John McCain
John McCain
Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

John McCain, a Vietnam War hero, a two-time Republican presidential candidate and an incredible figure in Congress has passed away at the age of 81.  McCain was particularly known for his bipartisan deal-making during his six terms as an Arizona senator.  If you are familiar with McCain’s story then you will know that he had kind of a Hollywood life.  He was a naval officer and a jet pilot, a war hero and politician.  But the one thing that he truly wanted he was denied twice – to the President of the United States of America.  The reason for this denial might have had something to do with the fact that he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate back in 2008.

But McCain was known as a bit of a maverick, and this is what made him well known within his own party.  In addition, McCain had a rebellious streak and was willing to tell it like it was.  This bluntness made McCain one of the most popular figures in Congress and of course a favorite of reporters who always knew that they could count on him for a good quote or even an irreverent joke.

McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer in September.  He appeared to be at peace with this and made the comment that “every life has to end one way or another”.  I’m sure McCain had this thought many times throughout his life given the fact that he was a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War. McCain told CNN that he wants to be remembered as someone who “served his country and not always right.”  McCain admitted that he made a lot of mistakes and errors, but he wanted to be known as someone who served his country and done so honorably.

McCain was one of the country’s most prominent voices on the international stage.  He was a staunch proponent of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and urged responses to global crises all over the world.  At the same time, McCain was a leading champion for human rights. He organized numerous congressional trips to meet with foreign leaders and dissidents alike. A victim of torture during the Vietnam War, he became the Senate’s top anti-torture advocate, teaming up with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to outlaw brutal interrogation tactics used by the CIA under former President George W. Bush.

Even though he was on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Barack Obama and McCain had mutual respect for one another.  In a statement, Obama honored their 2008 rival for the White House by saying:

“[We shared a] fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed.  We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.”

His family was with him when he passed away.  His daughter, Meghan McCain, a co-host on the ABC show The View said: “He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth for so very long”.