John McCain on Principles & Values

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


Bush: "I didn't campaign for McCain because he didn't ask"

On Tuesday, November 4, Senator Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. My preference had been John McCain. I believed he was better prepared to assume the Oval Office amid a global war and financial crisis. I didn't campaign for him, in part because I was busy with the economic situation, but mostly because he didn't ask. I understood he had to establish his independence. I also suspected he was worried about the polls. I thought it looked defensive for John to distance himself from me. I was confident I could have helped him make his case. But the decision was his. I was disappointed I couldn't do more to help him.

The economy wasn't the only factor working against the Republican candidate. Like Dad in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, McCain was on the wrong side of generational politics. At seventy-two, he was a decade older than I was and one of the oldest presidential nominees ever.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.466 , Nov 9, 2010

OpEd: Sought Christian endorsements, then rejected them

The confusions in the faith community leadership started to become apparent to outsiders, and the national press jumped on it. Dr. Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University, in South Carolina, endorsed former abortion- and gay-rights supporter Mitt Romney. In February of 2008, just days before the Texas and Ohio primaries, Pastor John Hager of San Antonio, Texas, and Pastor Rod Parsley of Canal Winchester, Ohio, publicly endorsed John McCain, saying that it looked inevitable that he would win the nomination and they wanted to be able to influence the process. A few months later, McCain would not only reject the endorsements he had diligently sought from them, but would publicly denounce them for comments each had made in past sermons and disassociate himself with them entirely. There was enough egg on the faces of all of them to feed omelets to the entire Republican National Convention.
Source: Do The Right Thing, by Mike Huckabee, p. 55 , Nov 18, 2008

I am not President Bush; so don’t run against him!

OBAMA: When President Bush came into office, we had a budget surplus and the national debt was a little over $5 trillion. It has doubled over the last eight years.

McCAIN: Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to this economy in this country.

Source: 2008 third presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 15, 2008

Identified with Wright brothers, for tenacity & resolve

John McCain had come to the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio, to end what had been months of speculation about his selection of a vice presidential running mate. Intent on capturing for himself the title "Candidate of Change," McCain had selected the site for obvious reasons.

Located in America's heartland, Wright State University was named for two of the nation's most innovative minds, Orville and Wilbur Wright. Using tenacity and stubborn resolve, the brothers had applied their imagination and ingenuity to the problem of manned flight, a cause most thought hopeless. Working in their bicycle shop just down the road, they fashioned a fragile craft of wood and paper and found a solution to a seemingly unsolvable riddle. The next winter they took their winged craft to the windswept beaches of North Carolina and soared into history, leaving behind an indelible mark on the twentieth century.

Source: Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader, by Joe Hilley, chapter 1 , Oct 13, 2008

America is an idea and a cause worth fighting for

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here; I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore, I was my country’s.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

I’m running for president because my country saved me

I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Serve a cause greater than yourself

If you find faults with our country, make it better. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our armed forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country’ll be the better and you will be the happier because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

I’m a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth

I’m going to fight for my cause every day as your president. I’m going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God as I thank him: that I’m an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth, and with hard work, strong faith and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Reform, prosperity, and peace

Q: What do you hope to accomplish at the convention? If there is one or two central messages that you want to get across to voters about the choice between you and Barack Obama, what would they be?

A: Reform, prosperity, and peace. We’ll reform the way that Washington does business. Senator Obama has never taken on his party or had any real reform agenda. Prosperity, get jobs back, keep taxes low, invigorate our economy and get it moving again, and peace, I know how to secure the peace. I hate war. I hate war. Most veterans do. All veterans that I know do. And we can secure the peace. This is a very dangerous world we live in and I know how to do that. Senator Obama has been consistently wrong on national security issues. I have been consistently correct.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Aug 31, 2008

1980s: Paid back $112,000 in donations from Charles Keating

Asked at a press conference if his contributions [to McCain & 4 other Senators] had bought him influence, Keating replied, "I certainly hope so." The senators had met with regulators twice on Keating's behalf.

News reports and congressional hearings eventually showed that Keating was in fact a longtime friend of the Arizona senator's; and after his 1982 victory, McCain and his family made at least nine trips on Keating's dime, three of which were to Keating's own home in the Bahamas. McCain never disclosed the trips, as House ruled required, until the scandal came out into the open in 1989. McCain was adamant that he "in no way abused" his office.

McCain considered himself exonerated by the final ruling and contributed $112,000--the amount Keating raised for him--to the Treasury. McCain's story also conveniently left out the fact that as a congressman he sponsored legislation to delay new regulations limiting risky investments by S&Ls--legislation that benefited his friend Charles Keating.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 51-53 , Mar 25, 2008

Keating scandal made McCain averse to partisanship

Keating Five was a turning point for John McCain. Without McCain's increasingly friendly relations with the reporters who would choose when and how to discuss the scandal, it seems unlikely that it would have done so little lasting damage to his image. A fawning 2005 profile in the New Yorker claimed that out of the humiliation of the incident McCain "took lessons that came to define him as a very different kind of politician." The experience helped McCain develop "an intense aversion to partisanship." It also inspired him to "remake the system that encouraged such transgressions."

It was hardly the first time this story has been told. "Prison shaped his character," read the subtitle to a glowing Time magazine portrait in December 1999. "Scandal shaped his crusade." "McCain learned from his mistakes, and then some. He became a tireless crusader against the nefarious influence of big money or the political system."

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 57 , Mar 25, 2008

My most basic conservative principle: liberty comes from God

I am proud to be a conservative, and I make that claim because I share with you that most basic of conservative principles: that liberty is a right conferred by our Creator, not by governments, and that the proper object of justice and the rule of law in our country is not to aggregate power to the state but to protect the liberty and property of its citizens. And like you, I understand, as Edmund Burke observed, that “whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither... is safe.”
Source: Speeches to 2008 Conservative Political Action Conference , Feb 7, 2008

Disagrees with his mom; he can unite the party

Q: [to Roberta McCain, John’s mother]: How much support do you think he has among the base of the Republican Party?

R. McCAIN: I don’t think he has any. Maybe I don’t know enough about it, but I’ve not seen any help whatsoever.

Q: So can he then go o and become the nominee of this party?

R. McCAIN: Yes, I think holding their nose they’re going to have to take him.

Q: [to John McCain]: One, is your mother right? And two, how do you persuade conservatives to stop holding their nose?

J. McCAIN: I love my mother dearly, but really, my mom is not a complete expert on this issue. I love her candor, but look, we’re doing fine with the conservatives and the moderates and the liberals. The key is to unite the party, when the primaries are over, unite the entire party, and I’m confident I can do that. There’s going to be real strong differences, and I think that our party will unite, and I’ve got some work to do. But it’s all parts of the party.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Feb 3, 2008

Anticipates spirited debate on differences with Democrats

Q: [to Clinton and McCain]: Are you two looking forward to possibly facing each other in November?

McCAIN: I think we will have a very spirited [race].

CLINTON: Well, I think we both have our hands full.

McCAIN: Yeah, I think we’ll have very respectful but very spirited debate. I think that Senator Clinton would be the first to acknowledge, as she’s already mentioned in several appearances and debates with the Democrats that we’ll have very significant differences. And I think the American people will see those differences and make a judgment.

Q: Senator Clinton, do you have a response to that?

CLINTON: No, I agree with that. I think that John and I will have a respectful debate, but we do have serious differences about the direction of the country and what we think should be done. But that’s exactly the kind of election that our country needs right now, and I’m looking forward to it.

McCAIN: Do you want to start that debate now?

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Feb 3, 2008

Proud of Justice O’Connor; favor Roberts and Alito

Q: Was Sandra Day O’Connor the right choice?

A: I’m proud of Sandra Day O’Connor as a fellow Arizonan. And my heart goes out to her family in that situation that they have today. And I’m proud of her. The judges I would appoint are along the lines of Justices Roberts and Alito, who have a proven record of strict interpretation of the Constitution of the US. I’m not going to second-guess Reagan.

Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

Reagan knows that I stick with my principles

Q: Would Reagan endorse you? And if so, why?

A: Reagan would not approve of someone who changes their positions depending on what the year is. Reagan came with an unshakable set of principles, and there were many times, like when he had to deploy the cruise missile to Europe and there were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators against it, he stood with it. Reagan had a deal in Reykjavik that everybody wanted him to take, but he stuck with his principles. He knows that I stick with my principles.

Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

GovWatch: No, Constitution says we’re not a Christian nation

“I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”
--John McCain interview with Beliefnet.com, September 2007.

A number of Republican candidates have made erroneous statements about the Christian underpinnings of America. According to Mike Huckabee, most of the Founding Fathers were clergymen. Duncan Hunter repeated an old myth about the personal prayer book of George Washington. But McCain’s statement seemed the most egregious. Anyone who wants to be president should be intimately familiar with the constitution. Article Six states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United Sates.”

Source: GovWatch on 2008 Pinocchio Awards for Biggest Fib of 2007 , Jan 1, 2008

Able to work with others with own set of principles

I had a set of principles and ideals. At the same time, I have joined together across the aisle on a number of pieces of legislation, many of them very important. I’m proud of my legislative record, of conserving my ideals and my conservative principles and getting things done in Washington. I will continue to hold to those ideals, but I will reach across the aisle to the Democrats, who I have worked with, who know me, and we know we can work together for the good of this country
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate , Dec 12, 2007

OpEd: congenital contrarian on numerous conservative issues

A willingness--nay, EAGERNESS--to admit every fault before his detractors can point it out, defines McCain's unique charisma. But while his compulsions to share his shortcomings seemed refreshing back in 2000, when McCain first ran for president, the shtick may be wearing a bit thin in the 2008 cycle.

Still, no one can deny McCain's status as a bona-fide war hero. But such heroism may not be enough to compensate for McCain's long history of alienating his fellow Republicans. The congenital contrarian has crossed conservatives on taxes, immigration, campaign finance reform, and a host of other hot-button issues that will not be forgotten anytime soon--certainly not during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Source: Meet the Next President, by Bill Sammon, p.190 , Dec 11, 2007

Op-Ed: Unexamined as both straight-talker and as maverick

Neither the straight-talking maverick of 1999-2000 nor the fallen saint of 2007 was a very revealing caricature to begin with. Both are functions of an intriguing and little-understood paradox of modern politics: that John McCain, both in spite of and because of his overexposure in the media, is one of the most journalistically under-examined major candidates running for president.

We all know the dazzling highlights from his larger-than-life biography--the torture in Vietnam, the Straight-Talk insurgency, the campaign finance reform, maybe even some traces from the Keating Five scandal. But how might these experiences translate into future performance as president?

With such an epic bio to convey, and the anecdote-generating distraction of constant success, there wasn’t much time or space to analyze McCain’s actual political philosophy and track record. As a direct result, much of what we think we know about John McCain is wrong. He does not, for instance, talk particularly straight.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. xv-xviii , Oct 9, 2007

Emulates TR on vigor, nationalism, common good, intervention

What does McCain see in Roosevelt? The Roosevelt chapters in Worth Fighting For and Character is Destiny contain the four main Rooseveltian traits and principles that the modern-day maverick most admires. These are: personal vigor & courage a preference for national unity over multiculturalism and individualism, preference for the common good over materialism, and embrace of superpower interventionism. Taken in order:
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.142-149 , Oct 9, 2007

Published 5 books over period of 8 years

McCain's 5 books each have their own timely & useful purpose.
  1. Faith of My Fathers highlighted the senator's most winning personal story, while imposing an interpretation of redemption that cleared the decks for concentrating on the greater cause of erasing public cynicism and embracing our nation's destiny.
  2. Worth Fighting For, is a paean to irascible political independence and cross-partisan cooperation, showing the burn scars of the 2000 primary fight, while further developing McCain's ideas for "national greatness."
  3. Why Courage Matters, from 2004, is the sore thumb of the bunch, a perfunctory and unsatisfying attempt to answer his publisher's question of how Americans could go about finding their courage after Sep. 11.
  4. Character Is Destiny, as detailed in chapter 11, is perfectly in keeping with McCain's rapprochement with the Religious Right.
  5. And now Hard Call provides an opportunity to associate McCain with courageous decision-makers.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.198 , Oct 9, 2007

Considers his heroes as one of his qualifications to lead

McCain said: "I am prepared to lead. My life and my experience and my background and my heroes inspire me and qualify me to lead in this titanic struggle." (Emphasis added.)

Everybody has heroes. Some of us (including Giuliani and former New Yorker editor Tina Brown) list McCain among them. But does that quality of our chosen inspiration "qualify" us for the highest office in the land? McCain apparently takes that curious notion seriously enough that he made the same comment on Bill O'Reilly's TV show just days before ("I believe my whole life, my inspiration, my heroes and my experience have qualified me to serve"), then quickly sent out press releases highlighting that line, and repeated the idea yet again in interviews just following the New Hampshire debate.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 2-3 , Oct 9, 2007

Praises Teddy Roosevelt's expansion of executive power

Teddy Roosevelt wouldn't have been able to pursue a robust foreign policy without concentrating power in the executive branch to a degree not seen since Abraham Lincoln, and matched thereafter only by Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, an George W. Bush. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to govern extensively through executive ordered. Perhaps only Dick Cheney--"as capable and sensible a public servant as I've known," McCain has said--has done more to expand the legal boundaries of the executive office than Teddy Roosevelt. Which wins nothing but praise from John McCain: "He invented the modern presidency by liberally interpreting the constitutional authority of the office to redress the imbalance of power between the executive and legislative branches."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.149-150 , Oct 9, 2007

Focus on what America COULD do; not what gov't SHOULDN'T do

McCain writes in his biography: "No one had a more pronounced influence on my political convictions than Ronald Reagan. Most important [was] his eloquently stated belief in America's national greatness, his trust in our historical exceptionalism, the shining city on the hill he invoked so often, in which I heard the echoes of my great political hero Teddy Roosevelt." Reagan spoke the language of restoration, of healing the wounds of Vietnam so that America could get back to the business of leading the world by example and force. His "revolution," which was widely seen as the popular flowering of Goldwater's unpopular seeds if 1964, included healthy doses of libertarianism that McCain also endorsed at the time--"faith in the individual; skepticism of government; free trade and vigorous capitalism." But what lit his eyes up for the beginning was not what the government SHOULDN'T do, but what Americans together COULD do.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 63-64 , Oct 9, 2007

1999: Voted to convict Pres. Clinton of lying under oath

In early 1999, as he moved closer to declaring his candidacy for president, McCain struggled with another issue: the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. He had been uncomfortable with it from the beginning. Throughout the impeachment proceedings in the House and the trial in the Senate, he had said little. Even so, no one doubted how he would vote. No Republican senator with aspirations to his or her party's nomination in the year 2000 could fail to vote to convict. It was a fact of political life, one that was easier to swallow for some senators since it had been clear for weeks, if not months, that Clinton would be acquitted.

McCain did the expected, voted to convict. In his statement that February day, he said that he had done things in his private life that he was not proud of and wished that circumstances had allowed the President "to keep his personal life private." Once Clinton's dalliances with Monica Lewinsky became public, however, he had an obligation to tell the truth when under oath.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.198-9 , Sep 18, 2007

1987: Association with Keating 5 worse than any culpability

McCain stumbled into a scandal of immense proportions: Charles Keating had built his financial empire on the life savings of elderly retirees [who lost it all in] Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. McCain and 4 other senators with ties to Keating were dubbed "the Keating Five." The label stuck, imputing to all the same degree of guilt even though it soon became evident that at least two, McCain and John Glenn of Ohio, were far less culpable.

The most serious charges revolved around two meetings in April 1987 at which the senators allegedly pressured officials of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to make concessions that might help Keating save his ailing savings and loan. McCain had met with Keating, who demanded that McCain negotiate with the bank board on his behalf. McCain refused. His responsibility as a senator was to ensure that constituents were treated fairly, he said. McCain only attended, he said, because Keating was a major employer in his state.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.178-9 , Sep 18, 2007

1991: Rebuked for "poor judgment" in Keating 5; & vindicated

[By 1990, the Keating Five probe had] dragged on, and the committee considered dropping the charges against McCain and John Glenn but continue the investigation. Instead, public hearings began on the actions of all 5 senators. By early 1991, McCain was fighting back hard, not only to meet "a seemingly unquenchable need to defend his honor" but to save his Senate seat. The televised hearings lasted 8 weeks. McCain took some hits during the inquisition but rebounded so well that the "Congressional Quarterly" said he had fared better than if the ethics panel had cleared him in advance. [The prosecutor], in fact, used McCain and Glenn as role models of proper senatorial conduct, contrasting their action with those of DeConcini, Riegle, and Cranston.

After 6 weeks of deliberation, the committee rendered its judgment: McCain received a mild rebuke for exercising "poor judgment." He pronounced himself vindicated and put aside lingering thoughts of retirement.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.184-5 , Sep 18, 2007

Most important part of decision-making is self-awareness

The most important part of [decision-making] is self-awareness. These are but a few of the many personal questions that have to be answered before making an informed decision. And they should be asked and answered before you are confronted with the need to make a decision.

In short, the better aware you are, the more sound your decision. What is the most common observation made by someone who made the wrong call? “I really didn’t know.”

Source: Hard Call, by John McCain & Mark Salter, chapter 1 , Aug 14, 2007

If I lose capacity for anger, I lose capacity to serve

Q: A concern from Washington insiders is about your temperament. Some of your fellow senators talk about experiencing a McCain moment, when you jump down their throats, or you get testy with critics. One, how do you plead? And two, would that be a problem for a president?

A: You know, that routine was tried very hard in 2000. It’s simply not true. I mean, do I get angry at corruption when I see it? Sure. Do I get angry when I see this pork barrel spending? Of course. Do I get angry when I see people not acting up to standards that the American people expect us to do? Of course. Do I have “temper tantrums?” No, I don’t. And yet if I lose my capacity for anger, then I’ve lost my capacity to serve.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Courage is the capacity for action despite our fears

We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears. The stories cherished most by all sinners whose consciences are not permanently mute concern the life-redeeming act of courage They’re not, however, as abundant in real life as they are in fiction. Better to look to the lives of good men and women who in a crucible risked or sacrificed their own security for someone else.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 8 , Apr 1, 2004

Humility from surviving veterans is remarkable

“I don’t like to be called a hero,” Benavidez complained, and then, in the familiar refrain of veterans from all wars, he offered the observation, “The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for their country.” That kind of humility from surviving veterans who distinguished themselves in combat is so commonplace that we’ve come to expect it from them. We don’t take it seriously. We even suspect that it’s false. We don’t see how remarkable it is. They mean it. Every word.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 11 , Apr 1, 2004

Just government is derived from the consent of the governed

Few of us will fight in any kind of war. There’s not much chance of truly big, historically important political conflict in this country, either. What do politicians fight about anymore? The size of tax cuts. What to spend our money on. These are the most common areas of domestic policy disagreements. We’re all pretty much agreed on the big question-whether man is endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable rights and that just government is derived from the consent of the governed.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 34 , Apr 1, 2004

We need moral courage to be honest all the time

Most of us accept social norms: that it’s right to be honest, to respect the rights of others, to have compassion. But accepting the appropriateness of these qualities, wanting them, and teaching our children to want them aren’t the same as actually possessing them. Accepting their validity isn’t moral courage. How honest are we if we tell the truth most of the time & stay silent only when telling the truth might get us fired or earn us a broken nose? We need moral courage to be honest all the time.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 42 , Apr 1, 2004

Do the thing you think you cannot do

Though it is as apparent and as insufficient an explanation of how we obtain courage, that doesn’t make it useless advice. Eleanor Roosevelt managed to live an exceptionally useful life by following the prescription, useful to her and to many others, burdened though she was by her insecurities and doubts. Again, maybe her resolve wasn’t exactly as empowering a condition as courage, but what more do most of use need courage for than to live life according to the dictates of our conscience?
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 48 , Apr 1, 2004

The allure of pride affects adults like it affects children

We don’t experience empathetic apprehension and pain by urging our children to be always honest, always fair, always respectful, the virtues that will alert them of their duty. We don’t usually imagine their possession of those virtues provoking much more than the admiration of adults, their teachers, our neighbors and friends. If we’re honest, we have in the backs of our minds as we impart these lessons to our children our own pride, our regard for our children as a reflection of our parenting.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p.111 , Apr 1, 2004

We are indebted to those who shed blood for us

Pay your debts. The firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers who raced toward the danger that others fled, or tried to flee, bestowed by their sacrifice an obligation on the rest of us. The soldiers who embarked to distant, dangerous lands, to take the war to our enemies and away from us, away from our loved ones, bestowed an obligation on us. So, too, did the soldiers on Peleiu, in Korea, in Vietnam, and in all the savage battles in all the wars of our history. They are blood debts we owe.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p.201 , Apr 1, 2004

It’s love that makes courage necessary

We have to value our freedom. We have to love it, not for the ease or material riches it provides, not just for the autonomy it guarantees us, but for the goodness it makes possible. And we have to love it so much that we will not let it be constrained by fear. It’s love, then, that makes courage necessary. And it’s love that makes courage possible for all of us to possess. We must love freedom for the right reasons. And, on occasion, our love will need courage to survive, to insist on our freedom.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p.203 , Apr 1, 2004

2000: Decried "incumbency protection racket" then lost to it

In the 1999 primaries McCain had numerous appeals. Everyone noticed and appreciated his humility & sense of humor during crowded N.H. town meetings. His openness with the reporters left their mouths agape on his "Straight Talk Express" bus. But what made McCain stand out as a Republican were his repeated statements about dirty money in politics--what he called the "incumbency protection racket."

After McCain handily won the N.H. primary, money poured into his campaign-- $1 million in one peak day including matching funds. So why didn't he win the nomination? Because the GOP politicos, along with key Republican governors in key primary states, had already chosen Bush. Republican primary voters were not the representative sample of people to whom McCain's reformist language appealed. They view themselves more as conservatives than reformers.

When someone like McCain cannot upend the pols in his own party, it goes to show how extremely rigid the GOP can be.

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p. 60-61 , Oct 14, 2002

Political style is to be straightforward

Politicians with the longest and most successful careers are often whose who have ruffled the fewest feathers. They zigzag toward their goals, twisting around obstacles, taking care and time to acquire as few opponents as possible and as much support as their success requires. I admire their patience and agility. I have too little of those attributes to work obliquely. God has given me heart enough for my ambitions, but too little forbearance to pursue them by routes other than a straight line.
Source: Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain, p. xvii , Sep 24, 2002

Principles are more important than personal happiness

I have an understanding that health, good fortune, long years, domestic tranquility, all the attributes of personal happiness, do not make a life well lived if we are afraid to risk it all for the love of something finer, something bigger than our own desires.
Source: Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain, p. xxv , Sep 24, 2002

Temper is same as other senators--he’s just more famous

McCain is known to have a prickly personality at times & a combustible temper, but his aides have been with him for an unusually long time. Politicians present their most pleasant, friendly, backslapping selves to the public & the press. Their relations with their staffs offer a more accurate measure of their character.

McCain can at times become testy for no apparent reason. He does explode on occasion, but he also knows how and when to keep his temper under control. Other senators are known to explode, but McCain’s temper is famous in large part because he’s famous and in large part because he has some dedicated enemies in the Senate.

In fact, during the presidential campaign, some of his Senate “colleagues” conducted a smear campaign suggesting that McCain was unstable. They disliked his independent style and his occasional displays of temper--and they were for George W. Bush. But once they were called on it in a newspaper column, they first denied it and then they stopped it.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p. 22-23 , May 7, 2002

Keep tight reign on emotions--not to high nor too depressed

[When the House passed campaign finance reform, & McCain] began to feel better about the way things were going, he said, when the amendment to exempt the NRA from the curbs on electioneering ads was defeated (in the closest vote of the night). “They pulled out all the stops on that. We were pretty confident--you never get confident, you’re hopeful. You just keep a tight emotional rein. I don’t feel any sense of relief or happiness until it’s done.”

And then he talked about his effort to hold his emotions in check, which he’d talked about throughout this fight, in a new way. “I learned from prison, you don’t go too far high because then you go down.” He explained, “While I was in prison, in 1968 LBJ stopped bombing in North Vietnam, and a peace conference was convened in Paris. All of us were very high. The ensuing months and years taught us otherwise. Never get too happy or too depressed. I try to maintain a tight rein on my emotions when in difficulty.”

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p.169 , May 7, 2002

Reputation of volcanic temper shared even within GOP

McCain is wound tightly and has a volcanic temper. When his presidential campaign momentarily took off in 2000, Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, among others, privately told associates he wasn't temperamentally suited "to have his finger on the [nuclear] trigger." There was a not-so-subtle and ugly suggestion that McCain had been psychologically decimated by the POW experience. (More than any other candidate he revealed his entire medical history, which lent no credence to that charge.)

Over lunch a year after South Carolina, John McCain still bridles at the tone of his Republican colleagues. "Lott said some of the most malicious things I've ever heard," he declares.

Source: Profiles in Courage For Our Time, by Caroline Kennedy, p.255 , Oct 1, 2001

Re-adjusted to civilian life after POW years: no "imbalance"

The years in Hanoi, it was intimated by the Senate whisperers, had unbalanced McCain. The accusation of McCain's putative imbalance was worse than simply false, it veered on the dishonorable. It was a dishonor, not only against McCain, but against every veteran of the Hanoi prison complex. In fact, the opposite was true; McCain--along with the rest of the POWs--adjusted remarkably well to civilian life. This confirms what service chaplains and medics have long known: that those with deep-rooted beliefs (and the almost religious belief of the vast majority of POWs was a belief in America itself) withstand the pressure of repetitive fire, the stress of attack, much better than those without such sustaining faith. This, just perhaps, is the alpha and the omega of Faith of My Fathers--keep faith with the cause, the cause of the fathers and the cause of one's comrades--and one can endure anything.
Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.250 , Sep 20, 2000

Secret Pledge of Allegiance: most meaning of POW's day

Let me tell you what I think about our Pledge of Allegiance, our flag, and our country. One of my fellow POWs, Mike Christian, got a piece of white cloth and a piece of red cloth and fashioned himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he sewed the American flag on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of our cell, and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know that saying the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important or meaningful part of our day now, but I can assure you that--for those men in the stark prison cell--it was indeed the most important and meaningful event of our day.

One day, the Vietnamese searched our cell and discovered Mike's flag; they beat Mike severely. After things quieted down, there was Mike Christian, with his eyes almost shut from his beating, making another American flag, because he knew how important it was for us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

Source: A Patriot's Handbook, by Caroline Kennedy, p. 16 , Jul 4, 1971

Fight to restore the pride and principles of our party

I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Senator Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Faith bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity

Many years ago a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam was tied in torture ropes by his tormentors and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening a guard he had never spoken to entered the room & silently loosened the ropes to relieve his suffering. Just before morning, that same guard came back and re-tightened the ropes before his less humanitarian comrades returned. He never said a word to the grateful prisoner, but some months later, on a Christmas morning, as the prisoner stood alone in the prison courtyard, the same good Samaritan walked up to him and stood next to him for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. Both prisoner and guard both stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.

That is my faith; the faith that unites and never divides; the faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. It is the faith I would die to defend.

Source: Speech in Virginia Beach, VA , Feb 28, 2000

Calls himself conservative who attracts political center

McCain said, “Electability is all about getting the support of the political center. I’m a proud Republican conservative and maintain my base. But through this message of reform we will attract people all over the political spectrum.” As an example, McCain said that while he opposes abortion, he thought the Republican party should be “an inclusionary party.” He continued, “Reagan was able to expand the base of the party and continue to espouse the conservative philosophy. I have to do that as well.”
Source: New York Times, p.A20 , Feb 3, 2000

Foreign policy should not be shaped by photo-ops & polls

Q: How specifically would you as president improve the dignity of the Oval Office and restore the moral excellence of our great nation? A: The first and primary responsibility of the president is to protect its security and conduct foreign policy. This administration has conducted foreign policy in a feckless, photo-op way that will cause us perhaps to have to expend our most precious assets, our American blood and treasure. I will not take a poll as president as to how to conduct foreign policy.
Source: GOP Debate in Johnston, Iowa , Jan 16, 2000

Restore, renew, reform, & reinvigorate government

Unless we restore the people’s sovereignty over government, renew their pride in public service, reform our public institutions to meet the demands of a new day, and reinvogorate our sense of national purpose, we will deny our destiny; we will abandon the cause our founding fathers called glorious.
Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH , Sep 27, 1999

“New Patriotic Challenge”: stand against cynicism

We can take a stand. We can fight together. to defend the proposition that democracy is not only the most effective form of government, but the only moral government. This is our New Patriotic Challenge: to join in the fight against the pervasive cynicism that is debilitating our democracy. It is 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.
Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH , Sep 27, 1999

Public officials have failed to set example for society

McCain warned that public officials bore their share of blame for a climate of hate “that poisons our land,” because “there’s too much ‘us’ & ‘them’ & not enough ‘we.’ When we denounce Jerry Springer, and then behave in Congress like guests on his show, it’s little wonder that the public has stopped looking to us for leadership,” McCain said. “Passing bills is the easy part of public office. The challenge is setting an example of the kind of behavior that society expects. To that end, we have failed.”
Source: Todd S. Purdum, New York Times, p. A14 , Aug 17, 1999

John McCain on Campaign Themes

Palin is a reformer and a role model

Q: Why is your running mate better suited to become President?

McCAIN: Sarah Palin took on a governor who was a member of her own party when she ran for governor. When she was the head of their energy and natural resources board, she saw corruption, she resigned. She’s given money back to the taxpayers. She’s cut the size of government. She negotiated with the oil companies and faced them down.

OBAMA: Joe Biden is one of the finest public servants that has served in this country. It’s not just that he has some of the best foreign policy credentials of anybody. It’s also that he has never forgotten where he came from, fighting on behalf of working families, remembering what it’s like to see his father lose his job and go through a downward spiral economically.

Source: 2008 third presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 15, 2008

I fight for Americans; I fight for you

I fight for Americans. I fight for you. I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan. They lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market. Bill got a temporary job after he was out of work for seven months. Sue works three jobs to help pay the bills. I fight for Jake and Toni Wimmer of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Jake works on a loading dock, coaches Little League, and raises money for the mentally and physically disabled. Toni is a schoolteacher, working toward her master’s degree. They have two sons; the youngest, Luke, has been diagnosed with autism. Their lives should matter to the people they elect to office, and they matter to me, and they matter to you. I fight for the family of Matthew Stanley of Wolfboro, New Hampshire. Matthew died serving our country in Iraq. I wear his bracelet and think of him every day. I intend to honor their sacrifice by making sure the country their son loved so well and never returned to remains safe from its enemies.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Warning to Washington crowd: Change is coming

Let me just offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first-country-second, Washington crowd: Change is coming. I’m not in the habit of breaking my promises to my country, and neither is Governor Palin. And when we tell you we’re going to change Washington and stop leaving our country’s problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it. And we’ve got a record of doing just that, and the strength, experience, judgment and backbone to keep our word to you.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Fight for what’s right for our country

Fight with me. Fight for what’s right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people. Fight for our children’s future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all. Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America. Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We’re Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

I’m a mainstream conservative; judge my record as a whole

My record in public office taken as a whole is the record of a mainstream conservative. I believe today, as I believed 25 years ago, in small government; fiscal discipline; low taxes; a strong defense, judges who enforce, and not make, our laws; the social values that are the true source of our strength; and, generally, the steadfast defense of our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which I have defended my entire career as God-given to the born and unborn.

Surely, I have held some positions that have not met with widespread agreement from conservatives. I won’t pretend otherwise nor would you permit me to forget it.

All I ask of any American, conservative, moderate, independent, or enlightened Democrat, is to judge my record as a whole, and accept that I am not in the habit of making promises to my country that I do not intend to keep.

Source: Speeches to 2008 Conservative Political Action Conference , Feb 7, 2008

This 2008 election is about hugely consequential things

Often elections in the US are fought within the margins of small differences. This one will not be. We are arguing about hugely consequential things. Whomever the Democrats nominate would govern in a way that will take this country backward to the days when government felt empowered to take from us our freedom to decide for ourselves the course & quality of our lives; to substitute the muddled judgment of large & expanding federal bureaucracies for the common sense & values of the American people; to the timidity and wishful thinking of a time when we averted our eyes from terrible threats to our security that were so plainly gathering strength abroad. It is shameful and dangerous that Senate Democrats are blocking an extension of surveillance powers that enable our intelligence and law enforcement to defend our country against radical Islamic extremists. This election is going to be about big things, not small things. I intend to fight as hard as I can to ensure our principles prevail over theirs.
Source: Speeches to 2008 Conservative Political Action Conference , Feb 7, 2008

The vision, knowledge, and background to be president

Q: What makes you more qualified than Romney, a successful CEO and businessman, to manage our economy?

A: Because I know how to lead. I led the largest squadron in the US Navy. And I did it out of patriotism, not for profit. And I can hire lots of managers, but leadership is a quality that people look for. I have the vision and the knowledge and the background to take on the transcendent issue of the 21st century, which is radical Islamic extremism. I’ve been involved in every single major nationa security crisis in the last 20 years. I’m proud to have played a role in those, and I’m proud to have played a role in making sure that we didn’t raise the white flag and surrender in Iraq, as the Democrats wanted us to do and we would have done if we had set timetables for a withdrawal. I have the qualifications and the knowledge and the background and the judgment. I don’t need any on-the-job training. I had the great honor of serving this country in uniform for 22 years.

Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

People want the truth, even if they disagree

Q: Many had given your candidacy up for dead. Are you surprised by your current situation [leading in New Hampshire]?

: I’m pleased. I know we were at a very low point. We’ve been traveling around the country telling people the truth. And here in New Hampshire people, frankly, don’t mind it if you disagree with him as long as they think that you’re telling them the truth. We had our 100th town hall meeting here yesterday, and we had some very spirited exchanges. I think that’s what the people of New Hampshire want.

Q: You said this last week: “The American people have lost their trust and confidence in their government. Our failures at Katrina, the war in Iraq, corruption and spending in Washington.” That’s a denunciation of George W. Bush.

A: Well, it’s certainly a criticism, but I also have pointed out, we’ve not had another attack on the US. I think he deserves credit for that. He led this nation after 9/11 and united us.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Jan 6, 2008

I didn’t manage for profit, I led for patriotism

Q: You didn’t like it much when Governor Romney said recently that he spoke for the Republican wing of the Republican party. Who’s more conservative: you or Mitt Romney?

A: I think it’s pretty obvious that that statement was a paraphrase of Howard Dean’s statement about the Democrat party. The fact is, I’m running on my record as a reliable conservative of 24 years. And the indicators of that, obviously, is that I’ve fought wasteful spending, I have had a strong and a long relationship on national security, I’ve been involved in every national crisis that this nation has faced since Beirut, I understand the issues, I understand and appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face from radical Islamic extremism. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn’t a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn’t a governor for a short period of time. For 20-some years, including leading the largest squadron in the US Navy, I led. I didn’t manage for profit, I led for patriotism.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida , Oct 21, 2007

Philosophy of worthy sacrifice from For Whom the Bell Tolls

In his 2002 book, McCain writes, “I had not the wit to articulate the truth [that Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls] taught or the wisdom to really understand it.” Now older & wiser, McCain thinks he has finally cracked the mystery of the “worth the fighting for” phrase that he can’t get out of his mind. “To me it means everything,” he said in a 2005 radio interview. “Maximize your time, be associated with a cause greater than your self-interest. Care about the world--not just your own self -- which is the opportunity that the US has as a nation today, because we’re the most powerful nation in history.“

It takes real message discipline to convert the fuel of an essentially anti-imperialist novel into the fire of virtuous empire. [But McCain was] initially thrilled for an altogether different reason. [Describing the book’s protagonist], McCain said, ”He’s a man who’s willing to sacrifice his life for what he believes in, even if what he believes in he realizes is flawed in many respects.“

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 17 , Oct 9, 2007

Hard Calls: consider stakes; time; preparedness; confidence

[In making a “Hard Call”], the first question you need to answer is: What are the stakes involved? What is at risk and how much is it at risk by your decision? If the stakes are grave--life or death, the success or failure of an important enterprise --yo will proceed cautiously and expend every effort to gather relevant information before you decide. If the stakes are not so grave, then you might have the space to consider bolder action.

Time is the second consideration. When does the problem become unsolvable? When will the opportunity pass?

The third critical question: Are you prepared for the decision? Do you know your business? Have you already gained the knowledge to make the call? Do you know what you don’t know?

Fourth, do you have confidence, an informed confidence, that the information you are using is reliable? Are your assumptions no more than groupthink? False information is often perpetuated and will lead you to not only one bad decision but possibly several.

Source: Hard Call, by John McCain & Mark Salter, chapter 1 , Aug 14, 2007

Reform gov’t, fight Islamic extremism; & restore integrity

Q: When Ronald Reagan ran for president, his platform stripped down to the bark was just a few words: Shrink government, cut taxes, build the military. Using the same shorthand, what is your core platform?

A: Reform government, fight this Islamic extremist element--that is a threat that challenges the world--and restore integrity to government.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

I am here to serve, but not necessarily as president

Q: Do you feel you have one final mission to serve this country?

A: No. I do feel that--and I hope I say this adequately--I think that I am here to serve. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it means serve as president. I’ve been blessed to be able to serve for many, many years both in the military and in public office. But it doesn’t mean that I was meant to be president. It just means that whatever time I have left, I would be of service to the country.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Looks to Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, & Eisenhower as models

Q: What about the way you’d run the White House? Would you try to have more debate? Would you try to hear more competing views?

A: Obviously, I would look at the Reagan style. I would look at Teddy Roosevelt. Eisenhower was a good example of having a good structured staff--but at the same time get input from outside your own circle of advisers, rely on people that I’ve relied on for many years to give me advice and counsel on a broad range of issues, and they don’t necessarily happen to be people who either work for you or are in your inner circle. I think when presidencies become beleaguered, they have a tendency to circle the wagons. That’s a natural tendency. I think we need to get advice and counsel from a lot of smart people all over the country and the world.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Loyalty is important, but performance should come first

Q: For years you called for Don Rumsfeld to step down. This week you’re calling for Alberto Gonzales to do the right thing and step down. As president, how would you balance personal loyalty with doing what’s best for the nation?

A: There’s an old Navy saying, that loyalty up breeds loyalty down. In other words, you’ve got to have people who are loyal to you as well as you being loyal to them. But it can’t be the most important quality. It’s a very important quality, but you also have to expect a certain level of performance that’s neither embarrassing to you, embarrassing to the American people and, most importantly, a betrayal of the standards that we expect of public servants.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Man of the People: happy to be a Republican and a Reaganite

The animosity [towards Bush over the 2000 campaign] was still there when I interviewed McCain in Aug. 2001. Each time I asked him about his relationship with his party, he gave me the same answer: he was happy to be a Republican. This seemed odd since so much of his political rhetoric indicated he was not happy with his party. Finally, in the fall of 2001, I asked his advisor, “How long is the Senator going to keep telling me that he cannot envision a way to leave the Republican Party?” To which his advisor answered, “Until he tells you he can envision a way to leave the Republican Party.”

That’s where we are today. I entitled this book Man of the People because, even though he arrived in Washington in 1982 a Reaganite, over his 20-year political career he has evolved into the one current politician who best articulates the hopes and dreams of the common man. That he is an authentic American hero, though he himself will never say he is, only underscores the authority he has to say what he does.

Source: Man of the People, by Paul Alexander, first chapter , Jan 8, 2004

Straight Talk focuses on appeal via authenticity

Closely associated with his identity as a reformer is the sense that McCain will “tell it like it is. Naming his campaign bus the Straight Talk Express had been a stroke of genius. McCain is a magnet for those tired of political double-talk, of trimmers. He knows that, and acts accordingly--mostly out of instinct. It would be folly for anyone else to try to mold himself into a John McCain.” His authenticity is a large part of his appeal.
Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p. 71 , May 7, 2002

John McCain on Past Campaigns

July 2007: Stalled campaign seemed hopeless

In July 2007, the McCain campaign has imploded. Not only has it run out of money with what appears to be reckless mismanagement, but McCain has just had to fire key members of his staff. Fast and furious, the questions come:

Q: Are you taking blame for mistakes that were made in your campaign?

A: I'm not taking, "blame." I'm taking responsibility. That's the way I was brought up in the military. You take responsibility when you're in charge.

Q: Are there any circumstances under which you could imagine yourself not still being a presidential candidate when the New Hampshire primary's held?

Smiling, he gives a quick reply, intended as a humorous quip to draw an appreciative response from his once admiring and supportive press pack: "Contracting a fatal disease," John McCain answers.

Dead silence. No laughter. Nothing.

"Anything short of that?" the reporter asks.

McCain replies, "Not that I know of."

Source: The Battle for America 2008, by Balz & Johnson, p. 6-7 , Aug 4, 2009

Obama broke his word on public campaign financing

McCAIN: Sen. Obama signed a piece of paper that said he would take public financing for his campaign if I did--that was back when he was a long-shot candidate--you didn’t keep your word. In a debate with Sen. Clinton you said, “I will sit down and negotiate with John McCain about public financing before I make a decision,” you didn’t tell the American people the truth because you didn’t. That’s unfortunate. Now we have the highest spending by Sen. Obama’s campaign than any time since Watergate.
Source: 2008 third presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 15, 2008

2000: Positioned himself as anti-establishment underdog

Any cursory look at McCain's platform and voting record would tell you that conservatives need not have worried about a McCain presidency. The differences between him & Bush on policy issues were tiny; what defined the distinct roles they took on during the campaign were the choices each made. Bush undertook a carefully planned effort to become the GOP's establishment candidate. In response, McCain played the anti-establishmentarian role, something that underdogs running against presumptive favorites have done since time immemorial. Running as the insurgent gave McCain's campaign needed life but led, unsurprisingly, to his rejection by the Republican establishment, and he met the same fate as most underdogs. (Not all conservatives turned their back o McCain, however. The neoconservatives saw what many in the conservative camp overlooked--McCain's domestic right-wing bona fides, combined with his neoconservative vision of American foreign policy.)
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 75-76 , Mar 25, 2008

2004: Press speculated about Kerry-McCain, but McCain didn't

For a few weeks in March 2004, Democrats clung to the hope that a Republican would be their party's vice presidential candidate. Fevered speculation about whom John Kerry would choose as his running mate focused on one tantalizing option: John McCain. McCain seemed intrigued by the notion initially. In a March 10 interview, McCain admitted that he would "entertain" the idea of being the Democratic V.P. candidate if asked, a comment that set off an eruption of Beltway hype. By that evening, however, he sought to put out the brush fire he'd started.

But in the heady climate of a presidential campaign, conjecture frequently trumps reality. And so it was that the next couple of months saw the idea of a Kerry-McCain dream ticket gain currency. Although no formal offers were made (or rejected), Washington was abuzz with rumors that Kerry was putting on the full-court press to recruit his Senate colleague. But McCain could not have been clearer about his decision even as speculation ran wild.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p.128-129 , Mar 25, 2008

Known as a "staunch conservative" until 1999

In the 1980s, John McCain was not known for being anything other than a conservative Republican. During the '90s, however, McCain began to develop a reputation for party apostasy for his positions on campaign finance reform and tobacco regulation. But such highly public breaks with the party were, in fact, aberrations.

Up until his 2000 run for the White House, McCain had been regularly described in the press as a "staunch conservative." He was able to change that image not by altering his positions on fundamental issues, but by planning a few showy acts of bipartisanship that delighted Democrats, peeved Republicans, and served to distort his overall record. Anyone watching coverage of McCain over the ensuing years would come to believe that some sort of ideological transformation had taken place, to the point where McCain had become the most prominent moderate in Washington.

Writers invoked Theodore Roosevelt as the model for McCain, a comparison that the senator encouraged.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p.130-131 , Mar 25, 2008

GovWatch: 2002: Religious Right are “agents of intolerance”

Top McCain Flip Flops: #2. Religious Right:

During the 2002 election campaign, McCain attacked Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance.” He withdrew that remark in a 2006 interview with Meet the Press, saying that the Christian Right had a “major role to play in the Republican party.”

Source: GovWatch on 2008 campaign: “Top Ten Flip-Flops” , Feb 5, 2008

FactCheck: Won NH & SC via independents, but lost GOP vote

McCain dubiously claimed that he won the GOP vote in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. But in New Hampshire, the National Election Pool Exit Poll showed Romney edging McCain 35% to 34% among Republican voters. McCain wouldn’t have won if he hadn’t collected 40% of the independent vote, an overwhelming plurality.

McCain can point to an exit poll done separately by Fox News, which shows him beating Romney among Republicans in New Hampshire, 35% to 33%. The same poll, though, shows Romney received more of the self-identified “conservative” vote, 38% to McCain’s 31%.

But if McCain wants to use Fox’s exit polls as his standard, the one taken after the South Carolina primary disproves his point: Huckabee edged him among Republican voters, 32% to 31%, and it was only through the votes of independents, who swung for him 42% to 25%, that McCain prevailed.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

1983: Claiming Hanoi residency ended carpetbagger accusation

[In 1983, McCain was accused of carpetbagging in his run for Congress]. McCain wrote in 2002 how he responded to the justifiable criticism: “I was becoming pissed off by the carpetbagger label.”

What happened next has become the stuff of legend. At a candidates’ forum, McCain was asked about his carpetbagging again & became irate. “Listen, pal,” he snapped. “I spent 22 years in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of spending my entire life in a nice place like the 1st District of Arizona. As a matter of fact, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.“

It was a beautiful line, neutralizing the criticism once & for all, maybe even delivering that first election to McCain. It was also, transparently, a lie: McCain lived in Arlington VA for at least five years as a kid, and several years later as Navy liaison. He wrapped himself in his imprisonment, and made his interlocutors feel like ungrateful chumps for even asking about it.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 52-53 , Oct 9, 2007

Keating Five scandal converted him to champion of reform

[In 1990], John McCain was panicked by the Keating Five scandal, a slow-burning ethics investigation into improper meetings McCain & four other senators held with banking regulators on behalf of his first political sponsor, thrift tycoon Charles Keating. “Keating Five” had become synonymous with the Savings & Loan debacle that was then ripping through the headlines. “My popularity in Arizona was in a free fall,” he would later recall. “I expected a rough & quite possibly unsuccessful reelection campaign in 1992.“

But as 1990 turned into 1991, with televised hearings making McCain’s face a national symbol of Beltway corruption, it was time to call in the big guns. McCain reached out to former AZ Senator Barry Goldwater, who had over the years finally begun to warm to him [and politically recovered from the scandal].

The Keating Five corruption and campaign-finance scandal that for the first time threatened to derail his fast-track ambitions converted McCain into a champion of reform.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 57-58 & 65 , Oct 9, 2007

Keating Five: investigated during 90s Savings & Loan scandal

[In 1987,] McCain, along with four Democratic senators, met with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, to inquire about the regulatory agency’s two-year investigation into Charles Keating’s Lincoln Savings & Loan. Each senator had taken bundles of campaign money from Keating in the past, totaling $1.4 million. Soon afterward, the senators were accused of improperly pressuring the regulators, which they hotly disputed.

There the story might have ended, except that over 1,000 Savings & Loan institutions were busy collapsing, none larger than Lincoln Savings & Loan, whose failure would eventually cost taxpayers northward of $3 billion. Keating’s behavior would end in convictions for fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy.

Of the five senators, McCain had had by far the closest relationship with Keating, but it had ended abruptly just before the senators’ meetings with the regulators in 1987, after Keating made the fatal mistake of calling McCain a “wimp”. McCain seethed at him, and that was that.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 88-89 , Oct 9, 2007

1982: Won House seat by personally knocking on 20,000 doors

McCain got himself known around the state. He went at it like a full-time job, raising his profile in a remarkably brief period of time. "Hi, I'm John McCain," he would greet some homegrown power broker. "I'm new to the state, and I'd like to come over and say hello." He became active in the state Republican Party, helping with fund-raising, local campaigns, and phone banks. Service clubs like the Rotary and Kiwanis, always looking for luncheon and dinner speakers, were only too happy to provide a forum for the war hero and Washington insider.

In 1982, an incumbent announced his retirement from Congress. On the same day, McCain got a house in the district. McCain campaigned door-to-door 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, personally knocking on 20,000 Republican doors. In addition, he raised $313,000 for the primary, more than half of it, $167,000, in loans from himself. [He won the GOP primary and the general election in November 1982.]

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.143-6 , Sep 18, 2007

1983: Flew to Phoenix every weekend in 1st year in Congress

John McCain was an interloper, his election to Congress in 1982 an aberration, [and he would lose re-election] or so it was said. To the consternation of [his opponents], Republicans and Democrats alike, McCain refused to play along. Instead, he settled on a strategy to solidify his political base, working at it as if the 1982 campaign had never ended.

He promised to return to his congressional district every weekend, a ridiculous pledge entailing a 4,000-mile round-trip. He made good on it, though, racing to catch the last flight to Phoenix late on Thursday, when the House normally completed work, then riding the red-eye back Monday night so that he was in his office on Tuesday morning when the legislative week began in earnest. He did it 47 weekends that 1st year, a pace he barely eased in the years that followed.

The weekends were spent in grueling and frenetic political activity. He marched in parades, met with constituents, weighed in on local issues, held town meetings.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.155 , Sep 18, 2007

Absent from Values Voter Presidential Debate

Q: You and other members of Congress filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin Right to Life for airing TV ads to encourage the public to lobby their senators to oppose the filibuster of the judicial candidates. Was it really your goal to gag and prevent groups from being involved in the legislative process during the 60 days before a general election, and 30 days prior to a primary election, as your campaign finance reform law required?

SEN. MCCAIN: [absent from podium]

MODERATOR: Silence. Next question.

Source: 2007 GOP Values Voter Presidential Debate , Sep 17, 2007

GOP lost 2006 due to corrupt spending, spending, spending

Q: In 2006, we saw the worst Republican defeat in living memory. How do we avoid a repeat in 2008.

A: Spending, spending, spending, spending, which led to corruption. We have former members of Congress in jail as we speak because of this earmarking. We let spending get out of control, we presided over the largest increase in the size of government since the Great Society, and our constituents and our Republicans became dispirited and disenchanted. We’ve got to stop the earmarking. The bridge to nowhere, a $233 million bridge to an island in Alaska with 50 people on it, was the tipping point. I want to promise you, as president of the United States, I’ll veto every bill that has a pork-barrel project on it, and I’ll make the authors of it famous, and we’ll get spending under control, and we’ll stop the corruption in Washington.

Source: 2007 GOP debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Straight Talk America PAC endorses 60 House candidates

Source: PAC website, www.StraightTalkAmerica.com , Dec 1, 2006

McCain’s PAC endorses 19 Senate & 17 governor candidates

Senator McCain is committed to supporting Republican candidates for political office who will provide a potent voice in advancing the reform agenda.
Source: PAC website, www.StraightTalkAmerica.com , Dec 1, 2006

Denounces “Swift Boat Vets” ads as dishonest

John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry’s military service “dishonest and dishonorable” and urged the White House on today to condemn it as well. “It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,” McCain said, referring to his bitter primary fight with Bush.

The 60-second ad by a group called “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” accuses Kerry of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict. McCain said he’s speaking out against the anti-Kerry ad because he believes it’s bad for the political system. “It reopens all the old wounds of the Vietnam War, which I spent the last 35 years trying to heal,” he said. “None of these individuals served on the boat Kerry commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam.

A Bush spokesperson said, ”The Bush campaign never has and will never question John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.“

Source: Ron Fournier, Associated Press in Denver Post , Aug 5, 2004

2000 race: More grass-roots populism than Republicanism

I first encountered John McCain on the campaign trail in 2000 when he was running for president. In the fall of 1999, I remember watching on CSPAN as he conducted in New Hampshire one of the town hall meetings for which he would become famous. On this outing, he was taking about returning the government to the people, and I flashed back to all of the speeches I had heard by the populist Southern politicians--those yellow-dog Democrats I had grown up with. He was not talking about a Republicanism I had come to understand, one where the bottom line always has to do with corporate America, not middle America. He was preaching old-time, grass-roots populism, and his audience was loving it.

He connected with his audience. He was not your run-of-the-mill politician. He was a true believer who wanted to change the very way Washington had come to function. He was a visionary. He was dangerous. His followers loved him.

Source: Man of the People, by Paul Alexander, first chapter , Jan 8, 2004

2000 race: Maverick positions became threat to GOP

Throughout the fall and the winter of the presidential race, the number of McCainiacs grew tremendously. In New Hampshire, McCain went from tracking in the five percent range in the polls to putting himself in a position to win the Republican primary by a landslide. At the same time, he created just as many enemies as he did followers; specifically, he became a threat to the hardline establishment of the Republican Party. That was why, in a phrase, he had to be taken out. And he was taken out in the Republican primary in South Carolina in one of the most brilliant, effective, and ugly political assassinations ever seen in American politics. It was at this point that McCain’s relationship with his party became even more tenuous than it had been before. He knew what had happened to him. He had ceased to be a maverick in his party only to become a threat who had to be crushed. He was.
Source: Man of the People, by Paul Alexander, first chapter , Jan 8, 2004

Residual bitterness at Bush from 2000 campaign

The McCain-Bush nomination struggle had left a substantial residue of bitterness between both the two men & their respective staffs. The McCain people remained especially bitter over the rough tactics that the Bush campaign and its allies had employed in South Carolina. The onslaught against McCain involved not just attacking his character but also distorting his campaign positions and spreading ugly rumors about his family.

The Bush camp’s resentment obviously stemmed from the fact that McCain had interrupted what was supposed to be Bush’s stately march to the GOP’s coronation. McCain defeated Bush in eight primaries, and he was ultimately defeated by Bush’s superior resources and closed primaries in which only Republicans could vote. (McCain had been winning among Independents and had succeeded in pulling new people, especially young people, into politics.) When Bush first came to Washington to confer with congressional leaders, he referred to McCain distantly as “my former opponent.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, first chapter , May 7, 2002

Time for closure on a bizarre situation

Q: What do you make of all of this?

A: If it was a book, we wouldn’t read it.

Q: Bad fiction, right?

A: It’s too bizarre. Bad fiction, too bizarre. Nobody would believe the plot. It wouldn’t sell a thousand copies. I just think that it’s time we brought this process to a conclusion. I know it’s tough. I think I know as well as most anyone having lost a campaign myself. But we’ve got to bring this to a close. The American people are very patient. This is no constitutional crisis, there’s no panic. But the American people want it brought to a close.

Q: How do you settle a dispute without a court?

A: I think you recognize the verdict of the voters, and I think that if there is some blatant or egregious violation of law, obviously we go after that. I am in sympathy with the vice president and Joe Lieberman. They won the majority of the popular vote. I can understand why they would be unhappy. I’m afraid that litigation will not resolve this issue by [the Dec. 12 deadline].

Source: McCain interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” , Nov 29, 2000

1990: McCain & Glenn exonerated in Keating 5 scandal

In the middle of the Keating scandal in the late 1980s, McCain said that it was the worst experience of his whole life. It couldn't be the worst, someone expressed with surprise, to which McCain responded that indeed it was the worst.

McCain, along wit John Glenn, found himself caught in the middle of an unfortunate investigation. Both men were linked by association with three senators--Cranston, DeConcini, and Riegle--whose actions were highly questionable. Both McCain and Glenn had their otherwise sterling reputations tainted. Three years later, the congressional verdict questioned their judgement, but absolved them of charges, and stipulated that they should not have been subject of inquiry in the first place.

One is liable to suggest that justice was not properly served in the Keating Five investigation. But Cranston was unelectable. DeConcini and Riegle chose not to run for re-election. By contrast, both Glenn and McCain ran for re-election in 1992 and won with relative ease.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.157&173 , Sep 20, 2000

Won 1992 AZ House election as newcomer & confident war hero

Prior to settling in AZ, McCain made his contacts with the Washington political consultants. Justifiably fearful of the carpetbagger charge, the consultant cautioned that he run for office, at the earliest, in 1984. Ever impatient, McCain viewed his new job as a chance to make contacts in AZ in a bid for office in 1982. The audacity of the whole enterprise was nothing short of astonishing: that he, an outsider with no roots whatsoever in the state--could represent a state on the basis of nothing other than drive and an admittedly honorable military record. Politics, apparently, rewards confidence.

McCain, however, had several advantages. He had a measure of name recognition on the right, which loved its war heroes, particularly if they could work the circuit. McCain had "test-marketed" his story in the popular press. {And he had] personal discipline: after the Hanoi Hilton, the marathon of running a campaign, of taking the hits and giving them back, was child's play.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.143 , Sep 20, 2000

Suspends campaign, citing Republican preference for Bush

We knew when we began this campaign that ours was a difficult challenge. Last Tuesday, that challenge became considerably more difficult as a majority of Republican voters made clear their preference for president is Gov. Bush. I respect their decision and I’m truly grateful for the distinct privilege of even being considered for the highest office in this, the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
Therefore, I announce today that I am no longer an active candidate for my party’s nomination for president. I congratulate Governor Bush. He may very well become the next president. That is an honor accorded to very few and is such a great responsibility that he deserves the best wishes of every American. He certainly has mine.
I’m suspending my campaign so that Cindy and I can take some time to reflect on our recent experiences and determine how we can best continue to serve the country and help bring about changes to the practices and the institutions of our great democracy.
Source: Announcement of withdrawal from race , Mar 9, 2000

Will take reform crusade back to the Senate

I love my party. It is my home. Ours is the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan. That’s good company for any American to keep, and it is a distinct privilege to serve the same cause that those great Americans dedicated their lives to.
But I’m also dedicated to the necessary cause of reform, and I will never walk away from a fight for what I know is right and just for our country.
As I said throughout the campaign, what is good for my country is good for my party. Should our party ever abandon this principle, the American people will rightly abandon us, and we will surely slip into the mists of history, deserving the allegiance of none.
So I will take our crusade back to the Senate and I will keep fighting to save the government, to give the government back to the people, to keep our promises to young and old alike by paying our debts, saving Social Security and Medicare and reforming a tax code that benefits the powerful few at the expense of many.
Source: Announcement of withdrawal from race , Mar 9, 2000

Leaves race, urging service to country

Announcing the suspension of his campaign: I’ve been in my country’s service since I was 17 years old. I neither know nor want any other life, for I can find no greater honor than service. You served your country in this campaign by fighting for the causes that will sustain America’s greatness. Keep fighting. America needs you. I ask from you one last promise: Promise me that you will never give up, that you will continue your service in the worthy cause of revitalizing our democracy. Thank you.
Source: Announcement of withdrawal from race , Mar 9, 2000

Reagan Republican: simplify taxes, stop waste, pay down debt

Source: Television Commerical before CA & NY primaries , Mar 2, 2000

Support conservative issues, not far-right leaders

Q: Why have you never criticized the religious right previously? A: I share the values and goals of the rank and file of the Christian right. I have supported many of the issues that had to do with family values. Where I have differed in the past and continue to differ with Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson is on issues such as President Clinton. I voted to impeach President Clinton. [But] I don’t believe he’s a murderer. I want the party of Abraham Lincoln, not the party of Bob Jones.
Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles , Mar 2, 2000

The GOP should be inclusive

Q: Would you meet with a group if you disagree with its values? A: I met with the Log Cabin Republicans. I disagree with them on gay marriages, on the “don’t ask/don’t tell,” on a broad variety of issues. But I agree with them on a stronger defense, lower taxes, less regulation. And I, as president of the United States, and I as the nominee of my party, will meet with-and not necessarily agree with-everyone in the Republican Party.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show , Feb 15, 2000

Campaigning to return government to the people

I run for President of the United States because I want to return our government back to whom it belongs - the people - so that Americans can believe once again that public service is a summons to duty and not a lifetime of privilege. I run because I believe deeply in the greatness of America’s destiny and in the goodness of our cause. We are a lantern of freedom and opportunity to the world, the bright beacon of hope that our fathers died to bequeath us, and our children will be asked to defend.
Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH , Sep 27, 1999

John McCain on Personal History

Favorite movie: “Viva Zapata”, a heroic tale of sacrifice

Q: What is your favorite movie of all time?

A: “Viva Zapata.” It’s a movie made by Elia Kazan. It was one of the trilogy of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “On the Waterfront” and “Viva Zapata.” Marlon Brando stars in it. He plays Zapata. It’s a heroic tale of a person who sacrificed everything for what he believed in.

Q: Do you have a favorite scene?

A: There’s some of the most moving scenes in that movie that I’ve ever seen. And one of them is he gets married. The night of his wedding he gets up, they’re in this little hotel room, and he says, “I gotta go to Mexico City tomorrow. I’ve gotta be with Poncho Villa and Modero and these people.” He says “I can’t read.” And she reaches over and takes the bible from the table and opens it up and starts, “In the beginning.” It’s a great scene. It’s great and there’s many others that are wonderful too, especially when he dies--when he gives everything for his country and what he believes in.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric , Sep 23, 2008

OpEd: Senator Hothead nickname is well-earned

The Arizona Republic had this to say about McCain in March 2000: "If McCain were to become president, Americans would wake up to more than a commander-in-chief with a prickly temperament & a low boiling point. McCain is a man who carries get-even grudges He cannot endure criticism. He threatens. He controls by fear. He's consumed with self-importance. He shifts blame."

Far from empty claims by an antagonistic journalist, these accusations are backed up by a long record of abusive behavior by the senato that has been minimized by the establishment media in his rise to superstardom. Senator Hothead, as the nickname suggests, can be mean and even vicious, something few Americans seem to know.

The state of Arizona is littered with stories of the senator giving full vent to his rage. An unnamed GOP Senator suggested that McCain's temper had been genuinely detrimental to his effectiveness as a leader. "If he could just count to five sometimes, he would probably get a lot more done," said the lawmaker.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 86-87 & 92 , Mar 25, 2008

1980: Second marriage only 3 months after first divorce

If the story of his captivity in Vietnam was what made people notice John McCain, it was his second marriage that made his entr‚e into Arizona politics possible. In May 1980, McCain married Cindy Helmsley, a beautiful southwestern belle who was seventeen years his junior. Hensley was the daughter of Jim Hensley, a Phoenix millionaire who at the time owned the largest Anheuser-Busch distributor in the country. The marriage took place a mere three months after McCain divorced his first wife, Carol. When asked why their marriage had failed, Carol McCain said "I attribute it more to John turning forty and wanting to be twenty-five again than I do to anything else."
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 46 , Mar 25, 2008

Inspired by Reagan while in the North Vietnam prison camps

I had the great honor of being inspired while I was in the prison camps of North Vietnam by the news of a governor and his wife who cared very much about those of us who were in captivity. And when I came home, I was inspired by him, and I voted for him, and I supported him, and I was proud to be a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, as we fought these wars together with unshakable courage and principle. And I’m prepared to follow in his tradition and in his footsteps.
Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

Spent 10 years “doing everything I can to control my temper”

Depending on his mood or the political necessities of the day, McCain has denied having much of a temper, acknowledged occasional flashes while defending his passion, or identified anger management in almost 12-Step-style terms. “When I ran in 2000, that was an issue that was attempted to be raised,” he said in May 2007. “Didn’t work then, won’t work now.”

A full decade earlier, he confessed to USA Today that he had “spent the last 10 years doing everything I can to control my temper,” and in 1999 he told the L.A. Times: “I wake up daily and tell myself, ‘You must everything possible to stay cool, calm and collected today.’ ”

One of the lazier myths about McCain is that this hairtrigger is somehow the result of his captivity in Vietnam. McCain’s ow books are filled with examples of a pre-Vietnam John blowing his stack. We learn that a 2-year-old McCain would become so furious that he’d hold his breath until he passed out, a condition which his parents treated by dunking him in ice water.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.116-117 , Oct 9, 2007

As teenager, inherited obligation to attend Annapolis

As a teenager, John McCain didn’t talk much about the Navy, but when he did it was evident that he understood he was the inheritor of an uncommon seafaring legacy.

As far back as he could remember, Johnny McCain knew he was going to Annapolis, knew it with such unshakable finality that he never really thought twice about it, at least not seriously. It was part of the air he breathed, the ether through which he moved, the single immutable element in his life. He also knew that if he said what he thought--hold it, screw Annapolis, the place sucks--shock waves would reverberate through countless generations of McCains, shaking a military tradition that could both inspire and bully.

An indifferent student except in English and history, he might have taken a dive on the entrance exams. Instead, he aced them, claiming his birthright. And so, on an early summer’s day in 1954, John McCain journeyed to Annapolis, raised his right hand, and marched joylessly into his future.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, chapter one , Sep 18, 2007

Admiral Slew McCain set John’s standard for grit & courage

That’s my grandfather, right there, a teenaged John McCain would tell friends, pointing excitedly to a framed photograph of the historic Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the battleship Missouri in 1945.

John’s grandfather, Slew McCain, graduated a lackluster 79th out of 116 from the Naval Academy. Like his son and grandson, both of whom ranked even lower, Slew McCain would prove that a second-rate record at Annapolis did not foreclose success in the Navy.

Aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945 Vice Admiral McCain took his place in the ceremony recorded for posterity, then left for his San Diego home. He was dead of a heart attack four days later. “He knew his number was up,” said one colleague, “but he wouldn’t lie down and die until he got home.”

Two decades later, his grandson would similarly face the temptation to lie down and die. But the old man had set the McCain family standard for grit and courage, and John McCain, always did his best to live up to family standards.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, chapter one , Sep 18, 2007

Born at a Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone

The U.S. Navy into which John McCain was born in 1936 was a sleepy service. Promotions were slow, the pay a joke, and congressional appropriations meager, befitting the isolationist sentiment that gripped the nation between world wars. Whatever the realities, naval officers and their wives encouraged the perception that the Navy was the most aristocratic of services. Navy families of that era adopted an old southern expression as their credo: Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash. “In other words, we in the Navy never really had anything,” said [John’s mother] Roberta, “but we never took second best.”

Roberta gave birth to Johnny at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone on August 29, 1936. The timing was auspicious. The base commander was his grandfather. Johnny’s father Jack was stationed nearby, at a small submarine facility. For that brief period, Panama became the epicenter of three generations.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, chapter one , Sep 18, 2007

Relationship with father was one of respect, more than love

In 1967 [John’s father Jack] was promoted to full admiral. Jack & Slew McCain thus became the first father and son to achieve that rank in the history of the US Navy.

Jack attempted to instill in his son the same code of personal honor by which he tried to live. “My strongest impression of my father is of this sense of integrity and honor, a code of gentlemanly conduct that was a trademark of his behavior,” said John.

But father and son did not hunt or fish together, go to the movies, museums, or ballgames. [John’s mother] Roberta said she doesn’t remember Jack ever disciplining John. “Jack was really kind of removed from things in a way,” she said.

John spoke of pride, honor, and integrity when discussing his father, but rarely love, as if their relationship was one of respect, but not real affection. There also seems to have been some resentment: “I didn’t spend as much time with him as maybe I would have if he’d been more committed to being around me,” John said on one occasion.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, chapter one , Sep 18, 2007

1969: Wife Carol crippled in car crash while John was POW

Christmas Eve, 1969: Carol and the children were spending the holidays, the 3rd without John, at her parents' home. After dinner, it was snowing and the roads were icy. Approaching an intersection, she misjudged the stopping distance, hit the brakes, skidded, and rammed into a telephone pole. She was thrown from the car into the snow. Alone, in unbearable pain, she went into shock. Some time later, police found her unconscious body by the side of the road.

It was several days before she could speak. She was told she could never walk again, but amputation was ruled out. She spent the next 6 months in the hospital, undergoing a series of 23 operations. By the time surgeons finished with her, she was 5'4", 4 inches shorter than before the accident.

Soon after the accident, the doctors had said they would try to get word to John about her injuries. No, she said, he's got enough problems. I don't want to tell him. And she never did.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.104-5 , Sep 18, 2007

1974: First marriage ended in wake of return from POW camp

[In 1974, upon returning from a POW camp, McCain] started carousing and running with women. If there was one couple that deserved to make it, it was John and Carol McCain. They endured nearly 6 years of unspeakable trauma with courage and grace. In the end, they won the war but lost the peace.

John and Carol would not discuss the breakup of their marriage in any detail. McCain spoke vaguely of time having taken its toll. "I had changed, she had changed," he said. "People who have been apart that much change."

Carol was less vague: "The breakup of our marriage was not caused by my accident or Vietnam or any of those things. I attribute it more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again."

The conventional view is that John came home to a real woman--older, shorter, crippled--and before long began to stray. No doubt it was more complicated. Like most marriages that fail, theirs was a drama that involved 2 people who themselves could only make educated guesses about what went wrong.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.128-9 , Sep 18, 2007

1978: Married Cindy, 25 years younger, started over post-POW

At 25, 17 years McCain's junior, Cindy had the youthful good looks of a beauty queen without the shallowness that goes with the stereotype. She was rich but not idle rich. The family money came from beer, Anheuser-Busch distributorship.

McCain's detractors would later say that he saw Cindy as the ultimate target of opportunity and locked on to her with single-minded, even cynical calculation. It was fine that she was young and beautiful, so it was said, but the real attraction was that she was the daughter of a well-connected businessman from a state that seemed to offer opportunities to someone with McCain's political ambitions.

The scenario is hard to take seriously. The courageous, crippled wife cast aside for a wealthy and beautiful younger woman--how understanding were the voters likely to be?

A simpler explanation: John saw her as reclaiming the life he had lost--Cindy stood for everything he didn't have in prison. It was as if McCain had decided to start life over again.

Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.135-6 , Sep 18, 2007

Not youngest candidate, but certainly the most prepared

Q: In 2000 you were asked this: “Do you think you’ll ever run for president again?” You responded, “In 2004 I expect to be campaigning for the re-election of George Bush”--which you did.

A: Mm-hmm.A: Well, you know, my energy level is great. I work 24/7. I’m pleased that I am in the excellent health, and I believe that I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I’m certainly the most prepared.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , May 13, 2007

Admiral McCain’s health failed after retiring from the Navy

We buried my father on a morning in the early spring of 1981. He had died of heart failure five days before, over the Atlantic, with my mother, his wife of 48 years, by his side. He had been in poor health for most of the nine years that had passed since he had reluctantly retired from the navy.

I received a call from my former wife, Carol. Navy officials had contacted her after they had failed to locate me. I cannot recall what I was thinking, or anything I said to my wife, Cindy, during the 20-minut drive to the air base, or what she said to me.

My mother greeted us as we entered the compartment. She was very composed, very matter-of-fact, as she informed me, “John, your father is dead.” My mother had dedicated her entire life to my father and his career. She loved him greatly. But she is a strong woman, indomitable. No loss, no matter how grievous, could undo her. I remember little of the five days between that moment and the morning we buried him at Arlington National Cemetery.

Source: Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain, first chapter , Sep 24, 2002

Spent nearly 23 years on active duty in the Navy

My father’s death and funeral occurred at a moment of great change for me and for the tradition that had brought honor to three generations of John McCains. I had arrived at my mother’s apartment still wearing my dress blue uniform. I would never wear it again.

I left the funeral reception after an hour or so and drove to an office in a nondescript building in Crystal City, Virginia, with the typically bureaucratic title Navy Personnel Support Activity Center. There I signed my discharge papers, applied for my retirement pay and health coverage, and turned in my identification card, ending nearly 23 years on active duty. For the first time in the twentieth century, and possibly forever, the name John McCain was missing from navy rosters. From there, I drove to the airport and boarded a plane with Cindy and her parents for Phoenix, Arizona, and a new life altogether.

Source: Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain, first chapter , Sep 24, 2002

To understand McCain, understand grandfather Slew

One cannot really understand Senator John S. McCain II without understanding the grandfather, universally known as Slew.

To contemporaries, Slew was something of a proverbial "old salt," ready to cuss the elements with a colorful turn of the phrase. It was said he spoke in two languages: English and profane. Indeed, he was known as one of the best cussers in the entire Navy. Popular, combative, feisty, Admiral Slew McCain was a character, and to be a character is in some senses to have a reputation, not altogether positive, that follows one like a shadow. He appeared a throwback--perhaps to the age of frigates and the naval melee.

In an age of increasingly sophisticated naval technology he seemed one governed by impulse and instinct. He seemed, in short, an old-fashioned sailor.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p. 1-3 , Sep 20, 2000

Community of origin is the Navy, not a geographic community

McCain is without a geographic point of origin. A child of the services, McCain was born into a community walled off from the civilian world and, in its own way, far stronger than any of the geographical communities. It is an idealized, a self-contained world--sometimes described as a citadel or fortress--but NOT typically thought of as a training ground for future politicians.

McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. In reality, he was born into that reassuring American blue and gold universe that one could find in naval installations from San Diego in the Pacific to Norfolk in the Atlantic. In common parlance, McCain was what was affectionately known as a Navy brat.

More to the point, McCain was a Navy junior, which carries a certain elite connotation, possibly reserved for the children of high-ranking officers. The term "brat" suggests that the child is something of a benign nuisance; "Junior" suggests a measure of entitlement and continuity.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p. 21-22 , Sep 20, 2000

Described himself as a "jock," but not exceptional

On the campaign trail, McCain was wont to refer to himself as a jock. In "Faith of My Fathers," McCain made constant reference to his immersion in sport--wresting, football, tennis. "I wasn't an exceptional athlete," he noted, "but I was good enough to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches."

Then he went on to write that he turned his reputation as a "credible athlete" and a "troublemaker" into a distinction as a "leader of sorts." For McCain, sport formed an outlet for his competitive streak; it was a way for overcoming any and all insecurities. McCain contrasted himself with his father, who had not such outlet or perhaps even aptitude for athletic context and who later poured all his nervous, brittle energy into his work.

At Virginia Episcopal, McCain's prep school, sport is never simply about sport. The prep school approach to sport tended to resemble the Spartan ethic in which the student is thrown into the maelstrom of competition whether he likes it or not.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p. 30-32 , Sep 20, 2000

Temper usually directed at those higher; seldom at underling

At the Naval Academy, as in political life, McCain stood up to bullies. Here is the origin of the famous temper. Critics suggest that McCain's temper is problematic, but McCain's temper is typically directed at those higher than him. It is directed against those who affront his honor or dignity, against what he perceives as a false accusation, or, most tellingly, against a corruption of procedure, practice, or the spirit of the endeavor. We seldom hear of him verbally abusing a staff member or an underling.

"Pick on someone your own size" seems to be a very McCain trait. He may have been an irritant to many in his Academy days, but he was never a bully. In this, he completely resembled Dwight D. Eisenhower in his cadet days.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p. 48 , Sep 20, 2000

From Hanoi to C.F.R., never chose path of least resistance

McCain constantly tried to, and did, prove himself through ordeal. This is the ultimate rebuttal to the charge that McCain himself did not deserve anything, that his life was easy. His life was anything but easy.

One wonders if McCain deliberately looked for ways to make his life hard, to pick struggles for the sake of struggle as if to prove a certain worthiness for life's battle. It is a resistance to the charge of softness.

In every instance, in the active pursuit of a combat assignment in Vietnam, in his confrontation with his Vietnamese captors, in his pursuit of campaign finance reform in the face of mounting and often bitter opposition within his own caucus, McCain has not chosen the path of least resistance. He has chosen the hardest--and in Vietnam, the most honorable--path. Having made the choice, McCain rarely backs down. By contrast, he shows a tendency to proverbially dig in his heels and not give ground.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p. 48-49 , Sep 20, 2000

War injuries left him unable to raise arms above head

McCain came back from Hanoi with several bones broken from the ejection, healed improperly from the shoddy medical attention, coupled with repeated abuses and torture. McCain received reconstructive therapy, outside of that he received at Bethesda Naval Hospital, from a person who provided the service without charge. Step by step, McCain worked back toward being able to move his elbow, each time a little bit more. In the world of the naval aviator, the measure of rehabilitation was if he could fly--everything was tangential to that.

When McCain went to Florida for the physical screening, he urged the doctors to make their assessment on his physical suitability for flying, not on how his arms looked, which was, admittedly, not good. (Even to this day, he cannot raise his arms to comb his hair.) McCain had, however, regained much of his movement, thanks to the intensive physical therapy. Ultimately, he passed the physical and was cleared for a flying assignment.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.129-130 , Sep 20, 2000

Survived as POW by faith to a higher cause

[Before being captured in Vietnam], I thought glory was the object of war, and all glory was self-glory. No more. For I have learned the truth: there are greater pursuits than self-seeking. Glory is not a conceit. It is not a prize for being the most clever, the strongest, or the boldest. Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely, and who rely on you in return. No misfortune, no injury, no humiliation can destroy it.

This is the faith that my commanders affirmed, that my brothers-in-arms encouraged my allegiance to. It was the faith I had unknowingly embraced at the Naval Academy. It was my father’s and grandfather’s faith. A filthy, crippled, broken man, all I had left of my dignity was the faith of my fathers. It was enough.

Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 257 , Nov 9, 1999

Refused release to hurt Vietnamese & remain loyal to POWs

I spelled out the reasons [to my fellow inmates] why I should not [accept the Vietnamese offer of release from the POW camp]:

Just letting me go is a propaganda victory for them. I can tell they really want me to go. And if they want something that much it’s got to be a bad thing. I can’t give them that satisfaction.

Second, I would be disloyal to the rest of you. I know why they’re doing this-to make every guy here whose father isn’t an admiral think the [Army’s Code of Conduct] is shit. They’ll tell all of you, “Your father’s not an admiral and nobody gives a damn about you.” And I don’t want to go home and see my father, and he wouldn’t want to see me under those conditions. I’ve got to say no.

Eventually, [the Vietnamese asked if I considered their release offer]. “What is your answer?” “No, thank you.” “Why?” “American prisoners cannot accept parole, or amnesty or special favors. We must be released in the order of our capture.. My final answer is no.”

Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 235 , Nov 9, 1999

Graduated 5th from bottom of Naval Academy class

[At the end of my Naval training], I sat amid a sea of navy whites, fifth from the bottom of my class. I remember wishing at one point during commencement that my dismal performance at the Academy had earned me an even lower place in the class standings. In those days, only the first one hundred graduates in the class were called to the dais to receive their diplomas from President Eisenhower. Graduation was conferred on the rest of us by company. The midshipman who graduates last in his class is affectionately called the anchorman. When the anchorman’s company was called, he was cheered by the whole brigade and hoisted onto the shoulders of his friends. Eisenhower motioned him up to the dais, and to the crowd’s loud approval personally handed him his diploma; both President and anchorman smiling broadly as the President patted him on the back and chatted with him for a few minutes. I thought it a fine gesture from a man who understood our traditions.
Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, first chapter , Nov 9, 1999

“Profligate rake” during Academy and Junior Officer years

My father and grandfather had enjoyed only slightly less tarnished reputations at the Naval Academy. My father, perhaps mindful of his own performance, rarely chastised me for falling well short of an exemplary midshipman’s standards.

My behavior was not something that particularly worried my father. I believe he assumed that, like him, I would be absorbed into the traditions of the place whether I wished to or not, and that when the time arrived for me to face a real test of character, I would not disappoint him. He had seen many an officer who enjoyed the reputation of a rake-indeed, he had been one himself-rise to the occasion in the most dire situations. He expected no less from me.

Even as I spent my years as a junior officer in the same profligate manner I had spent my Academy years, I cannot recall his severely rebuking me. He knew I would fight, and I think he trusted me to do my duty when my moment arrived. I don’t know if I deserved his trust, but I am proud to have had it.

Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, first chapter , Nov 9, 1999

John McCain on Voting Record

Voted with Republican Party 87.3% of 165 votes.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), was scored by the Washington Post on the percentage of votes on which a lawmaker agrees with the position taken by a majority of his or her party members. The scores do not include missed votes. Their summary:
Voted with Republican Party 87.3% of 165 votes.
Overall, Democrats voted with their party 88.4% of the time, and Republicans voted with their party 81.7% of the time (votes Jan. 8 through Sept. 8, 2007).
Source: Washington Post, “US Congress Votes Database” , Sep 8, 2007

Vote based on character, not issues

McCain gave his most full-throated appeal to voters to make their choice less on issues than on experience & character. “I believe I am better prepared than any of the other candidates,” he said. “I will stack my experience, my position on issues. against those other candidates.” He added, “What really matters is your impression of what we talked about here today-not about specific issues-but how you leave this room and say ‘gee, I believe I can place my confidence in [him] to lead this country.’”
Source: New York Times, p. A17 , Jan 25, 2000

Voted NO on confirming of Sonia Sotomayor to Supreme Court.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. In her opening statement, Judge Sotomayor pledged a "fidelity to the law:"
"In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law--it is to apply the law. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress's intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court. In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand."
Reference: Supreme Court Nomination; Bill PN506 ; vote number 2009-S262 on Aug 6, 2009

Voted YES on confirming Samuel Alito as Supreme Court Justice.

Vote on the Nomination -- a YES vote would to confirm Samuel A. Alito, Jr., of New Jersey, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Reference: Alito Nomination; Bill PN 1059 ; vote number 2006-002 on Jan 31, 2006

Voted YES on confirming John Roberts for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Vote on the Nomination (Confirmation John G. Roberts, Jr., of Maryland, to be Chief Justice of the United States )
Reference: Supreme Court Nomination of John Roberts; Bill PN 801 ; vote number 2005-245 on Sep 27, 2005

Religious affiliation: Episcopalian.

McCain : religious affiliation:

The Adherents.com website is an independent project and is not supported by or affiliated with any organization (academic, religious, or otherwise).

What’s an adherent?

The most common definition used in broad compilations of statistical data is somebody who claims to belong to or worship in a religion. This is the self-identification method of determining who is an adherent of what religion, and it is the method used in most national surveys and polls.

Such factors as religious service attendance, belief, practice, familiarity with doctrine, belief in certain creeds, etc., may be important to sociologists, religious leaders, and others. But these are measures of religiosity and are usually not used academically to define a person’s membership in a particular religion. It is important to recognize there are various levels of adherence, or membership within religious traditions or religious bodies. There’s no single definition, and sources of adherent statistics do not always make it clear what definition they are using.

Source: Adherents.com web site 00-ADH5 on Nov 7, 2000

Member of the Republican Main Street Partnership .

McCain is a member the Republican Main Street Partnership:

The Republican Main Street Partnership was founded in 1998 to promote thoughtful leadership in the Republican Party, to serve as a voice for centrist Republicans and to partner with individuals, organizations and institutions that share centrist values.

The Partnership pursues public policies that reflect a limited, but responsible role for government and that are designed to achieve fiscal responsibility, economic growth, improvements in the human condition and a nation that is globally competitive and secure. Partnership members include individuals who are interested in moderate Republican policies, focusing on governance and on finding common sense solutions to national problems.

The Republican Main Street Partnership is an organization of party members and public officials committed to building America's principled but pragmatic center within the Republican Party and throughout the nation. The Partnership contributes to the nation's governance through developing and promoting creative public policies for implementation at appropriate levels of government.
Source: RMSP web site 01-RMSP0 on Jan 1, 2001

Other candidates on Principles & Values: John McCain on other issues:
AZ Gubernatorial:
David Garcia
Doug Ducey
Frank Riggs
Fred DuVal
Jan Brewer
JL Mealer
Phil Gordon
AZ Senatorial:
Jeff Flake

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