John McCain

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Your character is not tested on occasions of public scrutiny or acclaim. It is not tested in moments when the object of your actions is the regard of another. Your character is what you are to yourself, not what you pretend to be to yourself or others.

John Sidney McCain III (29 August 1936 - 25 August 2018) was an American politician, statesman, and United States Navy officer who served as a United States Senator for Arizona from 1987 until his death in 2018. He previously served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and was the Republican nominee for president of the United States in the 2008 election, which he lost to Barack Obama.

Quotes[edit]

I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land. I want the presidency in the best way, not the worst way.
I was in a conference in Germany over the weekend and president Putin of Germany gave one of the old Cold War style speeches.
You are blessed. Make the most of it.
No one of good character leaves behind a wasted life.
Human beings are still capable of violence and cruelty. We all succumb to sin.
Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.
There is nothing that's off the table. I have my positions and I'll articulate them.
I will work with anyone who sincerely wants to get this country moving again. I will listen to any idea that is offered in good faith and intended to help solve our problems, not make them worse.
I've got to give you some straight talk.
I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.
America, the only nation ever founded in the name of liberty.
We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved.
I would rather have a clean government, than one where 'First Amendment rights' are being respected, that has become corrupt.
Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war.
I will fight, but we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments, I will respect him. I want everyone to be respectful, and let's make sure we are, because that's the way politics should be conducted in America.
You know that there’s been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street.
I'm glad whenever they cut interest rates, I wish interest rates were zero.
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.
America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world.
Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be. We’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.
People have come to this country from everywhere, and people from everywhere have made America great.
Respect for the God-given dignity of every human being, no matter their race, ethnicity or other circumstances of their birth, is the essence of American patriotism. To believe otherwise is to oppose the very idea of America.
As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you.
We're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.
We're Americans, and we'll never surrender. They will.
We are always, despite our advances, only one sin away from slipping into the abyss of terror and ignorance.
I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.
Bomb, bomb! Bomb, Iran!
It's a tough war we're in. It's not going to be over right away.
War is wretched beyond description, and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality.
They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another.
I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the best candidate able to lead the country and defend our political values.
Maybe that's a way of killing them.
Obama's supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about western Pennsylvania lately. I couldn't agree with them more.
This is a moral debate. It is about who we are. I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist's life.
I spent five and a half years in prison. The worst part was coming home and finding out Green Acres had been cancelled. What the hell was I fighting for?
I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.
I looked into his eyes and saw three letters: a 'K', a 'G', and a 'B'.

1980s[edit]

  • I can't believe a guy that handsome wouldn't have some impact.
    • On George H. W. Bush's selection of Dan Quayle as VP nominee, as quoted in "Bush taps Quayle for VP" (17 August 1988), by Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian, p. A01.

1990s[edit]

  • America, the only nation ever founded in the name of liberty, never had a more ardent champion of liberty than Barry Goldwater. Simply put, Barry Goldwater was in love with freedom.
  • Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.
    • GOP fund-raiser, Washington D.C., (June 1998)[1][2][3]
  • Glory is not a conceit. It is not a decoration for valor. 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.

Speech at Ohio Wesleyan University (1997)[edit]

Address at Ohio Wesleyan University (11 May 1997)
  • The times we live in are alternately derided for their failings and romanticized for their emerging opportunities. It sometimes seems that we now live amid greater violence, greater uncertainty; that the world suffers more conflicts and tragedies; that the poor are poorer and greater in number; that race, ethnicity and nationalism divide us more intractably than ever before.
    But that is not so. Human beings are still capable of violence and cruelty. We all succumb to sin. But look back at any preceding century or even just a few decades, and you will see cruelty, violence and misery on a scale that is, with few exceptions, unknown today.
  • Mankind has advanced. Human progress is ceaseless. We can look at Bosnia or Zaire or Rwanda and conclude that building just societies is a fool's errand. We are always, despite our advances, only one sin away from slipping into the abyss of terror and ignorance.
    But that is not so. Generations upon generations have driven the human race farther and farther from darkness. Past episodes of abominable human cruelty are kept vivid in the memories of succeeding generations. "Never again," is the admonition passed from the survivors of the Holocaust to their descendants and to us all. And although such an important reminder will not always prevent the occurrence of cruelty and violence even at levels approaching genocide, the civilized world is more inclined to organize opposition to such tragedies if not as early as we should, at least sooner than we once would have.
  • No one of good character leaves behind a wasted life — whether they die in obscurity or renown. "Character," wrote the 19th Century evangelist, Dwight Moody, "is what you are in the dark." Your character is not tested on occasions of public scrutiny or acclaim. It is not tested in moments when the object of your actions is the regard of another. Your character is what you are to yourself, not what you pretend to be to yourself or others. Although human beings often attempt self-delusion, we cannot forever hide the truth about ourselves from ourselves. It will make itself known to us by means of our conscience despite our most strenuous effort to suppress it.
  • Like most people of my age, I feel a longing for what is lost and cannot be restored. But if the happy pursuits and casual beauty of youth prove ephemeral, something better can endure, and endure until our last moment on earth. And that is the honor we earn and the love we give if at a moment in our lives we sacrifice for something greater than self-interest.
    We cannot choose the moments. They arrive unbidden by us. We can choose to let the moments pass, and avoid the difficulties they entail. But the loss we would incur by that choice is much dearer than the tribute we once paid to vanity and pleasure.
  • You have at hand many examples of good character from whom you will have learned the lessons by which you can live your own lives. You are blessed. Make the most of it.

2000s[edit]

  • I spent five and a half years in prison. The worst part was coming home and finding out Green Acres had been cancelled. What the hell was I fighting for?
  • I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.
    • Statement about his North Vietnamese prison guards, in response to a question asked by reporters aboard his campaign bus. (17 February 2000) He later refused to apologize for using a racial slur, stating: "I was referring to my prison guards, and I will continue to refer to them in language that might offend some people because of the beating and torture of my friends." San Francisco Chronicle (18 February 2000)
  • By 2008, I think I might be ready to go down to the old soldiers home and await the cavalry charge there.
  • The vice president has two duties. One is to inquire daily as to the health of the president, and the other is to attend the funerals of third world dictators. And neither of those do I find an enjoyable exercise.
    • In response to question by Tim Russert on how he would respond if George W. Bush asked him to be his vice presidential running mate in 2000. Interview on Meet the Press. Originally aired 3 March 2000. Aired again as a clip 15 June 2008 (transcript).
  • I am reminded of the words of Chairman Mao: It's always darkest before it goes completely black.

2001[edit]

  • There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.
    • David Letterman (18 October 2001), linking anthrax attacks in the U.S. to Iraq.

2002[edit]

  • Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success [in Iraq] will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women. And that's a great tragedy.
Worth the Fighting For (2002)[edit]
  • Many families could not and should not have been expected to abandon hope that their sons, husbands, and brothers who had disappeared in the jungles of Vietnam might yet be returned to them. And many good people, who shared their hope and had come to their assistance, were motivated by the most admirable of intentions, to keep faith with Americans who had done all that duty asked of them. But these good intentions and understandable emotions also drew the attention of people with less honorable purposes. There came to exist in America, and elsewhere in the years that followed the Vietnam War, a small cottage industry made up of swindlers, dime-store Rambos, and just plain old conspiracy nuts who preyed on the emotions of the families and on the attention of officials who were dedicated to the search for our missing. They had helped convince many of the families and a few members of Congress that the US. government had knowingly abandoned American servicemen in Vietnam and that five successive presidential administrations had covered up the crime. It was among the most damaging and most hurtful of all the lies about the Vietnam War that I ever encountered.
    • pp. 235 - 236
  • I didn't decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in, or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president.
    • p. 373

2004[edit]

  • When you’re in the midst, it feels like it will never end. But you keep going and moving forward—and suddenly you’re looking back on the pain rather than living it.
    • As quoted in Stronger, by Cindy McCain
Speech at the Republican National Convention (2004)[edit]
Speech at the Republican National Convention (30 August 2004)
  • The awful events of September 11, 2001 declared a war we were vaguely aware of, but hadn't really comprehended how near the threat was, and how terrible were the plans of our enemies.
    It's a big thing, this war.
    It's a fight between a just regard for human dignity and a malevolent force that defiles an honorable religion by disputing God's love for every soul on earth. It's a fight between right and wrong, good and evil.
    And should our enemies acquire for their arsenal the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek, this war will become a much bigger thing.
    So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come to the test of our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny.
    And much is expected of us.
    We are engaged in a hard struggle against a cruel and determined adversary.
    Our enemies have made clear the danger they pose to our security and to the very essence of our culture ...liberty.
    Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war.
    Like all wars, this one will have its ups and downs.
    But we must fight. We must.
  • As we've been a good friend to other countries in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect their solidarity with us in this struggle. That is what the President believes.
    And, thanks to his efforts we have received valuable assistance from many good friends around the globe, even if we have, at times, been disappointed with the reactions of some. I don't doubt the sincerity of my Democratic friends. And they should not doubt ours.
  • What our enemies have sought to destroy is beyond their reach. It cannot be taken from us. It can only be surrendered.
    My friends, we are again met on the field of political competition with our fellow countrymen. It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis we have these contests, and engage in spirited disagreement over the shape and course of our government.
    We have nothing to fear from each other. We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom, and promote the general welfare. But it should remain an argument among friends who share an unshaken belief in our great cause, and in the goodness of each other.
    We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always. Let us argue our differences. But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.
    Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity.
    We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong.
    Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight.
    We're Americans.
    We're Americans, and we'll never surrender.
    They will.

2005[edit]

  • I think one of our big problems has been the fact that many Iraqis resent American military presence. And I don't pretend to know exactly Iraqi public opinion. But as soon as we can reduce our visibility as much as possible, the better I think it is going to be.
    • As quoted in MSNBC (31 January 2005)
  • I am sure that Senator Clinton would make a good president. I happen to be a Republican and would support, obviously, a Republican nominee, but I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would make a good president.
  • General Myers seems to assume that things have gone well in Iraq. General Myers seems to assume that the American people, the support for our conflict there is not eroding. General Myers seems to assume that everything has gone fine and our declarations of victory, of which there have been many, have not had an impact on American public opinion.
    Things have not gone as we had planned or expected, nor as we were told by you, General Myers. And that's why I'm very worried, because I think we have to win this conflict.
  • I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.

2006[edit]

  • They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.
  • I don’t know if I would want him as vice president. He and I have the same strengths. But to serve in other capacities? Hell, yeah.
  • I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we've been seeing lately, we didn't complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where 'First Amendment rights' are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.

2007[edit]

  • [I]n the words of Chairman Mao, 'It's darkest before it's totally black.'
    • In response to a reporter's question, "Which is more likely: making progress in Iraq or you winning the nomination?" (July 2007) [5]
  • Contracting a fatal disease.
    • In response to a reporter's question, "Are there any circumstances under which you could imagine yourself not still being a candidate when the presidential primaries are held?" (July 2007) [5]
  • While I don't in any way question your honor, your patriotism or your service to our country, I do question some of the decisions, the judgments you’ve made over the past two and a half years. During that time things have gotten markedly and progressively worse.
    • To General George Casey in his confirmation hearing as the nominee for Army Chief of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee (1 February 2007) [2]
  • We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that's the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war. The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously. I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.
  • I'm not running for president to be somebody, but to do something; to do the hard but necessary things not the easy and needless things.
  • [On presidential candidates not condemning the controversial MoveOn.org ad in The New York Times.] If you're not tough enough to repudiate a scurrilous, outrageous attack such as that, then I don't know how you're tough enough to be president of the United States.
  • I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the best candidate able to lead the country and defend our political values.
    • upon calling the reporter after said interview, to clarify his position
  • I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.
    • Criticizing Hillary Clinton's health-care plan as being "eerily reminiscent" of the plan she advocated as First Lady, 11 October 2007 [3]
  • 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.
    • In Republican presidential debate, Orlando, Florida, 21 October 2007 [4]
  • Our recommitment to Afghanistan must include increasing NATO forces, suspending the debilitating restrictions on when and how those forces can fight, expanding the training and equipping of the Afghan National Army through a long-term partnership with NATO to make it more professional and multiethnic, and deploying significantly more foreign police trainers.
  • I just want to also say that Congressman Paul, I've heard him now in many debates talk about bringing our troops home, and about the war in Iraq and how it's failed. And I want to tell you that that kind of isolationism, sir, is what caused World War II. We allowed... We allowed -- we allowed Hitler to come to power with that kind of attitude of isolationism and appeasement.
    • The CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate [5]
  • The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should. I’ve got Greenspan’s book.... I've never been involved in Wall Street, I've never been involved in the financial stuff, the financial workings of the country, so I'd like to have somebody intimately familiar with it.
    • Referring to a potential Vice President, 18 December 2007 [6][7]

2008[edit]

  • I looked into his eyes and saw three letters: a 'K', a 'G', and a 'B'.
  • There is no greater vocation than to serve. But there is no greater purpose than to love. Live a life that does both, and you’ll be truly happy.
    • Letter of advice to British diplomat Tom Fletcher's son. [8]
  • Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.
    • When asked at a town hall meeting prior to the 2008 New Hampshire Primary about a Bush statement that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for 50 years. 3 January 2008 [9]
  • I've got to give you some straight talk: Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back. They are not. And I am sorry to tell you that.
  • I love him dearly. On issues of economics and … family values, there's nobody that I know that's stronger.
    • On campaign economic adviser Phil Gramm; 18 January 2008; [11]
  • It's a tough war we're in. It's not going to be over right away. There's going to be other wars. I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars. And right now - we're gonna have a lot of PTSD to treat, my friends. We're gonna have a lot of combat wounds that have to do with these terrible explosive IEDs that inflict such severe wounds. And my friends, it's gonna be tough, we're gonna have a lot to do.
  • I have a clear record, both publicly and privately, of saying Alito and Roberts are what we want on the Supreme Court.
  • Anybody who believes the surge has not succeeded, militarily, politically and in most other ways, frankly, does not know the facts on the ground.
  • As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it -- along the lines that President Bush proposed.
  • As you know, there are al-Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq.
    • The Hugh Hewitt Show. 2008-03-17, [16]
  • Let me say that no one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have.
  • We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong. I was wrong. And eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona. I'd remind you we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans
  • We're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.
    • During General David Petraeus’ testimony before Congress on the military “surge” strategy in Iraq. 8 April 2008 [18]
  • I think if you look at the overall record and millions of jobs have been created, et cetera, et cetera, you could make an argument that there's been great progress economically over that period of time. But that's no comfort. That's no comfort to families now that are facing these tremendous economic challenges. But let me just add, Peter, the fundamentals of America's economy are strong.
  • In all candor, if I'd been President of the United States, I'd have ordered the plane landed at the nearest Air Force base, and I'd have been over here, ok?
    • On how he would have acted when Katrina made landfall if he had been president, LA Times, despite being in Arizona with Pres. Bush during Katrina's landfall [19]; 25 April 2008
  • To state the obvious, I thought it was wrong at the time... those statements and comments did not comport with the facts on the ground. … But do I blame [the President] for that specific banner? I can't blame him for that.
  • I made it very clear, at that time, before and after, that we will not negotiate with terrorist organizations, that Hamas would have to abandon their terrorism, their advocacy to the extermination of the state of Israel, and be willing to negotiate in a way that recognizes the right of the state of Israel and abandons their terrorist position and advocacy.
  • If I am elected President, I will work with anyone who sincerely wants to get this country moving again. I will listen to any idea that is offered in good faith and intended to help solve our problems, not make them worse. I will seek the counsel of members of Congress from both parties in forming government policy before I ask them to support it. I will ask Democrats to serve in my administration. My administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability. I will hold weekly press conferences. I will regularly brief the American people on the progress our policies have made and the setbacks we have encountered. When we make errors, I will confess them readily, and explain what we intend to do to correct them. I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons.
  • We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.
    • 29 May 2008 (a time when troops were not yet at pre-surge levels); YouTube; see below for attempted recovery the following day
  • Let me just say again, We have drawn down. Three of the five brigades are home. The Marines, the additional Marines are home. By the end of July, they will have been back.
    • Restating his position that U.S. troops in Iraq have been drawn down to pre-surge levels; 30 May 2008; see above for misquote he was defending [20]
  • Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war.
    • Campaign ad, quoted in Newsweek (23 June 2008), p. 21
  • And I stopped beating my wife just a couple of weeks ago…
    • Trying to make a joke, 26 June 2008 [21]
  • Maybe that’s a way of killing them.
    • Making a wisecrack about the health impact of cigarette smoking on Iran's citizens, 8 July 2008
  • L.A. Times: You voted against coverage of birth control, [against] forcing health insurance companies to cover birth control in the past. Is that, is that still your position?
    John McCain: I'll look at my voting record on it, but … I don‘t recall the vote.
    L.A.Times: [Your campaign advisor's] statement was that it was unfair that health insurance companies [are forced by the government to] cover Viagra but not birth control. Do you have an opinion on that?
    John McCain: I don‘t know enough about it … I hadn‘t thought about it much.
    • On McCain campaign advisor and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina's presenting mandatory birth control coverage as McCain's own position: "Many health insurance plans cover Viagra, but won‘t cover birth control medications. Those women would like a choice." [22]
  • Vietnam vet: We haven't heard why you voted against your colleagues' proposals to increase health care funding in 2004, '05, '06, and '07, when we had troops coming back from two wars.
    Madow: Instead of the answer the questioner is looking for, McCain now takes credit for the GI bill and takes a political shot at Jim Webb.
    McCain: On the issue of the GI bill, I was disappointed that Senator Webb didn't support making it permanent. Senator Graham, other veterans and I will be looking to extend that to all veterans, not just 2001. I hope you'll urge Senator Webb to agree with that.
    McCain: I received every award from every major veterans' organization in America. The reason is I have a perfect voting record from organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and all the other veterans service organizations because of my support of them.
    Vietnam vet: You do not have a perfect voting record by the DIV and the VFW. That's where these votes [of yours against increasing vet health care] are recorded. The votes were proposals by your colleagues in the Senate to increase health care funding of the VA in 2003, '04, '05, and '06 for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and you voted against those proposals. I can give you specific Senate votes, the numbers of those Senate votes right now.
    McCain: I thank you, and I'll examine your version of what my voting record is, but again, I've been endorsed in every election by all of the veterans' organizations that do that. I've been supported by them, and I've received their highest rewards, from all of those organizations, so I guess they don't know something you know.
    Rieckoff: [McCain's] voting record is not very strong. The Disabled American Veterans gave him a 20% rating out of 100. Our organization, the IAVA, gave him a D rating in the last voting session. He does not have a perfect voting record from the VFW. He's consistently voted against increased funding of the VA, and he's been a major opponent of the new GI bill.
    • Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans for America and author of Chasing Ghosts, on Countdown, discussing a town hall exchange between McCain and another Vietnam vet; 9 July 2008; [23]
    • IAVA ratings: McCain: D; Obama: B+ [24]; DAV: McCain: 20%; Obama: 80%; the AL and VFW don't perform such voting record ratings [25] [26]
  • I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia.
    • In remarks to the press in Phoenix, 14 July 2008; [27] [28]
  • The first telephones cost a thousand dollars and they were about that big! We all remember that!
  • Diane Sawyer: Do you agree the situation in Afghanistan is precarious and urgent?
    McCain: Well, I think it‘s very serious. I think it‘s a serious situation.
    Sawyer: Not precarious and urgent?
    McCain: Oh, I don‘t know exactly—run through the vocabulary. But it‘s a very serious situation. But there‘s a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I‘m afraid that it‘s a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border.
    • Good Morning America interview, after recent news that escalating insurgency and violent incidents had left around 2,500 people dead (over 700 of them civilians) since January of the same year in Afghanistan; 21 July 2008; [29]
  • There is nothing that's off the table. I have my positions and I'll articulate them. But nothing's off the table.
    • In response to a question regarding the possibility of payroll tax increases under a McCain presidency, 27 July 2008 [30]
  • I will not raise your taxes, nor support a tax increase.
  • At the moment of conception.
    • Question: "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?"
    • Saddleback Civil Forum with Pastor Rich Warren, 18 August 2008 [31]
  • I think — I’ll have my staff get to you. It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.
    • When asked in an interview how many houses he and Mrs. McCain owned, 20 August 2008
  • Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
  • You know that there’s been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street. And it is – it’s – people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals are – of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times. And I promise you, we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. We will reform government.
  • I don't know if you could ever say, quote "mission accomplished," as much as you could say "Americans are out of harm's way."
    • On George W. Bush's address aboard a ship with a banner reading "mission accomplished" behind him, at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.[35] (1 May 2008)
  • I believe that Carly Fiorina is a role model to millions of young American women. She started out as a part-time secretary and she ended up a CEO of one of the major corporations in America. I’m proud of her record and so I want everybody to know that Carly Fiorina is a person that I admire and respect.
  • Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me. We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.
    • Speaking to reporters in New York, regarding the need to pass legislation concerning the economic crisis, 24 September 2008 [37]
  • And we want a fight, and I will fight, but we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments, I will respect him and I want— [crowd boos] No, no, I want everyone to be respectful, and let's make sure we are, because that's the way politics should be conducted in America.
  • Q: My wife and I are expecting our first child, in April 2nd, next year. And frankly, we're scared. We're scared of an Obama presidency...
    John McCain: First of all, I want to be President of the United States and obviously, I don't want Senator Obama to be. But, I have to tell you, he is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared as President of the United States. Now, I just— [crowd boos] Now look, if I didn't think I would be one heck of a lot better president I wouldn't be runnin', okay, and that's the point.
  • Q: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not, he's a, uh— he's an Arab. He's not— [McCain shakes head] No?
    John McCain: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. 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.
  • You may have noticed that Senator Obama's supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about western Pennsylvania lately. And you know, I couldn't agree with them more.
Concession speech (2008)[edit]
Concession speech (4 November 2008)
  • Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.
    These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.
    I urge all Americans … I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.
  • I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.
2008 Republican National Convention (2008)[edit]
Transcript by CNN
  • A word to Sen. Obama and his supporters. We'll go at it -- we'll go at it over the next two months -- you know that's the nature of this business -- and there are big differences between us. But you have my respect and my admiration. Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, and that's an association that means more to me than any other. We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights. No country -- no country ever had a greater cause than that. And I wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement.
  • All you've ever asked of your government is to stand on your side and not in your way. And that's what I intend to do: stand on your side and fight for your future.
  • I've found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington, Gov. Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska. ... She has an executive experience and a real record of accomplishment. She's tackled tough problems, like energy independence and corruption. She's balanced a budget, cut taxes, and she's taken on the special interests. She's reached across the aisle and asked Republicans, Democrats, and independents to serve in her administration. She's the wonderful mother of five children. She's -- she's helped run a small business. She's worked with her hands and knows -- and knows what it's like to worry about mortgage payments, and health care, and the cost of gasoline and groceries. She knows where she comes from, and she knows who she works for. She stands up for what's right, and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down.
  • Change is coming.
  • I don't work for myself. I work for you. I've fought corruption, and it didn't matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans. They violated their public trust, and they had to be held accountable.
  • I've fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq when it wasn't the popular thing to do.
  • I don't mind a good fight. For reasons known only to God, I've had quite a few tough ones in my life. But I learned an important lesson along the way: In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.
  • I fight for the family of Matthew Stanley of Wolfeboro, 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.
  • We lost -- 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 Sen. Obama -- passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust when we valued our power over our principles. We're going to change that.
  • In this country, we believe everyone has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential, from the boy whose descendents arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers. We're all God's children, and we're all Americans. We believe -- we believe in low taxes, spending discipline, and open markets. We believe in rewarding hard work and risk-takers and letting people keep the fruits of their labor.
  • Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have the choice, and their children will have that opportunity. Sen. Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats. I want schools to answer to parents and students.
  • Sen. Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and restore the health of our planet.
  • We have dealt a serious blow to Al Qaeda in recent years, but they're not defeated, and they'll strike us again, if they can. Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism and is on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • Russia's leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world's oil supply, intimidate other neighbors, and further their ambitions of re-assembling the Russian empire.
  • We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world, but I'm not afraid of them. I'm prepared for them.
  • I know how to secure the peace.
  • I hate war. It's terrible beyond imagination.
  • In America, we change things that need to be changed. Each generation makes its contribution to our greatness. The work that is ours to do is plainly before us; we don't need to search for it.
  • The -- the constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause. It's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you.
  • I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn't thank God for the privilege.
  • 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.
  • Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

2009[edit]

  • Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.
Why we can -- and must -- win the war in Afghanistan[edit]
CNN op-ed (28 October 2009)
  • For the first time since September 11, 2001, America is having a vigorous national debate about how to succeed in Afghanistan. This debate is entirely worth having. Whenever America sends its citizens into harm's way, it must do so with eyes wide open. Though no veteran would ever think of himself as "pro-war," I believe that the fight in Afghanistan is critical to our national security. Our goals there are achievable and success is worth the continued sacrifice. We must succeed in Afghanistan for many reasons, but one stands above all: the world walked away from Afghanistan once, and it descended into a cauldron of violence, hatred and human rights atrocities that served as the base for the worst terrorist attack in history against our homeland.
  • We cannot let that happen again, and we cannot let the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies conquer Afghanistan once more. Failure of this kind would also destabilize the entire strategically vital region, including nuclear-armed Pakistan. We know what it takes to succeed in Afghanistan: a resolute commitment to the principles of counterinsurgency, which turned Iraq around during the surge. I am confident that properly resourced counterinsurgency policy, adapted to the unique culture and geography of Afghanistan, can lead to success there. Our entire military chain of command supports this approach, as do our NATO allies, which they made clear at their recent defense ministerial meeting in Bratislava.
  • I supported President Obama when he called for a counterinsurgency plan in March, and I did so again when he deployed Gen. Stanley McChrystal to lead the command in Kabul. I agree with our commander's assessment of the security situation as "deteriorating" and that our civilian and military leaders urgently need more resources, including more combat troops, to turn the tide toward success. I sympathize with our president, because sending men and women into harm's way is the most difficult decision that a commander-in-chief must make. However, Americans are already serving in harm's way in Afghanistan, and the sooner we can provide the reinforcements and resources they need, the safer and more successful they will be. So I am urging President Obama to move as quickly as possible to fully support Gen. McChrystal's request for more troops.
  • It is true that the Afghan government is not as strong or credible as we would like, but that should not deter us from committing more civilian and military resources now. Local governments in counterinsurgency environments are usually weak and fledgling. There is an insurgency in the first place because it seeks to exploit the local population's dissatisfaction with its government. As long as Afghanistan is insecure, it is unreasonable to assume that governance will improve. That is why protecting the population must be job one right now, and in the immediate term, much of that work must be done by U.S. and NATO troops. As security improves, however, we will be able to train capable, battle-tested Afghan security forces that can defend their country. We can break the insurgency's momentum, enabling Afghans to reconcile with former fighters who are willing to lay down their arms. And we can create an environment of safety in which it is more realistic to expect Afghan leaders to meet the high standards of their fellow citizens and their international partners -- namely, the provision of justice and opportunity, the protection of human rights and a crackdown on corruption.
  • Ultimately, Afghans will judge the legitimacy of their government not only by the result of one round of voting, but by its performance in delivering basic services. Success in Afghanistan will emerge, as it did in Iraq, when local leaders and citizens are more and more able to take responsibility for governing and securing their own sovereign country without substantial international assistance. This won't be perfect or easy, but it will allow America's fighting men and women to leave Afghanistan with honor, and it will enable Afghans to build a better, more peaceful future. That is our goal, and we must stay in the fight until it is won.

2010s[edit]

  • The U.S. does not involve itself in what is happening in the world's largest democracy, nor does it intend to do so.
    • Describing India's democracy as "strong and successful", and brushed off the allegation of Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi, who objected if the U.S. is involved in India's protests.

2011[edit]

  • Osama bin Laden’s welcome death has ignited debate over whether the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used on enemy prisoners were instrumental in locating bin Laden, and whether they are a justifiable means for gathering intelligence.
    Much of this debate is a definitional one: whether any or all of these methods constitute torture. I believe some of them do, especially waterboarding, which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture. As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them. … Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops, who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and al-Qaeda surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more conventional enemies, if not in this war then in the next.
  • Though it took a decade to find bin Laden, there is one consolation for his long evasion of justice: He lived long enough to witness what some are calling the Arab Spring, the complete repudiation of his violent ideology.
    As we debate how the United States can best influence the course of the Arab Spring, can’t we all agree that the most obvious thing we can do is stand as an example of a nation that holds an individual’s human rights as superior to the will of the majority or the wishes of government? Individuals might forfeit their life as punishment for breaking laws, but even then, as recognized in our Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, they are still entitled to respect for their basic human dignity, even if they have denied that respect to others.
    • "Bin Laden’s death and the debate over torture" in The Washington Post (11 May 2011)
  • This is a moral debate. It is about who we are. I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.
    • As quoted in "Bin Laden's death and the debate over torture" (11 May 2011), The Washington Post
  • We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any "enhanced interrogation technique" used on a detainee in U.S. custody. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts, or an accurate description of his role in Al-Qaeda. … In fact, not only did the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married, and ceased his role as an Al-Qaeda facilitator — which was not true, as we now know. … It was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. … we are again engaged in this important debate, with much at stake for America’s security and reputation. Each side should make its own case, but do so without making up its own facts.

2012[edit]

  • You know, it's interesting for the president to say something that juvenile. I'm not picking on anyone. Again, as we just said, four Americans died! Is that picking on anybody when you want to place responsibility and find out what happened so that we can make sure it doesn't happen again?
    • On the Record w/Greta van Susteren, Fox News, 2012-11-14
    • regarding McCain's opposition to the potential nomination of ambassador Susan Rice to Secretary of State over her statements about the 2012 Benghazi attack, and President Obama saying in a 2012-11-14 press conference, "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after someone, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the United Nations ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intel she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous."

2013[edit]

  • The president, comparing him to a kid in the back of a classroom, I think, is very indicative of the president’s lack of appreciation of who Vladimir Putin is. He’s an old KGB colonel that has no illusions about our relationship, does not care about a relationship with the United States, continues to oppress his people, continues to act in an autocratic fashion.

2014[edit]

2015[edit]

  • While I suppose this means I’ll spend this Easter in Sedona rather than Siberia, I couldn’t be more proud of being sanctioned by Vladimir Putin for standing up for freedom and human rights for the Russian people and against Putin’s deadly aggression in Ukraine. I will never stop my efforts to support democracy, free speech, and the rule of law in Russia,

2016[edit]

  • I don't give a damn what the President of the United States wants to do or what anybody else wants to do. We will not waterboard; we will not torture... We will not torture people... It doesn't work, my friends. It doesn't work. If you inflict enough pain on somebody long enough, they're going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear to have it stopped... There are accomplished interrogators who can gain the confidence of the suspect and gain all the information that they could possibly want... My God, what does it say about America if we're going to inflict torture on people? It makes it hard for us to make the argument about the moral superiority of our way of our government and our way of life.
Statement regarding the Khan family (1 August 2016)[edit]
Statement regarding Donald Trump's comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 (transcript by CNN)
  • I wear a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen hero, Matthew Stanley, which his mother, Lynn, gave me in 2007, at a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. His memory and the memory of our great leaders deserve better from me.
  • Make no mistake: I do not valorize our military out of some unfamiliar instinct. I grew up in a military family, and have my own record of service, and have stayed closely engaged with our armed forces throughout my public career. In the American system, the military has value only inasmuch as it protects and defends the liberties of the people.
  • My father was a career naval officer, as was his father. For hundreds of years, every generation of McCains has served the United States in uniform. My sons serve today, and I'm proud of them. My youngest served in the war that claimed Captain Khan's life as well as in Afghanistan. I want them to be proud of me. I want to do the right thing by them and their comrades.
  • Humayun Khan did exactly that — and he did it for all the right reasons. This accomplished young man was not driven to service as a United States Army officer because he was compelled to by any material need. He was inspired as a young man by his reading of Thomas Jefferson — and he wanted to give back to the country that had taken him and his parents in as immigrants when he was only two years old.
  • Scripture tells us that 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' Captain Humayun Khan of the United States Army showed in his final moments that he was filled and motivated by this love. His name will live forever in American memory, as an example of true American greatness.
  • In the end, I am morally bound to speak only to the things that command my allegiance, and to which I have dedicated my life's work: the Republican Party, and more importantly, the United States of America. I will not refrain from doing my utmost by those lights simply because it may benefit others with whom I disagree. I claim no moral superiority over Donald Trump. I have a long and well-known public and private record for which I will have to answer at the Final Judgment, and I repose my hope in the promise of mercy and the moderation of age. I challenge the nominee to set the example for what our country can and should represent.
  • While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.
  • I'd like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We're a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation -- and he will never be forgotten.

2017[edit]

We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital. If you want to preserve [...] democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, [...] we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.
  • Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.

    It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.

    Such a hasty process risks harmful results. We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children.

    Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.

  • Putin's Russia is our adversary and moral opposite. It is committed to the destruction of the post-war, rule-based, world order built on American leadership and the primacy of our political and economic values…There is no placating Putin. There is no transforming him from a gangster to a responsible statesman. Previous administrations have tried and failed not because they didn’t try hard enough, but because Putin wants no part of it... Oppose Russian aggression against the world we have built from the ruined cities and destroyed empires of World War II. Don’t surrender the gains for our security and the progress for humanity that our Cold War victory achieved. Support the Russian people and their rights to liberty and justice, not the corrupt leaders who betray them... [A]ll who risk their lives to free Russia from tyranny and corruption are our allies. They are our moral equals. And the president of the United States, the nation that has been the greatest force for good in human history, should be the first among us to recognize that.
  • I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. That's not the message you heard today from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That's not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our bipartisan congressional delegation. I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries. I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it. For if we do not, who will?
  • I hate the press; I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital. If you want to preserve - I'm very serious now - if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started. They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press... [W]e need to learn the lessons of history.
  • We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to.
  • One aspect of the [Vietnam] conflict by the way that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.
    • On C-SPAN3, American History TV, quoted in The Republic (October 2017)
It’s time Congress returns to regular order[edit]
Washington Post op-ed (31 August 2017)
  • Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to promote their un-American “blood and soil” ideology. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty and comprising 323 million souls of different origins and opinions who are equal under the law.
  • Most of us share Heather Heyer’s values, not the depravity of the man who took her life. We are the country that led the free world to victory over fascism and dispatched communism to the ash heap of history. We are the superpower that organized not an empire, but an international order of free, independent nations that has liberated more people from poverty and tyranny than anyone thought possible in the age of colonies and autocracies. Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.
  • Congress will return from recess next week facing continued gridlock as we lurch from one self-created crisis to another. We are proving inadequate not only to our most difficult problems but also to routine duties. Our national political campaigns never stop. We seem convinced that majorities exist to impose their will with few concessions and that minorities exist to prevent the party in power from doing anything important. That’s not how we were meant to govern. Our entire system of government — with its checks and balances, its bicameral Congress, its protections of the rights of the minority — was designed for compromise. It seldom works smoothly or speedily. It was never expected to.
  • It requires pragmatic problem-solving from even the most passionate partisans. It relies on compromise between opposing sides to protect the interests we share. We can fight like hell for our ideas to prevail. But we have to respect each other or at least respect the fact that we need each other. That has never been truer than today, when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct. We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.
  • I argued during the health-care debate for a return to regular order, letting committees of jurisdiction do the principal work of crafting legislation and letting the full Senate debate and amend their efforts. We won’t settle all our differences that way, but such an approach is more likely to make progress on the central problems confronting our constituents. We might not like the compromises regular order requires, but we can and must live with them if we are to find real and lasting solutions. And all of us in Congress have the duty, in this sharply polarized atmosphere, to defend the necessity of compromise before the American public.
  • Let’s try that approach on a budget that realistically meets the nation’s critical needs. We all know spending levels for defense and other urgent priorities have been woefully inadequate for years. But we haven’t found the will to work together to adjust them. The appropriators can’t complete their spending bills, and we’re stuck with threats of a government shutdown and continuing resolutions that underfund national security. A compromise that raises spending caps for both sides’ priorities is better than the abject failure that has been our achievement to date.
  • Let’s also try that approach on immigration. The president has promised greater border security. We can agree to that. A literal wall might not be the most effective means to that end, but we can provide the resources necessary to secure the border with smart and affordable measures. Let’s make it part of a comprehensive bill that members of both parties can get behind — one that values our security as well as the humanity of immigrants and their contributions to our economy and culture.
  • Let’s try it on tax reform and infrastructure improvement and all the other urgent priorities confronting us. These are all opportunities to show that ordinary, decent, free people can govern competently, respectfully and humbly, and to prove the value of the United States Congress to the great nation we serve.

2018[edit]

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.
  • People have come to this country from everywhere, and people from everywhere have made America great. Our immigration policy should reflect that truth, and our elected officials, including our President, should respect it.
The Restless Wave (2018)[edit]
The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations (2018)
  • My fellow Americans. No association ever mattered more to me. We’re not always right. We’re impetuous and impatient, and rush into things without knowing what we’re really doing. We argue over little differences endlessly, and exaggerate them into lasting breaches. We can be selfish, and quick sometimes to shift the blame for our mistakes to others. But our country ‘tis of thee.‘ What great good we’ve done in the world, so much more good than harm. We served ourselves, of course, but we helped make others free, safe and prosperous because we weren’t threatened by other people’s liberty and success. We need each other. We need friends in the world, and they need us. The bell tolls for us, my friends, Humanity counts on us, and we ought to take measured pride in that. We have not been an island. We were ‘involved in mankind.‘
    Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one. Even in times of political turmoil such as these, we share that awesome heritage and the responsibility to embrace it. Whether we think each other right or wrong in our views on the issues of the day, we owe each other our respect, as long as our character merits respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the rancorous debates that enliven and sometimes demean our politics, a mutual devotion to the ideals our nation was conceived to uphold, that all are created equal, and liberty and equal justice are the natural rights of all. Those rights inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be assailed, they can never be wrenched. I want to urge Americans, for as long as I can, to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.
  • “ I'm a Reagan Republican, a proponent of lower taxes, less government, free markets, free trade, defense readiness, and democratic internationalism.”
  • "The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it," spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in For Whom the Bell Tolls. And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I‘ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.
    I leave behind a loving wife, who is devoted to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and seven great kids, who grew up to be fine men and women. I wish I had spent more time in their company. But I know they will go on to make their time count, and be of useful service to their beliefs, and to their fellow human beings. Their love for me and mine for them is the last strength I have.
    What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a "part of the main." I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.
Farewell statement (2018)[edit]
Official Farewell Statement of Senator John McCain, publicly read by Rick Davis at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona (27 August 2018) · "Full text: John McCain's farewell statement", Politico (27 August 2018) · "In His Farewell Letter, John McCain Offers Advice on Enduring These 'Challenging Times'" Esquire (27 August 2018)
"Fellow Americans"—that association has meant more to me than any other. … Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.
Farewell, fellow Americans.
  • I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.
    I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on Earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.
    I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causesliberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
    "Fellow Americans" — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.
  • We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.
  • Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.
    Farewell, fellow Americans.
    God bless you, and God bless America.


Disputed[edit]

Quotes about McCain[edit]

  • Sen. John McCain liked to fight for causes larger than himself. He fought for his country as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. Despite being tortured in a Vietnamese prison camp, he stood up for his fellow prisoners of war by refusing the early release his captors offered him because he was an admiral's son. In politics, he fought to defeat Democrats at the polls, to bend the GOP toward his brand of Republicanism and for any number of policies he considered vital — from weakening national parties' dominance of campaign financing to prohibiting the U.S. from torturing suspected terrorists. But McCain's legacy will be about a trait, more than any individual cause, that was both larger than himself and is in perilously short supply in American politics right now: honor.
  • Many in the crowd booed, and later, Arab-Americans expressed disappointment at the implication that they weren't decent family people. But McCain's rejection of the woman's bigotry and ignorance, which almost seems quaint now, remains at the core of the great American political experiment. The republic only survives if adversaries are able to respect one another and the idea that differences should be resolved peacefully in the political arena. Surely, many future supporters of President Donald Trump were turned off by McCain's response that day. For years, McCain was pilloried by those on the right who thought he was insufficiently loyal to the GOP and those on the left who were infuriated that he was lionized as a "maverick" when he usually toed the party line.
A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CODEPINK activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29... You might think that McCain, who suffered tremendously in Vietnam, might be more sensitive to Kissinger’s role in prolonging that war. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger, along with President Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — killing perhaps one million during this period. ~ Medea Benjamin
  • A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CODEPINK activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger and apologized profusely to his friend for this “deeply troubling incident.”
    But if Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture...
    Rather than calling peaceful protesters “despicable”, perhaps Senator McCain should have used that term to describe Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which took place just hours after Kissinger and President Ford visited Indonesia. They had given the Indonesian strongman the US green light—and the weapons—for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. The UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) stated that U.S. "political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation" of East Timor.
  • You might think that McCain, who suffered tremendously in Vietnam, might be more sensitive to Kissinger’s role in prolonging that war. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger, along with President Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — killing perhaps one million during this period. He gave the order for the secret bombing of Cambodia. Kissinger is on tape saying, “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.”
    Senator McCain could have...[read] the meticulously researched book by the late writer Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, Hitchens skewers Kissinger for ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, the assassination of “unfriendly” politicians and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way. He holds Kissinger responsible for war crimes... from the deliberate mass killings of civilian populations in Indochina, to collusion in mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Chile, and the incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.
    McCain could have also perused the warrant issued by French Judge Roger Le Loire to have Kissinger appear before his court. When the French served Kissinger with summons in 2001 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled the country. More indictments followed from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay — even a civil suit in Washington DC.
  • What if the Obama administration never existed? What would America be like today? We'll never know, of course. But for Republicans who say Obama has been a disaster for America, who swear that things would be a whole lot better if only John McCain and Sarah Palin were elected in 2008, well, let's take a closer look at that claim. First, it's important to note this: McCain is actually closer to Obama on a lot of issues than he is with what he calls Republican "wacko birds" like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the current darlings of the GOP. Even so, if McCain has been president, things would have been significantly different.
  • The political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington during the Obama years would still exist under a President McCain. It might even be worse. With President McCain on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on the other (even if Republicans had ridden the wave of a McCain victory to a smattering of extra House and Senate wins in 2008, Democrats would have surely still retained both majorities), it's not exactly a recipe for cooperation. McCain might well be complaining about "Democratic obstructionism" (like George W. Bush did) and how Reid and Pelosi were playing games. Just like Obama complains about Republicans now.
  • Much as many conservatives believe anyone would be better than President Obama, the Republican that the party nominated to compete against him in 2008 really wouldn't have been all that different. We still would have had scandals. The economy still would have floundered. The big differences: A war-weary American public would have been dragged into more wars, an auto industry in critical condition would have been left to die, ObamaCare would never have existed, and a grassroots conservative movement would have lacked the liberal foil needed to grow and thrive.
  • Out of America's 15 battleground states, it should have been a safe bet that Donald Trump would win the 11 electoral votes up for grabs in Arizona. The state, in the nation's southwest, has only once been called for a Democratic candidate since 1952 – Bill Clinton, in 1996. But the constant attacks from the President on one man – the late Senator John McCain – may have contributed to a huge backlash in Arizona that will not only see it flip blue for Joe Biden, but secure Trump's electoral loss. As Fox News and The Associated Press called the state for Biden, the fury of Trump's supporters was quickly turned toward McCain's widow Cindy, who endorsed Biden back in September and, in the words of conservative Mark Levin, "helped cost us Arizona".
  • Cancer will not defeat John McCain. And John McCain will not beat cancer. Cancer is neither an opponent nor a binary condition. A medical team finds it, cuts it out, poisons it, irradiates it and prays for the best. If they are successful, if your stars are aligned, your cancer will go into hiding and lurk just outside the gates of good fortune for a long time.
  • Senator McCain is a war veteran, POW survivor and presidential candidate. His courage has never been in question. But cancer cares nothing about heroism, and only five out of 100 people outlive glioblastoma; according to the best studies available, their survival was not due to willpower or fighting spirit. Teddy Kennedy and Beau Biden lacked for neither, and both were felled by the disease. If "battling cancer" has long been a misguided metaphor, it seems spectacularly inapposite in connection with the redoubtable John McCain.
  • Battle cancer? At 67 years of age? At 80? At 8? Other than "following orders," military language never came into play. If a metaphor were needed, weather provided a more useful lexicon. Weather can surprise, strike hard and then dissipate. Cancer was akin to a great Nor'easter; once spotted on the radar screen, you batten down the hatches, consult the experts, follow the playbook, gather supplies and community and hope for the best. You don't fight weather. You don't blame its victims, and you don't put the onus on the stricken. With cancer, the only real war is the war of words. And even a wordsmith like Barack Obama, ever empathic, could use some re-education. "Give it hell, John," is what Mr. Obama tweeted to Senator McCain. You cannot give cancer hell. Cancer is hell. Some metaphors work.
  • Frankly, neither of [the presidential candidates'] numbers adds up. But I’ve come to see a consistent pattern in Obama's. For the life of me, Senator Straight Talk, I see no such straight thing with yours. You rail against big government, yet continue to push cockamamie spending plans that make a mockery of it. That's why you're losing right now, Senator McCain. Not because you don't have the courage of your convictions. But because on economic matters, you have no convictions, period.
  • He was one of a kind — a blunt-spoken legislator with a sense of humor who followed a sometimes unpredictable course, often clashed with his own party and exercised an outsized influence on policy debates. After losing to Barack Obama in his 2008 race for the presidency, he absorbed the defeat and resumed his Senate work with unflagging zeal.
  • He lost a bid for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination to George W. Bush, but became a staunch supporter of the Iraq invasion and the military surge that Bush mounted in 2007 to counter a spreading insurgency. He was one of Washington’s foremost experts on military and national security matters, advocating tough policies against Iran, Syria, Libya, Russia and other unfriendly governments.
  • Joining with Democratic Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy in 2005, he made a valiant effort to enact comprehensive immigration reform — a crucial need that Congress has still not met. He proposed a “cap-and-trade” system to curb greenhouse gas emissions, defying Republicans who scorned climate change as a hoax.
  • McCain was sometimes wrong, but he was fearless in fighting for the principles he held dearest. He will be remembered in many ways — as a war hero, a political maverick, a reformer and a staunch advocate for an assertive American role in world affairs. But he will be remembered most as a patriot.
  • When Trump initially attacked McCain as something less than a war hero in 2015, it was covered as the end of a campaign that never really got started. Trump has been in the race for all of a month. He was still an asterisk in most polling. And everyone who knew anything assumed that attacking McCain’s five years spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam – a time that left the Arizona Republican with lifelong wounds – was a death sentence of Trump’s political ambitions. After all, while plenty of Republicans didn’t agree with McCain’s much-touted renegade nature – and his willingness to buck party leadership – no one ever questioned the man’s service to the country (in the military and in elected office). And doing so was seen as the easiest way to destroy your political future. Except it didn’t destroy Trump. For all the hand-wringing and predictions of doom for his campaign, he just kept right on going – first to the Republican presidential nomination and then to the White House. For many of his supporters, Trump’s broadsides against McCain were music to their ears – finally someone was standing up to the political establishment in Washington! Trump wasn’t afraid of slaughtering a sacred cow – or all the sacred cows! He didn’t care! And they loved it.
  • Here’s what I also know: There are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong – whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or somewhere in between. And attacking a dead man who spent five years as a prisoner of war and another three decades serving the country in elected office, is simply wrong. That’s true if Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce or whoever the next president will be did it. (None of them would have said what Trump did about a man with as decorated a past as McCain but the point still holds.
  • Luckily, I agree with my party more than Senator McCain agrees with his party.
  • Chris Cillizza: Was the young McCain that came to the Senate in the mid 1980s significantly different from the man we saw in his final decade in the Senate? If so, how?
    Ross Baker: The 1980s McCain wanted to be one of the boys, fell in with bad company and spent the next three decades atoning. He spent years living down the Keating Five scandal, even though he got off with a slap on the wrist. In his 2002 memoir, written after his loss to George W. Bush, he was still lamenting that blot on his escutcheon.
    Cillizza: What was McCain’s greatest achievement as a senator? Greatest failure?
    Baker: His greatest lasting achievement was his dramatic last-second “no” vote to dismember ACA. His greatest temporary feat was McCain-Feingold [campaign finance reform]. My own high point – though it’s rarely remembered – was his takedown of the Jack Abramoff crew when he was chair of Indian Affairs. He turned Bureau of Indian Affairs and the whole Interior Department upside down. He did major things with a minor committee. His greatest failure: His persistent support for the Iraq war despite the good bipartisan vibes from the “Three Amigos.” The Keating Savings & Loan scandal of course, though McCain sized up the situation before the others. That scandal tarnished another hero, John Glenn.
    Cillizza: If there is a list of the 15 greatest senators ever, is McCain on it? Why or why not?
    Baker: He’s not up there with [Henry] Clay, [Daniel] Webster, [John] Calhoun, [Charles] Sumner and LBJ, but he’s a lot closer than Ted Cruz will ever be. Few senators in recent years, however, have had such a stupendous sendoff. He always had the media eating out of his hand. That’s no minor accomplishment.
  • McCain was down at the end of the table and we were talking to the head of the guerrilla group here at this end of the table, and I don’t know what attracted my attention. But I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever. I don’t know what he was telling him but I thought, good grief everybody around here has got guns and we were there on a diplomatic mission. I don’t know what had happened to provoke John, but he obviously got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him.
    • Senator Thad Cochran [R-MS] recalling a 1987 incident when John McCain lost his temper with an associate of Nicaragua’s President, July 1, 2008
  • Tributes for McCain and the lauding of his courage, honor, decency, character, and readiness to reexamine his own mistakes will unfold at a time when Trump is facing an unflattering public debate about his own personality and behavior. The guilty plea by the President’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and conviction of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last week deepened the political and legal storm raging around the White House – but still did not push most Republican leaders to criticize Trump. In that context, the ceremonies marking McCain’s passing seem sure to become more than a lament for a departed political giant. They are likely to become a debate about political morality and the comportment and principles expected of public figures in an already polarized political age that has been further roiled by Trump’s disruptive influence.
  • After two losing presidential campaigns, McCain never made it to the Oval Office – yet he is getting an emotional sendoff and assessment that might befit one of the men who did become President.
  • When comparisons are drawn between the President and McCain, Trump’s supporters are certain to accuse the media and his critics of exploiting McCain’s death to aim what they will view as yet another unfair attack on the commander-in-chief. But many of the tributes to McCain from the establishment politicians with whom he felt comfortable can also be read as commentaries on the importance of character in public life and America’s mission and global role, and therefore as subtle, implicit criticisms of the conduct and attitudes of the man in the Oval Office himself. After all, many of Trump’s critics have long argued that he lacks the character needed of a President, a narrative that gathered pace last week as the legal woes mounted, threatening his presidency. A persistent criticism has been that Trump disdains the altruistic and patriotic motives that Obama saw in McCain and instead feeds his own ego in a search for personal recognition. In Europe, there is deep concern about Trump’s commitment to Western values and NATO – so it is impossible to read tributes to McCain from people like Stoltenberg in any other context.
  • I think that's one reason [McCain's] "celebrity" ad [attacking Obama] came out so quickly. You know, part of the strategy here is, once you get caught [lying in an ad], change the subject, and launch a new charge.
    • Columnist Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly, on the short interval between release of two McCain campaign ads; Countdown; July 30, 2008; [40]
  • I admired John McCain as a man of principle and honor. He had become emblematic of someone who spoke his mind, voted his conscience, and demonstrated courage in bucking his own party and fighting for what he believed in. He gained a well-deserved reputation as a maverick. He was seen as taking principled positions on such issues as tax equity (opposing the newly elected Bush’s tax cut), fighting political corruption, and, later, taking on the Bush administration on torture. He came off as a man of decency. He took political risks.
  • In retrospect, other once-hailed McCain efforts – his cultivation of the press ("my base") and even his fight for campaign finance reform (launched in the wake of his embarrassment over the Keating Five scandal) now seem to have been simply maneuvers. The “Straight Talk Express” – a brilliant p.r. stroke in 2000 – has now been shut down.
  • When Bush, issued a "signing statement" in 2006 on McCain’s hard-fought legislation placing prohibitions on torture, saying he would interpret the measure as he chose, McCain barely uttered a peep. And then, in 2006, in one of his most disheartening acts, McCain supported a “compromise” with the administration on trials of Guantanamo detainees, yielding too much of what the administration wanted, and accepted provisions he had originally opposed on principle. Among other things, the bill sharply limited the rights of detainees in military trials, stripped habeas corpus rights from a broad swath of people “suspected” of cooperating with terrorists, and loosened restrictions on the administration’s use of torture. (The Supreme Court later ruled portions of this measure unconstitutional.) McCain’s caving in to this "compromise" did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.
  • Other aspects of McCain, including his temperament, began to trouble me. He seemed disturbingly bellicose. He gave the Iraq war unflagging support no matter the facts. He still talks about "winning" the war, though George W. Bush gave that up some time ago. As the war became increasingly unpopular, he employed the useful technique of blaming its execution rather than recognizing the misconceptions that had led him to be one of the most enthusiastic champions of the war in the first place.
  • There’s an argument that all this compromise wasn’t necessary: some very smart political analysts believed from the outset that McCain could win the nomination by sticking with his old self. And they still believe that McCain won the nomination not because he gave himself over to the base but as a result of a process of elimination of inferior candidates who divided up the conservative vote, as these observers had predicted. (These people insisted on anonymity because McCain is known in Republican circles to have a long memory and a vindictive streak.) By then I had already concluded that that there was a disturbingly erratic side of McCain’s nature. There’s a certain lack of seriousness in him. And he does not appear to be a reflective man, or very interested in domestic issues. One cannot imagine him ruminating late into the night about, say, how to educate and train Americans for the new global and technological challenges.
  • Now he’s back to declaring himself a maverick, but it’s not clear what that means. If he gains the presidency, is he going to rebel against the base he’s now depending on to get him elected? (Hence his selection of running mate Sarah Palin.) Campaigns matter. If he means "shaking up the system" (which is not the same thing), opposing earmarks doesn’t cut it. McCain’s recent conduct of his campaign – his willingness to lie repeatedly (including in his acceptance speech) and to play Russian roulette with the vice-presidency, in order to fulfill his long-held ambition – has reinforced my earlier, and growing, sense that John McCain is not a principled man. In fact, it’s not clear who he is.
  • This week, [John McCain] strayed perilously close to being indicted for the deadly sin of flip-flopping, which famously helped doom John Kerry's presidential bid in 2004. [His] excoriation of the Supreme Court [ruling that habeas corpus applies to Guantánamo detainees] seemed like overkill, given the limited nature of the judgment, and doubly odd given that Mr McCain supports the immediate closure of the prison camp and the transfer of its prisoners to the mainland. That would give them far greater protection than anything the court has done.
    • "Twist and Shout: The problems of pleasing everyone," The Economist, p. 44, June 21, 2008
  • "He’s kind of the Democratic version of John McCain," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). "I say that partially in jest. But partially it’s true: Joe’s a hard guy to figure out how to lead. You know? He dances to his own music." Like McCain, the moonshine-swigging former quarterback isn’t afraid to let his colleagues know where he stands on a given day, either in the hallways of the Capitol or on cable news airwaves. Manchin often publicly discusses how he’s struggling with issues or tough votes.
  • Few politicians who fail to win the presidency are subsequently judged to be giants in our history. Among the select few are Robert F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and Hubert H. Humphrey in the 20th century; Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun in the 19th century; and William Jennings Bryan, who straddled the two. There would certainly be lively debate about other political figures who deserve inclusion on such a list, and many non-politicians have earned places in our national story far more exalted than those of middling presidents and elected officials. As John McCain's contemporaries, we may be ill-positioned to insist with certainty that he will join the likes of Kennedy, Bryan and Clay as figures who were profoundly consequential though the White House eluded them.
  • Our judgment may be clouded because McCain's personal virtues — his insistence on the importance of honor, his resolute candor, his graciousness toward adversaries, his willingness to sacrifice, his ability to laugh at himself and to admit to his failings — stand in such stark contrast to our current leadership, particularly the incumbent president. And while Bryan and Goldwater fundamentally changed their parties, McCain's eclectic independence makes it hard to define an ideology called McCainism that might serve as an enduring legacy.
  • This is why McCain won so many liberal admirers, despite their many disagreements with him — particularly on the Iraq War, his deeply hawkish approach to foreign policy and his flip-flops on tax cuts. He also infuriated and befuddled them with his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, a decision that weakened his own wing of the party and ran counter to the seriousness of his approach to public life. And, given McCain's clearsightedness about who President Trump is, liberals wished he had taken the decisive step of upending his party's majority in the Senate. Yet it was impossible not to renew one's respect for McCain. He had a capacity to admit moral error that is rare among politicians of any stripe. He did this powerfully by calling himself out for pandering to voters in South Carolina's 2000 GOP primary by refusing to denounce the display of the Confederate flag at the state Capitol. He regularly put great things (the defense of the Western alliance on behalf of democracy above all) over petty things. He had a vision of the United States as a beacon of openness, thus his unwavering support for immigration reform, and of democracy as involving a government of equals, thus his consistent opposition to the outsize role of money in politics.
  • One need not canonize McCain to appreciate him. On the contrary, the fact he was a politician who wanted to win means that he is a better model for other politicians than a saint. He could trim when he had to and sometimes brawled against opponents for reasons not of principle but of power — or just because he harbored a grudge. Yet the former prisoner of war did all he could to live up to words he revered from Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." It is not easy to choose one's own way in ordinary life. It's even more difficult in politics. McCain will be long remembered because he kept faith with this obligation.
  • The McCain campaign is creating a new category of campaign maneuver. I would call it self-punking. They keep doing this to themselves. When I talked to them today, I think they were pretty genuinely upset that they'd screwed this up, that there were young people running a finance operation who set this thing up. That's their story and they're sticking to it, and they may be right about that. But the fact is that the senior leadership in the McCain campaign surely knew about this, or they should have known about it. Clayton Williams is anathema to the very Democratic women voters McCain is saying he's going after.
    • Howard Fineman of Newsweek, on Sen. McCain's canceling a fundraiser hosted by Williams -- famous for remarks about rape and opposition to TX Gov. Anne Richards -- but retaining the $300,000 he helped raise[41]; June 16, 2008; [42]
  • In terms of the relationship [between Gramm and McCain], I think, it's strong as ever and that … Phil Gramm's advice will be taken to heart.
    • Steve Forbes, a McCain surrogate, on whether Phil Gramm's role as economic advisor to McCain has truly ended, after McCain allegedly relieved Phil Gramm of the role; Gramm has been a leading deregulator of the mortgage and oil futures industries, CNBC; [43]
  • But Obama still insists on a 16-month withdrawal, which has become sort of a sliding scale, moving along with each passing month. Regardless of conditions, his strategy is to withdraw the troops in 16 months - not 12 or 24 - no matter when the clock starts ticking, whether it was 20 months ago or after he takes office in January 2009. McCain has refused to embrace any such arbitrary timetable, yet The New York Times insists that he must if the newspaper is going to print his opinion of the war. That is absurd, and it is journalistic malpractice. This is how radical The Times’ behavior is. In his article McCain chided Obama for setting a timetable for withdrawal, especially prior to his tour of Iraq and meeting with military leaders and Iraqi officials. That has been his position for several weeks. But The Times rejects that approach and insists that McCain actually embrace his opponent’s stand and violate his own previous pledges - or it would not publish his views. The Times ducked for cover by telling McCain this is standard practice at many newspapers, but I’m not familiar with any newspaper that has ever insisted a candidate, whether for town council or for president, change a position to match an opponent’s, in order to meet the newpaper’s op-ed requirements.
  • Republican analysts, meanwhile, are surprised about how healthy their party's prospects look in a year when almost all indicators suggested they should lose. McCain remains competitive against Obama. He even leads in some key states. Indeed, some research predicts he could romp home against Obama. It is that prospect, Clinton supporters say, that leads them to keep fighting. They point to Obama's performance in North Carolina as a bellwether: it was his strong win there earlier this month that dealt an almost fatal blow to Clinton's chances. Yet, two weeks after that win, polls showed Clinton easily outperformed Obama there when measured against McCain. "Clinton has a very strong argument that she is a stronger candidate against McCain. It is just that it has fallen on deaf ears," said Mitchell.
  • The problem for John McCain and George Bush is this: they have defined leaving as losing. Therefore, we cannot ever leave.
    • Chris Hayes, Washington Editor of The Nation, on Countdown; July 21, 2008; [44]
  • A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia. But he or she cannot change the fact—if it happens to be a fact—that he or she is a pathological liar, or a dimwit, or a proud ignoramus. And even in the short run, this must and will tell.
  • Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights, versus ill-conceived tax and economic policies -- this is the difference between venial and mortal sins. John McCain would continue the Bush administration's commitment to interventionism and constitutional over-reach. Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. … Based on his embrace of centrist advisers and policies, it seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy, who was fond of noting that "a rising tide lifts all boats." … Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed in the wool, big government liberal, I'm still voting for him.
    • Former Reagan policy advisor Larry Hunter; New York Daily News; July 16, 2008 [45]
  • In the end, Republican John McCain could not pilot his campaign through some of the stormiest skies ever faced by a presidential candidate. A global financial crisis and President Bush's unpopularity created a bad environment for any Republican candidate, campaign aides and analysts say, but McCain also created some of his own problems in his loss to Democrat Barack Obama. Among them: McCain's late-September decision to "suspend" his campaign in light of the economic crisis did not seem to impress voters. Republicans also are debating the wisdom of McCain's other key decision, the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Beyond that, critics say, McCain struggled to find a compelling message, lurching from slogan to slogan.
  • A great many Republicans have had their differences with Arizona Sen. John McCain over the years, and some of President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are using the occasion of the release of the senator’s memoir to bash McCain in the sunset of his career and life. They take to Twitter to bash a guy who suffered torture for his country, lived a life of public service and consequence, and has the audacity to express his political opinions and preferences on who eulogizes him. You don’t have to love John McCain to know this is wrong and, as Jonah Goldberg put it, "grotesque."
  • It is true that those of us who supported George W. Bush over McCain in the 2000 GOP primary found his attacks against Bush to be whiny and irritating. McCain’s position and vitriolic statements on campaign finance "reform" were grating, especially when you consider that his legislation did the opposite of reforming the system. It drove money out of the hands of candidates and parties, and into the shadows of outside groups. McCain’s legacy on campaign finance, well-meaning as it may have been, is a broken system that he helped to drive fully off the rails.
  • But he has been a loyal American and Republican all his life. He barnstormed the country for Bush in 2000 and 2004. I saw him on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney in 2012. He took on the mantle of Republican nominee for President in 2008, trying desperately to hold the White House for a party whose President was suffering from low approval ratings. Despite his ditching the GOP on a handful of issues (most recently Obamacare repeal), McCain has mostly been a solid citizen in the Senate. He has opposed wasteful spending (a Republican staple), and even now, serving under a President he clearly despises, votes for the Trump agenda 83% of the time, according to 538’s “Trump Tracker.” That’s a better “Trump Score” than Susan Collins, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, and nearly 22 points more than the tracker would expect based on the 2016 outcome in Arizona.
  • In 2000, McCain ran as the anti-establishment insurgent, trying to upend the Bush apple cart. But today, at the sunset of McCain’s life and career, it is another group of insurgents, Trump and his supporters, who cast McCain as an unreliable relic, out of touch with the people of Arizona and the Republican Party. They hate his views on immigration and his detestation of Trump’s behavior and style. In some ways, Trump pulled off what McCain was trying to do back in 2000. McCain called it the "Straight Talk Express," pulling no punches and offering unprecedented press access. He didn’t win but forever absorbed the brand of “maverick” in the process. Trump did the same thing. He ran against the establishment and was the most press accessible candidate in 2016. McCain was, tactically, ahead of his time, while Trump got the timing just right.
  • McCain will be remembered as a war hero, American patriot and public servant who was conservative but unafraid to buck his party from time to time. He will be remembered for clashing with Trump and suffering for it politically among members of his own party. He will be remembered for picking Sarah Palin and later regretting it. He will be remembered for making the campaign finance system worse while trying to make it better. He will be remembered for being entangled in the Keating Five ethics scandal. He will be remembered for being tortured, and then leading the opposition to certain interrogation tactics during the Global War on Terror. But no matter how you remember him or what you think of him, John McCain has earned the right to speak his mind and to have anyone at his funeral he wants. Feel free to disagree with McCain, but lay off the vitriolic, tribal attacks. He suffered mightily for your right to do so.
  • They both recognized and loved each other’s passion. For my father’s part, everyone knew how passionate (Ted Kennedy) was and that was known for John McCain. He really loved the fight, but he never let that get in the way of respect. And that’s what is missing in today’s politics, that genuine respect for democracy.
  • He knew that my father cared for this country. He knew that my father lost his brothers for this country. He knew that my father was part of this country and respected that. And my father genuinely loved and respected John McCain. It’s an example of what we need today and that is that even though they disagreed, they were always searching for ways to put their country ahead of their party. It sounds trite, but no, not at all – These days we’re living in, we really need people to have that as their goal.
I think that John McCain and Ted Kennedy represent what the Senate has been at its best ... what it can be again, a place where men and women of good will can come together and address the great challenges facing our nation. ~ Vicki Reggie Kennedy
  • I think that John McCain and Ted Kennedy represent what the Senate has been at its best ... what it can be again, a place where men and women of good will can come together and address the great challenges facing our nation.
  • I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let's compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.
    Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you're against it.
    Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what's more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same "Rove" tactics and the same "Rove" staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.
  • The noble simplicity of sentiment in McCain’s tweets is a world removed from Trump’s gaudy and boastful displays. And McCain’s demonstration of character and courage is a far more reliable guide to American greatness than the pronouncements of a president who speaks of it nonstop and embodies it not at all.
  • This is not the way a tested hero behaves. … It's like we caught him getting a manicure or something.
    • David Letterman, on seeing McCain on live feed being touched up by a makeup artist in preparation for an interview in New York City with Katie Couric after canceling his scheduled appearance at the same time on Letterman's show, allegedly to return to Washington because of the financial crisis; September 24, 2008; [46] [47] [48]
  • Just because a candidate's opponent says something is true about that candidate doesn't necessarily mean you should lead with it.
    • Rachel Maddow, on several media's leading with McCain's claim that Obama switched his Iraq policy; July 7, 2008; Countdown;[49]
  • John McCain was a beloved colleague. He was a patriot. He was truly an American hero. He had remarkable intellect. He had an iron will, most certainly. He had unquestionable integrity and courage that was absolutely unwavering. When I think about John and how John approached issues, John was one who did what he thought was right. When he thought he was right, there wasn't much arguing with him--he was right. Even then, we would engage, we would go back and forth, and I think oftentimes it was those arguments that caused us to either gain greater respect or perhaps greater fear, depending on where you were in the process. John was one of those guys who favored straight talk. I don't think he would have any hard feelings about any of us describing our relationship with him over the years. We didn't always agree, and sometimes we didn't even get along, but the truth was, John McCain would always make sure you knew where he stood.
  • John was very clear that you had to earn his respect. Respect was not something that came with the title. The fact that you were a U.S. Senator didn't mean you had earned his respect. And I know because I felt that in my early years here in the Senate. I came through an appointment, and I think John McCain was just going to wait to see if I was able to prove myself, and he ultimately decided, apparently, that I had. He came up to me one day--we were actually walking down the aisle there, and he came up and he said: "You know, you are OK, kid." And for that, that was high praise.
  • There were legendary back-and-forths, and sometimes you won, sometimes John won, but it was always with a great deal of passion that these exchanges moved forward. Then there was the other end of the spectrum--those times when John and I were voting together, sometimes against the majority of our own party. Healthcare and the ACA vote last year is certainly a prime example of that. That was a tough vote. That was a tough vote for our conference. It was a difficult vote, but I will tell you, it was comforting to have some solidarity with my friend John McCain even when it was clear that we may have disagreed with many of our colleagues. But John was one who, when he had made up his mind up, he had made up his mind, and you respected that.
  • Senator Graham observed that John will not be replaced by any one Senator. It is going to take all of us working together. It is going to take all of us to really accomplish what John knew we were capable of. By coming together, respecting one another, one another's principles, even when we disagree, and working through these disagreements to compromise--that is how we really honor John's legacy. There are a lot of words, and these words will come and go, but the way to truly honor him is to live out what he believed this Senate is capable of doing. We were reminded that there is a little John McCain in all of us. I think it would be good for us to remind one another of that, to urge the inner John McCain in each of us to present itself in a way that betters our institution.
  • It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
    • Sen. Barack Obama; 3 June 2008 in Minnesota and later in June campaign letter; [50]
  • I welcome Senator McCain’s important statement on President Reagan’s legacy and the need to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons. In my speech in Prague, I outlined my agenda for keeping the American people safe from the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, and I am grateful to John McCain for his leadership on these critical issues. I have outlined an ambitious strategy for promoting arms control and preventing nuclear terrorism and proliferation, which is already bearing fruit. I look forward to working with Senator McCain and the entire Congress to ensure that we accomplish these goals together for the American people and the security of the entire planet.
  • Though both Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden have been going on lately about how they are always, quote, "fighting for you," let us face the matter squarely. There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you.
  • I would never vote for anyone who thinks its funny to "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran".
    • Republican Senator Ron Paul on McCain's comments regarding Iran
  • In two sentences, McCain is betting that people believe Clinton is going to win in November. And that many voters in Arizona who don't like Trump aren't keen on Clinton either. (A recent national Washington Post-ABC News poll found a record number of Americans dislike Clinton, though she's still more popular than Trump.) McCain is pulling from a playbook Republicans used two decades ago to ditch the Republican presidential nominee. Before McCain, the highest-profile Republican to deliver that message was House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who sent a fundraising email in August that read, "If we fail to protect our majority in Congress, we could be handing President Hillary Clinton a blank check." It looked to The Post's Jenna Johnson and Karen Tumulty that Ryan might have predicted Clinton would win in a landslide (because only a historic Clinton landslide would be enough to put the GOP House majority in peril).
  • Going back to McCain, his strategy is stacked on a lot of "ifs": If Clinton still looks headed for a win in two months. If Arizona voters dislike her enough to elect McCain as a counterweight. If he doesn't upset his GOP base by essentially ditching Trump two months out from the election. If McCain can successfully distance himself from Trump after tepidly sticking by him during the primaries. Kirkpatrick's campaign has no intention of letting voters forget that McCain continued to say he'll vote for Trump after Trump got tangled with the family of a fallen soldier and a million other controversies.
  • Then again, McCain may not have a lot of other options. Campaigning as a bulwark to a President Clinton might be Republicans' life raft in the event of a Democratic wave, just as many Republicans saved themselves 20 years ago — by spending the race's final weeks campaigning as a bulwark against (another) President Clinton. It worked; Clinton won the White House, but Republicans kept their majorities in Congress. Republicans like McCain think they see the writing on the wall for Trump much earlier — a whole two months before Election Day. Embracing this strategy is a risk — but at this point, one they seem willing to take.
  • Many in the audience had already been riled up by Trump’s famous dismissal of McCain’s years as a POW — "I like people who weren’t captured." They’d been appalled when, just months earlier, a Trump White House aide allegedly dismissed the opinion of the cancer-stricken McCain because "he’s dying anyway." They’d been enraged that, two days before the memorial service, Trump had again attacked McCain after reports of his refusal to lower American flags in his honor. On Election Day, many of them — led by McCain’s widow, Cindy — took revenge: Arizona is on target to choose a Democrat — Biden — for the first time in almost 25 years. Biden’s early lead was such that Fox News declared him the winner in the Grand Canyon State on Tuesday, altering the electoral math and pulling the rug out from under Trump’s plans to claim victory in the overall polling before the Biden-leaning mailed ballots were counted in the Midwestern states.
  • Arizona was, in many ways, ground zero of the Trump presidency. It was the prime locus of his furious denunciations of illegal immigrants, which spurred his political rise. It was where he built his signature border wall. It was the home of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the chain gang-loving lawman whom Trump pardoned after his conviction for violating a court order, but whom many Republicans had long grown to consider a provocative embarrassment to their party. It was where Trump warred with former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a McCain loyalist, but also staged raucous rallies, including a pair in the week before the election. But in the end, the more moderate, independent politics epitomized by McCain sent Trump packing.
  • Like Burr for Jefferson, John McCain would, no doubt, be a great vote-getting asset to Kerry. Two decorated Vietnam War Navy veterans would fortify the foreign policy and national security credentials of the Democratic slate. But McCain was an ardent supporter of President Bush’s move to liberate Iraq. As a surrogate campaigner for Bush in New Hampshire this year, McCain defended President Bush against the attacks by Kerry and Gov. Howard Dean on the issue of Iraq. In addition, McCain is a right-to-lifer and an anti-gun-control hardliner. Those two stands would be hard for most Democrats to accept. Yet many counter by arguing that the Democrats would swallow the pill of McCain if it would mean recovery of the White House and the ouster of the hated Bush.
  • But if Kerry does take on McCain and win, he may live to regret it. To say that the Arizona senator is not a team player is an understatement. He is known for being outspoken, petulant and fractious. Far from toeing any administration line, John McCain would relish the attention by frequently crossing it.
  • Johnson played the good soldier as vice president in the three years before JFK’s assassination. But I wouldn’t bet on John McCain doing the same.
  • McCain would go on to trounce Hayworth in the August primary, by 24 points, but not before turning himself into an off-putting, almost unrecognizable political creature. In the face of Hayworth’s challenge, McCain flipped his position on repealing the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay service members; soft-pedaled his backing of climate-change legislation; and abandoned his longtime support for comprehensive immigration reform that would recognize reality and provide an eventual path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal aliens already living in the country. Instead, he offered full-throated backing for the border fence he once mocked—“Complete the danged fence!,” he demanded in an ad—and sought political cover in the form of an endorsement by his former running mate, Sarah Palin, whose selection was surely the single most cynical decision he ever made in nearly 30 years in public life.
  • The prevailing question about John McCain this year is: What happened? What happened to that other John McCain, the refreshingly unpredictable figure who stood apart from his colleagues and seemed to promise something better than politics as usual? The question may miss the point. It’s quite possible that nothing at all has changed about John McCain, a ruthless and self-centered survivor who endured five and a half years in captivity in North Vietnam, and who once told Torie Clarke that his favorite animal was the rat, because it is cunning and eats well. It’s possible to see McCain’s entire career as the story of a man who has lived in the moment, who has never stood for any overriding philosophy in any consistent way, and who has been willing to do all that it takes to get whatever it is he wants. He himself said, in the thick of his battle with Hayworth, “I’ve always done whatever’s necessary to win.” Maybe the rest of us just misunderstood.
  • McCain has always lived for the fight, and he has defined himself most clearly in opposition to an enemy, whether that enemy was the rule-bound leadership of the United States Naval Academy, his North Vietnamese captors, the hometown Arizona press corps that never much liked him, his Republican congressional colleagues, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Barack Obama, or J. D. Hayworth. He has always been more of an existential politician than a consequential one, in the sense that his influence has derived not from steady, unswerving pursuit of philosophical goals or legislative achievements but from the series of unpredictable—and sometimes spectacular—fights he has chosen to pick. As his daughter Meghan recently wrote, he has always been more of a craps guy than a strategic poker player. He has never been a party leader, like his old friend Bob Dole, of Kansas, or a wise elder, like his colleague Dick Lugar, of Indiana, or a Republican moderate, like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, of Maine. He flies solo, first, last, and always, and his paramount cause has always been his own. That is the bracing reality of John McCain. It is the tragedy, too.
  • For most of the time from his first election until his 2000 presidential campaign he was a reliable conservative Republican: pro-defense, anti-tax, anti-abortion, solid on social issues and the culture wars. But he was never a team player, never popular with his Republican colleagues, with whom he publicly quarreled on the slightest pretext, which made him seem more independent. It could just as easily be that he was more selfish. In high school, McCain’s nicknames included “McNasty,” and for more than two decades, the overriding majority of his Senate colleagues, in both parties, have repaid his angry outbursts against them with active and unrelenting dislike.
  • His choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate was, of course, the apogee of his hotheaded, cold-blooded self-protectiveness. Denied his own first choice, his friend Joe Lieberman, the Independent-Democrat from Connecticut, he opted instead for the only candidate his advisers thought stood a chance of reinforcing his much-dimmed reputation as a maverick. But in doing so he chose a person so manifestly unqualified for the presidency as to make him look like little more than a hack. “He picked a running mate to prove what an outsider he was,” one former adviser said, “and by comparison he wound up looking like the most conventional person around.” Making Sarah Palin into one of the most influential people in the Republican Party may turn out to be McCain’s most lasting political legacy to his country. Rather than expressing second thoughts or misgivings about his decision, he has dug himself in and defended it.
  • McCain and his wife, Cindy, have been living essentially separate lives for years. She has spent most of her time in Arizona while he has spent the workweek in a Virginia condominium where, he once told me, he sometimes went months at a time without ever entering the living room, simply coming home to the kitchen and bedroom late at night and leaving again early the next morning. In 2008, McCain was deeply stung by a long New York Times article about his working relationship with a lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, and its assertion that certain McCain aides feared the relationship had some years earlier morphed into an affair. To this day, McCain declines to give interviews to the paper, which was once one of his favorite outlets.
  • Indeed, on nearly every issue—not just his signature ones, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—McCain has been among Obama’s most relentless critics. That approach stands in contrast to the kind of support McCain was once willing to offer another young president, Bill Clinton. In 1993, the newly elected Clinton faced a firestorm of criticism for proposing to speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, in light of his own well-chronicled efforts to avoid the draft. McCain wrote the White House and volunteered to go with Clinton if it would help. McCain’s distaste for Obama is deeply personal.
  • McCain’s influence in the Senate and his claim to significance in national life have always rested on his willingness to anger colleagues of both parties by paying attention to crucial issues that they would rather ignore, and on being a thoughtful contrarian on key party-line votes. He held out the promise that he could represent for a cynical and defeatist age something like what the Republican Arthur Vandenberg became to Harry Truman’s bipartisan postwar foreign policy, or what Everett Dirksen was to Lyndon B. Johnson on civil rights: the guy from the other side of the aisle who made all the difference. It is much harder now to sort out which instances of McCain’s inconvenient truth-telling were more a result of circumstance than they were a consequence of conviction. He has told friends he has no wish to be like his predecessor, Barry Goldwater, whose last election was a narrow victory. But the late-era Goldwater was a mellower, riper figure, whose live-and-let-live libertarian streak came increasingly to the fore. McCain seems to be on the reverse trajectory.
  • Yes, you can make that argument—that the grand sweep of history, in all its majesty and indifference, will leave behind a false version of John McCain. But you can also make another argument, and it’s the one John McCain himself has been making powerfully by his behavior and example. It is that history has revealed the real McCain at last.
  • Mr. McCain fought in Vietnam. I think that he has enough blood of peaceful citizens on his hands. It must be impossible for him to live without these disgusting scenes anymore. Mr. McCain was captured and they kept him not just in prison, but in a pit for several years. Anyone would go nuts.
    • Vladimir Putin, Live Question & Answer session, December 15, 2011 [52]
  • McCain has gone … too far.
    • Republican strategist Karl Rove, on the accuracy of claims in various McCain campaign ads; September 14, 2008; [53]
  • Although the election has only just ended, it is clear why Sen. John McCain lost. It is not because millions of people viewed now-President-Elect Barack Obama as a beacon of hope in a harsh world, or because they thought he transcended ideological, racial and other traditional boundaries, or because countless voters believed that he could truly change the face of American politics. These are all reasons, but not the reason. And the reason why McCain lost is because he lost the moderate vote when he had every chance to win it. The GOP base has never been enamored with McCain, and while social and religious conservatives publicly complain about the Arizona senator, the base still votes Republican. This was never in doubt. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, most Democrats were going to vote for Obama, even those dejected after he defeated Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic primaries. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may have energized her party’s base as McCain’s pick for vice president, but the idea that she effectively drew Hillary supporters away from the Obama camp into McCain’s is ludicrous. The voting bloc left standing, therefore, was the moderate vote.
  • My relative calls himself an independent and is educated but solidly middle class. He has a great deal of respect for McCain due to the senator’s service to his country and his maverick reputation. In short, my relative epitomizes the kind of voter that McCain appealed to and counted on for support. But the McCain that my relative and many other moderate voters knew in 2000, when he ran for president and garnered a great deal of support from both sides of the aisle, was not the same man in 2008. In his campaign against Obama, he used the same negative tactics used against him in 2000 that he so vehemently denounced at the time; his campaign seemed unpredictable and unsteady, impatient and excitable; and his political stunts, such as suspending his campaign to go to Washington, D.C. ostensibly to provide leadership in the midst of the economic crisis, were not well-received.
  • For moderate voters like my relative, they tried to ignore, subconsciously or not, the criticism being heaped on McCain for choosing Palin and his increasing negativity in his attack ads and rhetoric. But as the weeks wore on and Nov. 4 drew nearer, moderate voters who liked McCain saw fewer and fewer positive attributes. My relative sincerely wanted to support McCain, for while he didn’t dislike Obama, he just couldn’t vote for him based on a gut feeling — a common sentiment found among moderate voters nationwide. He never mentioned anything about Obama’s inexperience or race; just that he just couldn’t see him as our country’s commander in chief. In the end, my relative’s mind won out over his heart. The weekend before Nov. 4, he made up his mind and decided to vote for Obama. He cited two main reasons: Firstly, the John McCain that my relative knew in 2000 was no longer the man he saw in 2008, and secondly, he simply got scared by the possibility of Sarah Palin in the White House. This viewpoint was shared by moderate voters all over the United States and doomed McCain’s chance at the presidency.
  • The irony is that McCain had the best shot of any Republican candidate to win the election, despite his unpopularity with the party base. Given his record, he was better-positioned than any other Republican to overcome his association with the Bush administration. Simply put, however, he never did this. There is much to admire in McCain. Deep down, he is an honorable, principled man who has served his country for the majority of his life. His maverick label has been tarnished, fairly or not, but he has reached across the aisle on big issues on multiple occasions. True, he did and said things during this campaign that go against the convictions that many people believe he holds true. But it was an exhausting campaign, and things are always said that are regretted later by both sides. He was gracious in his concession speech — probably the best speech he’s given in the entire campaign — and he deserves our respect.
  • In the end, McCain’s campaign couldn’t create or sustain a consistent message, which he desperately needed to connect with voters. The campaign reflected McCain’s current public personality — restless, erratic and temperamental. This notion, coupled with the choices he made to mollify the GOP base, alienated the type of voter that he needed to attract in order to win the election, and sealed his fate as the underdog going into Election Day. In the last few months, McCain talked a lot about the importance of character, but it was his own character that came into question by my relative and other moderate voters — his former defenders turned estranged opponents.
  • With Barack Obama holding a consistent 6-to-11 percentage-point lead in all recent national polls -- the stuff of an electoral vote landslide -- the 2008 campaign seems poised to enter its Harry Truman phase. That is the moment when John McCain, like virtually every losing candidate for more than half a century, invokes the ghost of "Give ’em hell, Harry" and the fading memories of a miracle 1948 electoral upset. About the only worse omen for McCain is when Republican talking points start to include the banalities of desperation like, "The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day." Republicans are already starting to gird themselves for a Nov. 4 debacle. A front-page story in Sunday's New York Times featured GOP leaders lamenting the disarray in the McCain campaign. More ominous for McCain are the results of a secret-ballot survey by National Journal magazine of roughly 100 prominent Republican campaign consultants. Freed from the demands of on-the-record spin, 80 percent of these operatives admitted that it was highly likely that Obama would win the White House. The other 20 percent -- the cockeyed optimists of the GOP camp -- predicted that the election could go either way.
  • The last time the self-described Arizona "maverick" tried to shake up the election, he melodramatically suspended his campaign to return to Washington to do virtually nothing to ease the financial crisis. This may, in hindsight, be remembered as the 48 hours in which McCain lost the White House, since the whole thing (down to the brinksmanship over participating in the first debate) struck many voters as a political stunt. McCain's prior desperation gambit -- the selection of a "you betcha" Alaska governor as his running mate -- also does not look like the stuff of lasting political genius. But McCain still has a few gambits that he might try, especially if the alternative were a stinging defeat. Some Republicans wonder if the 72-year-old McCain should make an "I will serve only one term" pledge, so that as president he would be free of all political pressure (yeah, sure) in his effort to reform Washington and confront the deadly earmark crisis.
  • What polling mavens too often forget is that an election is not a computer simulation or a contest decided by the best use of regression analyses in analyzing published data. As a one-time event, all that is required is for a winning candidate to get lucky, very lucky, on Election Day. And a passionate embrace from Lady Luck is probably now the only way that John McCain will ever find himself behind the desk in the Oval Office.
  • The end of a lengthy political career is almost invariably sad, whether the final act is defeat, infirmity, or death. Ted Kennedy and John McCain both fought valiantly in public to remain active senators despite the dire diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer. Former segregationist Strom Thurmond treated the Senate as a high-class rest home as he—barely able to recognize his surroundings—nominally served the people of South Carolina until he died in office at age 100.
  • And then there was his complicated relationship with our state. John McCain lived in many places after Vietnam, but for the last 36 years he called Arizona home, and represented the state in Congress — from 1982 to 1986 as a representative, and then from ‘86 to his death as a member of the United States Senate. McCain embraced Arizona, adopting the pretty landscape of central Phoenix and Cornville, posting photos of red-rock hikes, but doing very little during his tenure to support the state. In fact, his stand against “pork-barrel politics” at a time when his colleagues in Congress were busy lining their own states’ pockets with infrastructure cost Arizona dearly while increasing McCain’s popularity as a refreshingly honest leader who turned down handouts. In a lot of ways, it didn’t matter what state he lived in. John McCain was America’s senator, not Arizona’s, a transplant (or a carpetbagger — again, it depends on your perspective) who adopted the state as his own.
  • McCain will not likely go down in history as Arizona’s favorite son. That title may ultimately belong to the late Carl Hayden, who used his own role in the Senate to secure water rights for the state; perhaps to another late senator, Barry Goldwater, a true political iconoclast; or maybe to a favorite daughter, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Favorite? No, although he never won an election in the state with less than an extra-wide margin. But McCain will certainly be remembered by many of us as Arizona’s most fascinating son.
  • But I can’t help but wonder if the long view will be quite so kind to McCain. Will John McCain go down in history as the refreshing voice of reason, the antidote to Trump? He might. Or history might take a different view. Will McCain instead be remembered as the man who opened the door in 2008 to Sarah Palin, simultaneously setting the table for the Tea Party and ultimately making a spot for Trump himself? It all depends on your perspective.
  • One of the most fascinating parts of their story is the Game Change authors’ insistence that John McCain – he of the clenched fists and frequent outbursts, the infamous temper – never publicly repudiated Sarah Palin. McCain’s advisors, staff and friends, yes. They complained long and hard and nastily about her in ensuing years. But never the senator, Heilemann and Halperin write. And now, as the nation says farewell to one of the most fascinating politicians in history, a question remains: Will all of John McCain’s railing against Donald Trump ever make up for the fact that it might have been the senator’s own desperation to win in 2008 that led the nation to this point? Only time will tell.
  • I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues and exploded at colleagues. He would disagree about something and then explode. It was incidents of irrational behavior. We've all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I've never seen anyone act like that....He had very few friends in the Senate. He has a lot of support around the country, but I don't think he has a lot of support from people who know him well.
    • Former Senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who served with Senator McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee. [54]
  • The reality is that while McCain's ghost may be smiling over the karma of Trump's loss of Arizona, the McCain-Trump feud was only one factor. While the senator was beloved by many in Arizona, not least because of his heroism in Vietnam (Trump avoided service claiming bone spurs), many residents new to the state have little knowledge of him. About half of the state's total population was added between the time McCain was first elected to the Senate in 1986 until his death, based on US Census Bureau data from 1980 and 2019. In addition, while many people came to the state every year, a significant number left -- even if the total kept growing. Arizona added 2.2 million residents from 2010 to 2018, while seeing 1.7 million move to other states. In other words, it's entirely possible that this churn prevented the kind of civic attachment that would have left a large cohort of Arizonans holding a grudge against Trump over his treatment of McCain.
  • While the John McCain factor may not have been decisive in the Arizona vote, for some it likely resonated. And it wasn't only personal history and view of service that divided Trump from McCain. It was also their demeanor in presidential campaigning and ultimate defeat.
  • Contrast McCain's approach with Donald Trump's fast rise in politics, which was driven, in part, by pushing the false narrative that Obama wasn't an American citizen and had forged his birth certificate. That narrative established Trump as one of the leading voices in the "birther" movement. Trump would go on to become president by embracing that type of much more combative, confrontational tone that hinged on conspiracy theories and divisive rhetoric. McCain would never make it to the Oval Office, but in the final years of his life, he fully personified his "maverick" nickname by becoming one of the leading GOP voices against Trump as the two repeatedly clashed. The divergent personalities of McCain and Trump were on a collision course from the beginning. McCain represented the old guard of Washington, a lion of the Senate who evoked respect from both sides of the aisle and believed honor was everything. Trump ushered in a new — many would say corrosive — era of American politics, in which insults are hurled at the ready, tribalism is paramount and apologies should never be doled out.
  • A failed 2000 bid for president gave rise to a successful run at the Republican nomination eight years later. In those campaigns, McCain became known for his openness with voters and the press. He thrived in town hall settings, and New Hampshire would kick-start his first bid for the White House and revive his sagging hopes in 2008 after his campaign had been left for dead. McCain's controversial choice of Alaska's then-governor, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, in many ways may have opened the door for a candidate like Trump. Palin never seemed to mesh with McCain's more reserved, traditional style, and her hits on the media and giddiness in attacking Obama and others in personal terms seemed to presage a candidate like Trump. So, it was no surprise when Palin endorsed the billionaire businessman during the 2016 cycle.
  • But even personal attacks aside, McCain saw there was something greater than wins and losses, or even words said in the heat of political battle. After all, the two men who ended his White House dreams, Bush and Obama, will reportedly deliver eulogies at his funeral — a final statement of "Country First" from what seems like a bygone era.
  • Frank Luntz: He's a war hero.
    Donald Trump: He's not a war hero.
    Luntz: He's a war hero.
    Trump: He is a war hero—
    Luntz: Five and a half years in a POW camp.
    Trump: He's a war hero 'cause he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, okay? I hate to tell ya.
  • I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request. Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog. So many BAD decisions on Endless Wars & the V.A., which I brought from a horror show to HIGH APPROVAL. Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!
  • McCain ran an aggressive, hard-hitting campaign against former Congressman J. D. Hayworth. If he had taken this same kind of principled conservative and ‘take no prisoners’ campaign against Barack Obama in 2008, he’d now be in the second year of his presidency.
  • But the more one sees of [McCain's] impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.
  • My husband, John McCain, never viewed himself as larger than life—but he was. He believed in fighting for the good and never quitting, and he had more tenacity and resolve than anybody I ever met.
    • Cindy McCain, Stronger
  • I remembered what John used to tell me—that if you get in a fight with a pig, you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.
    • Cindy McCain, Stronger
  • We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,.. What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,
  • It is not terror but heroism if you were captured by the Vietnamese for dropping fragmentation bombs on their schools and hospitals Only those who have nothing can be terrorists.
    • Anonymous member of the Weather Underground, “For the SLA”. ‘’Sing a Battle Song’’, Spring 1974. Likely a reference to McCain who was released the prior Spring.
  • I know what he’s capable of — he’s capable of bigness that we didn’t see that in general election campaign that was run. I would hope that’s the path that he goes down. His political epitaph is going to be dictated by how he conducts himself in next six or 13 years. Will he be seen as a giant of the Senate who came back from a presidential loss like Scoop Jackson, Robert Taft or Ted Kennedy, or will he go down a different path? Only he can decide it.
  • John McCain's tin ear on middle-class financial woes was evident in his prescription for the economy: more tax-cuts for major corporations, and continuation of the Bush tax cuts for U.S. millionaires. And this McCain stance was consistent with his stated desire to slash Medicare and privatize Social Security. The American public was fed-up with failed Bush/McCain economics, which claimed that prosperity would eventually "trickle-down" to everyone else. Obama won the presidential race largely because voters perceived that he, and not John McCain, cared about and would address middle-class economic struggles and inequities.
  • Obama's plan fairly and inexpensively ensured that all Americans have access to quality health care services, but without the government providing those services. McCain's health care plan was intended to free the business community from providing for its employees, to enrich the health care insurance industry, and increase income taxes for all Americans. But not to provide health care services for the uninsured. For anyone who valued their health care insurance, Barack Obama was the only viable choice for president.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. the Flash (1998-06-18). "Flashes - That's Senator McNasty to You". Phoenix New Times (Village Voice Media). Retrieved on 2007-02-19. "The Washington Post broke the news last week of yet another McCain gaffe, made during a GOP fund raiser at a D.C. steak house. But neither the Post nor any other national publication that the Flash knows of actually printed the joke. To its credit, the Arizona Republic did. Here goes: ..." 
  2. Corn, David. A joke too bad to print?. Salon.com. Salon.com. Archived from the original on 1998-06-25. Retrieved on 2007-02-09.
  3. Kessler, Ronald (2006-07-05). McCain's Out-of-Control Anger. NewsMax.com. NewsMax.com. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved on 2007-02-09.
  4. Our Right And His Wrongs, George F. Will
  5. a b Liasson, Mara. McCain Nearly Broke But Stays Course. National Public Radio. July 7, 2007.

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