Find out the facts on the enthralling aviator, prisoner of war, Congressman, Senator, second-time presidential hopeful John McCain.
by Morgan Dorn
Born at Coco Solo Air Base in the Panama Canal Zone on August 29, 1936, John Sidney McCain III had large boots to fill.
As a Four-Star Admiral, McCain’s grandfather, John S. McCain, was commander of the many Pacific Ocean theatre aircraft carrier forces during World War II. He lead ships into the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands under Admiral Halsey. McCain’s father, who commanded submarines during the War, stayed in the navy after his father’s death and was decorated with both the Silver and Bronze Star Naval awards.
With his father still active in the Navy, McCain’s early life was spent attending many different schools, as his family moved each time McCain’s father was assigned to a new location. He graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he gained a feisty reputation, being nicknamed “McNasty” by the members of his wrestling team for his ferocity and winning attitude. Striving to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, McCain then attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he would later graduate in 1958, fifth from the bottom of the class (894 out of 899). With over one hundred demerits for un-shined shoes, an untidy room, formation faults, and talking out of place, he joined the infamous Annapolis Century Club, where earning over one hundred demerits is a requirement. Following graduation, McCain decided to become a Naval Aviator, and trained for two years in Florida at the Naval Air Station, when he later said, “I generally misused my good health and youth,” dating an exotic dancer, driving a Corvette and partying often.
Despite his substandard school career, McCain graduated from flight school and was eventually placed on aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. He escaped death in 1967 after a miss-fired missile ruptured his aircraft’s fuel tank and caused a major fire accompanied by large explosions of napalm bombs. The Forrestal fire claimed the lives of 132 sailors and injured countless others, and McCain, after rolling through flames, barely escaped with his life.
Only a few months later while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam, McCain’s aircraft was struck by a rocket sustaining major damage and he was forced to eject behind enemy lines. He broke one leg and both arms, and landed in a lake in Hanoi. He was then captured, continually beaten, tortured, and survived a feeble existence for the next five and a half years in what POW’s call the Hanoi Hilton, until the end of the Vietnam War. Following a large reception in the U.S. where he received many medals of bravery and distinguished service including a Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, and Silver Star and Bronze Star medals, he regained his flight status after grueling months of physical therapy.
McCain’s political career began after he divorced his first wife, Carol Shepp, and married Cindy Lou Hensley, the daughter of a wealthy Anheuser-Busch distributor who helped him, along with his other connections, in being elected Arizona Congressman in 1982. In Congress he was assigned to the Republican Taskforce on Indian Affairs, the Committee of Interior Affairs, and the Select Committee on Aging. He was reelected in 1984. McCain then ran for U.S. Senate in 1986, easily winning with 60 percent of the vote. As a Senator he joined the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and throughout his career also took part in the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs with Democrat John Kerry.
McCain ran against George W. Bush for the Republican Party nomination in the 2000 presidential election, but dropped out of the presidential race after he fell behind Bush in delegate votes following Super Tuesday. In 2004, Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry asked that McCain run with him as his vice-president, but McCain denied the request. McCain announced that he was seeking the Republican candidacy for the 2008 presidential election on November 16, 2006.
Up front McCain is against abortion; however, he would leave the major decisions up to the states. “John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states,” says his official website.
John McCain voted for the No Child Left Behind Act and believes that parents should have the opportunity to pick schools best suited for their children. “Parents should have the right to send their children to the school that can best educate them, just as members of Congress do with their own children,” said McCain. His website also states, “John McCain believes our schools can and should compete to be the most innovative, flexible and student-centered, not safe havens for the uninspired and unaccountable. He believes we should let them compete for the most effective, character-building teachers, hire them, and reward them.”
Stem Cell Research
McCain claims to have a consistent pro-life voting record for 24 years. He is in favor of providing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research saying, “I have supported embryonic stem cell research because of the great potential that it has for curing many terrible diseases and I know that it’s a tough issue for those of us that are pro-life. These embryos are either going to be kept in perpetual frozen status or discarded.”
McCain supported the use of military force in Iraq, as well as the Bush veto of a war spending bill that would have taken most U.S. troops out of Iraq by March of 2008. His strategy for victory in Iraq includes enlarging numbers of ground troops, implementing new strategies of counterinsurgency, strengthening Iraqi military forces, creating security necessary for stability and progress, accelerating reconstruction, and gaining the support of the American people. “Iraq’s transformation into a secure democracy and a force for freedom in the greater Middle East is the calling of our age. We can succeed,” said McCain.
McCain proposed a plan to address climate change and the development of advanced technologies to reduce environmental damage that is a market-based, setting reasonable caps on carbon and other greenhouse emissions, and providing tradable credits to industries.
McCain voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, and its reauthorization in 2006. His goals for homeland security are stated on his website: “As President, John McCain will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland, deterring potential military challenges, responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.”
McCain sponsored immigration reform legislation, and voted to authorize construction of a 700-mile long fence on the U.S. Mexican border, claiming, “I will secure our borders, and I know how to do it.”
To find out more about the issues of Environment, Free Trade, Guns, Health Care and more, go to: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/issues/issues.html, or McCain’s campaign site: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/.
John McCain is currently in first place among the Republican candidates, with 830 delegate votes (804 pledged, 26 unpledged) to Mike Huckabee’s 217 and Ron Paul’s 16, placing him far in the lead, especially after Mitt Romney dropped out on January 29 and endorsed McCain on February 14th. The Republican Party magic number is 1191 delegate votes for the nomination in Minnesota this year.
Note: This is the second in a Journal series, Meet the candidates. Click here for the previous installment on Barack Obama.