizona press characterized as having "terminal weirdness." McCain's associations with Duke Tully, who by now had been disgraced for having concocted a ficticious military record, as well as relevations of father-in-law Jim Hensley's past brushes with the law, became campaign issues, but in the end McCain won the election easily with 60 percent of the vote to Kimball's 40 percent.
Upon entering the Senate in 1987, McCain became a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, with whom he had formerly done his Navy liaison work; he also joined the Commerce Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee. McCain soon gained national visibility, delivering an emotional, impassioned speech about his time as a POW at the 1988 Republican National Convention being mentioned by the press as a short list vice-presidential running mate for Republican nominee George H. W. Bush, and being named chairman of Veterans for Bush. In 1989, he became a staunch defender of his friend John Tower's doomed nomination for U.S. Secretary of Defense; McCain butted heads with Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich — who was challenging Tower regarding alleged heavy drinking and extramarital affairs — and this began McCain's difficult relationship with the Christian right, as he would later write that Weyrich was "a pompous self-serving son of a bitch."
McCain's upwards political trajectory was jolted when he became enmeshed in the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s. In the context of the Savings and Loan crisis of that decade, Charles Keating, Jr.'s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, a subsidiary of his American Continental Corporation, was insolvent due to some bad loans. In order to regain solvency, Lincoln sold investment in a real estate venture as a FDIC insured savings account. This caught the eye of federal regulators who were looking to shut it down. It is alleged that Keating contacted five senators to whom he made contributions. McCain was one of those senators and he met at least twice in 1987 with Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, seeking to prevent the government's seizure of Lincoln. Between 1982 and 1987, McCain received approximately $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates. In addition, McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. McCain, his family and baby-sitter made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. After learning Keating was in trouble over Lincoln, McCain paid for the air trips totaling $13,433.
Eventually the real estate venture failed, leaving many broke. Federal regulators ultimately filed a $1.1 billion civil racketeering and fraud suit against Keating, accusing him of siphoning Lincoln's deposits to his family and into political campaigns. The five senators came under investigation for attempting to influence the regulators. In the end, none of the senators were convicted of any crime, but McCain did receive a rebuke from the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising "poor judgment" for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating. On his Keating Five experience, McCain said: "The appearance of it was wrong. It's a wrong appearance when a group of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators, because it conveys the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to do."
McCain survived the political scandal by, in part, becoming very friendly with the political press; with his blunt manner, he became a frequent guest on television news shows, especially once the 1991 Gulf War began and his military and POW experience became in demand. McCain began campaigning against lobbyist money in politics from then on. His 1992 re-election campaign found his opposition split between Democratic community and civil rights activist Claire Sargent and impeached and removed former Governor Evan Mecham running as in independent. Although Mecham garnered some hard-core conservative support, Sargent's campaign never gathered momentum and the Keating Five affair did not dominate discussion. McCain again won handily, getting 56 percent of the vote to Sargent's 32 percent and Mecham's 11 percent.
A "maverick" senator
In January 1993 McCain was named chairman of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute, a non-profit democracy promotion organization with informal ties to the Republican party. The position would allow McCain to bolster his foreign policy expertise and credentials.
McCain also branched out and worked with Democratic senators. He was a member of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. McCain worked with fellow Vietnam War veteran John Kerry to investigate the issue. Due to a lack of recorded evidence, they asked former President Nixon to testify, but after Nixon showed that he was unwilling to do so, Kerry decided not to call Nixon. The committee was finally allowed to look for POWs and MIA in Vietnam in 1995. They never found any POWs or MIA, but these actions allowed for improved ties between the countries and in 1995 President Bill Clinton formally recognized the county of Vietnam as a result of a piece of legislation authored by McCain and Kerry.
Having only barely survived the Keating Five scandal, McCain made attacking the corrupting influence of big money on American politics his signature issue. Starting in late 1994 he worked with Democratic Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform; their McCain-Feingold bill would attempt to put limits on "soft money", funds that corporations, unions, and other organizations and unions could donate to political parties, which would then be funneled to political candidates in circumvention of "hard money" donation limits. From the start, McCain and Feingold's efforts were opposed by large money interests, by incumbents in both parties, by those who felt spending limits impinged on free political speech, and by those who wanted to lessen the power of what they saw as media bias. On the other hand, it garnered considerable sympathetic coverage in the national media, and from 1995 on, "maverick Republican" became a label frequently applied to McCain in stories. The first version of the McCain-Feingold Act was introduced into the Senate in September 1995; it was filibustered in 1996 and never came to a vote.
McCain also attacked pork barrel spending within Congress, believing that the practice did not contribute to the greater national interest. Towards this end he was instrumental in pushing through approval of the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, which gave the president the power to veto individual items of pork. Although this was one of McCain's biggest Senate victories, the effect was short-lived as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional in 1998. In a more symbolic attempt to limit congressional privilege, he introduced an amendment in 1994 to remove free VIP parking for members of Congress at D.C. area airports; his annoyed colleagues rejected the notion and accused McCain of grandstanding. McCain was one of only four Republicans in Congress to vote against the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act in 1995, and was the only Republican senator to vote against the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996. He was one of only five senators to vote against the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
At the start of the 1996 presidential election, McCain served as national campaign chairman for the highly unsuccessful Republican nomination effort of Texas Senator Phil Gramm. After Gramm dropped out, McCain endorsed eventual nominee Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, and was again on the short list of possible vice-presidential picks. McCain formed a close bond with Dole, based in part on their shared near-death war experiences; he nominated Dole at the 1996 Republican National Convention and was a key friend and advisor to Dole throughout his ultimately losing general election campaign.
In 1997, McCain became chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee; he was criticized for accepting funds from corporations and businesses under the committee's purview, but responded by saying that, "Literally every business in America falls under the Commerce Committee" and that he restricted those contributions to $1,000 and thus was not part of the big-money nature of the campaign finance problem. In that year, Time magazine named McCain as one of the "25 Most Influential People in America". McCain used his chairmanship to take on the tobacco industry in 1998, proposing legislation that would increase cigarette taxes in order to fund anti-smoking campaigns and reduce the number of teenage smokers, increase research money on health studies, and help states pay for smoking-related health care costs. The industry spent some $40–50 million in national advertising in response; while McCain's bill had the support of the Clinton administration and many public health groups, most Republican senators opposed it, stating it would create an unwieldy new bureaucracy. The bill failed to gain cloture twice and was seen as a bad political defeat for McCain. During 1998 a revised version of the McCain-Feingold Act came up for Senate consideration, but while having majority support it again fell victim to a filibuster and failed to gain cloture.
McCain easily won re-election to a third senate term in November 1998, gaining 69 percent of the vote to 27 percent for his Democratic opponent, environmental lawyer Ed Ranger. Ranger was a motorcycle enthusiast and political novice who had only recently returned from Mexico. McCain took no "soft money" during the campaign, but still raised $4.4 million for his bid, explaining that he had needed it in case the tobacco companies or other Washington special interests mounted a strong effort against him. One of Ranger's campaigning points had been that McCain was really more interested in running for president; McCain indeed created a presidential exploratory committee the following month.
During 1999, the McCain-Feingold Act once again came up for consideration, but the same failure to gain cloture befell it again. During that year, McCain shared the Profile in Courage Award with Feingold for their work in trying to enact this campaign finance reform; McCain was cited for opposing his own party on the bill at a time when he was trying to win the party's presidential nomination.
2000 presidential campaign
See also: United States presidential primaries, 2000
McCain's co-authored, best-selling family memoir, Faith of My Fathers, published in August 1999, helped propel his presidential run for 2000. McCain had initially planned on announcing his candidacy and beginning active campaigning in April 1999, but the state of the U.S. involvement in the Kosovo War caused him to simply state without fanfare that he would be a candidate. McCain formally announced his candidacy on September 27, 1999 in Nashua, New Hampshire saying he was staging "a fight to take our government back from the power brokers and special interests and return it to the people and the noble cause of freedom it was created to serve." There was a crowded field of Republican candidates, but the big leader in terms of establishment party support and fundraising was Texas Governor and presidential son George W. Bush. Indeed, top-echelon Republican contenders such as Lamar Alexander, John Kasich, and Dan Quayle were already withdrawing from the race due to Bush's strength. The day after McCain announced, Bush made a show of visiting Phoenix and displaying that he, not McCain, had the endorsement of Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull and several other prominent local political figures; Hull would continue to attack McCain during the campaign, and was featured in Arizona Republic and New York Times high-profile stories about McCain's reputation for having a bad temper.
Following political consultant Mike Murphy's advice, McCain skipped the Iowa caucus, where his lack of base party support would hurt him in organizing, and focused instead on the New Hampshire primary, where his message held appeal to independents and Bush's father had never been very popular. He traveled on a campaign bus called the Straight Talk Express, whose name capitalized on his reputation as a political maverick who would speak his mind. In visits to towns he gave a ten-minute talk focused on campaign reform issues, then announced he would stay until he answered every question that everyone had. He made over 200 stops, talking in every town in New Hampshire in an example of "retail politics" that overcame Bush's famous name. McCain was famously accessible to the press, using free media to compensate for his lack of funds; as one reporter later recounted, "McCain talked all day long with reporters on his Straight Talk Express bus; he talked so much that sometimes he said things that he shouldn't have, and that's why the media loved him." On February 1, 2000, he won the primary with 49 percent of the vote to Bush's 30 percent, and suddenly was the celebrity of the hour. Other Republican candidates had dropped out or failed to gain traction, and McCain became Bush's only serious opponent. Analysts predicted that a McCain victory in the crucial primary in South Carolina would give him unstoppable momentum.
However, McCain lost South Carolina, allowing Bush to regain the momentum. Analysts attribute McCain's loss in South Carolina to Bush's mobilization of the state's evangelical voters. Each side made allegations of negative campaigning against the other. There was alleged to have been a push polling campaign by the Bush camp, in which telephone calls were made to conservative Republican voters in the so-called Deep South to ask them whether they would support McCain if they knew he had an illegitimate interracial daughter with a black woman. McCain in fact had adopted his daughter Bridget from Bangladesh. Accounts of this are covered in the books Bush's Brain and Boy Genius. Additionally, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh entered the fray supporting Bush. McCain would say of the rumor spreaders, "I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those."
McCain never completely recovered from his defeat in South Carolina, although he did recover partially by winning in Michigan and Arizona. However, he made serious mistakes that negated any momentum he may have regained with the Michigan victory. In Virginia, he began criticizing conservative Christian leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. McCain lost the Virginia primary and then, a week later, went on to lose 9 of the 13 primaries on Super Tuesday. His overall loss on that day has been attributed to his going "off message", ineffectively accusing Bush of being anti-Catholic in response to his visit to Bob Jones University and getting into a verbal battle with leaders of the Religious Right. McCain would go on to win a few more primaries (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont), but in a two-man contest he was unable to catch up.
During the George W. Bush years
In May 2001, McCain voted against the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, President Bush's $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years, which became known as "the Bush tax cuts". He was one of only two Republicans to do so, arguing that he would support the tax cut plan if they were tied to subsequent decreases in spending. McCain similarly voted against the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the second round of Bush tax cuts which served to extend and accelerate the first, saying it was unwise at a time of war. McCain later supported the tax cut extension in 2006, known as the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, saying not to do so would amount to a tax increase.
In 2001 the latest iteration of McCain-Feingold was introduced into the Senate; helped by the 2000 election results, it passed the Senate in one form but procedural obstacles and the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks delayed it again. Finally in March 2002, aided by the aftereffects of the Enron scandal, it passed both House and Senate and, known formally as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, was signed into law by President Bush. Seven years in the making, it was McCain's greatest legislative achievement and had become, in the words of one biographer, "one of the most famous pieces of federal legislation in modern American political history."
McCain differed with Bush or large portions of the Republican base electorate by broadly defining torture, by supporting a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants with some restrictions, by calling for steps to halt anthropogenic global warming, and by supporting some affirmative action and gun control measures. On judicial appointments, McCain was a believer in judges who “would strictly interpret the Constitution,” and over the years had supported the confirmations of Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito; however, McCain also led the Gang of 14 in the Senate, to preserve the ability of senators to filibuster judicial nominees, but only in "extraordinary circumstances."
Nevertheless, McCain publicly supported President Bush during the 2004 U.S. presidential election; he often praised Bush's management since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. McCain's colleague, and also the 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee, John Kerry of Massachusetts, reportedly asked McCain to be his running mate. McCain accused the "Swift Boat" campaign against Kerry of being "dishonest and dishonorable."
McCain was himself up for re-election as Senator in 2004. There was some talk of Representative Jeff Flake mounting a Republican primary challenge against McCain; Stephen Moore, president of the ideologically-oriented Club for Growth (which attempts to defeat those it considers Republican in Name Only), led talk for the prospect, saying "Our members loathe John McCain." Flake decided not to do it, later saying "I would have been whipped." In the general election McCain had his biggest margin of victory yet, garnering 77 percent of the vote against little-known Democrat Stuart Starky, an eighth grade math teacher whom The Arizona Republic termed a "sacrificial lamb". Exit polls showed that McCain even won a majority of the votes cast by Democrats.
Following his 2000 presidential campaign, McCain became a frequent sight on entertainment programs in the television and film worlds. He hosted the October 12, 2002, episode of Saturday Night Live, making him the third U.S. Senator after Paul Simon and George McGovern, to host the show. In the comedic news realm, he has been a regular guest on The Daily Show, and is a good friend of the host Jon Stewart; in McCain's most recent appearance on the show, Stewart claimed that McCain had been a guest on the Daily Show more times than any other person (11 times according to McCain). McCain appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2005 in a bit entitled "Secrets", and has also appeared several times on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman. McCain made a brief cameo on the television show 24 in 2006 and also made a cameo in the 2005 summer movie Wedding Crashers.
In the more serious realm, a 2005 made-for-TV movie, Faith of My Fathers, was based on John McCain's memoirs of his experience in the Vietnam War. McCain is also interviewed in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight by Eugene Jarecki.
2008 presidential campaign
See also: John McCain presidential campaign, 2008 and United States presidential election, 2008
McCain announced he is seeking the 2008 Presidential nomination from the Republican Party on the February 28, 2007, telecast of the Late Show With David Letterman. McCain officially started his 2008 presidential campaign on April 25, 2007, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Should McCain win in 2008, he would be the oldest person to assume the Presidency in history at initial ascension to office, being 72 years old and surpassing Ronald Reagan, who was 69 years old at his inauguration following the 1980 election. He has dismissed concerns about his age and past health concerns (malignant melanoma in 2000), stating in 2005 that his health was "excellent." In the event of his victory in 2008, he would also become the first President of the United States to be born in a U.S. territory outside of the current 50 states.
McCain's oft-cited strengths as a presidential candidate for 2008 included national name recognition, sponsorship of major lobbying and campaign finance reform initiatives, leadership in exposing the Abramoff scandal, his well-known military service and experience as a POW, his experience from the 2000 presidential campaign, extensive fundraising abilities, and strong advocacy for President Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. A Time magazine poll dated January 2007 showed McCain trailing possible Democratic opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton by 1%; results also indicated that more Americans were familiar with McCain than any of the other frontrunners, including Republican candidate and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Democratic hopeful Senator Barack Obama. During the 2006 election cycle, McCain attended 346 events and raised more than $10.5 million on behalf of Republican candidates. He also donated nearly $1.5 million to federal, state and county parties. In a bid to finally gain support from the Christian right, McCain gave the May 2006 commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. During his 2000 presidential bid, McCain had called Falwell an "agent of intolerance"; McCain now said that Falwell was no longer as divisive and the two have discussed their shared values,
McCain's second-quarter 2007 fundraising totals fell from $13.6 million in the first quarter to $11.2 million in the second, and expenses continuing such that only $2 million cash was on hand with about $1 million in debts. Both McCain supporters and political observers pointed to McCain's support for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, very unpopular among the Republican base electorate, as a primary cause of his fundraising problems. Large-scale campaign staff downsizing took place in early July, with 50 to 100 staffers let go and others taking pay cuts or switching to no pay. McCain's aides said the campaign was considering taking public matching funds, and would focus its efforts on the early primary and caucus states. McCain however said he was not considering dropping out of the race. Campaign shakeups reached the top level on July 10, 2007, when his campaign manager and campaign chief strategist both departed.
John McCain has taken his familiar position as an underdog. Senator McCain has returned to his "Straight Talk" strategy even though he no longer rides on the original "Straight Talk" bus. These actions, infighting amongst his rivals, endorsements from Senators Sam Brownback and Joe Lieberman, and some key early state endorsements from the editorial boards at the Union Leader, The Des Moines Register, The Portsmouth Herald, and The Boston Globe have led to a rebound in the polls.
Main article: Political positions of John McCain
A lifelong Republican, McCain's American Conservative Union total rating is 82 percent with a 65 percent rating for 2006. However, McCain has supported some initiatives not agreed upon by his own party and has been called a "maverick" by certain members of the American media. McCain's reputation as a maverick stems from his authorship of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill, opposition to torture, support for providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with some restrictions, belief in anthropogenic global warming, mixed record on affirmative action, sometime support for gun control legislation, and opposition to President Bush's $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years, which are also known as the Bush tax cuts.
In the 2000 elections, many thought of Bush as the more conservative candidate and McCain as the more moderate candidate. In fact, according to Voteview.com, McCain's voting record in the 109th Congress was the third most conservative among senators. However, his voting record during the 107th Congress, from January 2001 through November 2002, placed him as the 6th most liberal Republican senator, according to the same analysis at voteview.com.
McCain also has some traditionally Republican views that include: a strong pro-life voting record, a strong free trade voting record (including a 100% rating from the Cato Institute), wanting private social security accounts, opposition to socialized health care, supporting school vouchers, supporting the death penalty, supporting mandatory sentencing, and supporting welfare reform.
Cultural and political image
Writer John Karaagac states that, "The military holds a special place in American society and in American democracy. In both war and peace, the military becomes the archetype of democratic values and aspirations.... The competing tension of intense institutional loyalty on one hand and guardian of the republic on the other the military view of politics is bound to be ambivalent." Karaagac then sees John McCain as a focal point of this tension and ambivalence. After many years of observing McCain, New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that "there is nobody in politics remotely like him," making reference to his energy and dynamism, his rebelliousness and desire to battle powerful political forces, his willingness to endlessly and truthfully talk with reporters, and his being "driven by an ancient sense of honor." Brooks does not see McCain without political fault, but explains that, "There have been occasions when McCain compromised his principles for political gain, but he was so bad at it that it always backfired." McCain's own emphasis on personal character was revealed in a University of Missouri-Columbia study of political discourse in the 2000 Republican primary campaign, which showed McCain using fewer policy, and more character, utterances than any other candidate. Reason and Los Angeles Times writer Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, sees political pundits as projecting their own ideological fantasies upon McCain, and McCain's "maverick" persona more importantly shields McCain's impulses assembling towards the goal of "restor your faith in the U.S. government by any means necessary," which would often involve statist solutions, with Theodore Roosevelt as a model and in the end the realization "that Americans 'were meant to transform history' and that sublimating the individual in the service of that 'common national cause' is the wellspring of honor and purpose."
McCain has a history, beginning with his military career, of lucky charms and superstitions to gain fortune. While serving in Vietnam, he demanded that his parachute rigger clean his visor before each flight. On the 2000 campaign, he carried a lucky compass, feather, shoes, pen, penny and, at times, a rock. An incident when McCain misplaced his feather caused a brief panic in the campaign.
McCain has been treated for recurrent skin cancer, including melanoma, in 1993, 2000, and 2002; one of the resulting operations left a noticeable mark on the left side of his face. This, combined with his war wounds and advancing years, led him to repeatedly use a self-deprecating remark during his 2007 campaigning: "I am older than dirt and have more scars than Frankenstein."
The characteristics that led to McCain gaining hundreds of demerits at the Naval Academy have never fully left him; by his own admission, he has an "irremediable" personality trait of being "a wiseass," and as he added: "Occasionally my sense of humor is ill-considered or ill-timed, and that can be a problem." Others have concurred: A 2007 Associated Press story was titled "McCain's WMD Is a Mouth That Won't Quit". Over the years this trait has led to a series of controversial remarks:
In his 1986 senate campaign, he referred to the Leisure World retirement community as "Seizure World", where "97 percent of the people vote and the other 3 percent are in intensive care," a joke made worse when he did not directly apologize for any offense caused by it.
In 1998, McCain was chastised for reportedly making an off-color joke at a Republican fundraiser about President Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, saying "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." McCain later apologized to President Clinton and Clinton accepted his apology.
McCain openly used the term "gook", in reference to his Vietnamese torturers during the Vietnam War, even since his return as a POW. During the 2000 presidential campaign, he repeatedly refused to apologize for his continued use of the term, stating that he reserved its reference only to his captors. Late in the primary season, with growing criticism from the Asian American community in the politically important state of California, McCain reversed his position, and vowed to no longer use the term in public.
During a campaign appearance in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina on April 18, 2007, McCain was asked a question about possible military action against Iran. He responded by singing “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the melody of the Beach Boys' song "Barbara Ann", reminiscent of a 1980 parody by Vince Vance & The Valiants. When later confronted about the matter, McCain stated, "My response is lighten up, and get a life." Asked whether the joke he made was insensitive, McCain retorted, "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"
During a taping of The Daily Show on April 24, 2007, host Jon Stewart asked McCain, "What do you want to start with, the bomb Iran song or the walk through the market in Baghdad?" McCain responded by saying,"I think maybe shopping in Baghdad ... I had something picked out for you, too — a little IED to put on your desk." On April 25, 2007, representative John Murtha demanded an apology from McCain on the floor of the House, where Murtha said that to make jokes about bringing IEDs back for comedians was unconscionable when so many soldiers are dying from IEDs in Iraq. McCain responded by telling Murtha and other critics to "Lighten up and get a life."
On May 18, 2007 McCain swore at fellow Senator John Cornyn: According to a Washington Post blog, "During a meeting Thursday on immigration legislation, McCain and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) got into a shouting match when Cornyn started voicing concerns about the number of judicial appeals that illegal immigrants could receive, according to multiple sources — both Democrats and Republicans — who heard firsthand accounts of the exchange from lawmakers who were in the room... ' you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room.'" The comments occurred after Cornyn told McCain, "Wait a second here. I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line."
The traditions McCain was brought up under have extended to his own family. His son John Sidney IV ("Jack") is enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, and his son James enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006, began recruit training later that year, and by the end of 2007 was stationed in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His daughter Meghan graduated from Columbia University, and works on his presidential campaign. From his first marriage, his son Doug attended the Naval Academy, became a Navy pilot, then a commercial pilot for American Airlines; his son Andy is vice president and CFO at Hensley & Company; and his daughter Sidney is a recording industry executive. Altogether he has seven children, born across four decades — all of whom are reported to be on good terms with him, his wife, and each other — and, as of 2007, four grandchildren. Cindy McCain suffered a stroke in 2004 due to high blood pressure, but appeared to make a full recovery. They reside in Phoenix, and she remains the chair of the large Anheuser-Busch beer and liquor distributor Hensley & Company, founded by her father. By September 2007, McCain's denominational migration was complete, and he was identifying himself as a Baptist.