How John McCain Worked

By: Josh Clark & Kathryn Whitbourne

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) looks on after a meeting with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace March 21, 2008 in Paris. Dominique Charriau/Getty Images

On Oct. 26, 1967, naval pilot John McCain was shot down over Vietnam and was held captive in the Hanoi Hilton. When he was released six years later, he returned to the U.S. and regained his active flight status. He retired from the Navy in 1981 [source: John McCain].

McCain's military experience played a big part in his campaign for president in 2008. It gave him an argument to become commander-in-chief. His military background also appeared to give him the kind of dogged persistence needed during a primary season that defied polls and proved to be the most expensive at the time. Although he lost to Barack Obama, he still maintained his moral authority. During the presidential election when a supporter said Obama was "an Arab," and therefore could not be trusted, McCain responded: "No ma'am, he's a decent family man, citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about" [source: Collinson].


McCain's willingness to shake hands with the Democrats and occasionally vote against party lines earned him the titles of "consensus-builder" (the Everett Herald), "straight-shooter" (The Guardian), "maverick" (the Los Angeles Times) and "traitor to the Republican Party" (the Southern Political Report), among others.

It also makes it difficult to paint McCain with a single brush. He was the only candidate to have engaged in a publicity battle with heiress and socialite Paris Hilton [source: AP]. At a time when even some of his fellow Republicans lost their faith in the war in Iraq, McCain maintained his original stance in favor of it. While he openly opposed to the use of gray-area torture, like water boarding, he also voted against a ban on its use, citing the CIA need for its use in interrogation [source: IHT]. On the topic of Iran, he spoofed the lyrics of the Beach Boys song, "Barbara Ann" with his own version -- "bomb Iran."

McCain died at age 81 on Aug. 25, 2018, after a battle with brain cancer. In this article, we'll learn more about Sen. John S. McCain, his record on the issues, his run for presidency and his later life.