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‘We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always.’ John McCain’s most powerful quotes

Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, along with Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander, regional command (southwest) and the commanding general, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), make their way off of the Forward Operating Base Jaker landing zone during a visit to Nawa, Afghanistan, Nov. 11, 2010. (Sgt. Mark Fayloga/U.S. Marine Corps)

John McCain spent 30 years of his life in the Senate.

And during that time, the Arizona Republican wrote multiple books and made hundreds of speeches.

McCain, who passed away on Saturday, was a two-time presidential candidate, losing the GOP nomination in 2000 to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the general election in 2008 to then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Often called a maverick, McCain, 81, was a complicated personality and will be remembered as the most important political figure to emerge from Arizona in the past 50 years.

Take a dive through his words over the years.

1. Finding his love for his country while being held prisoner

In his memoir Faith of My Fathers:

“In prison, I fell in love with my country. I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn’t until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her.”

2. ‘We are Americans first’

During his 2004 Republican National Convention speech:

“We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always. Let us argue our differences. But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.”

3. Defending Obama

When a woman at a town hall meeting said she didn’t trust then-Sen. Barack Obama because “he’s an Arab,” McCain countered:

“No, ma’am. No, ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not. Thank you.”

4. Conceding

From his 2008 concession speech:

“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.”

5. On Osama bin Laden’s death

In a 2011 op-ed for the Washington Post, after the al-Qaeda terrorist was killed in a covert operation ordered by then-President Obama:

“I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.”

6. Defending the release of the CIA torture report

In 2015, he spoke about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation tactics:

“I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values… The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.”

7. And responding to Donald Trump’s stance on torture

In November 2016:

“I don’t give a damn what the President of the United States wants to do or what anybody else wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not torture… We will not torture people… It doesn’t work, my friends. It doesn’t work.”

8. His defense of the Khan family

After then-candidate Trump feuded with the Gold Star family, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention:

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party. While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us… I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation – and he will never be forgotten.”

9. His call for return to regular order

Made hours after voted down Obamacare repeal and replace legislation:

“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”

10. His attack against ‘spurious nationalism’

A seeming knock against President Trump’s “America First” policy:

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

Contributing: Dan Nowicki/Arizona Republic


© 2018 USA Today

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