John McCain: A national hero

Republican Sen. John McCain made a presidential campaign stop at the University of Miami in 2008. 
By Gregory Koger

Republican Sen. John McCain made a presidential campaign stop at the University of Miami in 2008. 

John McCain: A national hero

By Gregory Koger
The longtime Arizona senator, who died from brain cancer at age 81, will be buried Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The death of John McCain is a fitting time to remember a life of national service. The Arizona senator followed a family tradition of service in the U.S. Navy by attending the Naval Academy and flying combat missions over Vietnam. He etched a lasting legacy as a prisoner of war for more than five years, struggling to survive with honor under horrendous conditions. 

As a senator, McCain had several major achievements over the course of his long career. He promoted normalization of relations with Vietnam in the 1990s, spearheaded a bipartisan push for major campaign finance reform in 2002, helped broker a bipartisan compromise on judicial nominations in 2005, and stood up against the use of torture by the Bush administration. He worked for comprehensive immigration reform, and then provided one of the more moderate voices on the issue in the 2008 presidential cycle. 

Most important, however, is that McCain served as an exemplar of personal honor and public service throughout his life. As a naval aviator, a prisoner of war, and a member of Congress he strove to be true to himself and his country. This “maverick” streak has been especially evident over the last three years, as McCain provided a counterbalance to Donald Trump’s policies and personality. In an era when many Republican politicians are reluctant to defend the norms of American politics or the policies of conservative ideology, McCain was true to his principles to the end. 

Gregory Koger is a professor of political science at the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences. Koger specializes in legislative politics and political parties.