The Passing of John McCain

The recent death of Senator John McCain brought out an astounding range of recognition, almost unparalleled for a US Senator. In an interview on CBS’s Sixty Minutes, McCain had said the ceremony should include “a couple of people that stand up and say, ‘This guy, he served his country. ‘” It was much more than that, and the outpouring was as much a show of recognition for Mr. McCain as it turned out to be a virtual shunning of President Trump.

Services began in Arizona where McCain lay in state at the Arizona State Capitol, and a private ceremony took place on what would have been the Senator’s 82nd birthday. The public paid their respect later the same day.

In Washington DC, McCain’s body again lay in state, this time at the US Capitol. In a ceremony there, the US House Speaker, US Majority and Minority Leaders, and Vice President Pence presented wreaths. Only thirteen Senators have been honored with recognition in the US Capitol Rotunda.

Two days later, the McCain family escorted the late Senator to the Vietnam War Memorial, for another wreath laying ceremony. Later that same day, another memorial ceremony was held at the Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents Obama and (G.W.) Bush spoke at the National Cathedral.

Much of McCain’s background is virtually eulogized in heroic terms. As the son and grandson of senior Navy Admirals, we know that he graduated (barely) from the US Naval Academy at nearly the bottom of his class, and was anything but a goody-goody. He chose naval aviation, became a pilot and flew combat bombing missions over Viet Nam until his plane was hit by a missile and destroyed. He ejected from the plane, his arm badly broken in the process, and landed in water where he was taken prisoner by citizens, beaten badly, and imprisoned. He was a prisoner for several years; his captors were well aware of his family’s important military standing.

McCain refused an early release, and waited until the war ended. He returned to the US, went through medical rehabilitation, and resumed service involved as a liaison officer with contacts in the Congress. One of the people with whom McCain developed a friendship was Senator John Tower of Texas, who helped with a plan for the naval hero to retire from active service and become involved in politics.

From reports, McCain's time as a POW put a severe strain on his first marriage. Extramarital affairs had started as soon as he was rehabilitated and serving in Florida. He apparently has apologized for his actions. I can't excuse this, but am not in a position to judge based on the extraordinary pressures he and his fellow POWs (and for that matter, many who served in Viet Nam) went through. He convinced his wife to agree to a divorce following a trip to Hawaii where he met Cindi Hensley. Her family provided secure financial support as well as a post-military residential base in Arizona.

Fair or unfair, McCain’s position as the scion of a famous military family along with his own position as a hero from the Viet Nam War, plus his maverick status and reputation back in the States, made him unpopular in some military circles. Envy? Resentment? Disgust? All of these could have played a roll. Personally, I respect how he conducted himself as a POW, and would never want my worst enemy to endure such torture.

In the Senate, McCain often went his own way, and clearly was rough and tumble in terms of coarse language. He was well-regarded by his peers as a straight shooter, but at times refused to follow "party guidance" and went his own, independent way. To many (as well as myself), his selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate for the Presidency in the election against Barack Obama was a disastrous error of judgement!

The thing that was especially notable to me was the respect shown to him with what amounted to a state funeral. The services for McCain, even with his at-times flawed personal life, were in marked contrast to the President, who was not invited to any of the wide range of recognition. To me, these were moved by the nation's respect for the service of McCain, as well as a show of disdain for Trump.


5 Responses

  1. JK James George
    From an email from an old (ain't we old these days!) in Arizona: Jim, very well said. What a life he led! McCain was a true American hero...
  2. JK James George
    From a long-time family friend, a former "spook" who saw the light and went into the ministry! Don't believe the "bottom of the class" stuff .. this guy is super bright. *************************************************** Thanks for the comments on McCain. He obviously overcame any leftovers from the war like many of us did in the service. I do not have much time for crybabies as you can tell. So many people went through tough times. That is the problem with war and the military. I admire him for the way he served in the military and the for his brunt service as a Senator. We could use some more like him. I was also near the bottom of my college class. So be it. At least we graduated. Obviously I am not happy with the sorry state of affairs in Washington. More of the same. What a bunch of cowards. I am ready to turn off the news.
  3. JK James George
    From a reader in Europe ... an older, very conservative fellow: Thanks a lot for the by fine obituary about McCain....Even if I don’t agree with everything, I feel a great respect for the naval hero ..!
  4. JK James George
    Another comments from a friend: While your new blog about John McCain was interesting it was also surprising. I knew someone would come up with some scandalous info on McCain sooner or later but I was surprised it was you! I’m sure it’s true but where do you find this stuff? Don’t misunderstand I wasn’t a big fan of McCain's and I’ll admit it was mostly because he was not only rude but what I consider “mean spirited” to Mitt Romney during the primary the first time he ran for President. I was a bit naive the first time I worked on Romney’s campaign but honestly I never heard a hint of anything terrible about McCain at our headquarters. If Romney knew about his “dark side” as far as know he never said. However truth is truth and it needed to be said and you said it so well.
  5. JK James George
    From another reader in Europe. This man has had some experience in countries occupied by the Japanese army during WW-2. ********************************************************************************* Jim, thank you for sharing this tribute to Senator John McCain. I learned quite a few things which I did not know. Obviously as a European I was aware of the second part of his life: the political one. Indeed, no one is entitled to judge his marital problems after a horrible spell as POW. If one has never had contact with Asian people, it is difficult to realize how cruel they can be. I had the pleasure to lecture on a regular basis in Thailand and China and I have learned to know the people. As a politician I had the impression that Senator McCain was a honest man with good intentions. Had he become President I think the world would be less endangered. It is not a honor for the human race to see the quality of world leaders, not only in these times but in all history of mankind.

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