McCain: Maverick rekindled as Arizonan Angel

McCain’s legacy cannot be defined in words, but understood from heart as one reflects upon his life as a naval aviator and a politician. U.S. flags flew at half-staff, in respect of Senator’s funeral throughout the country. Arizonans on Wednesday 29th August 2018, came out in large numbers to pay their respects around the Westin Browsley park in front of the State Capitol in Phoenix.

Dash government buses started free rides from the Central Station, downtown Phoenix – from noon, every 12 minutes to 15th Avenue at the State Capitol – as doors opened on 29th August 2018 for the public to bade farewell to the great McCain – on what would have been his 82nd Birthday.

Security measures were carefully chalked out – Arizona State troopers, Phoenix community ambulance, Phoenix local police and All State Agencies volunteers were seen on stand-by to cater towards any incident related to security or in case anyone faints under the sun in the sun devil state.

The volunteers were beaming, standing alert to look after the public invited to pay their respects to McCain. The volunteers had sadness inside their hearts and smile to greet all mourners to the State Capitol, yet they had pride on their face for representing as a volunteer at the McCain funeral, by helping out with the logistics and maintaining discipline in the long lines.

Free cold water bottles were handed to the public and golf carts were seen giving rides to the senior citizens from the exit gate to the parking lot. Everyone who went in to see McCain lying in flagged casket, signed a condolence book first and then entered inside, only to be received by McCain’s son who thanked each and every one who came in person to pay their respects.

A lady in her eighties was talking to her grandchildren, as they waited in long lines – “sun devil state will long for an angel … and will find none, as McCain has gone up on skies”. Hence, small children looked yonder towards the State Capitol building waiting eagerly to enter in to pay their tribute, along with their elders. A 9 year old boy was awestruck by his grandmother story and then went to buy ice cream with his father as they were told, they had two hours of waiting line.

All this came a day after Arizona went to primary polls on 28th August 2018, Tuesday – as Phoenix lined up, a gentleman was seen speaking to a hot dog vendor saying “yesterday Arizona primaries showed a low voter turnout as they are gloomy that “their angel of the sun devil state has gone”.

On 28th July 2017, Senator John McCain casted a vote on the floor of the Senate against repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. His true “maverick” style is remembered by all the senators present there, who were waiting for the last vote to go – when McCain appeared from the cloakroom after receiving a call from President Trump and even with Vice President Mike Pence present around to make sure that McCain casted his vote in President’s favor – he parted his ways!

McCain walked smoothly around the chamber on the right side of the speaker – he “showed his thumb’s down” and left many senators gasping that what has McCain done?

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) spoke during McCain’s funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday – and referred towards the day of 28th July 2017, by saying “the senator’s notorious thumbs-down vote was a vote against “mindless partisanship.”

“When John returned to the Senate after his surgery last summer and voted against the Republican health-care bill, some people accused him of being disloyal to his party and the president,” Lieberman said. “But that was not the case.”

Lieberman said that the speech McCain gave that night showed his true intentions. “That speech made clear that his vote was not against that bill but against the mindless partisanship that has taken control in both of our political parties and our government and produced totally one-sided responses to complicated national problems like health care.”

“And, of course, he was right,” Lieberman added.

A funeral was conducted on 30th August 2018, Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church with former Vice President Joe Biden speaking. He spoke about McCain in great words of respect.

Governor Doug Ducey said in a tweet, “This is a rare and distinct occurrence for a truly special man.” However, he did not plan to announce his selection of a Senate successor to McCain until after his burial. Under State law, the Governor’s appointee to serve until the next general election in 2020 must come from the same political party.

McCain was the son and the grandson of admirals, he followed the “McCain Legacy” to the U.S. Naval Academy. On October 26, 1967, during the Vietnam War, U.S. Navy aviator John McCain was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile on a mission against a Hanoi power plant and parachuted wounded into Trúc Bạch Lake, nearly drowning. He was dragged out of the water and beaten by city residents angry at having seen the area laid to waste by previous U.S. attacks.

Although McCain was seriously wounded and injured, his captors refused to treat him. They beat and interrogated him to get information, and he was given medical care only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was an admiral. His status as a prisoner of war – POW, made the front pages of major American newspapers.

A monument commemorating the downing and capture of “Tchn Sney Ma Can” was erected at the western shore on Thanh Niên Road – McCain saw it in 1985 on his first journey back to Vietnam.

Thus, McCain being a true patriot, carried the message of peace across the world. He remained undeterred and unmoved, after he returned to America from Vietnam. His bravery and patriotism has earned him laurels till Armageddon, stamped by U.S. flags flying at half-staff all the week!

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in English that McCain “was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country.”

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel called McCain “A tireless fighter for a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. His significance went well beyond his own country”.

McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years until his release on March 14, 1973. His wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head.

Yet, nothing deterred him – as he rose to commanding positions in his life. McCain served as the Navy’s liaison to the U.S. Senate beginning in 1977.

In retrospect, McCain used to say ‘this represented his “real entry into the world of politics” and the beginning of his second career as a public servant. He never liked to be called a politician.

McCain’s Senate career began in January 1987, after he defeated his Democratic opponent, former state legislator Richard Kimball, by 20 percentage points in the 1986 election. McCain succeeded longtime American conservative icon and Arizona fixture Barry Goldwater upon the latter’s retirement as U.S. senator from Arizona.

Then, there was no end – as McCain rose from 1987 in the Senate – where he served for the rest of his life. “He had a joy about politics and a love for his country that was unmatched,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday 2nd September 2018. “And while he never made to the Presidency – in the Senate, he was the leader that would see a hot spot in the world and just say, we need to go there and stand up for that democracy”.

McCain, not only planned his life well – but he planned his death too, as he saw it coming. A day before he died, he stopped his brain cancer treatment. He left his will, with his family that he wished to be buried next to a Naval Academy classmate and lifelong friend, Chuck Larson.

Away from the eyes of the world, a private burial service on Sunday concluded in Annapolis and McCain was buried with all respects, in a cemetery overlooking Maryland’s Severn River – bringing an end to nearly a week of events honoring him.

McCain – the naval aviator, prisoner of war, congressman, longtime senator, presidential contender and maverick – has rekindled millions of hearts – not just across America but around the world.

A lady in her seventies, outside the Washington National Cathedral – came all the way from Phoenix, following his casket in respect. She had rented a room in Washington D.C. to attend the funeral, but the land lady reimbursed the rent, when she came to know that she is a McCain fan.

She had brought a folding chair, as she had a knee problem. She was seen walking around and then sat down by unfolding the chair – wiped her tears, and reflected upon McCain’s life “After 82 years, world has lost an Arizonan Angel!” She wished that McCain in his life had made it to the White House – as he is the only one who can sail through, like a maverick – by doing thumb’s down when it is needed. When McCain did not give in to his captors in Vietnam, he would have never given up on Americans. She sighed “I want to see John again!”

By: Kanwal Abidi The writer is a White House Correspondent & staff journalist based in Washington D.C.

Kanwal Abidi
Kanwal Abidi is a staff journalist at the The AZB and is a White House Correspondent.