John Sidney McCain III (born August 29, 1936) is the senior U.S. Senator from Arizona, having served since 1987. He first became a national celebrity after being held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years in Vietnam. He was a presidential candidate in the 2000 election, but was defeated in the Republican primary by George W. Bush. On 15 November 2006, McCain announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a 2008 presidential campaign.
Early life and military career
McCain escaped death once again on July 29, 1967. While Forrestal steamed off the coast of Vietnam preparing to launch attacks, 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 the nose boom onto the burning deck of aircraft carrier. Ninety seconds after the impact, the bomb exploded underneath the airplane. McCain was struck in the legs and chest by shrapnel. The ensuing fire killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and threatened to sink the ship.
After the Forrestal incident, McCain joined the VA-163 Saints on board the short-staffed Oriskany; on October 26, 1966, a mishandled flare caused a deck fire, resulting in the death of 44 men, including 24 pilots. The Saints squadron and its parent Air Wing 16 suffered the highest loss rate of any Navy flying unit during the entire Vietnam War. This was due to the perilous missions assigned to it and to the aggressiveness of its aviators.
On October 26, 1967, McCain's A-4 Skyhawk was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, landing in Truc Bach Lake. He broke both arms and a leg after ejecting from his plane. After he regained consciousness, a mob gathered around him and stripped him of his clothing. He was then tortured by Vietnamese soldiers, who bayonetted him in his left foot and groin. His shoulder was crushed by a rifle butt. He was then transported to the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton.
Once McCain arrived at the Hanoi Hilton, he was placed in a cell and interrogated daily. When McCain refused to provide any information to his captors, he was beaten until he lost consciousness.
McCain signed an anti-American propaganda message which was written in Vietnamese, but only as a result of rigorous and brutal torture methods, which have rendered him incapable of raising his arms above his head. According to McCain, signing the propaganda message is something he most regrets during his time as a POW. After McCain signed the statement, the Vietnamese decided they could not use it. They 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.
McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five-and-a-half years, mostly in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, and was finally released from captivity in 1973, having been a POW for almost an extra five years due to his earlier refusal to accept an out of turn repatriation offer. McCain was reinstated to flight status and became Commanding Officer of VA-174 Hellrazors, the East Coast A-7 Corsair II Navy training squadron. In 1976 he became the Navy's liaison to the Senate. He 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 only three Vietnam veterans currently serving in the U.S. Senate, alongside Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts.
A television-based 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.
In 1981 McCain married Cindy Hensley and moved to Phoenix. There he went to work for her father's Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship, where he gained political support among the local business community. When John Jacob Rhodes, the longtime Republican congressman from Arizona's 1st congressional district, announced his retirement, McCain ran for the seat as a Republican in 1982 and won. In 1986, upon Republican Senator Barry Goldwater's retirement, McCain was elected to succeed him.
2000 Presidential Primary
In 1997, TIME named him as one of the "25 Most Influential People in America". His best-selling family memoir, Faith of My Fathers (1999), helped propel his presidential run. McCain skipped the Iowa caucus, focusing instead on the New Hampshire primary. 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. He won by a 49-30 landslide, and suddenly was the celebrity of the hour. Analysts predicted that a McCain victory in the South Carolina primary would give him unstoppable momentum. However, McCain lost the crucial state of South Carolina. Bush then regained the momentum. Analysts attribute McCain's loss in South Carolina to Bush's mobilization of the state's evangelical voters and to the perception among voters that McCain's campaign was too negative especially in regards to ads comparing Bush's honesty to President Clinton's. This perception was formed despite that presence of allegations of negative campaigning on both sides including a push polling campaign, where phone calls were made to conservative Republican voters in the Deep South, allegedly to ask them whether they would support McCain if he had an illegitimate interracial daughter with a black woman. McCain in fact has an adopted daughter 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 never recovered from his defeat in South Carolina, although he did bounce back by winning in Michigan and Arizona. However, McCain made serious mistakes that negated any momentum he may have regained with the Michigan victory. In Virginia, he began criticizing leaders of the religious right 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 was also criticized for his continued use of an ethnic slur in reference to his Vietnamese captors. He told reporters, "I hate the gooks.... I will hate them as long as I live." At first, he stood by his use of the slur, saying that it was "the kindest, the kindest description I can give them." Amid heavy criticism, McCain later reversed his position and apologized. 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. Though he apologized for his usage of the racial slur "gook," he had aroused the ire of Asian Americans due to the delay of an apology.
Presidential Election 2004
McCain publicly supported Bush in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. He often praised Bush's leadership and continuing zeal after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, attacks McCain's reputation as a moderate appealed to many voters who found Bush too conservative, and in the 2000 elections, many saw 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 is the third most conservative (as of November 2005). On the other hand, his voting record during the 107th Congress, from January 2001 through November of 2002, places him as the 6th most liberal Republican senator, according to the same data and analysis at voteview.com.
McCain's longtime friend and colleague, and also the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2004, John Kerry of Massachusetts reportedly asked McCain to be his running mate.
McCain accused the Swift Boat Vet campaign against Kerry of being "dishonest and dishonorable".
2008 Presidential race
McCain formed an exploratory committee after the 2006 midterm elections.
Should McCain win in 2008, he would be the country's oldest President in history at ascension to office, being 72 years old and surpassing Ronald Reagan, who was 69 years old at his inaugeration 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."
McCain's oft-cited strengths as a presidential candidate in 2008 include national name recognition, sponsorship of major lobbying and campaign finance reform initiatives, leadership in exposing the Abramoff scandal, military service (including years as a tortured POW), competing in the 2000 presidential campaign (where he won the New Hampshire primary), extensive fund-raising abilities, strong advocacy for President Bush's re-election campaign in 2004, and appeal to independent voters. He appeals to Democrats as well, and reportedly was asked by John Kerry to be the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004. In mid-November 2006 early polls showed him leading Hillary Clinton. 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 May 2006, McCain gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. During his 2000 presidential bid, McCain had called Falwell an "agent of intolerance." With significant coverage during the campaign, McCain said that he would never back down from his earlier statement. His later appearance at Liberty University prompted questions about the McCain-Falwell relationship and a possible presidential run in 2008. McCain stated that Falwell is no longer that divisive figure and the two have discussed their shared values. McCain delivered a similar address at The New School commencement in Madison Square Garden. McCain was received by boos, jeers, and several students and professors turned their backs or waved fliers reading "McCain does not speak for me." McCain's speech mentioned his unwavering support for the Iraq War and focused on hearing opposing viewpoints, listening to each other, and the relevance of opposition in a democracy.
A lifelong Republican, McCain's American Conservative Union rating is 83 percent. However, McCain has supported some initiatives not agreed upon by his own party and has been called a "maverick" by some members of the American media.
McCain has consistently shown himself to be a prominent "hawk" on foreign policy. McCain supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. decision to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, of a continued, and increased, military presence, and most of Bush's foreign policies. His speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention centered around that theme. Despite offering support for war, McCain has urged the Bush administration to make "significant policy changes" in the Iraq War; yet, "stay the course." He criticized The Pentagon several times, most notably concerning low troop strength in Iraq, and has called for a diversification of Iraqi national forces to better represent the multiple ethnic groups contained within the country. He stated that the United States government must do more to keep public support high for the war, stressing that "America, Iraq and the world are better off with Saddam Hussein in prison rather than in power.and we must honor their sacrifice by seeing this mission through to victory." McCain's full speech on the matter from mid-November 2005 can be read at his Senate website.
McCain has stated that he had "no confidence" in former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but refused to act on his words to call for his resignation, explaining that "the president picks his team, and the president has the right to stay with that team if he wants to."
His concerns over global warming and other environmental issues have put him at odds with the Bush administration and other Republicans. On the other hand, he has voted for the bills supporting the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
McCain voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, arguing that each state should be able to choose whether to recognize gay marriage (he supported the Arizona initiative to ban gay marriage ).
McCain has initiated legislation to find a solution to illegal immigration through guest worker programs. His legislation coauthored with Senator Kennedy was a major focus of debate in 2006. He has supported some moves to expand immigration to the US-including expansion of the H-1B visa program (though H-1B is technically a non-immigrant visa). In 2005, he co-sponsored a bill with Ted Kennedy that would expand use of guest worker visas. However, he voted for the permanent ban on the immigration of individuals living with HIV. Speaking about the immigration reform protests, McCain warned the Hispanic community that it may experience a backlash if too many Hispanic flags were flown during the protests. McCain has criticized conservatives like Rush Limbaugh for not supporting more lenient immigration laws.
McCain has announced that he supports the inclusion of intelligent design teaching in schools. In 2005, McCain told the Arizona Daily Star that he believes "all points of view" should be available to students.
McCain is a member of The Republican Main Street Partnership and supports stem cell research despite his earlier opposition to the research.
McCain firmly supports the State of Israel. He demonstrated his strong support when he made a speech addressing AIPAC on April 23, 2002. During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, McCain said Israel's response to the assault by Islamic guerrillas is appropriate. "What would we do if somebody came across our borders and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers?," says McCain. "Do you think we would be exercising total restraint?" Such restraint should come from Hezbollah and the nations sponsoring it, notably Iran, McCain said in remarks that became a freewheeling, far-reaching speech on foreign policy, including his views on matters involving North Korea, Iraq and the U.S. war on terrorism.
Senator McCain tried to persuade FIFA to ban Iran from the 2006 World Cup. given Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments that the Holocaust never happened (which is a criminal offense in Germany).
"Gang of 14" and Senate filibuster
On May 23, 2005, McCain was one of fourteen Senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus eliminating the need for the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the so-called "nuclear option". Under the agreement, senators would retain the power to filibuster a judicial nominee, the Democrats would agree to use this power against Bush nominees only in an "extraordinary circumstance", the Republicans involved would agree to vote against the nuclear option if implemented, and three of the most contested Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate.
Detention and torture of extrajudicial prisoners
The McCain Detainee Amendment was an amendment to the United States Senate Department of Defense Authorization bill, commonly referred to as the Amendment on (1) the Army Field Manual and (2) Cruel, Inhumane, Degrading Treatment, amendment #1977 and also known as the McCain Amendment 1977. It became the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 as Title X of the Department of Defense Authorization bill. The amendment prohibits inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, by confining interrogations to the techniques in FM 34-52 Intelligence Interrogation.
Senator McCain, as a former POW, was previously recognized for his sensitivity to the issue of the detention and interrogation of detainees from the War on Terror. On October 3, 2005, Senator McCain introduced the McCain Detainee Amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill for 2005. On October 5, 2005, the United States Senate voted 90-9 to support the amendment.
On December 15, 2005, President Bush announced that he accepted McCain's terms and will "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad." President Bush made clear his interpretation of this legislation on December 30th, 2005, in a signing statement, reserving what he interpreted to be his Presidential constitutional authority in order to avoid further terrorist attacks.
McCain argues that American military and intelligence personnel in future wars will suffer for abuses committed in 2006 by the US in the name of fighting terrorism. He fears the administration's policy will put American prisoners at risk of torture, summary executions and other atrocities by chipping away at Geneva Convention. He argues that his rival bill to Bush.s plan gives defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them and will set tight limits on use of testimony obtained by coercion. Furthermore it offers CIA interrogators some legal protections from charges of abuse, but rejects the administration.s plan to more narrowly define the Geneva Conventions. standards for humane treatment of prisoners. McCain insists this issue overrides politics.
McCain, whose six years of captivity and torture in Vietnam made him a national celebrity, negotiated (in September 2006) a compromise in the Senate for the Military Commissions Act of 2006, suspending habeas corpus provisions for anyone deemed by the Executive Branch an "unlawful combatant" and barring them from challenging their detentions in court. (McCain himself was tortured in Vietnam, signing a false confession in 1968.) Coming on the heels of a Supreme Court decision adverse to the White House, McCain's compromise gave a retroactive, nine-year immunity to U.S. officials who authorized, ordered, or committed acts of torture and abuse, and permitted the use of statements obtained through torture to be used in military tribunals so long as the abuse took place by December 30, 2005. McCain's compromise permitted the President to establish permissible interrogation techniques and to "interpret the meaning and application" of international Geneva Convention standards, so long as the coercion fell short of "serious" bodily or psychological injury. Widely dubbed McCain's "torture compromise", the bill was signed into law by George W. Bush on October 17, 2006, shortly before the 2006 midterm elections.
Campaign finance regulation
An advocate of government restrictions on campaign spending and contributions, McCain made campaign finance reform a central issue in his 2000 presidential bid. With Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin he pushed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which banned unlimited donations to national political parties ("soft money") and curtailed issue-advocacy ads.
Keating Five controversy
The Keating Five (or Keating Five Scandal) refers to a Congressional scandal related to the collapse of most of the Savings and Loan institutions in the United States in the late 1980s. McCain was one of five senators who 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 Savings and Loan, a subsidiary of Charles H. Keating's American Continental Corporation. Between 1982-1987, 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 totalling $13,433. 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. McCain received a rebuke from the 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."
- 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 has acknowledged engaging in extramarital affairs upon returning from Vietnam. While he was in Vietnam, his wife Carol had been severely injured in a car accident. Upon returning home in 1973, McCain found his wife to be very different from when he had married her. He soon began engaging in extramarital affairs and in 1979, he met Cindy Hensley. A year later, McCain sought a divorce from Carol and a month after that, he married Cindy. McCain remains on good terms with Carol, who said in 2000, "I'm crazy about John McCain and I love him to pieces."
- Joan Molinaro, Bruce De Cell, Grace Godshalk and Peter Gadiel of "9/11 Families for a Secure America" accused McCain of "screaming at them" during a chance encounter with McCain when they criticized his proposed immigration reform bills, which they felt were not strict enough in stopping terrorists from crossing the southern border.
- McCain is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Republican Institute, which has been accused by a former U.S. ambassador to Haiti of undermining negotiations between Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his opposition after the contested 2000 election.
Appearances on radio, television and in movies
McCain has made appearances in various entertainment media. He was criticized for his cameo in the 2005 summer movie Wedding Crashers. It prompted some critics to accuse McCain of hypocrisy due to his earlier criticisms of Hollywood for creating too many movies of that style. Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, commenting on McCain's appearance, referred to the film as a "boob raunch fest." McCain responded during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno by joking that he is "working with boobs all the time in Washington.".
McCain hosted the October 12, 2002 episode of Saturday Night Live, making him the second U.S. Senator after Paul Simon, to host the show.
In the 2005 documentary Why We Fight by Eugene Jarecki, McCain is interviewed.
McCain made a brief cameo on the show 24.
He appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2005 in a bit entitled Secrets.
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 lives with his second wife Cindy Hensley McCain in Phoenix. She is the chairman of the large Anheuser-Busch beer and liquor distributor Hensley & Company, founded by her father. Cindy suffered a stroke in April 2004 due to high blood pressure, but appears to have made a full recovery.
McCain is a member of the Episcopal Church.
McCain has been treated for recurrent skin cancer, including melanoma, in 1993, 2000, and 2002.
He has seven children and four grandchildren. McCain adopted his first wife Carol's sons (Doug and Andy), and he and Carol had a daughter, (Sydney). John has three biological children with his wife Cindy . Meghan, Columbia University (2007); John Sidney IV (Jack), United States Naval Academy (2009); and James, Brophy College Preparatory (2006); in addition, he and Cindy adopted their youngest daughter, Bridget, after discovering her in a Bangladeshi orphanage run by Mother Teresa. McCain's son James enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006, and began recruit training in September 2006.
On September 28, 2005, The Eisenhower Institute awarded him the Eisenhower Leadership Prize. The prize recognizes individuals whose lifetime accomplishments reflect Dwight D. Eisenhower.s legacy of integrity and leadership. In December 2004, McCain became an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin.
Related Sites (exchange links with this article)
John McCain for President - Bumper Stickers and Gear - Get bumper stickers, t-shirts, buttons, and other gear to support McCain for President in 2008 from ProGOPgear.com. Check out our other pro-Republican gear, too.
Trusted Advisor Associates > Trust Matters - Trust Matters: blog site for Trusted Advisor Associates, Charles H. Green
D-Day: The Problem of John McCain - a look at McCain's prospects for 2008
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