John McCain was born in Panama Canal Zone on August 29, 1936. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy and the National War College. He served as a pilot in the United States Navy from 1958-1981, was prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1967-1973, where he was tortured, and received numerous awards, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross.
After serving in U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1981, John McCain was elected to the House in 1982, and served for two terms. In 1986, he was elected to Barry Goldwater’s seat in the Senate and is currently serving his fifth term. McCain ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, but lost to George W. Bush. He won the GOP nomination in 2008, but lost the general election to Barack Obama.
Particularly over the past 15 years, McCain has been the most high-profile dissenter from the Republican Party platform, often embracing the nickname “maverick.” He is a member of the liberal Republican Main Street Partnership, an organization that is “aligned with the governing wing of the Republican Party and centrist policymakers,” as stated in the group’s mission statement.
McCain is currently Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Indian Affairs committees.
McCain is the lead author of the bill to regulate modern campaign finances (McCain-Feingold), a move that was universally condemned by conservatives as unconstitutional and tendentious to incumbent politicians. He has also been the leading voice within the Republican Party for open borders and amnesty. McCain helped lead the effort to pass amnesty, with then junior Senator from Florida, Mel Martinez and Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2006, and now with Sens. Marco Rubio and Chuck Schumer in 2013.
McCain has also been roundly criticized by conservatives for opposing the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, and is widely blamed for watering down the cuts and forcing sunset provisions that have caused some of the tax rates to expire.
During last decade, as a member of the Commerce Committee, McCain was one of the leading voices within the GOP pushing for global warming and cap-and-trade style regulations on energy output, in addition to opposing some proposals to drill for oil. However, in recent years, he has tamped down his support as most Republicans have moved beyond the global warming agenda.
He has also been more open to federal mandates and regulations on private industry and weak on certain liberty issues. His advocacy of limiting campaign contributions and regulating tobacco shows a penchant for using robust federal powers and big government to limit freedom.
Throughout his career, McCain has been a leading voice on foreign policy. As a long-standing member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, McCain has advocated a very interventionist foreign policy in recent years, one that includes supporting all insurgency movements overthrowing dictators in foreign countries, often with American “boots on the ground.” His views have often overlapped with conservatives advocating a strong national defense, but his support for the Arab Spring uprisings, spreading democracy to the Arab world, and offering unconditional foreign aid to many questionable endeavors have met stiff resistance from conservatives.
McCain has even been an unreliable vote on some Republican staple issues, such as life, traditional marriage, and defense of the Second Amendment. He has also led efforts to help Democrats confirm liberal judicial and executive nominees.
Although McCain has been very weak on the tax and regulatory side of conservatism, he has been relatively strong on the subsidy side, opposing subsidies for energy, agriculture, and trade for most of his career. He has also been a leading voice against pork-barrel spending. But on net, he has not only been a vote for Democrats on many key issues, but also a key voice by helping strategize and whip votes for them against conservatives. Overall, McCain is no friend to conservatives and jokes that his real constituency is the press core.
“Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics.”
-Senator McCain (The New Yorker, 2008)