Senator- American War Hero
John McCain was born on August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone where his father was serving in the US Navy. He and his older sister and brother moved around the world as his father received many assignments. His Grandfather was a Vice Admiral during World War II and commanded the US Fast Attack Carriers that led the US advance, across the Pacific.
In 1951 the McCain family settled down temporarily in Northern Virginia and McCain attended Episcopal High School, where he graduated from in 1954. Following in the footsteps of his Father and Grandfather he entered the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. There he was a bit of a troublemaker but graduated from the Academy in 1958. McCain then went to Pensacola to become a Navy aviator. He completed flight training in 1960 and was assigned to A-1 Skyraiders - ground attack aircraft. He served aboard the USS Intrepid and USS Enterprise. On July 3, 1965, he married Carol Shepp. He adopted her two children and they had a daughter Sidney. McCain requested combat and was assigned to the USS Forrestal flying A-4 Skyhawks. He took part in the US attacks on North Vietnam called Rolling Thunder. The USS Forrestal was engulfed on July 29, 1967, in a fire. He was lightly injured by an exploding bomb. The Forrestal was out of commission so McCain volunteered to continue flying missions on the USS Oriskany.
On October 26, 1967, during his 23rd mission, his Skyhawk was hit by a missile over Hanoi. He fractured his arm and leg while ejecting, and landed in True Bach Lake. He was pulled ashore by North Vietnamese who crushed his soldier with a rifle butt and bayoneted him. He was moved to the main North Vietnamese prison How Lo Prison- also known as the Hanoi Hilton. The North Vietnamese only gave him a medical attention after discovering that his father was an admiral. The North Vietnamese tortured him, and for two years held him in solitary confinement. In 1968 his Father had become commander of the US Naval Forces in the Pacific and the North Vietnamese offered to release him, he refused unless all the other prisoners captured at the same time were also released. McCain was released with other American prisoners on March 14, 1973. Due to his injuries, he was never able to raise his hand over his head.
After months of hospitalization and physical therapy, McCain returned to flight status and became commander of a training squadron. Beginning in 1977 he became the Navy's liaison officer with the US Senate. In April 1979 he met Cindy Lou Hensley, and he and his wife divorced and he married Cindy Lou Hensley. McCain retired from the Navy on April 1, 1981, as a Captain. Among his many medals was the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, two Legions of Merit and three Bronze Stars.
McCain ran for Congress in 1982. It was an open seat and after overcoming charges that he was a carpetbagger he easily won the seat. During his time as a Congressman, he was a strong supporter of the policies of President Reagan. In 1986 with the retirement of Arizona Senator Goldwater, McCain was easily elected to replace him. McCain became a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Commerce Committee, and the Indian Affairs Committee. McCain was embroiled in a scandal called the Keating Five- which referred to five Senators who had met with Charles Keating and federal regulators regarding the Lincoln Savings and Loan, that collapse creating a mini financial crisis. McCain was mildly rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for his involvement.
McCain developed a reputation as a maverick starting in the 1990’s. He supported Clinton Supreme Court appointees arguing that if they were qualified it was the right of the President to nominate whomever he or she wished. Perhaps his most maverick act was working together with Democrat Russel Feingold-to draft the McCain Feingold Act which limited campaign donations. In 1999 he published a memoir called Faith of My Fathers. It became a best seller.
McCain ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000 against George W Bush who was the establishment favorite. He became known for the Straight Talk Express, his bus where he spent hours traveling New Hampshire together with reporters. McCain won the New Hampshire primary, only to lose in South Carolina where a campaign of false information was run against McCain, including that the Bangladesh daughter that he and his wife had adopted was the secret child of an affair.
After his defeat, he returned to the Senate becoming one of its most powerful members. He generally supported the Bush Administration, especially after the 9/11 attacks. However, he often broke with them, being one of the few Republicans to oppose the Bush tax cuts. In March 2002 McCain Feingold - officially known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 became law. McCain was one of the few Republicans to work actively to fight climate change cosponsoring with his friend Joel Lieberman the Climate Stewardship Act which was defeated. McCain was an outspoken critic of the US potentially torturing prisoners as part of the War on Terror and added an amendment in the Defense Authorization Bill of 2005 that prohibited enhanced interrogations. McCain was also a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.
On April 25, 2007, McCain announced that he was seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Initially behind in the polls, he gained momentum after recreating the straight talk express in New Hampshire and once again winning the New Hampshire primary. This time he won South Carolina and went on to gain the nomination. He selected Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate, a decision in retrospect was not a successful one. He began the national campaign against Senator Barak Obama who was the Democratic nominee, ahead in the polls. However, Obama as the first African American of a major party and a generation younger than McCain had the advantage of enthusiasm. One of the most enduring moments of the campaign occurred when one of McCains supporters claimed Obama was an Arab. McCain defended Obama saying that he was a fine American and a fine family man, just one he had profoud differences with. Ultimately as the campaign was nearing the end the United States and the rest of the world entered a financial crisis that was largely blamed on the Bush administration, thus ensuring a Democratic victory.
McCain both worked with and opposed the actions of the Obama Administration maintaining his reputation as a maverick. He was one of the first opponents of a newly aggressive Russia and supported intervention in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the rebels. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, he initially opposed President Trump, but after he won the nomination said he would support him. After the Access Hollywood tapes in which Trump attitudes to women were in clear display, McCain withdrew his support. During the campaign, Trump had said “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured”.
In July 2017 it was announced that McCain had glioblastoma an aggressive brain cancer. McCain returned to the Senate at the end of July and cast the deciding vote against the repeal of Obama Care (The Affordable Care Act) which he initially opposed. He claimed that his vote was based on the fact that the repeal was being done outside the normal Senate procedures. After the vote, he gave a speech to the Senate decrying the level of partisanship in Congress and asking the Senate to return to regular order. McCain left Washington for the last time in December 2017 and remained at home in Arizona until his death on August 25, 2018.