|In Brief - U.S. Senator from Arizona; elected to the Senate in Nov. 1986, re-elected in 1992, 1998 and 2004. Candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Elected to the U.S. House in 1982, re-elected in 1984. Twenty-two years in the military, retiring from the service in 1981. A naval aviator, he was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and spent the next five and a half years as a POW. Awards include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. Graduate of the Naval Academy, 1958. Born August 29, 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone. [Timeline].|
A Second Run for the Straight Talk Express
Much has transpired since Sen. John McCain won the Feb. 1, 2000 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, defeating then Gov. George W. Bush with 48.5 percent of the vote. During that campaign McCain held 114 town meetings around the state, responding to perhaps a thousand questions from citizens. Traveling from town to town on board the "Straight Talk Express," he regaled reporters with his direct talk and doughnuts. In contrast to 2000, when he was the underdog candidate and Bush had lined up much of the establishment, McCain entered the 2008 campaign as the perceived frontrunner. The Arizona Senator has worked for several years to lay the groundwork for his 2008 presidential run.
He overcame any bitterness he may have felt from the 2000 campaign (>) and campaigned with President Bush in a number of states in Fall 2004. As Bush's poll numbers continued to sag in the first part of 2006, McCain went to unusual lengths to express his support for Bush. In February 2006 he voted to extend Bush's tax cuts on dividends and capital gains (Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005). At the 2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis in March 2006, McCain urged supporters to write in President Bush's name in the straw poll. "For the next three years, with our country at war, he’s our President, and the only one who needs our support today," McCain said.
In mid-July 2005 McCain re-activated his Straight Talk America PAC. In October 2005 he came out with his fourth book, Character is Destiny, co-written with Mark Salter, and he did book signings. During the 2006 cycle he traveled the country stumping for Republican candidates, including in key early states. His PAC reported that he "attended 346 events and raised over $10.5 million on behalf of Republican candidates across the country in the 2006 midterm election cycle."
McCain also reached out to social conservatives; notably on May 13, 2006 he delivered the Commencement address at Liberty University, the Lynchburg, VA school founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell in 1971.
Although McCain narrowly finished second behind Sen. George Allen (R-VA) among Republican insiders who "were asked to predict who will win their own party's 2008 presidential nomination" in two National Journal's Insiders Polls in 2005 (April 30 and Dec. 17), by 2006 (May 11 and Dec. 9), in the view of these insiders, he was solidly ahead.
On Nov. 16, 2006 McCain filed with the FEC to establish a presidential exploratory committee. That same day he delivered a couple of major speeches responding to Republican defeats in the mid-term elections. Speaking to the Federalist Society and to GOPAC McCain said Republicans must return to their philosophy of "common sense conservatism." McCain told the audience at GOPAC:
Hypocrisy, my friends, is the most obvious of political sins. And the people will punish it. We were elected to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private initiative. Then we lavished money, in a time of war, on thousands of projects of dubious, if any, public value. We responded to a problem facing some Americans by providing every retired American with a prescription drug benefit, and adding another trillion dollars to a bankrupt entitlement. We increased the size of government in the false hope that we could bribe the public into keeping us in office. And the people punished us. We lost our principles and our majority. And there is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first.Starting with the PAC and through the exploratory phase, McCain has built up a huge campaign organization loaded with top-name talent, and he has lined up many, many endorsements. On Feb. 28, 2007 he appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and stated, "I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States." The second tour of the "Straight Talk Express" is underway.
McCain has been a watchdog on pork barrel spending for years. > In 2003 he opposed the Medicare prescription drug bill (Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act); in a June 26 statement he argued that, "This extraordinarily large new entitlement we are debating will impose an equally extraordinary burden on taxpayers." More recently he was one of a group of seven Republican Senators who announced on October 25, 2005 a package of offsets to counter spending on Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief and recovery (the seven dubbed themselves the "Fiscal Watch Team"). The package included a half dozen items including a two-year delay in implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit and a 5 percent cut in non-security federal spending programs. He has been an outspoken opponent of earmarking. In a January 25, 2006 Dear Colleague letter, McCain joined Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) in deploring the fact that, according to the Congressional Research Service, earmarks increased from 4,126 in 1994 to 15,268 in 2005. "We are committed to doing all we can to halt this egregious earmarking practice and plan to challenge future legislative earmarks that come to the Senate floor," the two wrote.
Over the years McCain has taken a number of positions which raise skepticism among conservatives and admiration among Democrats and Independents. Indeed McCain's appeal is such that although his record on many issues is decidely conservative, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) reportedly wanted the Arizona Senator as his running mate in 2004. On campaign finance reform, he worked with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) for years, finally achieving passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) in 2002; critics view this legislation as restricting free speech about politicians. On global warming, he introduced a bill with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in January 2003 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More recently he has been a leader on immigration reform, sponsoring with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S.1033), a bill to improve border security, create a temporary worker program, and address the problem of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States. Conservative critics say the bill does not do enough to address border enforcement and is "little more than dressed up amnesty."
Gang of 14
McCain was instrumental in forging a May 24, 2005 agreement among a bi-partisan group of senators, the so-called "Gang of 14," to avoid filibusters of judicial nominees except under "exceptional circumstances." This averted "nuclear option" but some conservatives were none too happy. Ed Morrissey at the Captain's Quarters blog saw it as "usurpation of majority rule." Others had a more favorable view; Washington Post columnist David Broder penned a column on McCain as "The Senate's Real Leader."
McCain drew considerable attention in 2005 for his steadfast advocacy of an amendment prohibiting abuse of prisoners and setting out clear standards for interrogation of detainees in the the face of opposition from the Bush administration. This is a subject upon which he can speak with considerable authority having been a P.O.W. himself for 5 1/2 years. McCain outlined his reasoning in a November 4 statement: "First, subjecting prisoners to abuse leads to bad intelligence, because under torture a detainee will tell his interrogator anything to make the pain stop. Second, mistreatment of our prisoners endangers U.S. troops who might be captured by the enemy – if not in this war, then in the next. And third, prisoner abuses exact on us a terrible toll in the war of ideas, because inevitably these abuses become public." President Bush finally acceded to McCain's position on December 15. Bush signed a Defense Appropriations supplemental bill (H.R. 2863) with the provision on December 30; however he also issued a signing statement which could undercut the agreement. ("The executive branch shall construe section 8104, relating to integration of foreign intelligence information, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch.") To which McCain and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) responded, "Our Committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the Administration’s implementation of the new law.”
Hardline Position on Iraq
Another example of McCain's maverick tendencies is his continued and consistent advocacy of more troops in Iraq even as public opinion has steadily moved in the direction of taking U.S. forces out of Iraq. McCain has declared that the stakes in Iraq are higher than in Vietnam and that "we have to see this mission through to completion." At an Armed Service Committee hearing on January 12, 2007, he stated, "The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own - impose its rule throughout the country." McCain's views on Iraq have no doubt cost him support among some independents. On the liberal side of the political spectrum, former Sen. John Edwards, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, took to speaking of the "McCain Doctrine," and in January 2007 MoveOn.org ran an ad in Iowa and New Hampshire describing the "McCain plan to escalate" as "going from bad to worse."
In addition to the anecdotal evidence of reporters who look back fondly on the days of the Straight Talk Express, there is empirical evidence that McCain is a media favorite. A study of the Sunday morning newsmaker shows on ABC, CBS and NBC by Media Matters for America, a progressive research and information center, found that in the period from 1997 to 2005 McCain was a guest on the shows more than any other political figure. He made a total of 124 appearances during the nine-year period, or over 50 percent more than the next most frequent guest, Sen. Joe Biden, who made 80 appearances during the same time period. Further, Media Matters found that an unusually high proportion of McCain's appearances were solo interviews; 86 out of McCain's 124 appearances or 69 percent were solo, compared to 25 out of 80 or 31 percent for Biden. (See "If It's Sunday, It's Conservative" Feb. 14, 2006)
Frontrunner and Target
As the frontrunner, McCain will be a natural target for others in the Republican field and for the Democrats. As noted above, some of his positions on issues such as Iraq, immigration, and campaign finance reform could cost him support. Additionally, if elected McCain would be 72 years old when he takes the oath of office, older than any previous president at the start of his first term (Ronald Reagan was 69 when he started his first term in January 1981).
Concession speech, Phoenix, AZ, Nov. 4, 2008. [transcript]
Remarks on the economic crisis (suspends campaign), New York, NY, Sept. 24, 2008. [transcript]
Acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, St. Paul, MN, Sept. 4, 2008. [transcript]
Endorsement meeting with President George W. Bush, Washington, DC, March 5, 2008. [transcript]
Election night remarks, Dallas, TX, March 4, 2008. [prepared remarks]
Announcement of candidacy, Portsmouth, NH, April 25, 2007. [prepared remarks]
Republican Party of Iowa Abraham Lincoln Unity Dinner, Des Moines, IA, April 14, 2007. [transcript]
GOPAC, Washington, DC, November 16, 2006. [prepared remarks]
Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Memphis, TN, March 10, 2006. [transcript]
Readings and Articles
Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should
House. (October 2005).
"McCain has been called 'one of the most inspiring public figures of his generation' by The Washington Post. In CHARACTER IS DESTINY, he shows us why, by telling the stories of celebrated historical figures and lesser-known heroes whose values exemplify the best of the human spirit. He illustrates these qualities with moving stories of triumph against the odds, righteousness in the face of iniquity, hope in adversity, and sacrifices for a cause greater than self-interest."
WHY COURAGE MATTERS:
Way to a Braver Life. New York: Random House. (April 2004).
"He explains the value of courage in both everyday actions and extraordinary feats. We learn why moral principles and physical courage are often not distinct quantities but two sides of the same coin. Most of all, readers discover how sometimes simply setting the right example can be the ultimate act of courage."
WORTH THE FIGHTING
A Memoir. New York: Random House. (September 2002).
"In 1999, John McCain wrote one of the most acclaimed and bestselling memoirs of the decade, Faith of My Fathers. That book ended in 1972, with McCain’s release from imprisonment in Vietnam. This is the rest of his story, about his great American journey from the U.S. Navy to his electrifying run for the presidency, interwoven with heartfelt portraits of the mavericks who have inspired him through the years..."
FAITH OF MY FATHERS.
New York: Random House. (September 1999).
"John McCain learned about life and honor from his grandfather and father, who were both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy. FAITH OF MY FATHERS is the story of their lives, their heroism, and the enduring way that sons are shaped and enriched by their fathers."
Matt Welch. Oct. 2007. MCCAIN: The Myth of a Maverick. New York: Palgrave McMillan Ltd..
Initial author was Ryan Sager, New York Post and RealClearPolitics.com columnist and author of The Elephant in the Room.
Matt Welch. "Be Afraid of President McCain." reason. April 2007 (cover story).
Todd S. Purdum. "Prisoner of Conscience." Vanity Fair. February 2007.
Glenn Frankel. "The McCain Makeover." The Washington Post Magazine. August 27, 2006 (cover story).
Chris Jones. "One of Us." Esquire. August 2006 (cover story).
David Nather. "Softening the Skeptics." CQ Weekly. May 3, 2006 (cover story).
Ari Berman. "The Real McCain." The Nation. December 12, 2005 (cover story).
Connie Bruck. "McCain's Party." The New Yorker. May 30, 2005. [12,485 words]
Nov. 20, 2006-After an appearance on ABC News' "This Week."
Aug. 15, 2006-At a fundraiser for state Rep. Danny Carroll (R) in Grinnell, Iowa and at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
April 13, 2006-Speaking at a Republican Party of Iowa meet and greet at Iowans for Tax Relief in in Muscatine, Iowa. [Eric Branstad]
April 8, 2006-Town hall meeting with Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) at Keene State College in Keene, NH. [Bass Victory Committee]
April 5, 2006-At the release of Citizens Against Government Waste's 2006 Congressional Pig Book.
April 4, 2006-Speaking on immigration reform at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's 16th Annual Legislative Conference.
Nov. 14, 2005-Signing copies of Character Is Destiny at the Trover Shop.
Nov. 10, 2005-Speaking on "Winning the War in Iraq" at the American Enterprise Institute.
On the Web
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|Independent Sites-Support||Independent Sites-Opposition|
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|Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action||