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John McCain

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McCain haunting the halls of the capitol building c. 2008
God, guns, and freedom
U.S. Politics
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Starting arguments over Thanksgiving dinner
Persons of interest
The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a 'part of the main.' I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.
—McCain's farewell statement shortly before his death in 2018[1]

Jonathan Sidney "John" McCain III (29 August 1936–25 August 2018) was a Vietnam War veteran, former Navy lobbyist[2], the senior senator from Arizona from 1987–2018, and the Republican Party's candidate for the Presidency of the USA in 2008.[3] He lost decisively to Barack Obama. McCain's running mate was Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin.[4]

After his defeat, McCain and his sidekick Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina devoted themselves to complaining about President Obama's "soft" foreign policy. However, when Obama was replaced by Donald Trump, McCain became Trump's most outspoken critic within his own party.[5] And despite all his flaws, he was still nonetheless a respectable and honorable politician, and a Republican no less (a dying breed in today’s Republican Party).

In 2018, McCain succumbed to a brain tumor a day after ending treatment. He was 81 years old.[6]

Domestic policy positions[edit]

John McCain (b. 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone) was a strong force for ostensible moderation in the GOP, at least at a particular point in his life as his complete track record is mixed and often disappointing.

The Good Stuff[edit]

Over the years, he was vital in crafting bipartisan support for generally supported initiatives, including the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (BCFRA).[note 1] McCain also once stood up against the American Religious Right, referring to them as agents of intolerance.[7] These sensible, moderate policies made him persona non grata among extremists, earning hate and scorn from Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.[8][note 2] When running for President in 2008, he stood up to some of his constituents making unsubstantiated allegations against Barack Obama, saying he was a decent man.[9] He was the de facto leader of right-wing opposition to the Trump administration, and he was the deciding 51st vote to not repeal Obamacare.[10][11][12] The moment McCain gave a thumb down was quite dramatic.[13]

McCain knew about Paul Manafort's connection to Russia and prevented him from running the 2008 RNC.[14] This is worth pointing out because Manafort served as chairman for the 2016 Presidential Campaign of Donald Trump, who was investigated for his ties with Russia.

McCain also condemned Trump for pardoning Joe Arpaio, who was/is known for discrimination toward Latinos, staging an assassination plot during his re-election bid, causing one man to spend four years in jail awaiting trial because of it, and let one teenager be repeatedly raped by her uncle for four years.[15][16]

With Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont), John McCain introduced legislation giving military veterans the option of private healthcare at public expense if they have to wait for too long at Veterans Affairs. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. McCain expanded the law in his last months. President Donald Trump signed the new bill.[17]

On the other hand...[edit]

Despite his record for opposing the more blatantly maniacal portions of the Republican Party, he had quite a few sleazy actions under his belt. His unofficial economic advisor, for instance, was Phil Gramm,[18] chief architect of the Enron collapse[19] and sub-prime mortgage crisis.[20] There was also the severe and infamous blunder of choosing Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate,[note 3] who would have become president in the possible event that McCain died of old age while in office.

Despite being painted as a maverick, John McCain had several instances where he stuck firmly in party lines. He voted for the thoroughly awful trickle-down 2017 Republican tax bill, citing his care about "honor",[21] and was opposed to net neutrality.[22]

Despite opposing the Affordable Care Act's repeal, John McCain thought emergency rooms are a good way to get health care and that no one in America is technically uninsured.[23] Neither is true.

Also, McCain aligned himself with some real nutjobs, including John Hagee, who blamed the gays for Hurricane Katrina,[24] and Rod Parsley, who believes the United States was founded in part to destroy Islam.[25] In addition to aligning to socially conservative nutjobs, he was devoutly anti-abortion and wanted to defund Planned Parenthood.[26] A President McCain would have nominated Justices who would be all too eager to torpedo the right to choose and other important precedents.[27]

Military and foreign policy positions[edit]

In the Senate in 2009 McCain has moved to the right, shedding his maverick image with full-throated attacks on the Democrats' proposals for health care reform, cap-and-trade environmental taxes, and wasteful stimulus spending, while supporting President Obama's aggressive policies in the Afghanistan War.

He modified many of his positions rightward when he became a presidential candidate. While he was no George W. Bush, Americans did not want four more years of the policies of Bush's policies, from failed tax cuts to continuing the war in Iraq, and (at least attempting to) privatize Social Security.

He wanted the U.S. military to police the entire Middle East to make it safe for Saudi Arabia, the other authoritarian Arab monarchies and Israel. Ergo, he wanted to bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb Iran.[29][30][31]

He supported Don't Ask, Don't Tell,[32] attacking President Obama by insisting that he believes in honoring all of the US troops — and because of that the US needed to keep DADT in place.

He was a strong opponent of torture, having suffered a similar fate in North Vietnamese internment, which has earned him the title of "war hero."[33]

Changing his mind for the worse[edit]

John McCain changed his mind on multiple issues. From the results, it's telling that he usually did this to maintain conservative support, and he was bankrupt in principles.

  • McCain used to criticize TV preacher Jerry Falwell, but later decided to cozy up to the man, agreeing to be the graduation speaker at Falwell's Liberty University on May 13, 2006.[34]
  • McCain opposed Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy, but reversed course in February 2006.[35]
  • In 2000, McCain accused Texas businessmen Sam and Charles Wyly of being corrupt, spending “dirty money” to help finance Bush’s presidential campaign. McCain not only filed a complaint against the Wylys for allegedly violating campaign finance law, he also lashed out at them publicly. In April of 2006, McCain reached out to the Wylys for support.[36]
  • McCain took a firm line in opposition to torture, and then caved to White House demands.[37]
  • McCain was against presidential candidates campaigning at Bob Jones University before he was for it.[38]
  • McCain was anti-ethanol before becoming pro-ethanol.[39]
  • McCain was both for and against state promotion of the Confederate flag.[40]
  • He was both for and against overturning Roe v. Wade.[41]
  • Due to being a product of a POW swap at the end of the Vietnam War,[42] it's not a surprise that McCain pressed to exchange Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Try guessing how he reacted when the move would result in a diplomatic win for Obama.[43]

Eligibility for the Presidency[edit]

To the chagrin of Birthers, John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, which is now part of the Republic of Panama and was once a U.S. protectorate but never really part of the U.S. At best, its status was similar to that of the Swan Islands (now part of Honduras) or Palau (now an independent nation). However, the Supreme Court decided that nobody cared and said that it didn't matter, because his parents were off playing Navy in Panama during the whole thing.

As a Panamanian-American, it was questionable whether McCain was eligible to assume office if he was elected. This question came up previously concerning Barry Goldwater (born in the Arizona Territory before it was admitted as a state), and George Romney (born in Mexico to U.S. Mormon expat parents). Still, since both were failed candidacies, the courts have never had the opportunity to decide whether a natural born citizen is limited to those born within any of the states.[note 4] However, constitutional and legal experts are generally of the opinion that if someone was born a citizen, that would qualify for the "natural-born" requirement, whether it was within the US or not; in others words, "you can be a natural born citizen without actually being born in one of the 50 United States."[44] In fact, a lawsuit seeking to remove McCain from the California ballot in 2008 due to his place of birth was issued by the chairman of the American Independent Party, although it was quickly thrown out by a federal judge, who agreed that McCain was a "natural born citizen".[45]


John McCain and Lindsey Graham with U.S. troops in Iraq.

On missions and their accomplishment[edit]

Neil Cavuto: ... Senator -- after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn't over.
Senator McCain: Well, then why was there a banner that said 'mission accomplished' on the aircraft carrier? ... The conflict -- the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished...
—June 11, 2003, on Fox News.[46]
This is a mission accomplished.
—December 14, on ABC's This Week, referring to the capture of Saddam Hussein.
I don't know if you could ever say, quote 'mission accomplished,' as much as you could say 'Americans are out of harm's way.' And that's the key to America's concern — casualties.
—May 1, 2008, at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.[47]

On modern peace and war[edit]

In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations.
—John McCain, on the Russo-Georgian war.[48]
The world is in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime.
—John McCain, on being born in 1936.[49]
[He] used to say talk softly, but carry a big stick...what you’re doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick, in fact, a twig.
—John McCain, calling Teddy Roosevelt "my hero."[50]
Most naive president in history.
—John McCain, on Obama's response after Russia invaded Ukraine on a trumped-up pretext.[51]

On America's allies[edit]

You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it.
—John McCain, on foreign relations.[52]
I feel badly about the British, they're our dear friends, but they’re no longer a world power. It’s just a fact of life.
—John McCain, on the United Kingdom.[53]

On America's enemies[edit]

This is a victory for the president, the Obama administration.
—On the death of Gaddafi.[54]

On US healthcare[edit]

I want the families to make the decisions between themselves and their doctors; not the federal government
—John McCain, on why he opposed universal healthcare.[55]

On Asians, although he meant North Vietnamese prison guards[edit]

I hate the gooks, I will hate them as long as I live.
—John McCain, in 2000.[56]

On Iraq and sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia muslims[edit]

There's not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and ShiasWikipedia, so I think they can probably get along.
—John McCain, defending the decision to invade Iraq while being very confident and factually wrong in 2003.[57]

Calling Achmadina a monkey[edit]

So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week? "Iran launches monkey into space".
—John McCain, jokingly referring to Achmadina as a monkey on Twitter, 2013[58]

McCain Institute[edit]

The McCain Institute for International Leadership is a think tank founded in 2012 devoted to "character-driven global leadership".[59] Its trustees include failed VP candidate Joe Lieberman and disgraced General David Petraeus[note 5], while its fellows include former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. It hosts an annual event at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, at which the likes of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and ex-Batman Ben Affleck have gathered for sex parties some kind of chat about making the world a better place for millionaires and their chums. There have also been claims of conflicts of interest, with donors to the institute being affected by laws that McCain was totally coincidentally voting on.[60]

See also[edit]


  1. Later ruled unconstitutional in the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision. See Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC S. Ct. 2007.
  2. Nonetheless, Hannity took the "pragmatic" approach and jumped behind (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) McCain wholeheartedly.
  3. Although some[Who?] theorized that she was forced on him by the fundamentalist base in his party.
  4. What about somebody born in Washington, D.C.?
  5. Given 2 years' probation for mishandling state secrets.


  1. ‘My fellow Americans’: A farewell from McCain’s ‘The Restless Wave’ (08/25/2018 08:29 PM EDT) Politico.
  2. When John McCain turned to politics, he went all-out, Los Angeles Times
  3. The McCain Math, The New York Times
  4. McCain picks female running mate, BBC News
  5. McCain, Graham torment Trump
  6. John McCain: Vietnam Veteran And Six-term Senator Dies At 81. BBC News. August 26, 2018.
  7. Republican Says Bush Panders To the 'Agents of Intolerance': McCain Takes Aim At Religious Right, The New York Times
  8. [1]
  9. Flashback: McCain tells supporter Obama is 'a decent... CNN. February 19, 2015.
  10. Obamacare Repeal Fails: Three GOP Senators Rebel in 49-51 Vote, NBC News
  11. GOP Obamacare repeal bill fails in dramatic late-night vote, CNN Politics
  12. Senate rejects Obamacare repeal, Politico
  13. McCain votes 'no' on Obamacare repeal. CNN. July 28, 2017.
  14. John McCain Reportedly Knew About Paul Manafort’s Russia Ties In 2008, Refused To Let Him Manage RNC. Inquisitr. August 26, 2018.
  17. AP FACT CHECK: McCain can’t respond but his record speaks. Associated Press. March 23, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2019.
  21. Schwarz, Jon, John McCain Claimed He Cares About "Honor" in the Senate. His Tax Vote Shows He Lied., The Intercept, 2 December 2017
  22. McCain, John, Statement By Senator John McCain on FCC Vote Approving "Net Neutrality" Internet Regulations, United States Senator John McCain, 26 February 2015
  23. McCain adviser: Everyone in U.S. has some health coverage. CNN. Blogs. August 28, 2008.
  24. Will MSNBC devote as much coverage to McCain's embrace of Hagee's support as it did to Obama's rejection of Farrakhan?, Media Matters
  26. [2]
  27. President John McCain and the Supreme Court, The Wall Street Journal
  28. cp:John McCain
  29. McCain Sings "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"
  30. TPMtv: Sunday Show Roundup: Talking About Spreading War (Around the 1:15 mark)
  31. McCain: War with Iran is more reality than hypothetical
  32. On The Issues
  33. McCain: Close Guantanamo Bay, AOL News
  34. McCain Woos the Right, Makes Peace With Falwell, ABC News
  35. McCain, 2.0
  36. Gearing Up for '08? McCain Befriends Old Enemies, ABC News
  37. Kafka's Legacy, Washington Monthly
  38. The Old McCain condemned Bob Jones; the New McCain...
  39. Meet the Press Transcript for November 12, 2006
  40. Despite McCain's many hedges, Borger asserted that "no one would accuse McCain of equivocating on anything", Media Matters
  42. Operation Homecoming, if you were wondering.
  43. Did John McCain flip-flop on the Bergdahl deal?, Washington Post
  46. [3]
  47. McCain says no ‘mission accomplished’ in Iraq, MSNBC
  48. Video of McCain's quote
  49. Not the worst of times, Washington Post
  50. McCain, Kerry Have Tense Exchange at Foreign Relations Hearing, Roll Call
  51. John McCain slams Obama on Ukraine: "Most naive president in history", CBS News
  52. McCainisms
  53. Sen. John McCain to Leno: Britain ‘No Longer a World Power’
  54. McCain Offers Praise to Obama Administration
  55. Transcript of first presidential debate, CNN
  59. About, McCain Institute Website
  60. McCain InstituteWikipedia