Former US presidential candidate John McCain, war hero, dead at 81

Vietnam war hero and Republican senator who lost presidenital election to Barack Obama, passes away

The politician, who survived plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer and brushes with political oblivion, spent his last few months out of the public eye in his adopted home state of Arizona.
The politician, who survived plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer and brushes with political oblivion, spent his last few months out of the public eye in his adopted home state of Arizona.

The Republican senator who lost a presidential election to Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, has died at the age of 81.

He was a naval bomber pilot, prisoner of war, conservative maverick, giant of the Senate, and twice-defeated presidential candidate.

The politician, who survived plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer and brushes with political oblivion, spent his last few months out of the public eye in his adopted home state of Arizona.

McCain was the son and grandson of admirals. He attended the Naval Academy, but was a poor student, ranked 894th in a class of 899.

He conceded he was hardly a role model. He enjoyed the party life, and got involved in several accidents as a naval aviator. But McCain’s skills improved and he was deployed to Vietnam as American involvement in the war escalated.

In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam, McCain’s plane was shot down. Reports said a mob spat on him and kicked him, stripped him of his clothes, crushed his left shoulder with a rifle butt and stabbed him.

He rejected a North Vietnamese offer of early release in 1968; his father was commander of U.S. forces in the region. McCain ended up in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” prison and was beaten, tortured and placed in solitary confinement for two years. He was released back to the United States in 1973, angry at American politicians who he felt had abandoned support for the war.

After, he worked as a military liaison to the Senate. By 1981, McCain had remarried and moved to Phoenix, where he worked for his father-in-law’s beer distributorship. His war hero status and appeal to conservatives helped him win a congressional seat in 1982 and a Senate seat four years later.

McCain won the Republication nomination in 2008, but his straight talk appeal was eclipsed by Barack Obama’s charisma. The choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running-mate, while popular with conservatives, was largely derided as a mistake and even an embarrassment. McCain found himself having to defend the policies of Bush, who by October had a 25 percent Gallup approval rating.

McCain struggled among Republicans who branded Obama a liar, terrorist, and, in one Minnesota rally, and Arab. “No, ma’am,” McCain replied, taking the mic back from a voter. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

When Donald Trump was elected, he said the US millionaire “fired up the crazies”, and Trump called McCain “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain took the high road. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes,” he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Days after undergoing brain surgery in July 2017, he returned to Washington and cast the crucial vote against dismantling Obamacare. Trump was furious.

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