John McCain: Navy legacy, Vietnam veteran, war hero, politician, statesman and maverick. These words and many more will probably be used today as he is eulogized at a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral.
Here are some stories from the past week remembering the late senator from Arizona.
Washington Post senior congressional correspondent Paul Kane, who has covered Congress for the past 18 years, profiled the senator:
McCain — a prisoner of war, 36-year veteran of Congress and onetime Republican nominee for president — was a force of nature in Washington whose likes will not be seen anytime soon. His global stature rivaled or even exceeded the standing of official congressional leaders.
“You’ve got someone who has really blazed an arc across the firmament of American history that will be rivaled, but rarely matched,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a frequent traveling partner when McCain led congressional delegations abroad, said in a recent interview. “A huge loss for the interest of liberty and rule of law and regular order and respect for the traditions of this institution.”
He was taken to the notorious Hanoi Hilton prison, where he was further brutalized, repeatedly tortured and kept in solitary confinement for two years. The ordeal would break his body and mind, drive him to attempt suicide and make him a national hero.
McCain’s capture generated news across the United States. His picture ran on the front page of The Washington Post with the headline “Held in Hanoi.” He was filmed in an enemy hospital, and a copy of the footage was shown to his anguished parents. His father, McCain said in a 2007 interview with The Post, “got down every night and prayed.”
McCain's bid for the presidency came up short in 2008, when he lost to Barack Obama. While differing strongly with his Democratic opponent on issues facing the nation, McCain did not take the attack path that some of his supporters did. National security reporter Greg Jaffe writes about the moment when McCain rebutted a supporter who called Obama an Arab and what his failed campaign foretold about the future of the Republican Party.
“I gotta ask you a question,” she says. “I do not believe in, I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not a . . . he’s an Arab.”
“No, ma’am,” McCain replies, shaking his head and taking the microphone from her. “He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
In those final weeks, McCain would try to make his campaign more about the issues, upsetting a party base that accused him of not hitting harder at Barack Obama’s background or questioning his patriotism. As the campaign ended, it would become dominated by their anger, at times egged on by the pre-Trumpian populist whom McCain had chosen as his running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Much has been reported over the past week about the bad blood between President Trump and McCain. Even as the senator was in his final days, the president did not choose to speak out publicly. White House reporters Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey chronicled this feud to the bitter end.
Their increasingly combative relationship has served as a metaphor of sorts for the Republican Party: the former Vietnam POW and “proud conservative” who fell short to Barack Obama in his run for president in 2008 versus the loud draft avoider who rapidly seized control of the GOP and White House eight years later.
McCain rarely disguised his distaste for Trump as the real estate developer ran for president on a platform that included attacks on immigrants and U.S. allies. In July 2015, after then-candidate Trump rallied an estimated 15,000 in Phoenix and claimed to represent a “silent majority,” McCain said Trump had “fired up the crazies” in his state. The battle was on.