U.S. Sen. John McCain, a man who survived more than five years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp and ran twice for the presidency of the United States, died Saturday following a fight with brain cancer. He was 81.
McCain was elected in 1982 to the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s first Congressional district. He would serve there until being elected U.S. Senator in 1986. McCain served as Senator until his death.
McCain, who was a U.S. Navy Academy graduate and the son of a U.S. Navy Admiral, ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000 against then Texas Gov. George W. Bush. McCain, with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, lost the 2008 presidential election to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
In his book “Restless Wave,” McCain commented about the nature of his cancer.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here. Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe, with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you read this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I’m prepared for either contingency, or at least I’m getting prepared. I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may.”
McCain was also praised for his bipartisan politics even during his race against Obama. During a town hall, a member of the audience said she was voting for him because Obama was a Muslim and she didn’t trust him because of his alleged religion.
“No, ma’am. No, ma’am,” McCain quickly responded. “He’s a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not. Thank you.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., noted McCain’s legacy for being a public servant.
“Senator McCain was a true American hero who led an extraordinary life dedicated to his country. He was a passionate public servant whose courage was demonstrated in Vietnam and continued on the Senate floor as a fierce advocate for the military and veterans,” Boozman said in a statement. “We remember John’s tenacious spirit and unyielding determination to make our country better. His leadership will be missed but his legacy will live on. My thoughts and prayers are with John’s beloved wife Cindy and his entire family at this time.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued this statement: “John McCain was an American original. Tough, independent, and outspoken, he was captured, but he never surrendered. The inner strength he showed in the Hanoi Hilton shone through during his 36 years in the Congress. Wherever one stands on the political spectrum — and most people had occasion to stand both with and against this maverick — John McCain was a passionate fighter for his ideas, for our troops, and for a better America. While we mourn his passing today, and extend condolences to Cindy and his children, let us also celebrate his life, now and in the days to come. John McCain kept the faith of his fathers in the country we all love.”
Following are comments from members of Arkansas’ U.S. House delegation.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro
“Senator John McCain spent the majority of his life serving his country both in office and on the battlefield. I’m saddened to hear of his passing. His friends and family are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock
“Sad to just learn of John McCain’s death. I loved all my encounters with this good man from my time as a Senate staffer in 1983 until my service in the House. Prayers for his family, his loyal staffers, and the people of Arizona.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers
“Sen. John McCain was a true American Patriot. He dedicated his life to service for our country and for the American people. My thoughts and prayers go out to the McCain family during this difficult time.”
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs
“My thoughts are with the McCain family tonight as they mourn @SenJohnMcCain’s passing. May we always remember his life of service and dedication to our country.”
Additional comments have been provided to Talk Business & Politics from well-known former colleagues of McCain.
Former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.
“He was an amazing American, an incredible human being, and a wonderful patriot. We were on the opposite sides of several issues,” Hutchinson said, noting McCain’s opposition to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. “We were on opposite sides lots of time, but we became very good friends, especially after my time in the Senate. He was very encouraging… I grew to have great affection for John. He was a great American, warts and all. I’m so sad for his family and I’m sad for America.”
Former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark. issued this statement: “In spite of some early differences, I never lost my respect for John McCain. He was a true American hero in every concept. He will be missed by both sides of the aisle.”
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., also commented: “America lost one of her heroes today. I worked with him closely during my 12 years in the Senate and he was always wanting to do what was best for the country. One of the things I respected about Senator McCain is that he was driven by his sense of right and wrong and not to political calculations or party affiliation. We need about 100 McCains in the Senate right now.”
Former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., issued this statement: “It was truly an honor to serve with Senator McCain. As all senators do, we certainly had some differences but I always respected him and he was always respectful of me. I have always had great admiration and gratitude for his service to our country but I came to love the way he approached debates on specific legislative topics. He kept other Senators honest by ensuring that provision could and should be defended. He wanted public policy to make sense and if he felt like it didn’t he would take to the Senate floor with a pointed speech and require a public defense. There was debate and often time numerous comments … with a vote, an outcome and the understanding that we had all tried our best. He was not afraid to change his mind when he learned new facts and he would work for consensus to ensure that the perfect didn’t become the enemy of the good. Above all he was a truly principled and decent man as well as a lifelong public servant. The image of a public servant that future generations will hopefully learn from and try to replicate. He will be greatly missed by us all.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former U.S. Congressman, weighed in with his thoughts: “John McCain reflected in every breath of his life the American character & American idealism. As a war hero, a political maverick & leader he personified sacrifice & courage. I witnessed his strength of character both in Congress & as a campaigner. We will miss him.”