John McCain, prisoner of war, presidential candidate and one of the most influential American politicians of his generation, has died after suffering from brain cancer.
The six-term senator from Arizona, who was 81, had been absent from Washington since last December but remained outspoken to the end, railing against Donald Trump and urging defense of of the post-war liberal democratic order. He spent the last few months of his life breaking from the Republican party, and causing a stir on Capitol Hill.
A statement from his office said: “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4.28pm on 25 August 2018. With the senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 60 years.”
Amidst an outpouring of tributes, Barack Obama, who defeated McCain for the presidency in 2008, said he and his rival had shared “a fidelity to … the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed”.
Obama added: “Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”
He joined the Navy in the 60’s, but his bomber was hit my a missile in October 1967 and he was captured soon after. He broke both arms and his leg in the explosion. McCain spent 5½ years in captivity as a POW in North Vietnam, where he was brutally tortured regularly. He also never received proper medical treatment for his broken bones, causing him to lose the ability to lift his arms above his shoulders and to walk with a limp all of his life.
He turned down an opportunity to be released as a solo prisoner, a preferential action that he may have gotten due to his connections in the military. Still, he refused to come home until all the men that were captured with him also came home. When he was finally released back to the US, McCain served in the Navy until the early 80’s. He then transitioned into politics.
Expected to side with his own party, McCain voted to keep Obama-Care in place instead, sending a shockwave through the GOP. According to reports, Trump will not be invited to the funeral. McCain did not want the president there, but Barack Obama and George W. Bush were asked to give eulogies earlier this year when McCain was diagnosed with cancer. McCain ran against Obama in the 2008 presidential election and lost to Bush in the 2000 Republican primary.