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McCain, John

(John Sidney McCain III, 1936.08.29-    )  U.S. Senator (1987-present), U.S. Representative from Arizona 1st District (1983-1987), POW (1967-1972), Navy pilot, first sitting Senator to host Saturday Night Live (2002).

Lived in Tempe

Lives in Phoenix

Born in the Panama Canal Zone, John McCain shares the headstrong, blunt, maverick traits of his father and grandfather, who were the first father and son four star Admirals in the U. S. Navy.

Senator John McCain greets book buyers before signing his book at Tempe's Changing Hands Bookstore.  11-02.

John followed the family's military tradition, graduating from the Naval Academy and serving as a Navy pilot in Vietnam.  In 1967 he was shot down during a bombing run over Hanoi.  For the next 5� years he was held as a Prison of War. Loyalty to fellow POWs lead him to turn down an offer for early release made in a political move by his captors because his father was then commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, including Vietnam.

In 1979 John was in Hawaii for a military reception when he met 25 year old Cindy Hensley, an attractive, blond ex-cheerleader, and daughter of the Annheauser-Busch distributor for Phoenix.  Anxious not to discourage the blossoming relationship Cindy added a few years to her age, while John took off a few off his 43 years.  Joking about their courtship he comments, ''So our marriage is really based on a tissue of lies.''

John and Cindy were married in 1980, a month after John's divorce was final, and the newlyweds moved to Phoenix.  In 1981, John retired from the Navy and took a job at his father-in-law's company, Hensley and Co.

Like John, his father-in-law, Jim Hensley, been shot down.  Hensley, a bombardier on a B-17, was shot down over the English Cannel in World War II.  After the war, Hensley and his brother went to work for the wealthy rancher and wholesale liquor distributor, Kemper Marley, Sr.  Years later, Marley would be linked to the 1976 car bombing that killed reporter Don Bolles.

The Marley connection would lead to Hensley's own beer distributorship, but not long after going to work for him, Hensley and his brother were convicted of falsifying records to conceal distribution of the then-rationed liquor. Hensley got a suspended sentence and probation while his brother received a year in federal prison.  In 1953, he was again charged with falsifying records at Marley's companies.  The companies were defended by William Rehnquist and Hensley was found not guilty.  In 1986, Rehnquist would be appointed as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan.

An interesting collection of the famous and infamous would further John's political career.  Developer, future governor and felon Fife Symington III, and developer and future felon Charles Keating Jr. assisted John's emergence into politics.  The publisher of the state's largest newspaper, Darrow ''Duke'' Tully was enamored with the dynamic ex-POW.  Tully groomed John for public office, introducing him to valley politicos at dinners he hosted, and giving him guest columns space in The Arizona Republic, plus endless favorable references from the paper's other columnists.  John honored Tully with asking him to be the godfather of one of his children.

While many thought it appropriate for a newcomer to the political scene to start with a state office, Representative John Rhodes presented an irresistible opportunity.  In 1982 he retired from his 1st District seat in the East Valley.  John immediately jumped into the political fray, and, with financing from his wife and the valley connections, he won the nomination and beat the Democrat opponent.

Just after Christmas 1985, during John's second terms in Rhodes old seat, he lost an ally at The Arizona Republic.  John had hit it off so well with Duke Tully in part because of their common military experience.  Duke regaled John and others with stories of his experience as an Air Force pilot in Korea and Vietnam.  The wall at his office was replete with military plaques and certificates. Word got out that Tully's famous war record was a total fabrication.  Tully resigned in disgrace the Republic.

In 1987John ran for retiring Senator Barry Goldwater seat in the U.S. Senate in a rancorous election against the Democrat candidate Richard Kimball.  Kimball pulled out all the stops claiming that John was ''bought and paid for'' by special interests with large political action committees in the defense, real estate, petroleum and utility industries.  He noted John's millionaire status from his wife's beer distribution connections, and even dug up her father's Kemper Marley connection.  John won Goldwater's seat handily.

As a freshman Senator, a war hero, a straight talker, a tireless campaigner, and a tremendously appealing candidate, John's star was on the rise.  He was even rumored to be the second choice for former Vice President George Bush's 1988 run at the presidency.  But at the time of his greatest potential, he faced his greatest political challenge.

In 1987 federal regulators were investigating Lincoln Saving and Loan, the subsidiary of Charles H Keating Jr.'s American Continental Corporation.  Within two years regulators would seize Lincoln in the most costly savings and loan failure ever, but before then Keating would call in all the favors for the $1.3 million he had contributed to the campaigns of senators Dennis DeConcini and John McCain of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, John Glenn of Ohio and Don Riegle of Michigan.

Keating called on the Keating Five, as they would later be known, to run interference with the regulators. The senate would later sanction the five with penalties ranging from censure (Cranston) to mild rebukes (McCain and Glenn), depending upon how vigorously they took up their benefactor's cause.

In the Senate for only three months, John at first refused DeConcini's request that they fly to San Francisco and talk to the regulators.  After heated pressure from Keating, John eventually attended a meeting with the four other senators and the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, and a second meeting with senators and the bank regulators in San Francisco.  Other senators continued to further Keating's cause, but John's involvement ended with what might be described as a lackluster defense of his benefactor in the meetings.

The Senate Ethics committee overruled their attorney's recommendation to drop John and Senator Glenn from the investigation.  The committee issued a mild rebuke against the two.  John owned up to the mistake saying, "'I was judged eventually, after three years, of using, quote, poor judgment, and I agree with that assessment.''

By 2000 the Keating incident had been sufficiently overshadowed by John's straight talk and appealing performance in the Senate that he made a credible candidate for President.  He lost the Republican nomination to Texas Governor George W. Bush who became the country's 43rd President.

In his recent public appearances, many promoting his book, Worth the Fighting For, John has been telling a joke descriptive of his political situation.  He notes that Barry Goldwater, Morris Udall, Bruce Babbitt, and he are all from Arizona and all have accepted defeat in their run for the presidency.  "Arizona," he says, "may be the only state in the nation where mothers don't tell their children that they may one day grow up to be president."

Books about Arizona from amazon.com
Arizona For Dummies(r), 2nd Edition by Edie Jarolim
Arizona Goes to War: The Home Front and the Front Lines During World War II by Brad Melton (Editor), Dean Smith (Editor), Marshall Trimble (Introduction), John S. McCain
Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael P. Ghiglieri, Thomas M. Myers
Roadside History of Arizona (Roadside History Series) by Marshall Trimble, Joe Beeler
Arizona: A Cavalcade of History by Marshall Trimble
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