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Senator John McCain, the war hero who became a political Titan, dies at 81


John McCain,

The son of an admiral whose rebellious streak almost drove him out of Annapolis, but helped him survive the North Vietnamese torture and head to the Republican Party, has died. He was 81.

Mr. McCain died Saturday afternoon at his home in Sedona, Ariz., Surrounded by his wife, Cindy, and their family, his office said.

The cause was a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, which was diagnosed in July 2017. On August 24, his family said that Mr. McCain had decided to discontinue the medical treatment that included chemo and radiation treatments that left him weakened he fought for his life in Arizona. He had not been in the Senate since December 7, when he cast his last vote.

Mr. McCain catapulted to national prominence with his bid for the GOP presidential election in 2000 when his willingness to crack down on his party's ideas helped him catch fire in a long shot against the Republicans

George W. Bush.

Mr. McCain rode a bus called the Straight Talk Express and spent hours asking questions from a rotating group of reporters. He won the New Hampshire primary from a loss in South Carolina, of which he never really recovered. He wrote that despite the disappointment, the campaign was "a hell of a lot of fun."

McCain won the Republican presidential nomination eight years later but lost

Barack Obama,

then a first senator. He overcame his disappointment to secure a reputation as a leading internationalist, warning that Russia posed a threat to post-Cold War rule ̵

1; one of the Senate's most zealous military hawks and one of the few that vocally challenged President Donald Trump.

Mr. McCain called Mr. Trump "ill-informed" and "impulsive" and warned in a thinly veiled shot at Mr. Trump in 2017 of "half-baked, false nationalism prepared by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems Trump said he likes "people who have not been caught" and rarely missed an opportunity to criticize McCain for opposing a lifting of the Affordable Care Act was correct, even if the senator was fighting an aggressive cancer. McCain lived a life that was the stuff of the legend.

The son of a naval admiral and another's grandson, John Sidney McCain III was born on August 29, 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone to a family that had fought in every American war since the Revolution. The background gave him a sense of comfort around senators and congressmen talking to his parents at home, and a personal connection to the most important moments in American history. He could refer to George Washington, who knew that one of his ancestors had served on the staff of the American general and future first president, and pointed to a picture of the surrender of World War II aboard the USS. Missouri and identify his grandfather as one of the spectators of the ceremony.

As a teenager, McCain felt burdened by this legacy and rebelled against his expectations. He finished fifth in the class of his Naval Academy after showing a disregard for the dress code, a dirty room and the habit of waiting until the moment before the exams to study. In advanced flight training, he crashed a plane into the Corpus Christi Bay when the plane landed on the ground. McCain once flew so deep that he removed some power lines over the Iberian Peninsula. The story was repeated so many times that its callers would eventually claim that Mr. McCain had single-handedly extinguished the lights in Spain. McCain's identity as a patriot and hero was shaped during the Vietnam War. When McCain attempted to bomb a power plant in North Vietnam in 1967, he was shot down by a ground-to-air missile and broke both arms and his right knee. He was arrested and spent five and a half years in prison, including one named American prisoner of war Hanoi Hilton and others named the plantation, where he survived survivors of dysentery, solitary confinement, and torture.

It was an experience that made him a passionate opponent of torture – and one with almost unique moral stature in Congress. He fought the Bush administration for using waterboarding – a technique that simulates drowning – and after Mr. Trump claimed that torture works, McCain warned against bringing him back. Mr. McCain was the author of a measure known as the 2005 Inmate Treatment Act, which prohibits the cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of a US government detainee, including at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr. McCain considered suicide while imprisoned in Vietnam, he wrote. The pain of torture drove him to a false confession that filled him with shame. But he also showed moral strength. When his father was made commander of all US forces in the Pacific Theater, McCain's hijackers tried to persuade the prisoner, whom they called the "crown prince", to seek early release. Mr. McCain refused to survive the days of beatings, fearing that cutting back on prisoner-of-war prisoners would give Vietnam a propaganda victory and damage morality, according to his 1999 book "Faith of My Fathers," McCain was released from Paris in 1973 after the signing of the peace treaty

. McCain returned home as a changed man and changed the circumstances. His wife Carol had been seriously injured in a car accident and was struggling. The marriage broke down. She said it reflected Mr. McCain, who turned 40 and wanted to be 25. He repeatedly expressed his regret for his behavior. In 1980, he married Cindy Lou Hensley, nearly 18 years his junior, and came from a wealthy family in Arizona. They had met on a stopover in Hawaii when he worked as a liaison officer of the Navy to the Senate.

The Senate liaison would be a boon to McCain. He developed a simple relationship with Republican Senator John Tower, the chairman of the Force Committee, and Republican Senator William Cohen of Maine. When Mr. McCain moved to Arizona, his new wife's house, he took a job as a PR manager for her father's beer distribution business. But Mr. McCain wanted a career in politics. He ran for a House seat and, after Mr. Tower broke his own rules, never won confirmation in a competitive GOP Primary. In 1986, McCain fought for the Senate seat to be vacated by Republicans

Barry Goldwasser,

the founder of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Mr. McCain also won this race.

His success would soon give way to a near-death experience of politics. Mr. McCain was involved in a scandal known as Keating Five, an allusion to the five senators who had received money from real estate and bank executives

Charles Keating.

The senators met with the regulators in his name before the executive's savings and loan business collapsed. It cost the government almost $ 3 billion.

A report by the Senate Ethics Committee noted that three out of the five senators had acted unlawfully, but had clarified Mr. McCain, stating only that he had shown poor judgment. Mr. McCain would be haunted by this experience. "If I do not repress memory, her memory still evokes a vague but true feeling that I have lost something very important, something that was sacrificed in pursuit of satisfying ambitions, my own and others', and that perhaps Never again would possess as sure as I once did, "he wrote in 2002 in his book" Value for Fighting. "

The saga predicted McCain's interest in changing the way campaigning was fought, a battle that would he led over the objections of his party General and the later Senate Majority Leader,

Mitch McConnell

especially from Kentucky. The campaign finance legislation that was drafted and drafted with Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, which he introduced into law in 2002, banned unlimited contributions to political parties – the "soft money" of unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals. It was accused of weakening the parties' role in politics. Mr. McCain thought he was sponsoring a less authoritarian party leadership.

Mr. McCain used the energy from his early efforts to finance the overhaul of the finances and a separate effort to restrict the practice of congress ear tags to make a long-term bid in the 2000 presidential election. "George Bush is out there collecting money," he said. "I'll make hell out there."

Having made some key challenges to Mr. Bush during his two terms – Mr. McCain voted against the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and opposed the waterboarding techniques used after the 9/11 attacks , McCain put his hat back in the ring in 2008, battling a crowded republican field and stumbling early to win the GOP presidential nomination. But his campaign lacked the glamor and energy of his previous bid, partly reflecting his age – he passed his 70th birthday in 2006 and had some health scares – and the difficulty of running as a Republican to succeed an unpopular incumbent.

In an attempt to expand the appeal of his card, McCain made a risky selection of the young, then-obscure Alaska governor,

Sarah Palin,

as his runner-up, but the two never hunted. His restrictive approach to US foreign policy was rejected by many voters tired of the deadly and costly conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. McCain also sought to unify how best to respond to the financial crisis that peaked in the months leading up to the election. Lehman Brothers failed in September 2008, and the US banking system was saved from collapse only by unprecedented federal intervention.

His most remembered moment in the race came when he whirled around the Obama, a Christian, against false accusations of being a Muslim, as "further" allegations – untrue allegations that Obama was not born in the US. The gesture of politeness was reflected in the increasingly sharp-edged world of modern American politics.

Ultimately, Mr. McCain lost 52.9% to Obama's 45.7% in the parliamentary elections, leaving a gap of almost 10 million votes, and fell just short of the electoral college. Mr. McCain returned to the Senate, but sometimes seemed downcast. His defeat cast a broader shadow: unlike the generations that fought in World War I, World War II and the Korean War, the generation of the Vietnam War never produced a US president.

Mr. McCain has regrouped. As Chairman of the Force Committee, McCain fought for more spending on the military while blasting his excesses. He called the F-35 jet fighter program a "textbook example" of the "broken defense system." He was proud to advocate an increase in the armed forces in Iraq in the later years of the Bush administration, helping to stabilize the country. As Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, he worked independently with Vermont

Bernie Sanders

Passing laws that shorten veterans' latency by allowing veterans to seek treatment outside the VA.

Even in his later years, Mr. McCain's well-known temperament – and his sense of humor – lived up to his legend. He once called the Republican Senator.

Ted Cruz

from Texas a "Wacko bird," and when Congressional approval wavered in the single-digit range, he joked that "we're on paid employees and blood relatives." Mr McCain particularly liked lawmakers who were both funny and principled. He honored the late Democrat MP Mo Udall, who, following the loss of his friend in the Democratic nomination in 1976, repeated Mr. Udall's words: "People have spoken – the bastards."

But Mr. McCain could also be adamant when he wanted to say something. In July 2017, after he ignored the Council of Doctors and went back to work after diagnosing his brain tumor, he stood firm for more than an hour as a Republican leader, including the vice-president

Mike Pence

– Trying to persuade him to propose a Senate GOP health plan. Mr. McCain, thumbing down his thumb at 1:27 on July 28, registered himself as the voice that would prevent the GOP from making plans to lift the Affordable Care Act. He then returned to Arizona for chemotherapy.

When asked how he wanted to remember, Mr. McCain told CNN, "Made a lot of mistakes, made many mistakes, but served his country, and I hope we could add it honorably." [19659007InexcerptsfromhismemoirspublishedduringhiscancertreatmentMcCainwrote"IhavenocomplaintnotoneitwasquitearideIknewgreatpassionssawincrediblemiraclesfoughtinawarandhelpedmakepeaceIhavemadeasmallplaceinthehistoryofAmericaandinthehistoryofmytime"

McCain survives alongside his mother Roberta McCain, his wife Cindy, and seven children. They include a daughter, Sidney, and two adopted sons, Doug and Andy, from his first marriage, along with two sons, Jimmy and Jack, a daughter, Meghan, and an adopted daughter, Bridget, from his second marriage. He also survived a brother, Joe.

Write to Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com

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