RIP: Here Are 10 Of Senator John McCain’s Best Moments In Politics

The 'Maverick,' Vietnam War hero, and dignified statesman died at age 81 after his fight with brain cancer. But his legacy of fighting for what he believed in will live on in history.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

It was July 28, 2017. There was a lot of commotion. People on Twitter were speculating about the body language of the Senators, searching for any indication of how they might vote. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) remained steadfast in their opposition and voted “no.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought he had all of the Republican votes accounted for…except for John McCain’s.

It was 1 in the morning. Some saw McCain huddled with Pence. Then he was with McConnell. And then he was seen talking to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a conversation Schumer left smiling. Suddenly, Democrats on the Senate floor appeared happy. The American people remained unsure of what would happen next…

McConnell seemed distraught as McCain walked up to the center of the Senate floor. He voted “no,” and walked away…

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This was one of the most pivotal moments of 2017, and one of John McCain’s final acts in the Senate. In this one act, he shot down the most significant threat to the Affordable Care Act thus far, helping to save millions from potentially losing their healthcare. It was also a powerful rebuke of President Donald Trump.

Before John McCain began his distinguished career in politics, he served in the military. When fighting in Hanoi, Vietnam in October 1967, his plane was shot down at about 3,500 feet in the air. As his plane spiraled down at 550 miles an hour, McCain ejected. After landing, he was taken as a prisoner of war. This was just the beginning of his story. McCain would go on to be tortured for 5 years, and he never broke. After the Vietnamese found out his father was an Admiral, McCain was offered to leave early: he heroicly declined, noting that others who were there before him should be released before him.

This didn’t impress five-time draft dodger, and then-Candidate, Donald Trump. Trump infamously said McCain was not a war hero and that he only likes “people who weren’t captured.”

McCain responded:

“I think it’s important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans. What he said about me, John McCain, that’s fine. I don’t require any repair of that. But when he said, ‘I don’t like people who were captured,’ then there’s a body of American heroes, and I’d like to see him retract that statement. Not about me, but about the others.”

That wasn’t the last time McCain would speak out against Trump nor was it the last time he would break with dogma to stand up for what he believed in. McCain’s career is full of moments like this. He was a true patriot.

Here are just a few of his other best moments, not ranked in any particular order:

1. When McCain corrected one of his own supporters who called Obama an Arab at a town hall

2. When McCain stood up against newly inaugurated President Trump’s effort to bring back torture

“The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.” – John McCain in January 25, 2017 statement

3. When McCain supported the release of the CIA torture report in 2014

“Mr. President, I rise in support of the release – the long-delayed release – of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.

I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values.” – Part of John McCain’s speech on the Senate floor

4. When McCain delivered a gracious concession speech moments after losing to Obama

5. When McCain returned to the Senate floor after his brain cancer diagnosis and called for a return to regular order

6. When McCain continued to stand strong against Russian aggression, even if it meant condemning his own President

In response to President Trump’s July Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world. It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician.

These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world. Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable. 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. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”

In response to his own party’s attacks on the DOJ – February 2018:

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s… Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

7. When McCain defended the Khan family after then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks on them

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party. 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.”

8. When McCain delivered his final big speech and attacked “spurious nationalism”

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

9. When McCain defended Huma Abedin from baseless Republican attacks claiming she conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood

“These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now,” he said. “Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation and who we still aspire to be.”

10. When McCain said how he wanted to be remembered

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News // John Mccain / Republican Party / RIP