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.


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'.


  • 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.


  • Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.
    • GOP fund-raiser, Washington D.C., (June 1998), 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: ..." , Corn, David. A joke too bad to print?. Archived from the original on 1998-06-25. Retrieved on 2007-02-09., Kessler, Ronald (2006-07-05). McCain's Out-of-Control Anger. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved on 2007-02-09.
  • 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)

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.


  • 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.


  • Mr. President, today, we celebrate the birthday of a giant, Ronald Reagan. America is indebted to President Reagan for reviving our national spirit and ensuring that we prevailed in that "long twilight struggle" against soviet totalitarianism. His leadership not only revitalized our economy, but gave us a rebirth of patriotism and national greatness. My fellow Vietnam Prisoners of War share a special affection for Ronald Reagan. Word of his steadfastness against aggression even reached us in our cells thousands of miles away from freedom. When we were released, he befriended and supported us. He understood and appreciated the "noble cause" for which so many brave Americans made the ultimate sacrifice. Today, America enjoys unprecedented peace and prosperity largely due to the policies of Ronald Reagan. So, to celebrate your 90th birthday, we salute you President Reagan, a brave soldier in the battle for freedom.
  • 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.


  • 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)
  • 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


  • 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)
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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • How many fucking times do I have to go to fucking New York this week? How many fucking times can you fucking graduate from fucking Columbia?
    • At a scheduling meeting, upon learning that commencement at Columbia University, where his daughter Meghan was graduating from, lasts several days (2007) Game Change
  • [I]n the words of Chairman Mao, 'It's darkest before it's totally black.'
  • 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) McCain Nearly Broke But Stays Course. National Public Radio. July 7, 2007.
  • 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.
  • 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]


  • 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.
  • 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 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)
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.
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.


  • Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.
Health care reform (June 2009)
Senate speech on health care reform (11 June 2009)
  • Mr. President, today Congress returns from the August recess. Perhaps one of the most important issues of recent times affecting one-sixth of America's gross domestic product and rising to as much as one-fifth, the issue of health care and health care reform, will be front and center, including a highly unusual appearance tomorrow night before a joint session of Congress by the President. The last time such a joint session of Congress was called for, aside from the regular one, was by former President Bush concerning the events surrounding the attacks on the United States of 9/11. During the recess, I had, similar to all my colleagues, a very busy schedule of meetings addressing various issues, including travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. That visit will be the subject of other statements on the floor. But in Arizona, I hosted townhall meetings with my constituents. I also attended meetings and forums with health care providers in Missouri, North Carolina, and Florida so I could, along with my colleagues, better understand America's thoughts and ideas on reforming our Nation's health care system. I have no doubt there is a peaceful revolution going on out in America. I have not seen, in the years I have been a Member of Congress, such anger and dissatisfaction with the way the Congress and we in Washington are doing business. We all know the President's approval numbers continue to fall.
  • The unruly and sometimes disruptive behavior at townhall meetings has been an exhibit of the anger and dissatisfaction Americans feel. I would like to make it clear that I think the townhall meetings should be conducted with respect. They should be conducted in a way that is an American tradition, that all Americans can be heard from as well as their elected representatives. But there is no doubt people attended townhall meetings that never before in their lives have been engaged in any debate in America. There is something going on out there. I certainly got the message. I hope the majority of my colleagues did as well. It is more clear to me that we have to reform the way health care is provided, but we have to do it in the right way, without a government takeover of the health care system. The problem with health care is not the quality of health care. The problem with health care in America is the cost of health care and almost double-digit inflation that takes place annually which deprives more and more Americans of their ability to acquire and keep health insurance.
  • Among other places I visited recently, one of them was a place called M.D. Anderson, a cancer treatment facility in Houston, TX. There were patients there from 90 countries around the world. Why? Because it is the highest quality health care. The fundamental difference we have here between those of us who want to reform health care to reduce the cost and maintain the quality is the argument from the President and the other side of the aisle that they want a government option. They refuse to address the issue of medical malpractice reform. They refuse to allow someone to go across State lines and acquire the health insurance of their choice, and they continue to allow practices to go on that breed fraud, abuse, and waste in Medicare, which are well documented to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
  • Why are Americans angry and upset? They are angry and upset because of this, because we spent $787 billion on the stimulus, which is $1.1 trillion with interest; $700 billion on TARP; $410 billion with 9,000 earmarks in it on the Omnibus appropriations bill; $3.5 trillion on the budget resolution; $83 billion to bail out the auto companies; $33 billion to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program; and a $1 to $2 trillion cost associated with the HELP Committee's plan that went through the HELP Committee, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which would not bend the curve, according to the Congressional Budget Office. What have we gotten for all this? We have gone to 9.7 percent unemployment. We have gone to 9.7 percent unemployment in this country, after the President and all his economic advisers said that if we pass this stimulus bill, unemployment will be a maximum of 8 percent. As they say: You can look it up. It is now at 9.7 percent. The public debt is $11.7 trillion. Sometime in October, we are going to have to increase the Federal debt limit which is going to go beyond $12.1 trillion.
  • Yesterday the President spoke in front of union allies in a partisan, campaign-style speech, where he questioned the motives of those who raise concerns about too much government control over our health care economy and instead wrongly criticized our side for having no ideas of our own. We have plenty of ideas. None of them have been considered in the HELP Committee or by the Senate or by the House of Representatives. The HELP Committee bill was written only by the Democrats. There was no input from this side of the aisle. Every meaningful amendment proposed was rejected, including malpractice reform. How can we possibly look the American people in the face and say: We are going to bring down the cost of health care without medical malpractice reform. Ask any physician and they will tell you physicians are required to practice defensive medicine because of the fear of being sued.
  • Unnecessary tests and procedures are performed time after time after time. I was in Miami at the Palmetto Hospital, a fine institution. I asked one of the surgeons: How can you afford your health insurance premiums? He said: We don't keep insurance anymore. We can't afford it. We will probably not get sued because they know we only have so much in assets. Now we are putting physicians and care providers in a position where they basically cannot afford, nor can they get, malpractice insurance because the premiums are so high, and they are targets for the trial lawyers. We have a number of alternatives. Most of them are market based. Most of them have to do with preserving the quality of health care yet bringing down the cost, which should be our goal. Why don't we have insurance reforms to improve access? That means someone can go across State lines. If a citizen of Arizona wants to go to North Dakota and get health insurance there, why can't they? Why can't that family do that? Why can't they? They cannot today.
  • Why is it we cannot reform medical malpractice? Let's have tax reforms. Let's have incentives to purchase insurance either in the form of tax credits for families in America or--or--why don't we give the same tax treatment to families that businesses get in the provision of health insurance? Why don't we have real competition in any State? Why don't we set up the risk pools that are necessary to ensure those who were previously uninsurable or for those with "preexisting conditions"? Let's set up those risk pools. Yes, that will take some taxpayer dollars. Why don't we allow the insurance companies to compete so they can provide insurance, so we can provide affordable and available health care to all Americans? Why don't we look at cost reductions? Why don't we look at incentives for wellness and fitness? One of the most famous corporations in America recently is Safeway. We have heard from their CEO. They reward people financially for wellness and fitness. And--guess what--their costs for health care have gone down because there are incentives to do so.
  • Here is a small idea: Why don't we see what the school lunch program is in our local schools? Why don't we see what the physical education requirements are in our local school districts? Why don't parents do that? I was appalled, and I am sure my colleagues and all Americans were, to see recently there is one State in America where one-third of the population suffers from obesity. We know what obesity does to health care costs, not to mention the lives of individuals. Why don't we also look at what has been tried and done before: an outcome treatment of patients. A patient has diabetes. You pay that provider for 6 months or a year or 2 years and say: OK, here is the amount of money, and if you keep that patient well, you will receive a reward at the end of that treatment period, rather than to pay for every single test and procedure.
So we do have legitimate, workable, doable, viable alternatives to the government option. When the President of the United States stands up and says we do not, he either is not paying attention to what we are saying--which has been one of the big problems with this debate--or he willfully ignores the fact there are solutions we can move forward with to reduce health care costs in America and preserve the quality.
  • My friends, there are cases of abuse of Medicare that stretch into the hundreds of billions of dollars. We have to go after these people who abuse health care, Medicare, and Medicaid. And a practical question: Suppose we adopted what passed through the HELP Committee and through the House. There are dramatic increases in State Medicaid payments. What States can afford the additional burden of Medicaid that is envisioned by this legislation? Not many. Not many, my friends. So we do have legitimate, workable, doable, viable alternatives to the government option. When the President of the United States stands up and says we do not, he either is not paying attention to what we are saying--which has been one of the big problems with this debate--or he willfully ignores the fact there are solutions we can move forward with to reduce health care costs in America and preserve the quality.
  • I wish to make a comment about the so-called co-op approach. My friends, you can call it the government option. You can call it a co-op. You can call it a banana. But the fact is, it is government intervention into the free marketplace, which will lead to crowding out, which over time will lead to government control of health care in America. A co-op can exist today. They do not have to wait for legislation. They can exist today. Yet very few do. If there was a pressing need for more co-ops, wouldn't more of them have been created? Under the co-op approach, the Federal Government would design, fund, and foster their creation. But let's not kid ourselves. Creating a new, massive government plan designed in Washington is still Washington involvement in health care. And if we did not learn any lessons from the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac co-ops, nobody has been paying attention.
  • I come back from this recess--and I see my colleague also from Arizona in the Chamber--both of us come back, as a lot of my colleagues do, in the face of extreme unease, anger, and frustration on the part of the American people, not just over the issue of health care but over the issue, as I pointed out, of this massive spending and debt and deficit we have laid on future generations of Americans. They want us to act in their interests. So wouldn't it be appropriate for the President, tomorrow night, if I may be so bold, to say: My friends and colleagues, the citizens have spoken. They want us to sit down together, and they want us to do what is doable. They want us to fix this cost escalation of health care in America, which is making it less and less affordable to all Americans. But the message we have gotten is, they are very skeptical about "government-run health care" or a "government option."
When the President says: If you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it, that is not true either. It is not true either. Because if you had a government option, and it looked more attractive to your employer, and your employer decided to select the government option rather than the health insurance policy you now have, then you cannot keep it.
  • When the President says: If you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it, that is not true either. It is not true either. Because if you had a government option, and it looked more attractive to your employer, and your employer decided to select the government option rather than the health insurance policy you now have, then you cannot keep it. So it is simply not true that under the government option, if you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it. But the real point is, why don't we sit down--which we did not do; we did not do that at the beginning of this process--why don't we sit down with the smartest people on both sides of the aisle and say: OK, what can we get gone? What can we get done here together and go to the American people and say we are going to make significant progress in eliminating this problem of out-of-control costs in health care in America. I recall when I first came to the Congress of the United States--and it was pretty partisan then--Ronald Reagan had only been elected a couple years before that time, and Social Security was about to go broke. Social Security was going broke, and two old Irishmen--Tip O'Neill, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, and the conservative from California--sat down together and said: OK, we are going to sit together. We are going to fix Social Security. And they did. There American people were not only proud and grateful but they benefited. Let's go back to square one. Let's sit down together and get this issue resolved.
Southern Border Violence
Senate speech on southern border violence (24 July 2009)
  • Mr. President, I come to the floor today to talk about the violence that continues to plague our southern border region by Mexico's well-armed, well-financed, and very determined drug cartels. Last weekend, I went to Yuma, AZ, and met with Border Patrol and Customs and other law enforcement agents who do such an outstanding job for our country. By the way, the temperature was approximately 115 degrees, and our men and women, who are serving so well, were out there trying to secure our border and keep our country safe. Despite the increased efforts of President Calderon to stamp out these bloodthirsty and vicious drug cartels, violence has increased dramatically, claiming over 6,000 lives in Mexico last year alone. The murderers carrying out these crimes are as violent and dangerous as any in the world. Many have extensive military training and carry out their illegal activities with sophisticated tactical weapons and no regard for human life.
  • The violence that has terrorized Mexican citizens continues to seep across the border, devastating families and crippling communities. In my hometown of Phoenix, there have been over 700 reported kidnappings in the past year. This has led to Phoenix being declared the "kidnapping capital of the United States," second only to Mexico City in the world. In many cases, kidnap victims are intertwined with criminal elements of society, involved with illegal cross-border smuggling operations. The police chief of Phoenix testified in April before the Senate's Homeland Security Committee that Phoenix is a transshipment point for illegal drugs and smuggled humans, both coming to Phoenix before being shipped to other points throughout the United States. Immigrants illegally crossing the border with paid "coyotes" are treated like expendable cargo to be bought, sold, traded, or stolen. In many cases, the immigrants' families are ransomed for additional funds by bajadores, or takedown crews, to guarantee safe delivery of their loved ones.
  • Lest you believe these activities are limited to border communities, last year the bodies of five Mexican men were discovered bound, gagged, and electrocuted in Birmingham, AL, in an apparent hit by a Mexican cartel. In recent years, arrests of Mexican cartel members have occurred across the South, including Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. There is no sign that the number of these drug-related arrests will abate in the near future, which is why I support efforts to complete the proposed 700 miles of double-layer fence. But, as we have seen, fencing alone fails to take into account the realities of the southern border and should not be treated as a panacea. These criminal smuggling enterprises are very sophisticated and are not easily deterred, which is why we must work to truly secure our border, not merely fence it.
  • This past weekend, as I mentioned, I visited the border in Yuma, AZ, and witnessed the extraordinary lengths these cartels go to smuggle their goods across the border. One cartel spent upwards of $1 million using sophisticated GPS-directed drilling equipment to develop their tunnel far below the surface to move goods underneath fencing and out of sight of law enforcement agencies. In Nogales, AZ, drug traffickers have used the city's sewer system to channel drugs across the border. Every other month tunnels are discovered underneath the border. Since 1990, 110 cross-border tunnels have been discovered. Twenty-four tunnels were discovered in 2008 alone.
  • We must also increase personnel on the border to put an end to illegal immigration and protect our citizens from the drug cartel violence occurring in Mexico. For this reason, I was disappointed that the administration rejected Arizona Governor Brewer's request--and the requests of the Governors of California, New Mexico, and Texas--who also requested National Guard troops to bolster the Joint Counter-Narcotics Terrorism Task Force. But, as we know, the coyotes are aggressive and creative despite our efforts to secure the border with more personnel, more fencing, and more surveillance technology. The United States must keep its focus on securing our southern border and doing all it can to assist President Calderon in his efforts against these violent drug cartels. The prosperity and success of Mexico is essential to the prosperity and success of our own country. We share a border, our economies are intertwined, and we are major trading partners with each other. The United States must show its support for our neighbor to the south and support the Mexican people and the Calderon administration in this fundamental struggle against lawlessness and corruption.
  • We have a big problem. We have a big problem with these drug cartels. The Mexican Government now has a problem. They just lost an election because the people of Mexico, many of them, believe these drugs are just going through Mexico, intended for the United States of America. Violence is at an incredibly high level not only on the border but throughout the country of Mexico and, tragically, corruption reaches to very high levels in the government. We have the Merida Initiative. We are working with the Mexican Government. But there is no time like the present, in my view, because we need to not only enforce and increase our efforts on our side of the border but also work as closely as possible with the Mexican Government and people.
  • It is horrific what is taking place: beheadings of people, bodies hung from overpasses. These are amongst the most cruel and terrible people who inhabit this Earth. It is a lot about drugs. It is a lot about a $16-billion-a-year business, of drugs coming into the United States of America. That is how they can afford to spend easily $1 million to build a tunnel underneath the border between Yuma, AZ, and Mexico. I know we have a lot of issues that are affecting the future of our country, including two wars, including relations with countries, including the Iranian situation, but I hope we can focus a lot of our attention on the problems that are bred on our border by the drug cartels and the human smuggling and the terrible mistreatment of people on both sides of the border as a result of that.
Remarks at Ted Kennedy Memorial Service (August 2009)
Speech at Ted Kennedy's memorial service (28 August 2009)
  • I was last in this wonderful library ten years ago, when Russ Feingold and I were honored to receive the Profile in Courage award. Ted was very gracious to my family on that occasion. It was my son, Jimmy's, 11th birthday, and Ted went out of his way to make sure it was celebrated enthusiastically. He arranged a ride for us on a Coast Guard cutter and two birthday cakes, and led a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, with that booming baritone of his drowning out all other voices, as it often did on the Senate floor.
  • He was good company, my friend, Ted. He had the Irish talent for storytelling and for friendship. At the lunch he hosted for us, in the family quarters on the top floor of the library, he recalled an earlier episode in our friendship, a story he delighted in retelling. It occurred on the Senate floor, when two freshman senators, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, neither of whom would remain long in the Senate, were getting a little personal with each other as they debated an issue, which must have seemed important at the time, but which neither Ted nor I were paying any much notice to. We both happened to be on the floor at the time, and the heat of our colleagues' exchange eventually managed to get our attention. You might think that two more senior members of the Senate would in such a situation counsel two junior members to observe the courtesies and comity, which, theoretically, are supposed to distinguish our debates. But Ted and I shared the sentiment that a fight not joined, was a fight not enjoyed. And irresistibly we were both drawn into a debate we had no particular interest in, but which suddenly looked like fun. I struck first, castigating the young Democratic Senator for abusing my Republican colleague. Before she could respond for herself, Ted rode valiantly to her rescue. And within minutes, he and I had forgotten why we were there, and what the debate was all about. We had probably even forgotten the names of our two colleagues. As one of us spoke, the other would circle the floor, agitated and anxious to fire back.
  • After a while, we must have thought the distance between our desks too great for either of us to hear each other clearly or that the presence of the clerk transcribing our exchange had become too distracting. And as if we had both heard some secret signal, we set down our microphones simultaneously and walked briskly to the well of the floor, where we could continue in closer quarters, and in language perhaps too…familiar…to be recorded for posterity, which, regrettably was still audible enough to be overheard by a few reporters, who were now leaning over the railing of the press gallery trying to ascertain just what the hell was going on between McCain and Kennedy. After we both were satisfied we had sufficiently impressed upon each other the particulars of proper senatorial comportment, we ended our discussion, and returned to the business that had brought us to the chamber in the first place. And, I'm happy to report, we succeeded in discouraging our colleagues from continuing their intemperate argument. They both had deserted the chamber with, I was later told, for I did not notice their escape, rather puzzled if not frightened looks on their faces.
When I next saw Ted, ambling down a Senate corridor, he was bellowing laughter, that infectious laugh of his that could wake the dead and cheer up the most beleaguered soul. He was good company. Excellent company. I think I'm going to miss him more than I can say.
  • When I next saw Ted, ambling down a Senate corridor, he was bellowing laughter, that infectious laugh of his that could wake the dead and cheer up the most beleaguered soul. He was good company. Excellent company. I think I'm going to miss him more than I can say. We disagreed on most issues. But I admired his passion for his convictions, his patience with the hard and sometimes dull work of legislating, and his uncanny sense for when differences could be bridged, and his cause advanced by degrees. He was a fierce advocate, and no senator would oppose him in debate without at least a little trepidation, often more than a little. We all listened to him, of course. He was hard to ignore.
He was the most reliable, the most prepared, and the most persistent member of the Senate. He took the long view. He never gave up. And though on most issues I very much wished he would give up, he taught me to be a better senator.
  • When we were agreed on an issue, and worked together to make a little progress for the country on an important issue, he was the best ally you could have. You never had even a small doubt that once his word was given and a course of action decided, he would honor the letter and spirit of the agreement. When we worked together on the immigration issue, we had a daily morning meeting with other interested senators. He and I would meet for a few minutes in advance, and decide between us which members of our respective caucuses needed a little special encouragement or on occasion a little straight talk. If a member tried to back out of a previous commitment, Ted made certain they understood the consequences of their action. It didn't matter to him that the offender was a member of his own caucus. He was the most reliable, the most prepared, and the most persistent member of the Senate. He took the long view. He never gave up. And though on most issues I very much wished he would give up, he taught me to be a better senator.
  • After Labor Day, I'll go back to the Senate, and I'll try to be as persistent as Ted was, and as passionate for the work. I know I'm privileged serve there. But I think most of my colleagues would agree, the place won't be the same without him.
Why we can -- and must -- win the war in Afghanistan
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.


  • 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.


Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 (February 2010)
Senate remarks on Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 (22 February 2010)
  • Madam President, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 that Senator Dorgan and I introduced earlier this month. This legislation has been widely discussed since introduction and many falsehoods and misstatements regarding it have been raised. I want to take a moment to clarify what this bill will and will not do if passed into law. We introduced this legislation at the request of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, U.S. Olympic Committee, American College of Sports Medicine, American Swimming Coaches Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association, PGA Tour, U.S. Lacrosse, U.S. Tennis Association, U.S.A. Cycling, U.S.A. Gymnastics, U.S.A. Swimming, U.S.A. Track and Field, and U.S.A. Triathlon. Additionally, scores of parents, spouses and high school athletic coaches requested action by Congress or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assist them in ensuring the safety of dietary supplements.
  • I am proud that this legislation is so widely supported. However, opponents to this bill and their well-paid Washington lobbyists have spread false statements and rumors about the legislation, which is really a disservice to consumers, and instead proudly boast that they remain largely untouchable by the FDA. This legislation would simply require dietary supplements to list all ingredients on the packaging, mandate that all dietary manufacturers register with the Food and Drug Administration--FDA--to ensure the FDA knows what is being sold and provide the FDA mandatory recall authority of any dietary supplement if the FDA finds the supplement to be hazardous to one's health. Opponents have stated that the legislation would seek to limit consumers' ability to purchase dietary supplements, vitamins or prescription drugs. That is completely false. Opponents also claim the bill establishes a new regulatory structure for dietary supplements at the Food and Drug Administration. That is completely false. Opponents claim that this bill was only introduced to rein in a few athletes who took supplements and then tested positive for steroids or other substances banned by sports leagues. That is completely false.
  • This bill was introduced for the nearly half of all Americans who take a dietary supplement. People have died from taking dietary supplements, including a young mother and wife who lived in my home State, and thousands have had to be hospitalized or seen by a doctor due to an adverse reaction from a dietary supplement. It took nearly 10 years--and then a lengthy court battle--for the FDA to ban the inclusion of ephedra in dietary supplements after ephedra was linked to a number of deaths. Such a delay should never happen again. Additionally, the more than 100 million Americans who consume dietary supplements should be able to know the ingredients of any supplement, and these supplements need to be required to be listed on the product's packaging. If you go to a grocery store and pick up a box of cereal, bread, yogurt or any product off the shelf, you can read the product's label to clearly know the ingredients and be sure you aren't eating something that you find concerning, hazardous or unhealthy. Those who take dietary supplements should have the same option. Simply put, this legislation is about truth in labeling. This legislation is about giving consumers choice. If you take a vitamin now, this bill will in no way restrict your ability to take that vitamin. But the consumer needs to know the entirety of what is contained in that pill.
Democracy and Human Rights in Russia (March 2010)
Senate remarks on Russian democracy and human rights (17 March 2010)
  • Now I wish to take this opportunity to speak about the ongoing cause of human rights and democracy in Russia. These are not issues we hear much about from the current Russian Government, unfortunately, unless it is to denounce those Russian citizens who aspire to these universal values. I had an opportunity the other week to meet with one of these brave Russian champions of human rights, human dignity, and freedom--a man by the name of Boris Nemtsov. I know several other people and other Members of Congress had a similar opportunity to speak with him. Mr. Nemtsov is but one of the many Russians who believe their country deserves a government that enhances and enshrines the human rights of its people in an inviolable rule of law, that allows citizens to hold their leaders accountable through a real Democratic process. This Saturday, March 20, many Russian human rights activists are planning public demonstrations all across their great country--I might add at great risk, since there is very little doubt that the Russian Government may even forcibly repress some of these public demonstrations, which will be peaceful. I asked Mr. Nemtsov what we in Washington could do to support the cause of human rights in Russia, and he simply said: "Speak up for it. Speak up for us." It is my pleasure to do that today.
  • The Russian Government will surely take whatever I say here and similar things said by others and try to paint Russia's champions of human rights and democracy as puppets and proxies of the United States. Of course, they would say and do the exact same thing even if no Americans spoke up for the human rights of Russia's citizens. So we should refrain from internalizing the Kremlin's talking points, especially when Russians themselves are requesting our moral support for their cause. Because the fact is, this isn't about particular individuals or particular demonstrations held this week or any week in Russia. This is about universal values--values that we in the United States embody but do not own, values that should shape the conduct of every government, be it ours or Russia's or any other country's. When we see citizens of conviction seeking to hold their governments to the higher standard of human rights, we should speak up for them.
  • It will be very interesting to see how the police and the government treat these demonstrations that will take place across Russia on March 20. These conditions would be intolerable in any country, and this conduct would be unacceptable for any government. Clearly, Russia today is not the Soviet Union, neither in its treatment of Russia's people nor in its foreign policy. But I fear that may be damning with faint praise, and Russians themselves are right to hold their country and their government up to higher standards. Russia is a great nation, and like all Americans of good will, I want Russia to be strong and successful. I want Russia's economy to be a vibrant source of wealth and opportunity for all Russians. I want Russia to play a proud and responsible role in world affairs. I will continue to affirm in public and in private that the best way for Russians to secure what they say they care about most--reduced corruption, a strengthened and equitable rule of law, economic modernization--is by nurturing a pluralistic and free civil society, by building independent and sustainable institutions of democracy, and by respecting the human rights of all.
  • I was happy to see that Russian political parties not aligned with the Kremlin actually won more seats in regional parliamentary elections this week. Perhaps this signals a growing recognition among Russians that the authoritarian tendencies of the Kremlin need to be rolled back through popular opposition. Perhaps the Russian Government could allow future elections at all levels to be freer and fairer. Perhaps. But there is still a long way to go for the cause of democracy in Russia, and I hope these small electoral gains only embolden democracy's defenders. As we speak up for the rights of Russia's dissidents, we must do the same for the rights of Russia's neighbors as well--neighbors such as the country of Georgia. I visited Georgia in January, and I had a chance to travel to the so-called "administrative boundary line" with the breakaway region of Abkhazia. On the other side of that boundary line is sovereign Georgian territory occupied by Russian troops, as it has been since the 2008 invasion. When I was in Munich last month for an annual security conference, I heard several Russian officials speaking from the same script, alleging acts of aggression by Georgian forces against Russian peacekeepers--the same kind of rhetoric we heard before the 2008 invasion. This should give us all pause. I know Washington has a lot of foreign policy challenges at the moment, but we cannot forget Georgia and the support it deserves amid a continuing threat from its neighbor to the north.
  • A Russian government that better protects the human dignity of its people would be more inclined to deal with its neighbors in peace and mutual respect. That is why we should all say a silent prayer and a public word of support for Russia's courageous human rights activists, as they make their voices heard this Saturday. These brave men and women want the best for their country. They want a government that is not only strong but just, peaceful, inclusive, and democratic. I urge Russia's leaders to recognize that peaceful champions of universal values are not a threat to Russia, and that groups such as this should not face the kinds of violence, repression, and intimidation that Russian authorities have used against similar demonstrators in the past. The eyes of the world will be watching.
Illegal immigration remarks (April 2010)
Senate remarks on illegal immigration (26 April 2010)
  • Mr. President, as is well known by my colleagues and most Americans, over the last several days, the Governor of Arizona signed legislation, which is controversial, which is designed to affect the issue of illegal immigrants into the country across the Arizona border. That legislation was enacted by the Arizona legislature and signed by the Governor because of the frustration the Governor and the legislation and, indeed, the majority of my constituents have over the Federal Government's failure to carry out its responsibility to secure our border. Many viewed this as a civil rights issue. There is no intention whatsoever to violate anyone's civil rights, but this is a national security issue. This is a national security issue where the United States has an unsecured border between Arizona and Mexico which has led to violence, the worst I have ever seen, and numbers that stagger those who are unfamiliar with the issue--such as 241,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended on the Tucson sector border of Arizona in the last year. Do the math. You have three to five times that number who actually cross, so we are talking about a million people crossing the border illegally.
  • This is not just a human smuggling issue. This is a drug issue. Our borders are unsecured, and the flow of drugs across the border is staggering. Last year in the Tucson sector alone, there were over 1.3 million pounds of marijuana apprehended, 1.3 million pounds on the Arizona border. The numbers of methamphetamine, cocaine, and other drugs crossing the border by the drug cartels is staggering. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that over 22,000 Mexican citizens have been killed in drug wars against the cartels. Have no doubt, this is an existential government between the Government of Mexico, the drug cartels, and the human smugglers who work together, and the security of the United States.
  • The violence has already spilled across our borders, and unless we get it under control, it will get worse. Three American citizens were murdered in Juarez, Mexico as they were trying to find their way home. A rancher in southern Arizona was murdered as he was out patrolling his own property. The people in southern Arizona have had their rights violated by the unending and constant flow of drug smugglers and human traffickers across their property. Their homes are being broken into. Their rights are being violated, their rights as American citizens to live in a safe and secure environment, as most of the pundits who are criticizing this legislation enjoy. The fact is, our borders are broken. They are not secure. It is a Federal responsibility to secure our borders. It is not being done. Senator Kyl and I have a 10-point plan that can be enacted immediately in order to secure the borders and secure them quickly.
  • Before I ask my colleague to comment, there is a question about whether we can secure our borders. Of course, we can. We have seen in the Yuma sector of Arizona a dramatic decrease in illegal crossings and drug smuggling. Again, I want to mention to my friend from Arizona, have no doubt that this is not just a human smuggling problem and people trying to cross the border illegally to find work. This is a human smuggling cartel aligned with the drug cartels that are sending drugs across our border and killing our citizens. The cartels and the human smugglers are a direct threat to the security of this Nation. Two weeks ago a highly organized syndicate that takes people who are coming across our border illegally to Tucson, puts them in vans, taking them to Phoenix and distributing them all over the country. These individuals come from as far away as China.
  • Have no doubt of the extent of the problem, the organization, the cruelty, the barbarity of the challenge we face, of the drug cartels and the human smugglers that are just south of our border, and the State of Arizona has been bearing the brunt of it. The administration has failed to act. We need 33,000 Border Patrol agents down on the border. We need the National Guard, 3,000 troops. We need to take a number of other steps Senator Kyl and I will describe. This situation is the worst I have ever seen. It is time for the Federal Government to act. If you don't like the bill the legislature passed and the Governor signed in Arizona, then carry out the Federal responsibility to secure the border. You probably wouldn't have had this problem.
  • Could I also emphasize that the violence is worse than it has ever been. Mr. President, 22,000 Mexicans have been murdered on the Mexican border. American citizens have been murdered on our border. This is no longer a situation where someone from Mexico or some other country decides they want to cross our borders. These are highly organized, highly sophisticated, well-equipped, well-trained, armed cartels. Drug and human smuggling cartels coordinate with each other through these corridors. They have better communication than our enforcement agencies due to our lack of interoperability. They have sophisticated equipment. They are even sending drugs over using ultralights. This is a struggle for the existence of the Government of Mexico. This is a struggle on our side of the border for the fundamental obligation any government has; that is, to provide its citizens with secure borders. Right now, our citizens are not safe, and therefore the Federal Government should be fulfilling its responsibilities to provide the necessary equipment and manpower to secure our borders. As my colleague from Arizona just pointed out, it can be achieved. It is now a massive failure on the part of the Federal Government. They should also fund it.
Russ Feingold retirement speech (November 2010)
Senate remarks on Russ Feingold retiring from the Senate after his re-election loss (30 November 2010)
  • Mr. President, I want to say a few words about a friend and colleague whom I will miss very much when he leaves the Senate after we adjourn, Senator Russ Feingold. I cannot thank him for his service without mentioning the outstanding work of his capable staff: Mary Irving, his chief of staff; Sumner Slichter, his policy director; Bob Schiff, chief counsel; and Paul Weinberger, his legislative director, a loyal and outstanding team. Without intending it as a commentary on his successor, I have to confess I think the Senate will be a much poorer place without Russ Feingold in it. I know that in my next term I will experience fewer occasions of inspiration because of the departure of Russ Feingold, a man whose courage and dedication to the principles that guided his Senate service often inspired me. I will also miss the daily experience of Russ Feingold's friendship, and the qualities that distinguish his friendship, his thoughtfulness, kindness, humor and loyalty. I have treasured that friendship all the years we have served together, and while friendship does not end with a Senate career, I will sorely miss his presence. I will miss seeing him every day. I will miss traveling with him. I will miss the daily reminder of what a blessing it is to have a true friend in Washington.
  • Our first encounter with one another was in a Senate debate in which we argued about an aircraft carrier, somewhat heatedly, if memory serves. Russ thought the U.S. Navy had one too many. I thought we did not have enough. It was, I am sorry to admit, not a very considerate welcome on my part to a new colleague, whom I would soon have many reasons to admire. But to Russ's credit, he did not let my discourtesy stand in the way of working together on issues where we were in agreement. And to my good fortune, he did not let it stand in the way of our friendship either. We are of different parties and our political views are often opposed. We have had many debates on many issues. But where we agreed on wasteful spending, ethics reform, campaign finance reform and other issues, it was a privilege to fight alongside and not against Russ Feingold.
  • We do not often hear anymore about Members of Congress who distinguish themselves by having the courage of their convictions; who risk their personal interests for what they believe is in the public interest. I have seen many examples of it here, but the cynicism of our times, among the political class and the media and the voters, tends to miss examples of political courage or dismiss them as probable frauds or, at best, exceptions that prove the rule. In his time in the Senate, Russ Feingold, every day and in every way, had the courage of his convictions. And though I am quite a few years older than Russ, and have served in this body longer than he has, I confess I have always felt he was my superior in that cardinal virtue. We were both up for re-election in 1998. I had an easy race. Russ had a difficult one. As many of our colleagues will remember, Russ and I opposed soft money, the unlimited corporate and labor donations to political parties that we believed were compromising the integrity of Congress, and we were a nuisance on the subject. Russ 's opponent in 1998 was outspending him on television, and the race became tighter. It reached a point where most observers, Democrats and Republicans, expected him to lose. The Democratic Party pleaded with Russ to let it spend soft money on his behalf. Russ refused. He risked his seat, the job he loved, because his convictions were more important to him than any personal success. I think he is one of the most admirable people I have ever met in my life.
  • We have had a lot experiences together. We fought together for many things, important things. And we have fought many times on opposite sides. We have been honored together and scorned together. We have traveled abroad together. We could not be farther apart in our views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we traveled there together as well, to gain knowledge that would inform our views and challenge them. We have listened to each other; debated each other; defended each other; joked and commiserated together. And in my every experience with Russ Feingold, in agreement and disagreement, in pleasant times and difficult ones, in heated arguments and in the relaxed conversation of friends, he was an exemplary public servant; a gentleman; good company; an irreplaceable friend; a kind man; a man to be admired.
  • I can not do justice in these remarks to all of Russ's many qualities or express completely how much I think this institution benefited from his service here and how much I benefited from knowing him. I lack the eloquence. I do not think he is replaceable. We would all do well to keep his example in our minds as we serve our constituents and country and convictions. We could not have a better role model. I have every expectation we will remain good friends long after we have both ended our Senate careers. But I will miss him every day. And I will try harder to become half the public servant he is. Because his friendship is an honor and honors come with responsibilities. God bless my friend Russ Feingold.


  • Madam President, there are many of us who will come to the floor this afternoon to pay tribute to one of the great Presidents in American history. Many of us will recollect times and experiences and contacts we had with President Reagan and the way he inspired us personally as well as a nation. When I was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the Vietnamese went to great lengths to restrict the news from home to the statements and activities of prominent opponents of the war in Vietnam. They wanted us to believe America had forgotten us. They never mentioned Ronald Reagan to us or played his speeches over the camp loud speakers. No matter. We knew about him. New additions to our ranks told us how the Governor and Mrs. Reagan were committed to our liberation and our cause. When we came home, all of us were eager to meet the Reagans, to thank them for their concern. But more than gratitude drew us to them. We were drawn to them because they were among the few prominent Americans who did not subscribe to the then-fashionable notion that America had entered her inevitable decline.
  • We prisoners of war came home to a country that had lost a war and the best sense of itself, a country beset by social and economic problems. Assassinations, riots, scandals, contempt for political, religious, and educational institutions gave the appearance that we had become a dysfunctional society. Patriotism was sneered at, the military scorned. The world anticipated the collapse of our global influence. The great, robust, confident Republic that had given its name to the last century seemed exhausted. Ronald Reagan believed differently. He possessed an unshakable faith in America's greatness, past and future, that proved more durable than the prevailing political sentiments of the time. His confidence was a tonic to men who had come home eager to put the war behind us and for the country to do likewise.
  • Our country has a long and honorable history. A lost war or any other calamity should not destroy our confidence or weaken our purpose. We were a good nation before Vietnam, and we are a good nation after Vietnam. In all of history, you cannot find a better one. Of that, Ronald Reagan was supremely confident, and he became President to prove it. His was a faith that shouted at tyrants to "tear down this wall." Such faith, such patriotism requires a great deal of love to profess, and I will always revere him for it. When walls were all I had for a world, I learned about a man whose love of freedom gave me hope in a desolate place. His faith honored us, as it honored all Americans, as it honored all freedom-loving people. Let us honor his memory especially today by holding his faith as our own, and let us too tear down walls to freedom. That is what Americans do when they believe in themselves.
  • 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.


  • 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."


  • 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.


  • "It was argued for months that providing arms and greater assistance to Ukraine could provoke a Russian invasion; but now, Ukraine is being invaded anyway, showing that the real provocation for Putin has been the perception of Western weakness.
Luncheon honoring Shimon Peres (May 2014)
Remark at luncheon honoring Israeli President Shimon Peres (7 May 2014)
  • It is my pleasure to join all of you today as we honor President Shimon Peres, one of the bravest and most principled political leaders of our time. I was honored to join with my colleagues in the Senate to pass legislation bestowing the congressional gold medal on this great man. I was not surprised when that legislation passed unanimously, and it my hope that our colleagues in the House will move forward with their own legislation soon. President Peres deserves this honor. The story of his life is entwined with the story of the birth and development of the State of Israel, and in him we see the essence of Israel itself--an invincible spirit that cannot be denied. Through his determination, his strength and perseverance, and his profound compassion, President Peres enabled a seemingly impossible dream to become a reality and changed forever the destiny of the Jewish people.
  • Even as a young man, Shimon Peres showed a dedication to public service and a commitment to the pursuit of justice and peace. He was an active leader in the "Working Youth" group, he founded a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley, and became a member of the Haganah [hah-gah-nah]--all before he reached 21. Over the course of his seventy years of public service, President Peres has served as a member of the Knesset for 48 years and held virtually every position in dozens of cabinets, serving in nearly two dozen ministerial posts including twice as Prime Minister, and as Defense Minister, Treasury Minister, and Foreign Minister. He was then elected as the ninth President of the State of Israel, the position he holds today.
  • I have met many brave and inspiring people in my life, but there are few who have done more to preserve freedom for future generations than Shimon Peres. He recognized that the highest duty of leaders is to protect and preserve the freedom and security of their people, even in the face of hostility and in the face of doubt and disappointment. And this is just what President Peres has done, not only for the Jewish people but for all people. He has been a leader for strength, building Israel's military and defense capabilities. He has been a leader for prosperity, helping make Israel one of the strongest economies in the world today. And he has been a leader for peace, making difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions in persuading the Palestinians to pursue negotiations and find peace for all, standing by his belief that all children, both Israeli and Arab alike, deserve the chance to grow up and grow old free from the threat of violence and tyranny.
  • In the time that I have known Shimon Peres, I have been inspired by his statesmanship, leadership, courage and civility. And among his many virtues, I have been most inspired by his idealism. Shimon Peres has always been a dreamer. He once said that "dreaming is only being pragmatic"--words that drew criticism from some and laughter from others. But he is right, of course. It is difficult to understand how someone who has witnessed such unspeakable horrors in his life can still place such faith in dreams. But it is due in part to his optimism and idealism, and his willingness to serve on behalf of those dreams, that Israel exists today. By never giving up on his dreams, Shimon Peres reminds us that we do not need to give in to complacency or cynicism--and why we can't afford to.


  • 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,
Negotiations with Iran (March 2015)
Senate speech on Iran negotiations (7 March 2015)
I signed that letter, and I believe it is a direct result of the President's statement that he would veto any role the U.S. Congress should play in the ratification or nonratification of a pending agreement. That is what triggered the letter from Senator Cotton, and that is why I stand by it.
  • Mr. President, first of all, I wish to make reference to the famous letter by Senator Cotton to the Iranians conveying to them the realities of the U.S. Constitution and the situation as it will prevail, hopefully, and that is that the Congress of the United States must ratify any agreement between the United States and Iran. Anybody who says we shouldn't ignores history and ignores the impact of this treaty. I signed that letter, and I believe it is a direct result of the President's statement that he would veto any role the U.S. Congress should play in the ratification or nonratification of a pending agreement. That is what triggered the letter from Senator Cotton, and that is why I stand by it.
An individual named Soleimani, who is the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is now the most visible leader. Soleimani is the same guy who sent copper-tipped IEDs into Iraq which killed hundreds of American soldiers and marines. We now are somehow accommodating the individual who is responsible for the deaths of brave young Americans. That is not only unbelievable, it is totally unacceptable.
  • Seventy-one percent of Americans believe negotiation with Tehran will not make a difference in preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons, and 71 percent of the American people are right. Now I wish to speak with my friend from South Carolina about the situation in Iraq today--specifically, the role Iran is playing and, even more specifically, the combat that is taking place around the city of Tikrit. Tikrit is the hometown of Saddam Hussein. Tikrit is a Sunni stronghold. Tikrit is now under attack--the ISIS people who are occupying it--by Shia militia, including, specifically, the Badr brigades, and they are led and trained by Iranians. An individual named Soleimani, who is the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is now the most visible leader. Soleimani is the same guy who sent copper-tipped IEDs into Iraq which killed hundreds of American soldiers and marines. We now are somehow accommodating the individual who is responsible for the deaths of brave young Americans. That is not only unbelievable, it is totally unacceptable.
  • The question is, When these Shia militias get into Tikrit, how are they going to behave? There are well-documented human rights abuses by these Shia militias. Again, these are the same Badr brigades that we fought against in the Battle of Sadr City during the surge. And now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff said in January: "As long as the Iraqi government remains committed to inclusivity of all the various groups inside the country, then I think Iranian influence will be positive." I am not making that up.
  • Can we get real, I ask my friend from South Carolina, as to what is taking place? The Iranians are now in Sana'a, they are in Baghdad, they are in Beirut, they are in Damascus, and they are on the move. Meanwhile, this administration, this President, and this Secretary of State pursue the mirage of a nuclear agreement that will somehow change the entire equation. I would also be interested in the views of the Senator from South Carolina of what the Saudis are doing, which is accommodating in their own way and possibly making plans to acquire their own nuclear weapons along with other nations in the Middle East.
Could I ask my friend if he recalls the recent testimony by Henry Kissinger, probably the most highly regarded individual in America today? He voiced his concern. His fundamental problem was that, as he put it, we have gone from negotiations to rid Iran from ever having the capability of developing nuclear weapons to delaying it.
  • Could I ask my friend if he recalls the recent testimony by Henry Kissinger, probably the most highly regarded individual in America today? He voiced his concern. His fundamental problem was that, as he put it, we have gone from negotiations to rid Iran from ever having the capability of developing nuclear weapons to delaying it. So that on its face--and again, I want to remind my friend from South Carolina that he and I and our beloved friend, former Member of this body, Joe Lieberman, made visit after visit to Baghdad and to Iraq. We probably were everywhere in that country on many occasions. And how well we remember the fight the surge brought on to bring stability to Iraq. It did bring stability. You remember the battle of Sadr City. Who was it that our forces, our young men and women, were fighting against, the Badr Brigades? Guess who is fighting in Tikrit today. The Badr Brigades.
  • The Senator and I have been to Walter Reed and many other places like that and have seen our wounded. Wounded by what? By IEDs, the copper-tipped IEDs that Soleimani made sure came into Iraq, that would penetrate armor and wreak havoc and wounded so many and killed so many young Americans. It is now Soleimani who is visibly leading the fight in Tikrit. Strangely enough, our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saw so many flags--guess what--with the banners of the Iranian-backed Shia militias. I would ask my friend, isn't this in some ways a Greek tragedy? Isn't this in some ways a situation where we sacrifice so much? And thanks to the inspired, fantastic leadership of General Petraeus and Colonel McFarland and all of those individuals who fought so well and led so well, we had it won, it was stabilized. And now because of the President's decision not to leave a residual force, we are seeing capitals in the Middle East--whether it be Sana'a, Baghdad, Beirut, or Damascus--we are now seeing an overwhelming Iranian presence that is dedicated, among other things, to the extinction of the State of Israel.
  • Could I remind the Senator that it is the same German Foreign Minister who criticized us and sat by and watched the dismemberment of a European nation for the first time in 70 years; the same Foreign Minister who keeps threatening Vladimir Putin if he keeps this up, and Vladimir Putin continues his aggression and will continue his aggression as well. I can't give up the floor without mentioning, again, my sorrow at the passage of and murder of my friend, Boris Nemstov. The recent arrests by Vladimir Putin's crack law enforcement team is reminiscent--they rounded up some Chechens--of everybody's favorite film "Casablanca" where at the end, Claude Raine says, "Round up the usual suspects." We have seen a scene from that movie again as the Russians have rounded up the usual suspects. Under this regime in Russia, we will never know who the murderers are of Boris Nemstov; and that, my friends, is a tragedy.
National Defense Authorization Act (October 2015)
Senate speech on the National Defense Authorization Act being vetoed by President Obama (22 October 2015)
  • Mr. President, as we speak--as I am speaking on the floor of the Senate--in an act of stunning partisan politics, President Obama, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, has decided he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act. He is choosing to hold our military hostage for a domestic political agenda, and he is doing so at a time when the crises we face around the world have never been greater, when U.S. leadership has never been weaker, and when our men and women in uniform need vital resources to defend and secure the Nation. As I said, in an act of stunning partisan politics, President Obama, the Commander in Chief, has decided he will veto the national defense authorization bill, and he is right now in the act of doing so--holding our military hostage for his domestic political agenda.
  • I have been in the Senate and the House for a long time. I have never seen an act of blatant partisanship with disregard for the men and women who are serving in the military than what the President is doing as we speak. For 53 years, Congress has fulfilled its constitutional duty to provide for the common defense by passing the National Defense Authorization Act. For 53 consecutive years, both bodies have passed, and the President has signed into law, the National Defense Authorization Act. In all my years, I have never witnessed anything so misguided, cynical, and downright dangerous as vetoing the Defense authorization for reasons that have nothing to do with defense--nothing to do with defense. Presidents throughout history--Republicans and Democrats alike--have recognized the importance of this bill to our national defense. In the more than 50 years since Congress has passed an NDAA, a National Defense Authorization Act, the President of the United States has only vetoed the act four times. In each case, the President objected to an actual provision in the bill, and each time the Congress was able to find a compromise that earned the President's signature.
  • Let's be clear. The President's veto of this year's bill is not over any of its policies, it is over politics. In the President's case, politics has taken precedence over policies, and when we are talking about the lives of the men and women who are serving this Nation in uniform--disgraceful. For the first time in history, the Commander in Chief will sacrifice national security for his larger domestic political agenda. This veto will not resolve the spending debate; it will not stop sequestration. That is something that can only be done through the appropriations process, not a defense authorization bill. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have answered the call to protect our Nation. They want and need support. They don't care what budget category that support comes from. I wish to point out we authorized exactly the amount of money the President requested. This is a Washington game. All the men and women who are serving in the military care about is that their mission is fully resourced. With this veto, their mission will not be fully resourced. We will put their lives in greater danger because of this political game of the President--holding the military men and women hostage for his agenda to fund the IRS and the EPA.
  • The legislation the President vetoed today authorizes the overall amount for defense that he requested, every single dollar of it. By making clear that he will "not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending," the President of the United States puts defense and the men and women in the military on the same level as the IRS. The President is using our military--using our military--as leverage to fight a battle that the Defense authorization bill cannot accomplish. At a time of mounting threats around the world, it is disgraceful. It is disgraceful the President would refuse to authorize for our troops the resources they need to prepare for and engage in vital missions around the world and that deliver some of the most significant reforms to the Pentagon in more than 30 years.
  • By vetoing this legislation, the Defense authorization bill, let's be clear what the President is saying no to. He is saying no to pay increases and more than 30 types of bonuses and special pays for service members, saying no to more portability of military health plans and greater access to urgent care facilities for troops and their families, saying no to enhanced protection against military sexual assault, saying no to significant reforms to a 70-year-old military retirement system that would extend retirement benefits to over 80 percent of service members, saying no to the most sweeping reforms to our defense acquisition system in nearly 30 years, saying no to a ban on torture once and for all, saying no to $300 million in lethal assistance for the Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russian aggression, and saying no to countless other important provisions that are greatly needed to combat the growing threats we see around the world today. Perhaps, most importantly, the President of the United States is refusing to sign a bill at a time when--as our top military commanders and national security experts have testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee--the world has not seen greater turmoil since the end of World War II. So, my friends, here is the context. Thanks to the President's failed policies, the results of leading from behind, the results of a policy of "Don't do stupid stuff," we now see a world in a state of turmoil--the likes of which we have not seen since the end of World War II.
  • On a bipartisan basis, we passed a defense authorization bill that has monumental consequences to the future security of this Nation, the present security of this Nation, and the welfare and ability of the men and women who are serving this Nation and their ability to defend this Nation, and the President--because he wants an increase in domestic spending, has vetoed it. Never have I seen such irresponsibility on the part of a Commander in Chief. There have been Presidents I have disagreed with. There have been Presidents I have had spirited debates with--but never ever in history has there been a President of the United States who abrogated his responsibilities, his constitutional responsibilities, as Commander in Chief. I say shame on him today, and this is a shameful day. The House will vote to override this veto on November 5. I strongly urge my colleagues to reverse this dangerous action and put the interests of our military and national security ahead of politics. Our men and women serving around the world, many still in harm's way, deserve nothing less.
  • I spend a lot of time with the men and women who are serving in the military, including members of my own family, and they are not uninformed. They are very intelligent. They watch what we do--we, their elected representatives. Their voters trust us to defend them, care for them, to give them the weapons they need, the benefits they need, and the care they need when the wounded come back. They rely on us. They are going to see, as we watch Vladimir Putin on the march, as we watch the success of ISIS, as we watch Ukraine being dismembered, as we watch China commit more aggression in the South China Sea and fill in islands--and now? Now this Commander in Chief decides that this is a time to veto an authorization bill because he doesn't think there is enough domestic spending. It is a sad day, a very sad day. It is a sad day for America but most of all it is a very sad day for the men and women with whom we entrust our very lives and our security. It is a sad day.
University of Phoenix (October 2015)
Senate speech on the University of Phoenix (28 October 2015)
  • Mr. President, I come to the floor for a very unusual reason this afternoon. It has to do with an attack on for-profit colleges by a longstanding campaign by certain groups and individuals who have been opposed to for-profit colleges. They were able to destroy one out in California, and they are continuing to attempt to make those attacks work on other for-profit colleges. This is a very unusual situation because what we are seeing take place are conclusions being drawn and action being taken--in this case by the Department of Defense--without due process, as a result of pressure exerted by a Member and Members of the Senate, which then has resulted in action without due process.
  • We sent these letters to the Veterans' Administration and to the Department of Education requesting that they notify us if further action is taken against the university. We sent these letters because we feel that the Department of Defense's decision and threats of termination of participation by the University of Phoenix in this program were done simply because the Senator from Illinois sent a letter to the Department of Defense highlighting an outside investigative report--an outside investigative report--suggesting wrongdoing on the part of the University of Phoenix.
  • Let's be clear again. There was no due process here. That is what I want--due process. If the University of Phoenix is guilty of some wrongdoing, I want to be one of the first to make sure the proper penalties are enacted. I do not--I repeat--I do not believe that on the basis of a single investigative report, that action should be taken. With this in mind, I was stunned to hear once again that the Senator from Illinois is insisting that the DOD not reverse its decision. Given his own involvement in the matter, his suggestion that the DOD not reverse its decision just because Members of this body conveyed concern about the merits of its probationary decision and the fundamentally unfair way that the DOD made it is, in fact, ridiculous. The whole matter arose from the Senator from Illinois pressuring the DOD to take adverse action against the university. His case was based not on an affirmative finding by the Department that the university engaged in any newly identified acts of substantial misconduct but a report by an outside investigative group. He then sent letters to the Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs asking for similar action.
  • After further review of the DOD's decision, it is my opinion that, No. 1, it relies on overly technical violations of a memorandum of understanding that the university signed with the Department of Defense regarding its participation in the Tuition Assistance Program; No. 2, it fails to reflect the actions the university has taken to correct and identify violations; and No. 3, it is based in part on unsubstantiated allegations associated with inquiries for information by other agencies, not findings of new violations. In other words, with our letter, we asked Secretary Carter to review a lower level decision to put the university on probation where even the DOD conceded, in its very letter to the university announcing its decision, that "the University of Phoenix has responded to infractions with appropriate corrective action at this time."
  • With respect to the university's proposed violations of DOD policies on the use of official seals or other trademark insignia with "challenge coins," we understand the university has remedied this infraction. But it is worth noting that traditional public or nonprofit universities, including Southern Illinois University, utilize similar challenge coins with impunity. I remain skeptical that the DOD is evenly and uniformly enforcing its policies on all institutions of higher education and appears to be unfairly singling out certain institutions of higher education based on a letter from the Senator from Illinois. With respect to the university's apparent failure to obtain specific approval for conducting partnership activities at several military installations, it is our understanding that the university obtained approval from the respective base leadership to sponsor, sometimes at their request, partnership events. While the university may have technically violated the MOU's requirement that the university coordinate with the education services officer, those who have served in the military readily understand and respect the chain of command. Approval from the base leadership should be sufficient to meet the requirements of the MOU regardless of the education service officer's involvement. By the way, the education service officer did not turn this down; they just were not consulted.
  • In the absence of significant, substantiated findings regarding new, uncorrected violations, the Department of Defense decided to suspend the university from participating in the Tuition Assistance Program based on document requests by two government agencies that are not, in fact, the Department of Defense and does not indicate a violation or admittance of guilt. We call on our service men and women to serve and protect our interests, often at great cost to themselves and their families. Yet the Senator from Illinois suggests that they are not capable of choosing their own path when determining their postsecondary educational needs. By the way, on a technical violation of the budget agreement, the Senator from Illinois was one of the leaders in voting against the Defense authorization bill, which was the result of many years of work.
EPA Clean Water rule (November 2015)
Senate speech on EPA Clean Water rule (4 November 2015)
  • Mr. President, I was pleased to vote today in support of S.J. Res. 22, which would nullify the Environmental Protection Agency's recently finalized clean water rule. Just yesterday, I voted in support of a bipartisan bill, S. 1140, authored by my colleague, Senator John Barrasso, which would have forced EPA to pull the rule. Unfortunately, that bill did not receive the 60 votes necessary under Senate rules that are needed to pass. The resolution passed by the Senate today is supported by hundreds of national and local organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Homebuilders Association, to name a few. While I understand that the White House has threatened to veto this resolution if it reaches the President's desk, it is still important that a majority of Congress voice their opposition to the EPA rule as Federal courts continue to weigh its legality. Americans around the Nation are lining up against the EPA clean water rule because of its economic cost, the regulatory impact, and the uncertainty it engenders among State and local governments, businesses, and consumer alike. The rule itself bypassed Congress by redefining the types of water bodies under the Clean Water Act that EPA has the authority to regulate. EPA pushed forward without regard for State and local environmental protection laws, which is partly why about a dozen State attorneys general, including from my home State of Arizona, have won injunctions in Federal court against the EPA rule.
  • The EPA claims that the rule only allows the Agency to halt activities that disturb small, environmentally sensitive streams and wetlands. But when you dive into the rule's lengthy publication, you will find that EPA is proposing to expand its jurisdiction over roughly 60 percent of all waters of the United States and can also capture certain irrigation ditches, stock ponds, and even dry desert washes. Farmers, housing, construction jobs, and other activities will all suddenly find themselves under the thumb of EPA bureaucrats. The EPA will claim it has written waivers into the rule for these industries, but there is growing consensus that the waivers are so unclear and conflicting that nobody believes they hold any water. The EPA's rulemaking process itself was so closed off from outside input and peer-reviewed science that it is clear to any reasonable observer that EPA had misjudged the economic damage their rule will inflict on small business, farms, and local governments around the country.
  • The EPA rule is especially bad news for Arizona agriculture and homebuilding sectors which, combined, account for most of all economic activity in my State. If a farmer wants to build or repair a canal, the EPA rule could block it. A community that wants to build a school or a church near a dry wash will have to beg EPA for a permit. Under the rule, the EPA can even fine a private property owners tens of thousands of dollars if the Agency thinks water historically flowed across their land even when there is no visible evidence. Regardless whether or not the President vetoes this resolution, I will continue to oppose the EPA clean water rule. I am a proud cosponsor of Senator Jeff Flake's similar bill, S. 1179, the Defending Rivers from Overreaching Policies Act, DROP Act, which would direct the EPA to pull its rule over its poor, nonscientific definition of "navigable" water bodies. We will continue to push forward with this and other legislative initiatives and will watch closely to see how the courts handle the EPA rule.
Presidential Strategy to Defeat ISIL (December 2015)
Senate speech on ISIL (17 December 2015)
  • Madam President, 70 years ago, a group of American leaders forged the rules-based international order out of the ashes of World War II. Those who were there recall that they were "present at the creation." We may well look back at 2015 and realize we were present at the unravelling. We were present at the unravelling. At the beginning of this year, President Obama was still committed to degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL. He had warned: If left unchecked, ISIL could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States. In 2015, that is exactly what happened in Paris and San Bernardino, and it will not be the last. I promise my colleagues that under this administration, with the present policy and lack of strategy, there will be other attacks on the United States of America. I deeply regret having to say that, but I owe it to my constituents and Americans whom I know and respect to tell them the truth. More than 1 year into the campaign against ISIL, it is impossible to assert that ISIL is losing and that we are winning. And if you are not winning in this kind of warfare, you are losing. Stalemate is not success.
  • We asked the witnesses before the Senate Armed Services Committee the following question: Is ISIS contained? It is not. ISIS is not contained, contrary to the statements--bizarrely--made by the President of the United States literally hours before the attack on San Bernardino. This year our Senate Armed Services Committee held several hearings specifically focused on the threat of ISIL, including three hearings specifically with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. We heard about nine lines of effort. We heard about three "arrrghs." We never heard a plausible theory of success, nor a strategy to achieve success. What do I mean by that? There is no time line on when Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, will be taken. There is no strategy to take Raqqa. Raqqa is the base of the caliphate. Raqqa is the place where the attacks are being planned and orchestrated. We have news reports that they are developing chemical weapons in Raqqa. This is the first time that a terrorist organization has had a base, a caliphate, from which to operate. What has happened? They are expanding globally.
  • By the way, during these debates, I will comment a little bit on it--that those who are against any intervention cite Libya as the case for not going in. Facts are a stubborn thing. The fact is, Muammer Qadhafi was at the gates of Benghazi and was going to slaughter thousands of people. We brought about his downfall and walked away. If we had walked away from Japan and Germany after World War II, it would have collapsed. If we had walked away from Korea, where we still have 38,000 troops, it would have collapsed. If we had walked away from Bosnia, it would have collapsed. I am telling you, my colleagues, we walked away. This President and this administration did not do the things necessary after the fall of Qadhafi to build a democracy, and the people of Libya wanted it, and I can tell you that for sure because I was there. One of the great tragedies of the 21st century is our failure to act in a way to help the Libyan people transition from all of those years of being under a brutal leader.
  • By the way, he was also responsible for the deaths of Americans in a bar in Berlin and an airliner being shot down. Yet we should have left him in power? Sure we should have. ISIL is operating in Lebanon, Yemen, and Egypt, and other radical Islamic groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somolia, have pledged allegiance to ISIL. This appearance of success only enhances ISIL's ability to radicalize, recruit, and grow. There has been some progress. I was recently in Iraq, and the operation to retake Sinjar was important. Iraqi forces, as I mentioned, have closed in on Ramadi for weeks. They haven't finished the job. Our counterterrorism operations are taking a lot of ISIL fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. All of this represents tactical progress, and it is a testament to our civilian and military leaders, who are outstanding, as well as thousands of U.S. troops helping to take the fight to ISIL every day. I would like to point out that significant challenges remain.
  • As a direct result of President Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq and squander hard-won American influence, the Iraqi Government is weak and beholden to Iran. I tell my colleagues, have no doubt what the dominant influence in Iraq is today: It is the Iranians. There was no more vivid example of this than when it was reported that Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi turned down Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's offer of new military assistance, including the use of Apache helicopters and Special Operations forces to help recapture Ramadi.
  • I met with Prime Minister al-Abadi in Iraq. He is a good man. He knows he needs this help, but because of the dominating influence of Iran and Shia militias in Iraq, he turned it down anyway. General McFarland, one of the greatest generals I have met--he is up there in the category of David Petraeus--is leading the fight against ISIL. He reacted with a very interesting comment. He said: "This is a very complex environment. It is kind of hard to inflict support on somebody." What General McFarland is saying is that because of the Iranian dominant influence, the Iraqis, as a body, are reluctant to accept the help they need to retake the second largest city in Iraq. The second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, is under ISIS control, and he knows full well that Apache helicopters and Special Operations forces could help him do that. But who is telling him not to? The Iranians. When I was there, we met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. al-Abadi, and he said: If you Americans come and you lose one pilot or one plane, you will leave. That was the opinion of the Prime Minister of Iraq, and one of the reasons--along with the Iranian influence--is because there is no trust or confidence of the United States in Iraq or in the region.
  • It comes as no surprise that the training of Iraqi security forces has been slow. The building of support for the Sunni tribal forces has been even slower. ISIL captured Mosul in June of 2014, and at the end of 2015, ISIL still controls the second largest city in Iraq. How do you think the families of those brave Americans who have sacrificed themselves and those individuals who are still at Walter Reed feel after the sacrifices they made and the victories they won? Now, of course, we see all of that is gone--just a glimmering--thanks to the President of the United States withdrawing all of our troops in the mistaken belief that if you pull out of wars, wars end. They don't end. It is hard to talk to the Gold Star Mothers. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that ISIL is still making $1.5 million a day in oil sales. Worse, Reuters reports that ISIL has made more than $500 million trading oil, with significant volumes sold to--guess who. Guess who ISIL is selling oil to. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is hard to make some of this stuff up, and it gets a little complicated.
  • We are now making nice--and I will talk a little bit more about it later--with Bashar al-Assad and their stewards, the Russians and the Iranians. Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad is buying oil from--at least $1.5 million a day--from ISIL. Even as an Oval Office speech and a Pentagon photo op failed to reassure the American people, this administration has doubled down on its indecisive approach to ISIL, using limited means and indirect ways to achieve aspirational ends on a nonexistent timeline. The administration now admits we are at war with ISIL--wonderful--but proceeds at every turn to minimize any American role in fighting and winning that war. America has never waged anything we have called to war and then so profoundly limited our role in the hope that some other force will emerge to win it for us. The administration says we cannot "Americanize" the conflict.
  • I also want to point out that the President has a unique and really dishonest approach to those of us who have said for a long time that we have to have more involvement and predicted what would happen. Unfortunately, we have been wrong by saying, yes, the "popoffs"--as he called us in a speech from the Philippines--want to send hundreds of thousands of troops. That is a total falsehood. I will repeat again what we have been asking for for years, and that is another 5,000 or so Americans on the ground in Iraq and a multinational force led by the Sunni Arab countries with European participation--I would hope that people like the French would join in a--about 10,000 of 100,000-person force to go to Raqqa and take them out. As long as Raqqa exists, they will be able to export this evil throughout the world, including to the United States of America. There is no plan by this administration to retake Raqqa. There is no strategy, and that is, indeed, shameful.
  • The war against ISIL was Americanized when ISIL inspired terrorists who murdered 14 Americans on our own soil in San Bernardino. This attack should be a wake-up call and we need a strategy, as I mentioned. In Syria, there is no plausible strategy to achieve this goal on anywhere near an acceptable time line. We were briefed that it would be a year before they retake Mosul. There is no time limit on how they could even approach regaining Raqqa. There is no ground force that is both willing and able to retake Raqqa, nor is there a realistic prospect of one emerging anytime soon. The Syrian Kurds could take Raqqa but won't, and the Syrian Sunni Arabs want to but can't, partly due to our failure to support them. Meanwhile, the administration has continued its inaction and indifference and has allowed Bashar al-Assad to slaughter a quarter of a million people. Have no doubt who is responsible for these millions of refugees; his name is Bashar al-Assad, the godfather of ISIS. He is the one who has barrel-bombed thousands and thousands of his people. Bashar al-Assad used poison gas and crossed the redline, we might recall. It is Bashar al-Assad who continues the butcher of his own people.
  • My friends, the last time the Russians had influence in the region was when Anwar Sadat threw them out in 1973. Now they are back. Now they are major players in the Middle East. This is the headline from the Associated Press yesterday: "Russian Airstrikes Restore Syrian Military Balance of Power." The airstrikes of the Russians have taken out significant capabilities of the moderate resistance--not ISIS but the moderates whom we had trained and equipped and we refused to protect.
  • Let's get this straight. Assad will be tolerated to continue to barrel bomb and slaughter innocent people. "However unpalatable his conduct of the war..." This kind of Orwellian understatement not only obscures the truth, but it cripples the conscience. My friends, it cripples the conscience. Bashar Assad's conduct of the war, the barrel bombs, chemical weapons, slaughtering women and children, not only killed one-quarter of a million people, it is what gave rise to ISIL to start with, and it is what fuels them still. Secretary Kerry seems not to understand that fact. While in Moscow searching for "common ground" with Russia on Syria and Ukraine, Secretary Kerry said--and I am not making this up; I am telling my colleagues, I am not making this up--"Russia has been a significant contributor to the progress" the world has made on Syria.
  • Unfortunately, America's troubles in 2015 were not contained in Iraq and Syria. Despite conditions on the ground, President Obama elected to withdraw roughly half of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year. Do you know the President of the United States, even when he announces a buildup, announces a withdrawal. So he sends the message to any potential enemy or any enemy we are engaged with: We are going to build up now, but don't worry, we are going to pull out. We will withdraw. So what happens? Here we are. The Pentagon says violence is on the rise in Afghanistan. The AP report says "Violence in Afghanistan is on the rise, according to a new Pentagon report to Congress that says the Taliban was emboldened by the reduced U.S. military role and can be expected to build momentum from their 2015 attack strategy." It is inevitable, I say to my colleagues, there will be greater violence in Afghanistan, an increase in Taliban activity, and--I am sorry to say--ISIS, who is already establishing a foothold there, will increase their presence. Meanwhile, the Iranians, in their attempt at hegemony, will provide weapons to the Taliban.


  • 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.
President's Syrian Policy and Russia (March 2016)
Remarks on the Obama administration's policy on Syria and Russia on March 17, 2016 (transcript)
  • Mr. President, briefly, the Senator from South Carolina and I discussed this announcement that Russia will begin withdrawing some military forces from Syria. It obviously signals Vladimir Putin's belief that he has bombed and killed enough of the opponents of the murderous Assad regime to assure Assad's survival. For 4 years, this administration--this President--stood by as the Assad regime slaughtered nearly half a million people in Syria. Then, when Assad appeared weak, it watched as Putin intervened militarily and protected his brutal regime, in a move that the President described as Putin going into a "quagmire." Well, apparently now Vladimir Putin is leaving that "quagmire," and he is leaving a solid Bashar Assad in a position of strength. He is leaving thousands of dead moderate opposition that he has indiscriminately bombed, and the United States has their begging bowl out, asking and pleading that they somehow reach some agreement again in Geneva.
  • It is really embarrassing to watch this President and this Secretary of State as they continue to beg Vladimir Putin and his stooge Lavrov as they continue to place Russia in a position of influence they have not had since Anwar Sadat threw them out of Egypt in 1973. They now have a major role to play in the Middle East. They have a military base. They have a naval base. They have upgraded airfields, and they have now solidified Bashar Assad's position in power. Is there anybody who believes that Russia will agree to an arrangement that Bashar Assad or his stooge doesn't remain in power? Of course not. Aren't we tired of begging Vladimir Putin? Aren't we tired of watching the United States and the young men we trained and equipped being bombed by Vladimir Putin and killed and murdered? Don't we sometimes grow a little tired of that? It is no wonder that the United States of America has no standing and no influence in the region.
  • The tragedy of all of this, I would say to my friend, is that when the United States of America was required to stand up because of the commitment of the President of the United States if the Bashar Assad regime had used chemical weapons and slaughtered--it is the gruesome pictures that you and I have seen--and then backed off, that was one of the seminal moments that American credibility disappeared. Here we are now still refusing to arm, train, and equip young men to fight against Bashar Assad and, in fact, making them pledge that they would only fight against ISIS. It is not ISIS that is barrel-bombing them. It is not ISIS that is dropping chemical weapons. It is not ISIS that has brought in thousands and tortured and beaten and killed. ISIS is our enemy. ISIS is evil. But to somehow excuse the behavior of Bashar Assad with the Russians' indiscriminate bombing is one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history in my view.
  • For the last 5 years, we have been writing a shameful chapter in American history. To sum all of this up, leading from behind doesn't work. If America leads from behind, somebody else is going to be in front. If the United States leaves conflicts and creates vacuums, then bad things happen. Look at a map of the Middle East in January of 2009, when this President came to the Presidency of the United States, and look at that map now--the way ISIS has metastasized, the way hundreds of thousands have been murdered and millions are on the march as refugees. We still have apologists for this leading from behind, a policy which is described as "Don't do stupid stuff." This is the result of leadership that has left the scene in a way that we have not seen since the 1930s, in the days of Neville Chamberlain and "peace in our time."
National Defense Authorization bill (June 2016)
Remarks on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 (6 June 2016)
  • Madam President, it is my pleasure to rise with my friend and colleague from Rhode Island to speak about the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017. For 54 consecutive years, Congress has passed this vital piece of legislation, which provides our military servicemembers with the resources, equipment, and training they need to defend the Nation. The NDAA is one of the few bills in Congress that continues to enjoy bipartisan support year after year. That is a testament to this legislation's critical importance to our national security and the high regard with which it is held by the Congress. Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 23 to 3--23 to 3--to approve the NDAA, an overwhelming vote that reflects the committee's proud tradition of bipartisan support for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. I thank the committee's ranking member, the Senator from Rhode Island, for his months of hard work on the NDAA. It has been a great pleasure to work with him on this legislation, and I remain appreciative of the thoughtfulness and bipartisan spirit with which he approaches our national security. He is a great partner and a great leader. I also thank the majority leader, the Senator from Kentucky, for his commitment to bring the NDAA to the Senate floor on time and without delay. It is a testimony to his leadership that the Senate will once again consider this bill in regular order with an open amendment process.
  • I am tremendously proud of the Senate Armed Services Committee's work on this legislation. This year's NDAA is the most significant piece of defense reform legislation in 30 years. It includes major reforms to the Department of Defense that can help our military rise to the challenge of a more dangerous world. The NDAA contains updates to the Pentagon's organization to prioritize innovation and improve the development and execution of defense strategy. The legislation continues sweeping reforms of the defense acquisition system to harness American innovation and preserve our military's technological edge. The NDAA modernizes the military health system to provide military servicemembers, retirees, and their families with higher quality care, better access to care, and a better experience of care. The NDAA authorizes a pay raise for our troops. It invests in the modern equipment and advanced training they need to meet current and future threats. It helps to restore military readiness with $2 billion for additional training, depot maintenance, and weapons sustainment. And it gives our allies and partners the support they need to deter aggression and fight terrorism.
  • This is a far-reaching piece of legislation, but there is one challenge it could not address: the dangerous mismatch between growing worldwide threats and arbitrary limits on defense spending that are in current law. This mismatch has very real consequences for the thousands of Americans who serve in uniform and sacrifice on our behalf all around the Nation and the world. Our troops are doing everything we ask of them, but we must ask ourselves: Are we doing everything we can for them? The answer, I say with profound sadness, is we are not. Since 2011 the Budget Control Act has imposed arbitrary caps on defense spending. Over the last 5 years, as our military has struggled under the threat of sequestration, the world has only grown more complex and far more dangerous. Since 2011 we have seen Russian forces invade Ukraine, the emergence of the so-called Islamic State and its global campaign of terrorism, increased attempts by Iran to destabilize U.S. allies and partners in the Middle East, growing assertive behavior by China and the militarization of the South China Sea, numerous cyber attacks on U.S. industry and government agencies, and further testing by North Korea of nuclear technology and other advanced military capabilities. Indeed, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, testified in February that over the course of his distinguished five-decade career, he could not recall "a more diverse array of challenges and crises" than our Nation confronts today.
  • Our military is being forced to confront these growing threats with shrinking resources. This year's defense budget is more than $150 billion less than fiscal year 2011. Despite periodic relief from the budget caps that imposed these cuts, including the Bipartisan Budget Act of last year, each of our military services remains underfunded, undersized, and unready to meet current and future threats. In short, as threats grow and the operational demands on our military increase, defense spending in constant dollars is decreasing. How does that make any sense? The President's defense budget request strictly adheres to the bipartisan budget agreement, which is $17 billion less than what the Department of Defense planned for last year. As a result, the military services' underfunded requirements total nearly $23 billion for the coming fiscal year alone. Meanwhile, sequestration threatens to return in 2018, taking away another $100 billion from our military through 2021. This is unacceptable.
  • While the NDAA conforms to last year's budget agreement at present, I have filed an amendment to increase defense spending above the current spending caps. This amendment will reverse shortsighted cuts to modernization, restore military readiness, and give our servicemembers the support they need and deserve. I do not know whether this amendment will succeed, but the Senate must have this debate and Senators are going to have to choose a side. At the same time, as I have long believed, providing for the common defense is not just about a bigger defense budget--as necessary as that is. We must also reform our Nation's defense enterprise to meet new threats, both today and tomorrow, and to give Americans greater confidence, which they don't have a lot of now, that the Department of Defense is spending their tax dollars efficiently and effectively. That is exactly what this legislation does. The last major reorganization of the Department of Defense was the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which marks its 30th anniversary this year. Last fall the Senate Armed Services Committee held a series of 13 hearings on defense reform. We heard from 52 of our Nation's foremost defense experts and leaders. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 30 years ago responded to the challenges of its time. Our goal was to determine what changes needed to be made to prepare the Department of Defense to meet the new set of strategic challenges. As Jim Locher, the lead staffer on Goldwater-Nichols, testified last year: "No organizational blueprint lasts forever...[T]he world in which DOD must operate has changed dramatically over the last 30 years."
Instead of one great power rival, the United States now faces a series of transregional, cross-functional, multidomain, and long-term strategic competitions that pose a significant challenge to the organization of the Pentagon and the military, which is often rigidly aligned around functional issues and regional geography.
  • Instead of one great power rival, the United States now faces a series of transregional, cross-functional, multidomain, and long-term strategic competitions that pose a significant challenge to the organization of the Pentagon and the military, which is often rigidly aligned around functional issues and regional geography. Put simply, the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 30 years ago was about operational effectiveness--improving the ability of the military services to plan and operate together as one joint force. The problem today is strategic integration--how the Department of Defense integrates its activities and resources across different regions, functions, and domains, while balancing and sustaining those efforts over time. The NDAA would require the next Secretary of Defense to create a series of "cross-functional mission teams" to better integrate the Department's efforts and achieve discrete objectives. For example, one could imagine a Russia mission team with representatives from policy, intelligence, acquisition, budget, the services, and more. There is no mechanism to perform this kind of integration at present. The Secretary and the Deputy have to do it ad hoc, which is an unrealistic burden. The idea of cross-functional teams has been shown to be tremendously effective in the private sector and by innovative military leaders, such as GEN Stan McChrystal. If applied effectively in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, I believe this concept could be every bit as impactful as the Goldwater-Nichols reforms.
  • The NDAA would also require the next Secretary to reorganize one combatant command around joint task forces focused on discrete operational missions rather than military services. Here, too, the goal is to improve integration across different military functions and do so with far fewer staff than these commands now have. Similarly, the legislation seeks to clarify the role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, focusing this leader on more strategic issues, while providing the Chairman greater authority to assist the Secretary with the global integration of military operations. The NDAA also seeks to curb the growth in civilian staff and military officers that has occurred in recent years. Over the past 30 years, the end strength--the total number of members of the services--of the joint force has decreased by 38 percent. The number of men and women serving in the military has decreased by 38 percent, but the ratio of four-star officers--admirals and generals--to the overall force has increased by 65 percent. We have seen similar increases among civilians at the senior executive service level. The NDAA, therefore, requires a carefully tailored 25-percent reduction in the number of general and flag officers, a corresponding 25-percent decrease to the ranks of senior civilians, and a 25-percent cut to the amount of money that can be spent on contractors who are doing staff work.
  • The NDAA also caps the size of the National Security Council policy staff at 150. The National Security Council staff will be capped at 150. The staff has steadily grown over administrations of both parties in recent decades. Under George Herbert Walker Bush, there were 40; more than 100 in the Clinton administration; more than 200 during the George W. Bush administration; and now there are reports of nearly 400 under the current administration, plus as many as 200 contractors. This tremendous growth has enabled a troubling expansion of the NSC staff's activities from their original strategic focus to micromanagement of operational issues in ways that are inconsistent with the intent of Congress when it created the NSC in 1947. It has gotten so bad that all three leaders who served as Secretary of Defense under the current administration recently blasted the NSC's micromanagement of operational issues during their tenures. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has come out publicly in favor of shrinking the staff, saying he thinks we can do the job better with fewer people.
  • In short, the NSC staff is becoming increasingly involved in operational issues that should be the purview of Senate-confirmed individuals in the chain of command, and doing so beyond the reach of congressional oversight. If this organization were to return to the intent of the legislation that established it, it could reasonably claim that its strategic functions on behalf of the President are protected by Executive privilege. If, on the other hand, the NSC staff is to play the kind of operational role it has in recent years--and I could give my colleagues example after example--if it is going to play the kind of operational role it has in recent years, then such a body cannot escape congressional oversight. The purpose of the provision in the NDAA to cap the size of the NSC staff is to state a preference for the Congress's original intent in creating the NSC.
Innovation cannot be an auxiliary office at the Department of Defense; it must be the central mission of its acquisition system. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, also known as AT&L. It has grown too big, tries to do too much, and is too focused on compliance at the expense of innovation.
  • As I have said, integration is a major theme in the NDAA. Another one is innovation. For years after the Cold War, the United States enjoyed a near monopoly on advanced military technologies. That is changing rapidly. Our adversaries are catching up, and the United States is at real and increasing risk of losing the military technological dominance we have taken for granted for 30 years. At the same time, our leaders are struggling to innovate against an acquisition system that too often impedes their efforts. I have applauded Secretary Carter's attempts to innovate and reach out to nontraditional high-tech firms, but it is telling that this has required the Secretary's personal intervention to create new offices, organizations, outposts, and initiatives--all to move faster and get around the current acquisition system. Innovation cannot be an auxiliary office at the Department of Defense; it must be the central mission of its acquisition system. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, also known as AT&L. It has grown too big, tries to do too much, and is too focused on compliance at the expense of innovation. That is why the NDAA seeks to divide AT&L's duties between two offices--a new Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and an empowered and renamed Under Secretary of Management and Support, which was congressionally mandated 2 years ago.
  • The job of research and engineering would be developing defense technologies that can ensure a new era of U.S. qualitative military dominance. This office would set defense-wide acquisition and industrial-based policy. It would pull together the centers of innovation in the defense acquisition system. It would oversee the development and manufacturing of weapons by the services. In short, research and engineering would be a staff job focused on innovation, policy, and oversight of the military services and certain defense agencies, such as DARPA. By contrast, management and support would be a line management position. It would manage the multibillion-dollar businesses--such as the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Commissary Agency--that buy goods and services for the Department of Defense. It would also manage other defense agencies that perform other critical business functions for the Department, such as performing audits, paying our troops, and managing contracts. This would not only enable research and engineering to focus on technology development, it would also provide for a better management of billions of dollars of spending on mission support activities.
  • These organizational changes complement the additional acquisition reforms in the NDAA that build on our efforts of last year. This legislation creates new pathways for the Department of Defense to do business with nontraditional defense firms. It streamlines regulations to procure commercial goods and services. It provides new authorities for the rapid prototyping, acquisition, and fielding of new capabilities. It imposes new limits on the use of so-called "cost-plus" contracts. The overuse of these kinds of contracts and the complicated and expensive government bureaucracy that goes with them serves as a barrier to entry for commercial, nontraditional, and small businesses that are driving the innovation our military needs. Another major reform in this year's NDAA is the most sweeping overhaul of the military health system in a generation. This strong bipartisan effort is the result of several years of careful study. The NDAA creates greater health value for military families and retirees and their families by improving the quality of health care they receive, providing timely access to care, and enhancing patient satisfaction--all done at lower costs to the patients by encouraging them to seek high-value health services from high-value health care providers.
  • The NDAA incorporates many of the best practices and recent innovations of high-performing private sector health care providers. For example, the NDAA creates specialized care centers of excellence at major medical centers based on the specialized care delivery model in high-performing health systems like the Cleveland Clinic. The legislation also expands the use of telehealth services and incentivizes participation in disease management programs. Finally, the NDAA expands and improves access to care by requiring a standardized appointment system in military treatment facilities and creating more options for patients to get health care in the private sector. Taken together, these reforms, along with many others in the bill, will improve access to and quality of care for servicemembers and their families and retirees and their families, and they will improve the military and combat medical readiness of our force and reduce rising health care costs for the Department of Defense. This entails some difficult decisions. The NDAA makes significant changes to the services' medical command structures and right-sizes the costly military health system infrastructure, and, yes, the NDAA asks some beneficiaries to pay a little more for a better health system.
  • Let me make three brief points. First, Active-Duty servicemembers will not pay for any health care services or prescription drugs they receive, and the NDAA does not increase the cost of health care by a single cent for families of active-duty servicemembers enrolled in TRICARE Prime. There will continue to be no enrollment fees for their health care coverage. All beneficiaries, including retirees and their families, will continue to receive health care services and prescription drugs free of charge in military hospitals and clinics. Second, the NDAA does ask working-aged retirees, many of whom are pursuing a second career, to pay a little more. Increases in annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Choice are phased in over time, and there are modest increases in pharmacy copays at retail pharmacies and for brand-name drugs through the mail-order pharmacy. It is important to remember that 68 percent of retirees live within the service area of a military hospital or clinic where they will continue to enjoy no co-pays for prescription drugs, and all military retirees have access to the mail-order pharmacy, where they can access a 90-day supply of generic prescriptions free of charge through fiscal year 2019. Third, while some military retirees will pay a little more, the guiding principle of this reform effort is that we would not ask beneficiaries to pay more unless they receive greater value in return--better access, better care, and better health outcomes. The NDAA delivers on that promise. Modernizing the military health system is part of the NDAA's focus on sustaining the quality of life of our military servicemembers, retirees, and their families.
  • The NDAA authorizes a 1.6-percent pay raise for our troops and reauthorizes over 30 types of bonuses and special pays. The legislation restructures and enhances leave for military parents to care for a new child, and it provides stability for the families of our fallen by permanently extending the special survivor indemnity allowance. No widow should have to worry year to year that she or he may not receive the offset of the so-called widows' tax. If this NDAA becomes law, he or she will never have to worry about that. The NDAA also implements the recommendations of the Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group by incorporating the Military Justice Act of 2016. The legislation modernizes the military court-martial trial and appellate practice, incorporates best practices from Federal criminal practice and procedures, and increases transparency and independent review in the military justice system. Taken together, the provisions contained in the NDAA constitute the most significant reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a generation.
We ask a lot of our men and women in uniform, and they never let us down. We must not let them down.
  • I say to my colleagues: This is an ambitious piece of legislation, and it is one that reflects the growing threats to our Nation. Everything about the NDAA is threat driven--everything, that is, but its top line of $602 billion. That is an arbitrary figure set by last year's budget agreement, having nothing to do with events in the world, and which itself was a product of 5 years of letting politics, not strategy, determine the level of funding for our national defense. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs GEN Martin Dempsey described last year's defense budget as "the lower ragged edge of manageable risks." Yet here we are 1 year later with defense spending arbitrarily capped at $17 billion below what our military needed and planned for last year. I don't know what lies beneath the lower ragged edge of manageable, but this is what I fear it means--that our military is becoming less and less able to deter conflict and that if, God forbid, deterrence does fail somewhere and we end up in conflict, our Nation will deploy young Americans into battle without sufficient training or equipment to fight a war that will take longer, be larger, cost more, and ultimately claim more American lives than it otherwise would have. That is the growing risk we face, and for the sake of the men and women serving in our military, we cannot change course soon enough. The Senate will have the opportunity to do just that when we consider my amendment to reverse the budget-driven cuts to the capabilities of our Armed Forces that are needed to defend the Nation. I hope we will seize this opportunity. We ask a lot of our men and women in uniform, and they never let us down. We must not let them down. As we move forward with consideration of the NDAA, I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this important legislation and give our military the resources they need and deserve.
Statement regarding the Khan family (1 August 2016)
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.


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
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.


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: 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)
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.



Quotes about McCain



  • 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.
  • We all have our understanding of Senator McCain's persistence and his determination to go forward in what he considers to be a good cause. There has never been a demonstration of the importance of that persistence quite as dramatic as his comeback from this campaign. We can remember the time when all of the pundits and, frankly, all the rest of us, myself very much included, wrote off the McCain campaign, assuming that Senator McCain was lying dead in the gutter by the side of the road. I remember talking with some of his supporters in this Chamber at that time who said the McCain campaign is reeling and we don't know whether it is going to ever come back. I remember the rumors that flowed around this town, where people said: We cannot raise any money for the McCain campaign. No one wants to contribute to a lost cause. John McCain, perhaps alone--maybe he had the support of his wife; I assume he did--said: No, I am going to go forward. He picked himself off, took himself off to New Hampshire, and did the same kind of thing he did 8 years ago when he ran against President Bush. In this case, he not only won New Hampshire, but he was able to expand that to wins elsewhere, to the point where we have the result today. So he deserves our congratulations as we recognize this truly extraordinary political accomplishment on his part.
  • Along with my congratulations to Senator McCain on his extraordinary achievement and his assuming the position now as the obvious Republican nominee, I also congratulate my friend, Mitt Romney, on the graciousness with which he recognized what was happening and his willingness to withdraw now rather than drag the party on into a protracted fight that would make it very difficult for Senator McCain to take control of the levers of power in the party and organize himself for the fight in the fall. These are two good men, each one of different views, each one of very different background, each one of which would bring a different set of talents to the Presidency, each one of which has now exposed himself to the fire of the primary process. One has emerged victorious; the other has recognized that and stepped aside. I think it is a demonstration that the American political system, however messy, works.
  • In the end, McCain's last-ditch attempt to save his campaign fell short. Let's face it. This is not a good year to be a Republican: Unpopular president. Unpopular war. Unstable economy. Even so, the conventional wisdom about McCain had always been that if any Republican could win, he was the guy: a likable hero with a political brand untethered to the GOP. And a fighter, too. When McCain became the last man standing in the Republican primaries, there was a glimpse of his spirit. He had refused to give up when his campaign ran out of money last summer, firing his staff, hitting the road, and shocking everyone by winning the New Hampshire primary. It was a personal triumph. But somewhere along the way, a certain unavoidable reality set in. McCain was presiding over a dysfunctional Republican Party on the verge of civil war—with divisions among the cultural conservatives, the tax cutters, the foreign policy hard-liners. Even the factions had factions. And in the past, McCain had antagonized almost every one of them, with relish. Now he had to make peace in the party to win the war. So he revised his (now virtually invisible) bipartisan immigration reform into a plan to "build the fence first." The deficit hawk found new affection for those Bush tax cuts. Hey, it worked.
  • After winning the nomination, there were still some glimpses of the old McCain—talking about poverty and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, visiting Memphis to confess he had been wrong when he voted against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But hold on. The political wiseguys assumed McCain couldn't win that way. Not in the political party that Bush built—in which the leader caters to divisions, not consensus. No doubt McCain was also reminded (as if he had to be) that he once had lost honorably. Never again. Besides, the general election was supposed to be mostly about national security—about Iraq and the best commander in chief. On that, at least, there was party unity. But as gas prices soared, the economy quickly became the top issue—and that's Democratic terrain. That's when the McCain campaign took a dark turn, deciding character was now the only key to the kingdom. Disqualifying Obama became its chief goal: The untested celebrity. The liberal. The novice. The unknown. And worse. When it came time to choose a vice president, McCain would have loved onetime Democrat Joe Lieberman. But the wiseguys once again advised that the party's base would revolt. So McCain blew the base a kiss: Sarah Palin. Those voters who always wanted to know more about how Obama spends his time "palling around with terrorists" were thrilled. The rest just wondered how McCain ever thought she was qualified for that job.
  • The nastiness was infectious. McCain himself started asking, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" and his crowds sometimes turned scary. But the rest of the public wanted to know more about its economic future, not Obama's past. When McCain finally came up with a plan for the economy, the vision thing was still overwhelmed by his inability to hide a genuine disdain for Obama. At every debate, the edge in his voice and grimace on his face were unmistakable. If this indignant McCain had a bubble over his head, it would no doubt say, "Can you believe I'm in the ring with this unqualified guy and he's beating me?" Yes, we can.
  • 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".
  • Party loyalty, nostalgia and the allure of a glamorous, slender figure promising a better world to a roaring crowd might mislead us into confusing the magic of Barack Obama with the reality of the two Kennedy brothers we have lost. Denver's theatrical staging enhanced this evocation, presenting a groundbreaking youthful candidacy passing the generational torch and completing the American Dream. But if substance guides us rather than style, if character is more important than audacious ambition, then we should recognize that this time the mantle of genuine American leadership rests on a truly bipartisan figure: John McCain.
Like Jack Kennedy, McCain is grounded by heroic service as a naval officer. His patriotism requires no parsing. Like JFK, McCain understands that you cannot conduct foreign policy without understanding history. ~ Bartle Bull
  • Like Jack Kennedy, McCain is grounded by heroic service as a naval officer. His patriotism requires no parsing. Like JFK, McCain understands that you cannot conduct foreign policy without understanding history. No person of that background could suggest a unilateral strike on Pakistan, as Obama did last year, apparently forgetting that this United States ally has nuclear weapons. Calling Obama's threat to Pakistan "misguided" at the time, Sen. Joe Biden also said the freshman Illinois lawmaker was unprepared to lead America. Calling McCain "my hero," Biden has stated that he would be delighted to share a ticket with the Arizona senator, whom he has suddenly begun to denounce. I was in Berlin in 1961 when the Soviets built the Wall. President Kennedy immediately promised total support to West Germany. A tough foreign policy realist, he would respect McCain's prompt robust denunciation of Russian aggression in Georgia, rather than Obama's over-advised spineless prevarication. "The UN must stand up," said Obama, when he himself failed to do so.
  • As McCain does today, in 1960 John Kennedy campaigned on cutting taxes and strengthening America's armed forces. Like Reagan, Kennedy was an eager sprinter in the arms race, saying that we must reverse the "missile gap," the alleged missile superiority of the Soviet Union. President Kennedy established that lower taxes mean more jobs and more revenue, facts ridiculed by Obama and embraced by McCain.
Like RFK and unlike Obama, McCain sees private enterprise and personal responsibility, not government, as the essential principles of political economy. ~ Bartle Bull
  • As with McCain, reform was at the heart of Robert Kennedy's early service. He fought the Democratic machine and spent enormous energy rebuilding Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn by encouraging black economic development rather than government dependency. Working for him nights and weekends to assist black startup businesses in Bed-Stuy, young volunteers like myself learned that Bobby was not the typical far-left ideologue or partisan operative, as Obama was until recently. Like RFK and unlike Obama, McCain sees private enterprise and personal responsibility, not government, as the essential principles of political economy.
  • The bipartisan spirit of McCain's long collaboration with Edward Kennedy and other Democratic senators is no surprise. McCain calls Kennedy "the lion of the Senate," as indeed Teddy is - perhaps our finest senator ever. Jack Kennedy, too, was bipartisan, appointing two Republicans to his cabinet. McCain, one of the two or three most bipartisan national figures of our day, has worked with Democrats on the environment, court appointments, campaign finance, immigration and more. Obama has the most extreme partisan voting record of any senator. Now, gambling his candidacy on a dynamic young Alaska governor, McCain has confirmed his independence as a leader not bound by the insider politics of Washington.
  • Maybe Obama is right that now is a good time to raise taxes. Maybe we should, with Obama, have declared defeat in Iraq last year. We Democrats can disagree on policy. Ultimately, this election is about character, not race or age. Robert Kennedy wrote: "Courage is the virtue President Kennedy most admired." McCain, like the Kennedys, could never, ever, as Obama recently did in Illinois, have set records for voting "Present," instead of the hard choices of "Aye" or "Nay."
  • A bigger problem McCain’s seeming movement to the center on immigration poses, Gilbert told me, is the concern Republicans have that he’s just saying whatever he needs to get elected. Interestingly, it’s that same mistrust of the message that has Hispanic activists leery about McCain, even after at the last of three Hispanic events – the National Council of LaRaza in San Diego – he used the word "comprehensive" five times in his speech. The Hispanic community came into this round of appearances skeptical because McCain – their Republican hero just two years ago – had already disavowed the very bill he co-authored with Sen. Edward Kennedy. He did so in January when he said at a CNN debate that he wouldn’t vote for it if the bill came to the Senate floor now. That happened as McCain was getting killed on the primary trail. He announced he’d had an epiphany. He said he "got it" and now was preaching enforcement first. But now he’s telling Hispanics he’s with them and he’s always been with them, citing his consistent strong support from Latinos in Arizona. He also said at each stop that true to his maverick reputation he had bucked his party when immigration came up for a vote. And that he has always been critical of harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric some in his party have been accused of.
  • 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.


  • It takes only a day or two of this sort of thing for the average political reporter to decide that John McCain is about the coolest guy who ever ran for president. A candidate who offers total access all the time, doesn’t seem to use a script, and puts on a genuinely amusing show? If you’re used to covering campaigns from behind a rope line—and virtually every reporter who doesn’t cover McCain full time is—it’s almost too good to believe. The Bush campaign complains that McCain’s style and personality have caused many reporters to lose their objectivity about him. The Bush campaign is onto something.
  • It feels a little strange at this point to include a long, laudatory piece about Senator John McCain of Arizona. McCain lived an undeniably remarkable life, but unfortunately, in his final years, he disgraced himself with nastiness and dishonesty. Those qualities were always present in McCain. They were obvious if you knew him, though in retrospect I didn’t pay enough attention to his dark side. But most of the time, McCain’s flashes of ugliness were more than offset by his charm, energy, and good humor. From my perspective, though, his best quality was his recklessness. Unlike most politicians, McCain preferred to live extemporaneously, making things up as he went along, itinerary included. He loved unexpected surprises. McCain didn’t fear what might happen next, and he didn’t care who watched. It was a kind of performance art. Covering McCain as a candidate, you’d wake up in one city without any real idea of where you might end up at the end of the day. There will never be another presidential campaign like John McCain’s run in 2000. It was the last one. I’ll always be grateful to McCain, whatever his faults, for letting me see it.
    • Tucker Carlson, The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism (2021)
  • 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
  • Mr. President, I wish to join my colleague from Arizona, Senator McCain, in a colloquy regarding an aviation noise concern of particular interest to his constituents in the Phoenix area. During the floor debates on the transportation and housing appropriations bills in both the House and the Senate, there were a number of amendments adopted related to the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic procedures and, in particular, the noise that FAA-approved flight patterns create in communities. The Senator from Arizona offered an amendment dealing with this issue, which I was happy to accept during the abbreviated consideration of the THUD bill on the Senate floor. As a result, the omnibus includes bill language requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to update its "community involvement manual" related to new air traffic procedures in order to improve public outreach and community involvement. The FAA is directed to complete and implement a plan which enhances community involvement and proactively addresses concerns associated with performance-based navigation projects. I know this is an important issue for you, Senator McCain, and I appreciate you joining me on the floor today so that we can send a clear message to the FAA about the importance of involving your constituents.
  • 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
  • If it's a race for re-election, a first term that doesn't become a second, at least you can go off, build the library and console yourself that you're still a member of the club. If you're young enough, you can convince yourself that there is always next time, four years down the road, that the next campaign is only days away. Even if you never run again (see Al Gore, John Kerry), you can get a long way thinking you might. There will be no such solace for John McCain if he loses. He tried twice. He made it to the finals. He is, frankly, too old to try again. It will be someone else's turn next time. And it's not clear, even if the talking heads don't want to admit it, that there is anything he can do now to change an outcome that is feeling more certain with each passing day. You can "what if" the race to death: what if he hadn't picked Sarah Palin; what if the economy hadn't collapsed; what if Hillary Clinton had won instead of Barack Obama? But what is matters, not what if. He did pick Palin; the economy did collapse; and for my money, I think Hillary would have beaten him handily.
  • At this point, almost everything that matters is beyond McCain's control. He can't control the fact that the Dow has collapsed, that Joe the Plumber has a lien on his house, that Palin doesn't read newspapers or that Obama doesn't make mistakes. He can't even begin to match Obama in terms of organization or money. He is on the verge of the final days of a campaign that he will relive and second-guess for the rest of his life. McCain may not be able to do anything to change the numbers Nov. 4 or the colors on the map. But there is one thing he can do. He can decide how he will go out, what kind of man America will see, whether the candidate America remembers will be the one who started this race, the one who served in the Senate with distinction, the one who crossed congressional aisles to do what was right, the one who stood up for Kerry when he was being swift-boated, the one who championed campaign finance reform, the de-politicization of the judiciary and fairness in immigration reform, the one who really did put country first for decades; or a bad copy of the guy who beat him by playing dirty politics in 2000.
  • John McCain brought tears to my eyes in 1988 when he led the Republican Convention in the Pledge of Allegiance. He made me believe there was such a thing as principle when he stood up to the scumbags trashing him in 2000, stood up to the scumbags trashing Kerry in 2004, stood up to the loudmouth talk-show hosts spreading anti-immigrant ire in 2007. I haven't seen that guy lately. I haven't seen the guy who carried his own briefcase and was willing to take every question and do his best to tell the truth in answering them. I haven't seen the guy who rode the Straight Talk Express, the guy Democrats such as me were most worried about facing in a general election. What I've seen is another desperate politician tossing mud at his rival, looking for cheap shots and funding robocalls instead of denouncing them.
  • Maybe with the economy the way it is, the Bush presidency as unpopular as it is, the desire for change as great as it is, there was never a chance for the guy McCain used to be. It may be too late for him to win with dignity, but there is still time for him to lose that way. And it matters. It will matter to him for the rest of his life. It matters to the process he has fought for and to the country to which he has dedicated his life. He deserves a better last act than the bad jokes of the Palin fiasco. Two weeks isn't much time. But it's time enough to change the way the ending feels, if not how it plays.
  • "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]
  • Until last week, it was an open question which of these visions of McCain bore a closer relation to reality. But with the weeklong string of attacks uncorked by the Arizona senator and his people during Obama’s trip abroad and in its aftermath—some brutal, some mocking, but all personal and focused on Obama’s character—we now have an inkling of just how deep in the mud McCain and his people are willing to wallow in order to win in November: right up to their Republican eyeballs. As countless fact-checkers and tsk-tskers have maintained, the broadsides were a blend of distortion, innuendo, and outright slander. But that doesn’t mean they (and their inevitable successors) won’t prove effective, especially against an opponent with so little experience under ruthless and relentless fire. Before Obama hurled himself into the presidential scrum he’d never been hit with a negative ad—a point often raised by Hillary Clinton’s people. And though they made sure Obama lost his negative-spot virginity, the ads they ran against him were patty-cake compared with what he faces now. Hence the questions on which the general election may turn: Will Obama be capable of withstanding the pummeling the McCain forces have begun to unleash? Or, as Hillary privately predicted, will he crumple like a paper doll?
  • Many of McCain’s advisers from 2000, such as John Weaver and Mike Murphy, express qualms about the campaign’s newly nasty tone. (One can only imagine the sigh of relief emanating from Mark McKinnon, the heralded adman who helped McCain win the nomination but whose aversion to taking a cleaver to Obama caused him to sit out the general.) "In this kind of year—a change election, with big issues at stake—that sort of campaign is not gonna be in a voice the American people can understand," Weaver tells me. "And at some point, John will need the goodwill that he spent years achieving.” And you think he’s in danger of losing that? “This is not a cost-free exercise," he says. But Weaver, Murphy, and McKinnon are no longer guiding McCain. Instead, the motor behind his operation now is Steve Schmidt, the shaven-headed strategist who earned his bones running Karl Rove’s war room in 2004, Frenchifying and de-war-heroizing John Kerry. What Schmidt and his associates have apparently concluded is that McCain’s weaknesses—on the election’s most salient issues and as a candidate—are so pronounced and Obama’s vulnerabilities so glaring that the low road is their guy’s best, and maybe only, route to the White House. They’ve concluded, in other words, that even if McCain may not be able to win the election in any affirmative sense, he might still wind up behind the big desk if he and his people can strip the bark off Obama with sufficiently vicious force.'
  • The alternative, of course, is to get on offense, to batter McCain for his gaffes and incoherence, hammer him for his flip-flops, highlight how his maverick status is a thing of the past, and turn him into a combination of Bush and Grandpa Simpson. God knows there are those in Chicago champing at the bit to do just that—not least, one imagines, Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, who can wield the cudgel of negative ads with as much vigor and glee as any Republican. Yet Obama seems reluctant to go there. Tough pol though he is, he’s a conciliator and not a confrontationalist at heart; he seems to believe that once undecided voters know him better, he will have them eating, along with so many others, out of the palm of his hand.
  • 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.
  • What possessed John McCain, with all of the makings to be a modern Daniel Webster, to descend into the depths of unprincipled contradictions?
  • And so Benet's opening description of Daniel Webster might have foretold Arizona U.S. senator John McCain, who fashioned himself a would-be president, once adored for his anti-establishmentarian streak and revered for his personal Vietnam War POW sacrifices. John McCain could have been Daniel Webster in dissuading misguided Americans from electing a fraudulent, dissembling, and America-loathing Barack Obama. Instead, John McCain ran an inept, cowardly, and deliberately underwhelming presidential campaign in 2008. McCain was AWOL on the campaign stump just eight weeks before election day. He squandered a respectable résumé, settling for a historical annotation as a ballot placeholder, enabling eight years of progressive and race-hustling hell. John McCain, unwilling to confront Barack Obama's elaborate deceptions and racial animus, surrendering to the nation's infatuation with identity politics, was scorned and rejected, shunted aside for a darling nobody.
In his thirty years in the U.S. Senate, John McCain accomplished nothing, neither for his constituents nor for the nation. Yet he dreams of odes and eulogies, delivered by rivals and friends alike, for whom he could rarely muster a kind word, let alone a graceful final gesture. ~ Geoffrey P. Hunt
  • McCain could rejuvenate his forsaken ego only by emulating Ted Kennedy, self-anointed "Lion of the Senate." Flipping Benet's allegory, in 2008, McCain shunned the cloak of Daniel Webster, only to reveal the snakeskin one-piece jumpsuit tailored for Benet's soulless farmer. On the way to vainglorious heliocentricity, John McCain as a U.S. senator was unconvincing as a selfless statesman, an indefatigable advocate of his own press clippings. In his thirty years in the U.S. Senate, John McCain accomplished nothing, neither for his constituents nor for the nation. Yet he dreams of odes and eulogies, delivered by rivals and friends alike, for whom he could rarely muster a kind word, let alone a graceful final gesture.
  • McCain gleefully bargained away, or more aptly auctioned off, his respected if not sympathetic heroic image – a man of inestimable courage and endurance under unimaginable circumstances. He morphed into an opportunistic sunshine patriot, malignantly self-centered, whose reward was fleeting adoration by media liberals using McCain to attack their antagonists when convenient. John McCain could be trusted for a sound bite trashing presidents of his own party and voting against the interest of everyday Americans when it mattered, but little else. His passing will be mourned, customarily so. Whatever demons having possessed John McCain's better instincts will mercifully search for a different host. Even Daniel Webster wouldn't be able to rescue McCain's ignoble political reputation.
  • 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]
  • 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
  • Madam President, on Saturday evening, a great loss echoed throughout our country. Six decades of patriotic service came to an end. We have suspected for some time that we would bid farewell to our colleague, the senior Senator from Arizona, John McCain. John took full advantage of the months since his diagnosis. His hard work continued, but happy reminiscing, fond farewells, final reflections, and time with family actually came to the fore. I was privileged to spend a small share of that time with John. We sat on his back porch in Sedona under the desert sky, replaying old times. John did things his way these last months. For his colleagues here, the time confirmed a sad but obvious truth: The Senate won't be the same without John McCain. I think it is fair to say that the passion John brought to his work was unsurpassed in this body. In more than 30 years as a Senator, he never failed to marshal a razor-sharp wit, a big heart, and, of course, a fiery spirit.
  • When John saw an issue the same way you did, you knew you had just found your most stalwart ally. You would thank your lucky stars because when you found yourself on the other side of that table, as I think all of us learned, you were in for a different kind of unforgettable experience. Either way, serving alongside John was never a dull affair. I found myself on both sides of that table over the years. John and I stood shoulder to shoulder on some of the most important issues to each of us, and we also disagreed entirely on huge subjects that helped define each of our careers. John treated every day, every issue, with the intensity and seriousness that the legislative process deserves. He would fight like mad to bring the country closer to his vision of the common good. But when the day's disputes were over, that very same man was one of our most powerful reminders that so much more unites us than divides us; that we should be able to differ completely on policy and stay united in love of our country.
  • John and I sure had those fights, and we sure had that friendship. I am just glad we never found ourselves in opposite dugouts. You see, John and I spent years as neighbors in the Russell Building. Often, when softball season rolled around, our offices would take the field together as one united McTeam, we called it. As a seriously wounded war hero and a childhood polio survivor, I would have to say John and I didn't exactly have the makings of an elite double-play duo. I took the mound once or twice, but I admit, we mostly offered moral support. Moral support. Really, that is what John McCain gave this body and this country for so long. His memory will continue to give it because while John proudly served with us as the Senator from Arizona, he was America's hero all along. Just this month, Congress finalized a major bill for our All-Volunteer Armed Forces that we named after John. This might seem like a small detail, but, really, it was a fitting capstone for a career so thoroughly defined by service in and then service for the ranks of those who wear our Nation's uniform.
  • Generations of McCains have served with distinction in our great Navy. As John described his Scottish heritage in one memoir, "The McCains [were] bred to fight." And fight they have. One by one, McCains have entered the academy's gates in Annapolis. One by one, they marched past a centuries-old battle flag bearing the phrase "Don't Give Up the Ship." While honorable service was in his DNA, John's story was never simple. At Annapolis, as he would come to explain with some relish, his major distinctives were mostly the weakness of his grades and the length of his disciplinary record. The first miracle in John's military career was the fact that he somehow made it through school. But he prevailed, and bigger tests soon came. He stared death in the face aboard the USS Forrestal and again when he was shot down and dragged, battered and broken, into the hands of our Nation's enemies. Five and a half hellish years in captivity. Merciless beatings for the uniform he had worn and the values he would not renounce. That stubborn, rebellious streak went from a stumbling block to a saving grace. Stubborn virtue sustained John. He declined early release in solidarity with his brothers. He never gave up the ship.
  • The bond between John and his country was so deep, but, of course, other bonds ran deeper still. While John's colleagues grieve our own loss, we also send our love and support to those who know him even better--those who call this man their husband, their son, their father, and their grandfather. We stand with John's loving wife Cindy. We stand with Doug, Andy, Sidney, Meghan, Jack, Jimmy, and Bridget. We stand with his mother Roberta and with all of John's devoted friends and loyal staff. Thank you for lending him to us longer than we had a right. Thank you for supporting him while he supported us. John McCain has fought his last battles and cast his final votes, but the Nation he loved is still not done with him yet. This week will be dedicated to remembering him. On Friday, he will lie in state in the Capitol like other American heroes before him. As the days turn to weeks, I know we are all eager to come together and collaborate on ways we can continue to honor his memory.
America will miss her devoted son, her stalwart champion, her elder statesman. We will miss one of the very finest gentlemen with whom I have had the honor to serve, but we will not forget him. ~ Mitch McConnell
  • Generation after generation of Americans will hear about the cocky pilot who barely scraped through Annapolis but then defended our Nation in the skies, witness to our highest values even through terrible torture, captured the country's imagination through the national campaigns that spotlighted many of our highest values, and became so integral to the U.S. Senate, where our Nation airs and advances its great debates. America will miss her devoted son, her stalwart champion, her elder statesman. We will miss one of the very finest gentlemen with whom I have had the honor to serve, but we will not forget him. I consider it our privilege to return some small share of the love John poured out for this country.
  • Earlier this week, I wrote about the health-care bill, specifically John McCain's return to D.C. to vote on it. I wrote about how this return, following his diagnosis of brain cancer, allowed him the opportunity to be the hero who delivers us from the evil that is a health-care bill that will take health care away from millions of Americans. Then he got back to D.C. and voted to allow the bill to move forward. It was a strange move, and the latest in what has appeared to be a series of heel turns for McCain. But last night, he actually goddamn mavericked and—sorry, Drew—it was pretty damn great.
  • GOP senators looked smug as Democrats tried in vain to even talk about their objections to the bill. And then John McCain shocked his colleagues by saying he would vote against it. McConnell, Pence, and other colleagues tried to get him to reconsider, but McCain had made up his mind. Now, could he have just made that decision days ago and saved us all the stress? Sure. But that wouldn't make his eventual biopic as good, so on that level, I get it. You can actually see the moment the switch flips in the portal to hell that's in McConnell's chest where his heart should be.
  • Everyone who voted against this bill, everyone who took countless hours out of their busy lives to call their senators to try to make them vote against this bill, everyone who protested in the streets—heroes all. But Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain didn't just give millions of Americans hope that their health care might just survive this disgusting administration. No, they also gave us a moment where Mitch McConnell looked super sad.
  • 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.


  • The Palin pick was a surprise for many reasons, not the least of which was that nobody outside Alaska, besides die-hard political junkies, had ever heard of her. The choice also seemed to undercut McCain's biggest strength against Obama: his long experience on the national scene and in the military relative to Obama. Obama had tried to counter that perception by tapping Joe Biden, a veteran senator from Delaware who had spent years as either chairman or a senior member of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Now McCain's campaign had opened itself to attacks about Palin's lack of experience in national politics or on foreign policy. Her short record in public office also would reveal a taste for the pork-barrel projects that McCain for years had crusaded against as a waste of taxpayer money.
  • McCain was the epitome of the moderate GOP establishment; she was an anti-establishment conservative. She was 44 years old; he had turned 72 on the day his Palin pick was revealed. And the initial impression of Palin was that she seemed more down to earth than McCain, who recently had been unable to remember how many homes he and his wife, Cindy, owned around the country. (The answer at the time was eight, though, technically, beer-distributionship heiress Cindy controlled the family fortune and their finances were separate.)
  • The first presidential debate in Mississippi went off as planned. And it was there that McCain truly may have lost the election. It wasn't because of McCain's performance, which was solid if a little stiff and abrasive at times. Except for some discussion of the economic crisis, the debate focused on national security and foreign policy, two issues in McCain's comfort zone. Some observers said McCain may have won the debate on points, some said Obama won outright, while still others said it was probably no worse for McCain than a draw. The problem for McCain was that a draw was all Obama needed, so that effectively made him the winner. Given the economic anxiety and Obama's lack of seasoning, the McCain campaign's last hope was that Americans might not want to risk the presidency on someone so untested. McCain needed Obama to fumble. Instead, Obama held his own against McCain and delivered a calm and collected performance that put to rest worries about his light experience.
  • In retrospect, McCain certainly made mistakes — some big, some not so big — that damaged his competitiveness. His response to the economic crisis clearly backfired. Many voters saw his return to the Senate as a stunt. There's still an argument about whether his gamble on Palin as a running mate helped him enough with his base to offset how much she hurt him with independents. Perhaps he should have been more aggressive in distancing himself from the politically radioactive Bush. And for all of McCain's effort to court the Latino vote, Obama clobbered him among that demographic, too, 67 percent to 31 percent. A Latino running mate from a swing state, rather than Palin from Alaska, might have helped, though McCain could never reflect the country's changing demographics the way Obama did. The hopes of McCain's campaign hinged largely on Obama making rookie mistakes. Not only did Obama not make such mistakes, he ran a much-emulated, highly disciplined campaign that was able to raise unprecedented amounts of money. The bottom line, though, is that after eight years of the Bush administration, war-fatigued voters were ready to give the Democrats a shot. It was an impulse that would be all but impossible for McCain, or any GOP candidate, to reverse.


  • 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.
President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents. Just as he made the Senate better. Just as he made this country better. ~ Barack Obama
  • We come to celebrate an extraordinary man – a warrior, a statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America. President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents. Just as he made the Senate better. Just as he made this country better. So for someone like John to ask you, while he’s still alive, to stand and speak of him when he’s gone, is a precious and singular honor.
We were standard bearers of different American political traditions, and throughout my presidency, John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up – which, by his calculation, was about once a day. ~ Barack Obama
  • Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year, I’ll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. But after our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John’s essential qualities. To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a senator should be, and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either. It also showed John’s disdain for self-pity. He had been to hell and back, and he had somehow never lost his energy, or his optimism, or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him, and he would maintain that buoyant spirit to very end, too stubborn to sit still, opinionated as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and most of all, to his family. It showed his irreverence – his sense of humor, little bit of a mischievous streak. After all, what better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience? And most of all, it showed a largeness of spirit, an ability to see past differences in search of common ground. And in fact, on the surface, John and I could not have been more different. We’re of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father; John was the scion of one of America’s most distinguished military families. I have a reputation for keeping cool; John — not so much. We were standard bearers of different American political traditions, and throughout my presidency, John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up – which, by his calculation, was about once a day.
  • But for all our differences, for all the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand, the longstanding admiration that I had for him. By his own account, John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that’s understandable – what faster way to distinguish yourself when you’re the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny? Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. And for John, that meant answering the highest of callings – serving his country in a time of war. Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment, and the depths of his courage, there in the cells of Hanoi, when day after day, year after year, that youthful iron was tempered into steel.
In captivity, John learned, in ways that few of us ever will, the meaning of those words – how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test – again and again and again. And that’s why, when John spoke of virtues like service, and duty, it didn’t ring hollow. They weren’t just words to him. It was a truth that he had lived, and for which he was prepared to die. ~ Barack Obama
  • In captivity, John learned, in ways that few of us ever will, the meaning of those words – how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test – again and again and again. And that’s why, when John spoke of virtues like service, and duty, it didn’t ring hollow. They weren’t just words to him. It was a truth that he had lived, and for which he was prepared to die. It forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country, what might we risk everything for. Much has been said this week about what a maverick John was. Now, in fact, John was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics. That some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.
  • John cared about the institutions of self-government – our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, rule of law and separation of powers, even the arcane rules and procedures of the Senate. He knew that, in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together and give shape and order to our common life, even when we disagree, especially when we disagree. John believed in honest argument and hearing other views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That’s why he was willing to buck his own party at times, occasionally work across the aisle on campaign finance reform and immigration reform. That’s why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate. And the fact that it earned him some good coverage didn’t hurt, either.
  • John understood, as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood, that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline; not on what we look like, what our last names are. It’s not based on where our parents or grandparents came from, or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed: That all of us are created equal. Endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. It’s been mentioned today, and we’ve seen footage this week of John pushing back against supporters who challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful, but I wasn’t surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, it was John’s instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race, or religion, or gender. And I’m certain that in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign, he saw himself as defending America’s character, not just mine, for he considered it the imperative of every citizen who loves this country to treat all people fairly.
  • And finally, while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one indispensable nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility. That burden is borne most heavily by our men and women in uniform – service members like Doug, Jimmy, and Jack, who followed in their father’s footsteps – as well as the families who serve alongside our troops. But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others, with our adherence to a set of universal values – like rule of law and human rights, and an insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being.
  • Of course, John was the first to tell us that he was not perfect. Like all of us who go into public service, he did have an ego. Like all of us, there were no doubt some votes he cast, some compromises he struck, some decisions he made that he wished he could have back. It’s no secret, it’s been mentioned that he had a temper, and when it flared up, it was a force of nature, a wonder to behold – his jaw grinding, his face reddening, his eyes boring a hole right through you. Not that I ever experienced it firsthand, mind you. But to know John was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws and his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself. And that self-awareness made him all the more compelling.
  • We didn’t advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency, John would come over to the White House, and we’d just sit and talk in the Oval Office, just the two of us – we’d talk about policy and we’d talk about family and we’d talk about the state of our politics. And our disagreements didn’t go away during these private conversations. Those were real, and they were often deep. But we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights. And we laughed with each other, and we learned from each other. We never doubted the other man’s sincerity or the other man’s patriotism, or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team. For all of our differences, we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched, and fought, and sacrificed, and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals here at home, and to do our best to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.
  • More than once during his career, John drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt. And I’m sure it’s been noted that Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” oration seems tailored to John. Most of you know it: Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short, but always relish a good fight – a contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Isn’t that the spirit we celebrate this week? That striving to be better, to do better, to be worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed. So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.
  • "Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today." What better way to honor John McCain’s life of service than, as best we can, follow his example? To prove that the willingness to get in the arena and fight for this country is not reserved for the few, it is open to all of us, that in fact it’s demanded of all of us, as citizens of this great republic? That’s perhaps how we honor him best – by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party, or ambition, or money, or fame or power. That there are some things that are worth risking everything for. Principles that are eternal. Truths that are abiding. At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt. May God bless John McCain, and may God bless this country he served so well.


  • (we quoted Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, saying that the message for those behind the attacks is “We’re coming after you. God may have mercy on you, but we won’t.” Grace Paley?) GP: Well, what do you expect to hear from John McCain? Anyway, he’s been famous as this—as this POW, but what he did before that was do considerable amount of bombing in Vietnam. And so, he knows what it’s like, and he knows how safe he is up in the sky. He can just fly around up there and bomb towns, villages. That’s his style, and that’s his history. And it kind of gives a kind of lie to his pathetic situation as a POW.
  • 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.
Neither McCain nor Palin would dare mention Obama’s middle name, Hussein, but they can play up Obama’s past associations and let others connect the dots. Terrorist. Muslim. Dangerous. Other. ~ Kathleen Parker
  • Time magazine examined voting habits and concluded that most people do not vote for issues, but rather for the candidates. Specifically, they vote for people who are most like themselves. Which is why McCain and Palin have amped up their rhetoric of difference. Neither McCain nor Palin would dare mention Obama’s middle name, Hussein, but they can play up Obama’s past associations and let others connect the dots. Terrorist. Muslim. Dangerous. Other. It is legitimate to question character and dubious associations — and William Ayers is certifiably dubious. The truth is, Obama should have avoided Ayers, and his denouncement of Wright was tardy. But this is a dangerous game. The McCain campaign knows that Obama isn’t a Muslim or a terrorist, but they’re willing to help a certain kind of voter think he is. Just the way certain South Carolinians in 2000 were allowed to think that McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh was his illegitimate black child.
  • 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]


We take a lot of things for granted. Even though John McCain and I have disagreed on occasion on things political, one thing that will always be in my mind and my heart is people such as John McCain who represent what our country is all about. ~ Harry Reid
  • Mr. President, let me take a minute to say something because of my friend, John McCain. Every day I come and open the Senate, we give the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. We do that because of the country and what that flag stands for. But I was struck today having John McCain in the Chamber. Really, he is representative of what that flag is all about--someone who not only comes from a lineage of people who have served our country, but this good man has served our country in so many different ways. We came to Washington together in 1982. We came to the Senate together in 1986. I can remember while I was still in the House of Representatives I attended a prayer breakfast, and Senator McCain was the presenter. I cannot do justice and I will not even try to describe the presentation he made about a Christmas celebration they had when he was a prisoner of war. He spent so much time in solitary confinement. He could have left the prison much earlier. He would not do that because his comrades were still there. We take a lot of things for granted. Even though John McCain and I have disagreed on occasion on things political, one thing that will always be in my mind and my heart is people such as John McCain who represent what our country is all about.
  • 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]
  • "This is the way the world ends," wrote T.S. Eliot, "not with a bang, but a whimper." This is the way the Republican presidential contest ends: not with a bang, but a white flag. Mitt Romney’s withdrawal effectively ensures John McCain’s triumph. Most become a nominee by rousing their party’s base. McCain has spent a decade reviling it. Eight years ago, McCain called evangelical Protestant leaders “agents of intolerance”: the single largest bloc of the Republican coalition. Earlier, he passed legislation limiting outside free speech campaign finance, swelling left-wing power to control the agenda. The GOP’s media enemy is its nominee-to-be’s dear friend. McCain has bashed Bush tax cuts, knifed conservative judges, and scored a Constitutional amendment ban on same-sex marriage: the very issue electing W. in 2004. Worse, he and Ted Kennedy championed "comprehensive immigration" reform of the 12 million to 20 million illegal immigrants who knowingly ignore our law.
  • McCain would give illegal aliens citizenship. He mocks a U.S. president’s oath to protect border security, calling the vast majority of Americans who oppose amnesty "vigilantes" and "bigots." Last week, McCain, often booed, termed himself "a fellow conservative" at D.C.’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference. He is surely a foreign-policy hawk, even arguably an economic conservative. To win, though, McCain needs the GOP’s much larger social/cultural constituency. How does he woo those who disbelieve, even loathe, him? Mistrusting McCain’s words, many Republicans will respond only to acts: i.e. the vice presidency. Enter Mike Huckabee, coming from nowhere to take eight primaries and caucuses and embody the Middle America that frets about the mortgage, college education, a society that perverts right v. wrong.
  • In 2004, more evangelicals voted than all blacks plus union members. Only a massive turnout narrowly gave Bush Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, among others. Here Huckabee runs strongest. McCain is 72. Huckabee is 52. McCain is leaden on television. The former Arkansas governor dazzles. McCain is weak on values issues without which Republicans once routinely lost, and will this year lose again: culture, middle-class angst, Main Street v. Wall Street. Huckabee plays them like Louis Armstrong did a trumpet. Every other prospective veep — Charlie Crist, Mark Sanford, Phil Gramm; God forbid, Steve Forbes — is dull on the stump, wooden on TV and economically conservative: a McCain clone. Vowing to "unify the party," he needs the man who has done far more with far less than any candidate. Can McCain afford to pick Huckabee? He can’t afford not to. Given Bush’s albatross, McCain may not win even with Huckabee. Almost certainly, he can’t win without him.


  • 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.
  • 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.