John McCain, Vietnam War hero and longtime senator from Arizona, has died at 81.
Often called a maverick, McCain will be remembered as the most important political figure to emerge from Arizona in the past 50 years.
McCain, was a naval bomber pilot, prisoner of war, conservative maverick, giant of the Senate, twice-defeated presidential candidate and an abrasive American hero with a twinkle in his eye.
The Arizonan warrior politician, who survived plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer and brushes with political oblivion, often seemed to be perpetually waging a race against time and his own mortality while striving to ensure that his five-and-a-half years as a Vietnam prisoner of war did not stand as the defining experience of his life.
Eulogizing McCain, retired President Barack Obama said, “Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own.”
McCain died after discontinuing medical treatment after a long battle with aggressive brain cancer. He passed away surrounded by his family.
John McCain’s daughter Meghan said: “He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth for so very long. We know that his flame lives on, in each of us.”
In a Washington career that spanned 40 years, first as a Navy Senate liaison, then as a member of the House and finally as the occupant of the Senate seat he took over from Barry Goldwater, McCain was a conservative and a foreign policy hawk. But he was not always a reliable Republican vote, and sometimes in a career that stretched into a sixth Senate term, he confounded party leaders with his maverick stands. He defied party orthodoxy to embrace campaign finance reform, and excoriated President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, for not taking enough troops to Iraq.
After Obama ended McCain’s second White House race in 2008, the senator blasted the new President’s troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, causing critics to carp that he had not yet reconciled the bitterness he felt in defeat. McCain had supported the invasion of Iraq carried out by the Bush administration in 2003, but admitted in his memoir “The Restless Wave” that the rationale, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was wrong.