Senator John McCain passed away today after a long battle with glioblastoma. He was 81.
McCain’s death comes shortly after his family announced that he’d made the decision to discontinue medical treatment.
“Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: he had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma, and the prognosis was serious. In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment,” the veteran senator’s family said in a statement, adding:
Our family is immensely grateful for the support and kindness of all his caregivers over the last year, and for the continuing outpouring of concern and affection from John’s many friends and associates, and the many thousands of people who are keeping him in their prayers. God bless and thank you all.
McCain’s wife, Cindy, and daughter Meghan (a political commentator who is a co-host on The View) posted additional statements on Twitter.
I love my husband with all of my heart. God bless everyone who has cared for my husband along this journey. pic.twitter.com/v27sEbboii
— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) August 24, 2018
My family is deeply appreciative of all the love and generosity you have shown us during this past year. Thank you for all your continued support and prayers. We could not have made it this far without you – you've given us strength to carry on. pic.twitter.com/KuAQSASoa7
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 24, 2018
The loss of McCain is felt in every corner of Washington; he was a key voice within the Republican Party and established himself as a powerful voice in the Senate for his ability to negotiate deals in an increasingly partisan environment, often distinguishing himself his push against fossil fuel dependency and for comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform.
McCain, who was criticized for shying away from the latter issue during election years, later earned distinction within the bipartisan Gang of Eight, a group of senators who tried to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013. The bill passed the House but ultimately failed in the Senate.
McCain ran for president twice. The first time, in 2000, he suspended his campaign and endorsed George W. Bush, who ended up winning the election. In 2008, after announcing he’d run for president again, he selected Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his vice presidential running mate. He would later lose the general election to Barack Obama.
Although McCain was a frequent critic of President Trump, many have noted that he did, despite his opposition, confirm many of the president’s Cabinet and judicial appointments.
The relationship between the two men was notoriously contentious and in 2015, Trump, then a presidential candidate, infamously said that McCain, a veteran of the armed forces who was a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, was “not a war hero.”
“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said at the time. McCain, in response, mocked Trump’s multiple draft deferments, pointing to wealthy Americans who were able to get out of being drafted into service. McCain has been awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his military service.
McCain used his experience as a prisoner-of-war to urge the Senate to reject Gina Haspel’s nomination to be the director of the CIA. The senior senator cited Haspel’s refusal in testimony to acknowledge “torture’s immorality.”
Haspel’s nomination has been controversial. President Trump tapped her for the CIA position, sparking an outcry over her involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation program after 9/11. Haspel has been criticized for using torture during her career at the CIA and for destroying evidence of such torture. Despite this opposition, Haspel was confirmed anyway.
The White House found itself engulfed in scandal shortly afterward when former White House aide Kelly Sadler made disparaging comments about McCain and his cancer diagnosis. Sadler made headlines after she said that Senator McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA director because “he’s dying anyway.”
The White House, through a spokesperson, did not dispute the remark. The official said, “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Another White House official said Sadler, who is in charge of surrogate communications, meant it as a joke, “but it fell flat.”