John McCain’s Fighting Spirit Lives On

One year after the death of an American hero
August 25, 2019

Today marks one year since the death of war hero and long-time U.S. Senator John McCain. Frequently a fly in the ointment to the right wing of the Republican Party, McCain is also remembered as one of the most honorable people to serve in Congress.

“Depending on which side of an issue you were on, he was a fierce competitor,” former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp told The Bulwark. “And I think a lot of people sometimes bristled at that. But I think John McCain, at the heart of it – you never had to worry about whether it was about him. It was always about the country and about what he wanted to do for the country.”

McCain was, in some ways, a man from another era even by the time he died. The son and grandson of admirals, he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and held prisoner for six years, during which time he was extensively tortured. He nonetheless refused early release when his captors discovered his star-studded lineage, demanding that those captured before him be freed first.

As a senator, McCain later returned to Vietnam in an effort to improve American relations with the Communist county.

McCain’s honor and independence made him a particular irritant to candidate and President Trump, who practiced a somewhat different style of politics. McCain didn’t live long into the Trump presidency, but his legacy continues.

The McCain Institute at Arizona State University continues his tradition of leadership in service of security, freedom, and human rights around the world. The USS John S. McCain, and Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer, is named for him, his father, and his grandfather.

Barry Rubin

Barry Rubin is a senior video editor at The Bulwark.