John Sidney McCain III, b. Panama Canal Zone, Aug. 29, 1936, is a Republican U.S. senator from Arizona. Elected in 1986 to the seat formerly occupied by Barry Goldwater, McCain describes himself as a "Goldwater Republican"; he has voted for prayer in the public schools and opposes abortion. Nevertheless, he has also favored such bipartisan efforts as campaign-finance reform and tobacco regulation. Immigration reform and the detention and treatment of terrorism suspects are other areas of particular interest to the Arizona senator.
Prior to seeking elective office, McCain was a career officer in the U.S. Navy. The son and grandson of admirals, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958. He was a naval fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and in 1967 was shot down over Hanoi and held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years. Following his release in 1973 he studied at the National War College (1973–74) and was director of the Navy Senate Liaison Office (1977–81). After retiring from the navy, he served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1983–87) before becoming a senator.
During his first term in the Senate, McCain had a brush with scandal as one of five senators accused of improper intervention with federal regulators regarding the savings and loan institution headed by Charles Keating, Jr., whose collapse eventually cost taxpayers $2.6 billion . McCain was exonerated, however, and recovered from the negative publicity to win reelection in 1992. He was reelected again in 1998 and 2004. A member of three Senate committees—Armed Services; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Indian Affairs—he is one of the more prominent senators.
In September 1999, on the eve of formally entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination, McCain published a memoir of his grandfather and father, both admirals, and of his own Vietnam experience: Faith of My Fathers. In Republican presidential primaries early in 2000, he was a strong contender, having bested the perceived front-runner, George W. Bush, in February contests in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Arizona. In these races McCain demonstrated an ability to attract independent and even some Democratic-party voters to his candidacy. In several so-called Super Tuesday state primaries in March, however, he ran second to Bush. These elections were national in scope in that most regions of the country were represented. McCain won only in New England and soon thereafter suspended his campaign. He endorsed Bush in May. Following Bush's close victory in November, McCain and Democratic senator Russell Feingold sponsored a campaign-finance reform bill that was enacted as the McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform Law in March 2002. McCain published the second volume of his memoirs, Worth the Fighting For, in 2002; it covers his politcal career.
On Feb. 28, 2007, McCain appeared on a late-night talk show and announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2008. In late 2007, McCain's presidential hopes seemed to be fading as he faced a shortage of funds. But as the primaries and caucuses began in January 2008, McCain rebounded. The Arizona senator captured early primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida. He finished first in several more—including delegate-rich California, Illinois, and New York—on "Super Tuesday", February 5. Following the withdrawal of Mitt Romney from the race, McCain was heavily favored to win the GOP’s presidential nomination. Appealing to the conservative wing of the party remained a major challenge for McCain. Many conservatives disapproved of McCain’s positions on taxes, immigration reform, and campaign financing. In seeking the presidency, McCain emphasized his strong stand against terrorism and his promotion of the surge in the number of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.
McCain has authored several books with cowriter Mark Salter. His two memoirs are mentioned above. Other, more recent titles include Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life (2004), Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember (2005), and Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them (2007). These books use historical events and figures to explore courage, bravery, and related concepts.Bibliography
Alexander, Paul, Man of the People: The Life of John McCain (2002).
Drew, Elizabeth, Citizen McCain (2002).
Karagac, John, John McCain: An Essay in Military and Political History (2000).
Timberg, Robert, John McCain: An American Odyssey (1999).