John McCain, U.S. Senator and Former Prisoner of War, Dies at 81

The family of Senator John S. McCain, R-Ariz., announced that the public servant, war hero, and former presidential candidate died on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at his home in Arizona. He was 81. McCain’s death comes a day after his office announced that he had decided to discontinue medical treatment for a malignant brain tumor.[1]

The son and grandson of four-star admirals, McCain served as a navy pilot during the Vietnam War.[2] During the war, he was shot down over Hanoi and tortured by his North Vietnamese captors, leaving him permanently disabled, unable to lift his arms above his head.[3] Following his return home, rehabilitation, and retirement from the Navy, McCain entered politics. McCain was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and to the U.S. Senate in 1986.[4] McCain unsuccessfully ran for president twice: first in 2000, losing the Republican nomination to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, and again in 2008, securing the Republican nomination but losing in the general election to then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama. He garnered heavy criticism for his selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate, whom many observers thought was unprepared for the position.[5]

Although McCain failed to win the nation’s highest office, he was a pivotal figure throughout his senatorial career. McCain acquired a reputation for being a political maverick willing to defy his own party and compromise with Democrats.[6] He championed campaign finance reform and American intervention in foreign policy.[7] He was also an outspoken opponent of the use of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques.[8] McCain lived up to his reputation until the end of his life, remaining a vocal critic of Republican President Donald Trump.[9] Last year, in one of the most significant votes in the Senate, McCain joined Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins in casting the deciding votes to defeat the Republican Party’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. After casting his vote, reporters, who were waiting outside the Capitol, asked McCain why he voted against the amendment. Senator McCain responded, “I thought it was the right thing to do.”[10]

McCain’s death has been met with an outpouring of praise for his service and legacy from across the political spectrum both at home and abroad. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both lauded McCain’s public service and personal sincerity.[11] Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has proposed renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after McCain.[12] Schumer stated, “The Senate, the United States, and the world are lesser places without John McCain.” [13]

[1] Laurel Wamsley, Sen. John McCain Will Discontinue Medical Treatment For Brain Cancer, NPR (Aug. 24, 2018, 2:10 PM), https://www.npr.org/2018/08/24/641557418/sen-john-mccain-will-discontinue-medical-treatment-for-brain-cancer.

[2] Robert D. McFadden, John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81, N.Y. Times, (Aug. 25, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/obituaries/john-mccain-dead.html.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Karen Tumulty, John McCain, ‘maverick’ of the Senate and former POW, dies at 81, Washington Post (Aug. 25, 2018, 8:21 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/john-mccain-maverick-of-the-senate-and-former-pow-dies-at-81/2018/08/25/d9219b7e-a7b8-11e8-97ce-cc9042272f07_story.html?utm_term=.55c2bf1e43ad.

[6] McFadden, supra note 2.

[7] McFadden, supra note 2; Jennifer Szalai, In ‘The Restless Wave,’ John McCain Says America Is Still Exceptional, N.Y. Times (May 16, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/books/review-restless-wave-john-mccain.html.

[8] McFadden, supra note 2.

[9] McFadden, supra note 2.

[10] Austin Ramzy, McCain’s Vote Provides Dramatic Moment in 7-Year Battle Over Obamacare, N.Y. Times (July 28, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/us/politics/john-mccain-vote-trump-obamacare.html.

[11] Emma Bowman, ‘Patriot,’ ‘Hero,’ ‘American Original’: Politicians Remember John McCain, NPR (Aug. 26, 2016, 1:00 PM), https://www.npr.org/2018/08/26/641955031/patriot-hero-american-original-politicians-remember-john-mccain.

[12] Emily Tillett, Schumer proposes renaming Russell Senate Office Building after John McCain, CBS News (Aug. 26, 2018, 1:02 PM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chuck-schumer-proposes-renaming-russell-senate-office-building-after-john-mccain/.

[13] Id.

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