Aug 26, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🇺🇸 Senator John Sidney McCain III was asked what he wants on his tombstone.

  • It was January 2015, and the Arizona Republican had just become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • He was — as the N.Y. Times says after his death at age 81, after a battle with brain cancer — "a proud naval aviator who climbed from depths of despair as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to pinnacles of power as a Republican congressman and senator from Arizona and a two-time contender for the presidency."
  • His answer to the N.Y. Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg: "He served his country."
1 big thing: A fighter who sought common ground
Senator Kerry chats with Senator McCain in 1997. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State John Kerry — a Democrat and fellow Navy veteran who served in the Senate with John McCain (called him "Johnny Mac") — includes this recollection in his forthcoming memoir, "Every Day Is Extra," out Sept. 4:

  • "For John, this notion that [prisoners of war] might have been left behind alive [in Vietnam] was more than personal. Based on his own horrendous experience, ... he was convinced the so-called evidence of live Americans was wrong, for he and his fellow prisoners had developed a code by which they communicated and memorized the names of every prisoner captured."
  • Kerry chaired the Senate Select Committee on POW and MIA Affairs, and McCain was a member: "This work was one of those rare chances you get in public life to actually bring people something they’d waited for, for more than two decades: peace. The peace that comes with closure."
  • "[I]n our new friendship, and in the work we did, we were ending the war about the war. If a protester and a prisoner of war can find common ground on the most divisive of issues, finding common ground on almost anything else didn’t seem so hard after all."

Go deeper:

2. Two thoughts from Senator McCain
Senator McCain drives himself to Capitol Hill in 1998 after landing at National Airport. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ/Getty Images)

1. From his last book, "The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations" — written with his muse, aide and counselor Mark Salter, and published in May:

"I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times. … The bell tolls for me. I knew it would …"
"I hope those who mourn my passing, and those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued success is the hope of the world."
"And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”
Senator McCain aboard his campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, on Jan. 7, 2000, in Columbia, S.C. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

2. From "Worth the Fighting For: A Memoir," by John McCain with Mark Salter, published in 2002, after his rollicking but ultimately disappointing run for president in 2000:

"Success, wealth, [and] celebrity, gained and kept for private interest, are small things. ... But sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause, [and] your self-respect is assured."
3. Schumer proposes renaming Russell Senate Office Building
Senator McCain in his office during a break from the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton on Jan. 29, 1999. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: "Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him."

  • The Russell Senate Office Building was named in 1972 for Senator Richard Russell, Democrat from Georgia (1897-1971), who served for 40 years.
  • The argument for renaming: Per an official Senate history, Russell "often used his parliamentary skills to oppose civil rights legislation, including bills to ban lynching and to abolish the poll tax."
Scott J. Ferrell/CQ/Getty Images

During a day-in-the-life feature in 1998, McCain joked throughout the day that he needed coffee intravenously.

4. Amazing fact
John and Roberta McCain duet on "Meet the Press" on May 13, 2007. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senator McCain is survived by his mother, Roberta McCain, age 106, a staple on the campaign trail.

5. For young people
Courtesy N.Y. Post

John McCain in "Worth the Fighting For: A Memoir":

"It is apparent that I'm not the most popular member of the Senate. Some detractors dismiss me as little more than a nuisance. ... I take no pride in their disapproval. But while I would like to have my colleagues' affection, I will settle for their respect."
6. Flowers, tributes at Vietnam War crash site
U.S. Navy Lt. Commander John S. McCain lies injured in North Vietnam. (CBS via AP)

"On the shores of a still and peaceful lake on the edge of downtown Hanoi, the inscription on a faded monument stands as a reminder of a violent event 51 years ago," Reuters reports.

  • The sculpture, which depicts an airman with his hands above his head in front of a broken plane wing, says: "On Oct 26, 1967, at Truc Bach Lake, the military and people of Hanoi arrested Major John Sidney McCain, a pilot of the American Navy’s air force."
  • Several U.S. citizens living in the Vietnamese capital visited the monument with tributes. "Most brought flowers. One man offered a folded U.S. flag."
7. A McCain finest hour

In April 2000, after his losing presidential campaign, McCain apologized for not condemning the Confederate flag while campaigning in South Carolina:

"I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So, I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth."

P.S. In October 2008, in the heat of his presidential campaign against Sen. Barack Obama, when a woman in Minnesota said she couldn't trust Obama because he was an "Arab," McCain replied:

  • "No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about."

Go deeper: Senator McCain's finest moments.

8. Top tweet: A very McCain moment
Tribute last night during Brad Paisley concert at Jiffy Lube Live in Prince William County, Va., a D.C. exurb. (Cowboy hat tip: Kurt Bardella)

Cody Keenan, speechwriter for President Obama from 2007 through now, tweets:

  • "Met John McCain once. I was a 22 year old senate intern waiting for an elevator. The doors opened, and he and another GOP senator were inside. I apologized and said I'd [wait] for the next one, but McCain told me to hop on."
  • "'Who do you work for,' he asked. 'Ted Kennedy, sir.' 'He's a good man,' McCain said. 'Without him, we're lost.'"
  • "The other Senator scoffed in disgust and got off the elevator at the next floor. While he was still in earshot, McCain raised his voice a little and said, 'Don't mind him. He's an asshole.'"

Senator McCain passed away nine years to the day after his friend, Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy.

9. "A romantic about his causes and a cynic about the world"
Mark Salter at a McCain campaign stop in Nashua, N.H., on Jan. 8, 2008. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Mark Salter, who collaborated with Senator McCain on seven books and served on his staff for 18 years, writes for the Washington Post:

"McCain was a romantic about his causes and a cynic about the world. He had the capacity to be both things and to live with the contradiction."
"He had seen human beings at their best and worst — often in the same experience. He understood the world as it is with all its corruption and cruelty. But he thought it a moral failure to accept injustice as the inescapable tragedy of our fallen nature."
10. "Back where it began"
Ross D. Franklin/AP

With a police escort, a procession follows the hearse of Senator McCain along Interstate 17 from Sedona, Arizona, to Phoenix last night.

  • Senator McCain will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and receive a full dress funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, per the N.Y. Times.
  • "McCain ... will also lie in state at the Arizona Capitol before his burial in Annapolis, Md.," home of the United States Naval Academy."
  • That was his wish. In "The Restless Wave," he said he was prepared for the time when he would "take my leave, bound for ... the cemetery on the Severn [River], back where it began."
Dozens lined Interstate 17 for the procession. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Mike Allen

Thank you, Senator McCain. And thank you for starting your day with us. We'll have updates all morning and all day on Axios.com.