generosity you have shown us during this past year. Thank you for all your continued support and prayers. We could not have made it this far without you – you’ve given us strength to carry on,” his daughter Meghan McCain, a co-host of ABC’s “The View,” wrote Friday on Twitter.
John McCain took his last vote in the Senate in December, just before a sudden hospitalization and weeks after he had starting become noticeably more frail. But even in absence, McCain hardly withdrew from the public sphere, delivering occasional but stinging rebukes of President Donald Trump – a leader who, during the 2016 presidential campaign, had mocked McCain’s service as a naval aviator and then went on to attack McCain’s 2017 Senate vote that tanked a Trumpbacked bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Trump and the White House had no comment Friday.
In his final and perhaps most damning broadside, McCain lambasted Trump’s July news conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki – where Trump seemed to put more credence in Putin’s denials than U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election – as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are – a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”
While McCain made peace with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, his final days are unlikely to include any such reconciliation with Trump.
“For all our disagreements I never doubted President Obama shared the seventy-five-year bipartisan consensus that American leadership of the free world was a moral obligation and a practical necessity,” McCain wrote in his book “The Restless Wave.” “I’m not sure what to make of President Trump’s convictions.”
McCain’s long-standing maverick streak – and his feud with Trump – have chipped away at his support among one group: conservative Republicans.
A Fox News Channel poll released this week found that McCain had a 52 percent favorable rating nationally, considerably higher than any sitting congressional leader. But more Republicans view him unfavorably than favorably, 48 percent to 41 percent, while Democrats rated him favorably by a 2-to-1 margin.
The bitterness from McCain’s health care vote – as well as his moderate positions on immigration policy and other conservative priorities – has lingered in Arizona Republican politics. His 2016 primary opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, called on him to resign after his diagnosis was made public last year, and on Friday she again criticized him.
“Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with him,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t been able to be in Washington. He’s missed close to 200 votes.”
Among those paying tribute Friday was Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who called McCain an “American hero, always putting country before self.”
It would fall to Ducey to fill any Senate vacancy.