Sen. John McCain of Arizona shares a laugh with one of his closest friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Republican Sen. John McCain, 81, has died after a long battle with brain cancer.
The Arizona senator was diagnosed with an aggressive form of glioblastoma and began treatment for the disease in July 2017.
McCain appeared to be undeterred for several months after his diagnosis was made public.
He was seen back at work on Capitol Hill last fall and weighed in on major legislative policies, including the annual defense authorization bill and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I don’t mean to be repetitious, but to my Democrat friends and some of my Republican friends: I’m coming back,” McCain said during a Facebook Live event in August last year.
McCain made headlines upon his return — including when he dramatically voted no on the Republican version of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
His career as a public servant spanned decades of honorable service, and despite some challenges along the way, McCain established himself as a key figurehead of the Republican Party. Few lawmakers on Capitol Hill will match the legacy he leaves behind.
Here’s a look back at John McCain’s incredible life:
On October 26, 1967, during the Vietnam War, McCain was flying over Hanoi when a surface-to-air missile hit his plane’s wing, forcing him to eject.
McCain is pulled out of a Hanoi lake by a mix of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietnamese citizens.Reuters
“Some North Vietnamese swam out and pulled me to the side of the lake and immediately started stripping me, which is their standard procedure,” McCain wrote in USA Today.
“Of course, this being in the center of town, a huge crowd of people gathered, and they were all hollering and screaming and cursing and spitting and kicking at me.”
McCain broke both of his arms and his right knee. He had lost consciousness until he hit the water after ejecting from the plane.
McCain is seen lying injured in North Vietnam wearing an arm cast.AP
McCain was held as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) for five and a half years. He was subjected to torture and solitary confinement in a Vietnamese prison nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton.”
Upon learning that McCain’s father was an admiral in the Navy, who would eventually command all US forces in the Pacific, NVA forces provided medical care to McCain. Doctors performed surgery on his leg, according to McCain, but made incorrect incisions on one side and cut all the ligaments.
McCain would spend the rest of his life walking with a noticeable limp.
McCain was released on March 14, 1973.
The North Vietnamese Army had previously offered McCain his freedom, but he refused, thinking that it would bring shame and demoralize his fellow POWs.
Carol, McCain’s first wife, raised three children while he was gone, and was reportedly recovering from a devastating car crash that left her impaired for months.
McCain made several trips back to Vietnam to bridge relations with the US.
McCain visits an orphanage that cares for youngsters fathered by American troops in Saigon, Vietnam, Oct. 30, 1974.Dang Van Phuoc/AP
Some areas of the prison where McCain was held were converted into a museum, dedicated to the historic link between his service and the Vietnam War.
McCain’s flight suit at Hoa Lo Prison Historic Vestige in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 27, 2008.Chitose Suzuki/AP
During a visit to the infamous prison, McCain said he could not forgive the jailers who mistreated and killed fellow POWs.
McCain walks past iron bars of a jail cell within the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” jail.Reuters
McCain married Cindy Hensley in 1980 and had a daughter, two sons, and adopted another daughter from Bangladesh.
McCain and his wife Cindy pose with their children. From left: Meghan, 14; Bridget, 8; Jimmy, 11; and Jack, 13. Bridget was adopted from an orphanage in Bangladesh.AP
Source: Los Angeles Times
After his two terms in the House, McCain sought Arizona’s Senate seat and won a landslide victory in 1986.
McCain shakes hands with confetti covered members of the crowd.Jim Bourg/Reuters
As a senator, McCain was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He would eventually become the chairman of the committee, weighing in on a variety of matters involving the US military, such as funding and mission scope.
Source: AZ Central
But his time as a senator was also marked scandal.
Sens. John Glenn of Ohio, left, Dennis DeConccini of Arizona, center, and McCain, arrive at the Senate Ethics committee hearing room on November 15, 1990 on Capitol Hill.John Duricka/AP
McCain was one of the “Keating Five” — five senators who tried to persuade federal regulators to ease up on Charles Keating, a major campaign donor who became financially compromised during the 1980s savings-and-loan crisis.
McCain, who left relatively unscathed after the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation, was deemed to have exercised “poor judgment.” While the other four senators retired in the 1990s, he was the only one left standing after embarking on a de facto public affairs campaign and exposed himself to the public eye.
“Despite my recovery, the Keating Five experience was not one that I have walked away from as easily as I have other bad times,” McCain said in his memoir. “Twelve years after its conclusion, I still wince thinking about it and find that if I do not repress the memory, its recollection still provokes a vague but real feeling that I had lost something very important, something that was sacrificed in the pursuit of gratifying ambitions, my own and others.”
Undeterred by the scandal, McCain began to earn the nickname “Maverick” from colleagues on both sides of the political aisle as he advocated for campaign finance reform and against government waste.
Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, left, gives McCain his pilot’s helmet on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 2, 1992. Kerry gave the helmet to McCain after retrieving it from the Vietnamese on a recent trip to Hanoi to investigate a POW/MIA issue.US Senate
In the 1990s, McCain took on special interest groups, such as tobacco industry, and pushed for raising taxes on cigarettes to pay for anti-smoking advertisements. But McCain’s anti-tobacco bill ultimately fell short after the tobacco industry launched a $40 million advertising campaign.
“The losers are the children of America,” McCain said.
Regardless of the outcome for some of his ambitious reforms, McCain’s was easily reelected in 1992 and 1998.
Source: AZ Central
By now, McCain became a household name in politics. He set his sights higher and announced he was running for president in 1999.
Republican presidential candidates Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, talk show host Alan Keyes, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona take part in a televised Republican presidential debate on CNN with moderator Larry King, February 15, 2000.Reuters
After losing several states in the primaries to then-Gov. George W. Bush, McCain withdrew and endorsed Bush.
President George W. Bush and then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain walk toward the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 5, 2008.Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
One of McCain’s crowning achievements in the Senate was the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002.
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin prepares for news conferences about campaign finance reform on Capitol Hill, March 19, 2001, in Washington.Kenneth Lambert/AP
McCain, along with Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Winsonsin, helped enact the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, one of the first major amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. The regulation was designed to regulate financing for political organizations and curb the influx of soft money.
Following the 9/11 attacks, McCain supported the US-led coalition war in Afghanistan.
Sen. John McCain and US Army soldiers applaud President George W. Bush at Ft. Lewis in Washington, June 18, 2004.Larry Downing/Reuters
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, McCain explained his support for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“There is no avoiding the war we are in today, any more than we could have avoided world war after our fleet was bombed at Pearl Harbor,” McCain wrote. “America is under attack by a depraved, malevolent force that opposes our every interest and hates every value we hold dear.”
“War is a miserable business. Let’s get on with it.”
McCain also supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claimed Saddam Hussein was “turning Iraq into a weapons assembly line for al-Qaida’s network.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (2nd L), General David Petraeus (L), U.S. Commander in Iraq, and armed escorts visit the Shorga marketplace and interacted with local merchants while walking the streets of Baghdad April 1, 2007. Photo taken April 1, 2007.US Army
Although McCain continued to voice his support for US military options in Iraq, McCain later admitted it was a mistake.
“The principal reason for invading Iraq, that Saddam had [weapons of mass destruction], was wrong,” McCain wrote in his memoir. “The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it.”
Source: USA Today
McCain announced another presidential bid for 2008.
From left to right, Republican presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, former Gov. of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and Sen. John McCain, chat during a break in the Fox News Presidential Forum at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 6, 2008.Mike Segar/Reuters
McCain gracefully spars with Sen. Barack Obama
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain listens as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois answers a question during a town hall-style presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, October 7, 2008.Charles Dharapak/AP
McCain secured the Republican nomination in the primaries and faced off against Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the general election.
As McCain trailed behind polls, Obama’s critics sought to discredit him by promoting the false theory that he was a Muslim. During a campaign rally in 2008, one of McCain’s supporters explained why she did not trust Obama.
“I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.”
McCain grabbed the microphone and shook his head.
“No ma’am,” McCain said. “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.”
McCain selects Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.
Sen. John McCain greets his running mate, vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, at his election night rally in Phoenix, Arizona, November 4, 2008.Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters
McCain later said he regretted the decision and wished he selected Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut, for his running mate.
“It was sound advice that I could reason for myself,” McCain said in his memoir. “But my gut told me to ignore it and I wish I had.”
McCain concedes: “This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.”
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.AP
On November 5, 2008, McCain formally conceded and congratulated Obama on his victory.
“A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him,” McCain said. “To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.”
“This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” McCain added. “I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.”
As the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain provided legislative oversight of the military and became a leading voice on veterans issues.
Sen. John McCain stands with US Army Maj. Gordon Hilbun, his vehicle commander in Haditha, Iraq, March 16, 2008.US Marines
But as the chairman of the legislative body of military affairs, McCain also had to account for the military’s failures.
Sen. John McCain consoles Victor Sibayan, whose son, US Navy sailor Carlos Sibayan, was killed in a collision in June aboard the USS Fitzgerald, September 19, 2017.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
For the most part, McCain maintained friendly ties with other lawmakers, regardless of their political party.
Senators, John McCain, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Cory Gardner of Colorado, arrive for the inauguration ceremonies to swear in Donald Trump as the 45th president in Washington, January 20, 2017.Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
In July 2017, McCain announced he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Senator John McCain, recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, departs after returning to the Senate to vote on health care legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2017.Aaron Bernstein/Reuters
McCain received broad support for his recovery from both sides of the political aisle.
“I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support – unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!” McCain said on Twitter.
McCain feuded with President Donald Trump.
Sen. John McCain walks to the Senate Chamber to begin a special session to extend surveillance programs, in Washington, May 31, 2015.AP
Prior to making a move to politics, real-estate tycoon Donald Trump threw jabs at McCain by throwing cold water on his military service.
Trump said the former naval aviator “was captured,” and expressed doubt on whether he should be hailed as a hero.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at a leadership summit in 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
“I think John McCain’s done very little for the veterans,” Trump later said. “I’m very disappointed in John McCain.”
Trump would continue to echo the remarks throughout his presidency.
McCain remained critical of Trump’s presidency and did not shy from letting his feelings known. On Trump’s controversial performance at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, McCain described it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
McCain also denounced Trump’s repeated attacks on the press: “Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets,” McCain wrote in an op-ed. “This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit.”
The decisive healthcare vote.
Sen. John McCain receives applause after arriving on the floor of the US Senate following his return to Washington for a vote on healthcare reform in Washington, July 25, 2017.Senate TV
A few weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer, McCain returned to the Senate floor and cast his stunning “no” vote and scuttled Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s healthcare bill on a 51-49 vote.
“Watch the show,” McCain said to reporters as he walked into the chamber before the vote.
The Republican-led “skinny repeal” would have repealed major portions of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, and McCain’s vote was crucial in derailing that effort.
McCain’s vote has been a source of ire from Trump, who frequently disparages McCain’s decision in his numerous campaign rallies.
McCain also had a gruff, but affectionate relationship with journalists.
Showing his familiar sense of humor after being diagnosed with brain cancer, Sen. John McCain has some fun with CNN’s Manu Raju as he takes an escalator to the Senate for a vote on the Republican health care bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 27, 2017.J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters
McCain discontinues his brain cancer treatment.
Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy McCain.Charlie Neibergall/AP Photos
On August 24, McCain announced he would discontinue his cancer treatment.
“In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival,” McCain’s family said in a statement. “But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.”
In a passage from his memoir, which was published in May, McCain writes:
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here. Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe, with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you read this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”
“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may.”
“It’s been quite a ride.”
The entrance to Sen. John McCain’s office on Capitol Hill, Washington, December 14, 2007.J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters
“It’s been quite a ride,” McCain continued in his memoir. “I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”