Captivity, candor and hard votes: 9 moments that made McCain

The World

WASHINGTON — John McCain lived most of his life in the public eye, surviving war, torture, scandal, political stardom and failure, the enmity of some colleagues and the election of President Donald Trump.

Even brain cancer didn’t seem to scare McCain so much as it sobered and saddened him.

“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,” McCain wrote in his memoir, referencing a line from his favorite book, the Ernest Hemingway war novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” ”I hate to leave.”

PRISONER OF WAR, CELEBRITY

McCain became a public figure at age 31 when his bed-bound image was broadcast from North Vietnam in 1967. The North Vietnamese had figured out that he was the son and grandson of famous American military men — a “crown prince,” they called him. He was offered an early release, but refused. McCain’s captors beat him until he confessed, an episode that first led to shame — and then discovery. McCain has written that that’s when he learned to trust not just his legacy but his own judgment — and his resilience.

Less than a decade after his March 1973 release, McCain was elected to the House as a Republican from Arizona. In 1986, voters there sent him to the Senate.

THE KEATING FIVE

He called it “my asterisk” and the worst mistake of his life.

At issue was a pair of 1987 meetings between McCain, four other senators and regulators to get the government to back off a key campaign donor. Charles Keating Jr. wanted McCain and Democratic Sens. Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, John Glenn of Ohio and Don Riegle of Michigan to get government auditors to stop pressing Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. All five denied improper conduct. McCain was cleared of all charges but found to have exercised “poor judgment.”

“His honor was being questioned and that’s nothing that he takes lightly,” said Mark Salter, McCain’s biographer and co-author of his new memoir, “The Restless Wave.”

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