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tv   Frontline  PBS  August 28, 2018 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

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>> narrator: tonight... >> our deliberations are more a partisan than time that i can remember... >> narrator: as america usmembers john mccain... >> john mccain fed together two almost opposing concepts. he was all about duty and he was all about dissent. >> narrator: the life politics and legacy of a meverick. >> in some ways, mccain is a pioneer of the politics i think we're going to get, and in some ways i think he's the last ofhi breed of somng we're losing. >> narrator: tonight on "frontline," "mccain." fr >>tline" is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewersike you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t.
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macarthur foundation, committed to buildinre just, verdant, and peaceful world. more information is available at the ford foundation, working with visionariesn the front lines of social change worldwide, at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, mmitted to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicatedgh to hning public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner smmily trust, supporting trustworthy journahat informs and inspires. and by the "frontline" journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler >> this is a big day... can't underestimate... >> narrator: on july 27, 2017... >> the sate is scheduled to vote on the latest version of the bill to replace obamacare... ed they're going to be there all night, what's ca vote-a-rama.
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>> narrator: washington was closely watching senator john. mcca >> a vote on healthcare, a vote that... >> narrator: he was the key voti on pnt trump's first major legislative initiative: a repeal of obamacare. >> every time we saw him, it was like, "do you know how you're going to vote? do you know how you're going t vote and he was grouchier and grouchier as the day went on, as he sometimes gets. and he just said, "stay tuned," you know? it was sort of like... he kindyi of was even , like, "watch the vote. it'll be a show." >> he is expected to return to capitol hill today... j >> narratot over a week before, mccain had been diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer. >> everybody knew, at that point, it came down to, of all people, john mccain, the one whn had ighting with the president, who had been a maverick, as he portrayed himself all these years. and all eyes are on him. >> today senators are voting on a repeal-only plan... >> g.o.p. leaders... >> narrator: it all came down to one vote, on one night, at 1:30 in the morning. ra >> it was the mosttic night on the senate floor i had seen in all my yea up there.
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>> mr. barrasso... >> the vote's ticking away, thes voicking away, and mccain's on the floor, but he's not voting. >> mr. blunt... >> it was perfect manifestation of john mccain's career, that it would fall to him, in the middle of he night, to render final judgment on president trump's major legislative initiative. >> narrator: fellow republican senator susan coins had been pushing mccain to vote against the bill trump was backing. >> lisa murkowski and i knew that he had reservations. we were talking with h about the bill, and all of a sudden, he pointed to both of us and he said, "you know, you two are right." it was then that i felt a tap ony shoulder, and i turned around, and it was vice president pence. >> narrator: pence had come to pressure mccain to s the president. >> the vice president stood toe- to-toe with john mccain, and he
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was in his space, it was very close. th went on for, i don't know, it seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, back and forth, back and forth. >> one of the things i most admire about john mccain is, he cannot be intimidated by anyone or anything. >> he knew he had the power to enable trump's presidency, to give him a new lease on life, or to ensure a critical deatin earlis presidency. >> vice president pence turned on his heel and walked away. >> narrator: and then it was time for mccain to vote... >> you saw mitch mcconnell looking more and more unhappy, his arms werclosed. and you could tell from the body language on the republican side at they were very worrie >> john mccain walks up to wherk the vote care and he lifts his hand very >> mrst... >> he knew that this was his one last chance to really take a stand, capture the nation's
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imagination in the process, but also remind his party that they have to do things differently. >> narrator: mccain, with a thumbs-down gesture, shocked the chambe >> no. (gasping, light applause) >> you could hear audible gasps in the chamber. and those gasps of surprise came .om both sides of the ais >> no. (gasping, light applause) >> this was john mccain as people have come to know him over decades in public service. and it sort of stood out as kini ofcinematic culmination of the career that he has had in. washingt >> in a shocking vote, senator john mccain delivered a death blow... >> narrator: psident trump was furious. >> he tends to lash out moster bi in those moments. and with john mccain's thumbs- wn no vote, he just watched six months of his presidency kind oevaporate into nothingness-- he'd gotten nothing, nothing done in that time.
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>> narrator: the president used the weight of his office to try to punish cain. >> president trump is holding a make america great again rally in phoenix... >> narrator: the occasion was a tarally in mccain's home s. >> a campaign-style event tonight. >> narrator: here in mccain country, trump took him on. >> they all said, "please, mr. president, don't mention any names."in (crowd che so i won't. i won't. (crowd cheering) we were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming, "repeal and replace." a one voy. >> he criticizes john mccain, who at this point has been diagnosed with brain cancer, not by name, but it's clear who he's criticizing. >> one vote. no, i will not mention any names. very presidential, isn't it? very presidential. >> narrator: trump had been
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targeting mccain for years. >> @senjohnmccain should be feated in the primaries. graduated last in his class at annapolis-- dummy! (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: he portrayed mccain as a symbol of the oldre blican party... >> retweet: mccain epitomizes the career politicians who haveu gottinto our $19 trillion train wreck. (computerized tweet soun >> narrator: trump attacked him as a failed presidenndal idate... >> john mccain let us down by losing to barack obama in his run for president! (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: and trump expressed his personal disdain. r weet: senjohnmccain is always talking, talking bute. nothing gets d (computerized tweet sound) >> let's stop insulting each other. ct right, yes. >> let's start resg... >> what he did was, he fired up the crazies... >> narrator: and for his part, mccain made no secret of his distaste for trump. >> we need to have a kinder, more rpectful debate, not whether somebody is a jerk or vet. >> donald trump isthing john mccain doesn't like. he's not someone who's served in the military. he's not somebody who had given to his country in any
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serious way. for mccain, it's sort of, i think, a pretty sour moment in politics. >> because i don't like losers. (laughter) >> narrar: trump even attacked mccain's record as a vietnam veteran. >> he's not a war hero. >> he's a wahero. >> he's a war hero... >> five-and-a-half years of... >> he's a war hero because he was captured i like people that weren't captured, okay? i hate to tell you. >> do you age with that?r >> he's a ro because he was captured. okay? >> republican senator john mccain challenged presidentp. tr >> narrator: it was not the first time john mccain had clashed with a powerful.. political riva >> john mccain, maverick of legend, emerged... >> narrator: ...himore than three-decade career defined by conflict with his own party. john mccain, of course, obama's foreign policy...ent >> narrator: a self-yled maverick in an increasingly partisan washington. >> narrator: jn mccain had been a public figure since that day he was captured in north vietnam when he was 31. >> i was on flight over the city of hanoi.
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and i was bombing and was hit by either a missile or anti-aircraft fire, i'm not sure which. >> he landed in a ke in hanoi, went down, somehow managed with his teeth, 'cause his arms were, like, all screwed up, to pull the plug t caused the life, life vest to inflate. >> narrator: mccain wrote about it in his autobiography, "faith of my fathers." >> "a crowd of several hundred vietnamese gathered around me as i lay dazed before them, shouting wildly at m stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly." and i was picked up by some north vietnamese and taken to the hospital, where i almost died. g >> john wouldnto sleep. he's in a cast, his eyes are
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feverish. he's in bad, bad shape. thought he was going to die. >> what is your name? >> lieutenant commander john mccain. >> narrator: the north vietnamese had discovered w mcca not just any captive. >> may i know who is your father? could you name him and tell me who is... >> yes, his name is admiral john mccain and he's in london, england, now.ha >> doing >> he's commander-in-chief of u.s. naval forces in europe. >> nartor: mccain's father would soon be in charge of allpa forces in thfic. >> john was a prize. ey referred to him as "t prince." "we've got the prince." >> they realize that they have this exceptional public relations tool. and they say to him, "a-ha! you're the crown prince." >> narrator: the crown prince's grandfather-- they called him popeye-- was a legendary admira, in world warere posing
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with mccain's father in japan on the day the japanese surrendered. with the family legacy of service and duty, mccain reluctantly had follow them to the naval academy. >> "i was an arrogant,un sciplined, insolent midshipman who felt it necessary to prove my mettle by challenging authority." >> he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class, and he managed to accumulate, as he calls it, a very impressive wtalogue of demerits. >> he may not hated to go to the naval academy, but he got in because of who his dad was. he didn't get thrown out because of who his dad was, despite his best efforts. and everytng in his life was because of what his last name was. t' >>hard to grow up in a family with the military legacy that his family had. i mean, it goes back to george washington's general staff. that stuff is there, it's like osmosis. soohn's got all of this. then he goes and gets shot down. and now he's almost dead. s d he fights to survive. >> how many rave you done
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until the last one? >> about 23. >> narrator: mccain says he made a decision. he would compromise with histe captors: coopeith this interview in return for medical attention and a chance to send a message to his we. >> if you have anything to say to the people you love and the teople who love you, pleas it now. this time is yours. >> (sighs) (voice breaking): i wouljust like to tell... my wife i'll get well. (crying) and i love her andope to see her soon. and i'd appreciate it if you'd tell her. >> narrator: before long, the north vietnamese wanted even more-- a confession of war crimes, something mccain was duty-bound not to give them. he refused and was beaten. >> "the prick came in with
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two other guards, lifted me to wmy feet, and gave me thest beating i had yet experienced. they left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm." >> there was the sheer pain of it, and the deprivation and the humiliation. it's a horrible experience. we had to endure it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for five, six, seven, eight, nine years. >> narrator: fearing he wouldrt break under e, mccain saw only one way to avoid dishonor-- suicide. >> "despairing of any relief from pain and further torture, and fearing the close approach of my moment of dishonor, i tried to take my life. with my right arm, i pushed my shirt through one of the upper utters and back through bottom shutter. as i looped it around my neck, the prick saw the shirt throughw the wi he pulled me off the bucket and beat me." >> we wanted to take our lives because we couldn't take the
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pain. and if we couldn't take the pain, we were scared to death we'd do something to hurt our country. >> narrator: he had failed to kill himself.on theynued to beat him. eventually, john mccain gave up. they would get their confession. >> "finally, they had me sign the document. the next morning, they ordered me to record my confession on tape. i refused, and was beaten until i consented." narrator: he believed he had dishonored his country and disgraced his family. >> we all feel guilty because ou'llode of conduct says give only name, rank, serial number, and date of birth. and john wayne, of course, could do that, because he was tougand he could spit in their eye and get away with it. well, the real world is this:rm you can get ation from people. (mccain on tape): >> narrator: and they did. (mccain on tape):
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>> narrator: the confeion was broadcast as north vietnamese propaganda. (mccain on tape): "i couldn't rationalize away my confession. i was ashamed. i felt faithless, and couldn't control my despair. i shook as if my diswere a fever." >> he was quite disconsote. but it was the guy in the cell next to him who told him he had done the best he could, gather his strength, go back at them the next day. and i think that was... that was the great moment of self-discovery for him. >> he realizes, you know, what is important in life. you know, you really have to count on yourself. you have to lean on the guy next to you, and he has to be able to lean on you and pend on you. some very, very basic, core, fundamental things in life that neme people go through their whole lives anr learn, he learned at a relatively early age. and i think he went from bng probably a really cocky s.o.b. to being a fellow who's pretty well-grounded in what's important in life.
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>> narrator: mccain's fellow point to a key event in his detention. with his father about to take charge of the pacific command, including the war in vietnam, mccain was offered special treaent: an early release. >> mccain believed that this was an effort on the part of the north vietnamese to embarrass his father, to show n of a high-ranking admiral being released and having special privileges. and, you know, so basically mccain smelled a rat. >> narrator: this time, mccain did not give in. >> he's got a family legacy. again, it's about honor, it's abouthose obligations-- spok or sworn to-- that you just don't do things like that. >> narrator: in the end, it would be nearly five more years before john mccain was released. >> we today have concluded an agreement to end the war and bring peace with honor in etnam.
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>> john sidney mccain. >> narrator: the effects of the torture and his injuries would remain. he'd never be able to raise hise arms abois head. he was a former p.o.w., a warce hero, brity, so the navy put him right out front with the politicians. >> when members of congress travel, they usually have a captain or conel as escort officer, and john was our escort officer on several trips. >> he was ju fun to be with. and he had a sense of deing-do and, "let's go do some things. let's hop on a plane, let's go to such and su a country." >> rather quickly, he becomes friends with some of the younger senators: gary hart, bill cohen, >> we would hit a couple of bars and have some beers together. it was mostly three relatively young guys who were having a good time together
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>> narrator: after a wle, mccain decided he wanted to join , e club. >> he was a brigarp guy, and i'm sure he looked around and said, "boy, if these guys can do this, i c do this." >> narrator: the congress john mccain wanted to join s very different from the one today.ow he got to kn a young staffer in bill cohen's office: susa collins. >> when john was the navy liaison, he saw a congress that worked much more collaboratively, that was far less partisan, and that got more done. >> republicans and democrats sah ther as colleagues, not enemies. and it would color his view. it would shape his v how washington should work for the rest of his career. >> narrator: but before getting into politics, mccain nged his personal life. his wife, carol,ad dutifully waited through the p.o.w. years. a former model, she'd been severely crippled in a car
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accident while mccain was in vietnam. but soon the couple would divorce. >> "my marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to vietnam, and i cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. the blame was entirely mine." >> narrator: he was known to have an eye for women and a taste for the high life. one night in hawaii, he found what he was looking for. >> it was love at first sight, and that was it. he said, "i met a gathat you've just got to meet." and he said, "i think this is the gal i'm in love with." well, that was it. >> bill cohen and i were members of his wedding party when he ane cind married in arizona. >> narrator: cindy's father owned a lucrative beer distributorship in arizona he was rich and connected. soon john mccain wou be, too. >> for me, it was natural saying, "you're in lov this young woman from arizona. you're a conservative.
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arizona's a conservative state. go run in arizona. you'll have your family there and that will be the basis where you'll start." >> john cain has energy and optimism. just what we want! his leadership is giving us something precious: hope for the future! >> narrator: he ran as an old- fashioned, pragmatic, small government conservative. >>♪ america... >> narrator: he won a congressional election and thenarry goldwater's former seat in the senate. >> (crowd chanting): john mccain! john mccain! >> narrator: mccain adjusted quickly to ronald reagan and george h.w. bush'sashington, where republicans often worked with democrats to pass legislation. >> i worked here in nate 40 years ago as a staff member. if you did a scatter plot of the voting records of the hundred senators, there were at least 20 who overlapped, more liberal republicans-- there'a term you
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don't hear much anymore-- and conservative democrats >> narrator: in that environment, john mccain's star was rising. but then h career was nearly derailed. >> never before have five senators been accused of intervening with federal regulators... >> the keating five-- four democratic senators... >> everything is going great, and then, bam, this scandal hits, and even by today's standards, it was a big scandal involving five very important members of the united states senate.>> the worst financial scandal in u.s. history...t >> narrator:e center of the scandal was mccain's friend and contributor charlesin ke an arizona high-roller and the owner of a failed savings and loan. >> mccain understands, and he'll admit, tt when his obituary is written, the keating scandal will be somewhere high in the obituary. and so he understands the dark stain that that had on his career. he understands that. >> narrator: mccain and ur other senators were accused of pressuring government regulators to back off of keating and his
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bank. >> and it got to the core of the things that john mccain cares about most-- his personal integrity, his honesty.ot ito the very core of what is most important to him.sp >> i seek dy and just resolution to this process, and i will continue to cooperate and assist the committee in every way possible. >> he was angry about it. he was hurt by it, he felt guilty by it. >> narrator: mccain decided what he called "straight talk" was called for. >> and he says, "so from this day forward," he says, "we're iewng to take every inte that we can take. we're going to prioritize arizona media over nationala, meut we'll do them all." ♪ >> this man is a united states senator and u are about tohe re him say something that very few senators have ever said before. listen carefully. >> it was a very serious mistake on my part. the appearance of a meeting with five senators was bad and wrong and i agonized it over the time. >> this was the beginning of a
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pattern that he has developed at ments of crisis. he'll stand there until the last reporter sits down. and i think it's worked well for him. >> narrator: the press backed off and the congress all but cleared him of wrongdoing. >> senator mccain has violated no law of the united states or specic rule of the united states senate. >> narrator: they said he was guilty of poor judgment. >> most people said, after having gone through what he went through in the keating fiv i that his chances of any national office are over, are done with. and by the way, he's probly not going to be very successful in the united states senate. he proved them wrong. his life has been proving people wrong. >> narrator: in the wake of the scandal, mccain began to repair his potical image. >> he will survive a vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp, he willca survive poliscandal, and he is relentless. nothing will stop him no matter how many times he trips up. >> but the republican rty was changing around mccain. >> one of the most contentious elections...
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>> ...a few sweet moments for the democrats... >> the republican revolution of election '94 shook capital hill. >> the '94 elections hadch fundamentallged the nature of the republican party. so you had the gingrich revolution, which had created the idea of a party with a muchh harder edg it had been prior to that, whether it was george h.w. bush or ronald reagan. >> there could be a fundamental shift in the american... >> this is the first time the party has been irithe ma... >> narrator: the leader of the party was now speaker of the house newt gingrich. e republicans were becoming more ideological and mccain didn't fit. >> i think mccain has a really deep, desperate sense of marching to his own drummer. and what that means, at one vel, is that it expresses thself sometimes in a need to go kick people ishins. and he occasionally adopts an idea which is abhorrent to modern conservatism. >> narrator: mccain would chart his own course as an independent-minded republican: a champion of campaign finance
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reform, a supporter of environmental protections, and he wasn't afraid to take on the religious right. >> neither party should be defineby pandering to the outer reaches of american politics and the agents of intorance, whether they be louis farrakhan or al sharpton on the left or pat ron or jerry falwell on the right. (applause and cheering) m ain had called leaders of the christian right "agents of intolerance." this was a phrase never forgotten. >> mccain was willing to go into battle with his base on issue after issu he was still a conservative republican, but he was more willing to bre from the party mainstream than almost any other national g.o.p. leader. >> this morning, the candidates are already in new hampshire... >>ith the caucuses behind them, the presidential candidates... >> narrator: by 2000, with a nationaleputation as a maverick and reformer... >> the g.o.p. hopeful who left iowa far, far behind... >> narrator: john mccain had
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.cided to run for preside >> john felt there might be a grassroots, populist rebellion brewing about reforming government, reforming the campaign system. so he decided to do it. l >> ak at john mccain, on the trail and in the lead... it's helped him steadily win a bigger and bigger slice of the republican electorate... >> narrator: he ran an insurgent campaign out of a bu he called the "straight talkch express," lenging the establishment favorite george w. bush. >> would you instruct the party not to take any money from the tobacco... >> i would instruct the party not to take any soft money, and that's tobacco, steel, whoever it is. >> to beat george w. bush in the republican priries in 2000, you had to make a virtue of what was at your disposal. what was at his disposal was this great personality and this hieat sense of humor and ts true reformer, maverick spirit. and the decision was out and put it on display. >> i'll be satisfied with whatever the voters decide. thank you. okay, >> narra he had put together
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a coalition of moderates and independents, and in a key primary, he upset george w. bush. >> victory over the favorite son... >> been an extraordina political day as the voters of new hampshire have spoken... >> the mccain win was so overwhelming, the fact that he won in every demographic... >> the primary night itself, i think he loved it. i think he loved the experience of new hampshire. >> (crowd chanting): john mccain! >> narrator: mccain's victory sent shockwaves through the bush campaign and the party establhment. >> people don't realize how much the republican establishment was nervous about john mccain. they really did not think they could control him. and that's why we saw so much power, wealth, and foc against him in south carolina. it was incredible. (tir screech) >> narrator: just over two eks later, in south carolina, the establishment and the bush team struck back. >> things happened in south carolina that were prely. south carolina's got a long tradition of being very tough.
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listen, politics is a tough, tough, tough sport are's no tougher than south carolina in america. >> narrator: bush allies orchestrated a bitter underground attack designed to appeal to the republican base. >> it was a series of attacks, rsonal life distorted, political record distorted. it's a real smear campaign, but it hurt. >> there were rumors all over hie state that mccain had fathered a black out of wedlock, and that his wife, cindy, was a drug addict. >> narrator: mccain's daughter bridget was adopted from bangladesh, and cindy mccainpe had beenabout how she had overcome a prescription drug addiction. >> it's just despicable. what they did was despicable. i thinthey were desperate. and if you think about it, had bush lost south carolina, it nds over for george bush. >> and it's wrong,t's wrong.
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my friends, this is what's going on around here. hi you saw more and more anger from senator mccaielf, who was openly frustrated and angryb t the ads against him, the attacks against his wife. t d you could also sense t wasn't sure what to do about it, th he had a conflict withi him over how hard he pushed back. >> narrator: some mccain staff waed to counterattack, to fight fire with fire. but mccain wn't willing. >> he is a scrapper and a battler, but he did not want to battle on those terms in south carolina at that point. he wasn't going to do it in the way that he felt was being done to him. he wasn't going to answer in kind. >> john mccain brought his insurgent presidential campaign to an end today. >> narrator: he would go on to lose by almost 12 poin. >> w. bush... >>narrator: before long, he shut down his presidential campaign. george w. bush went on to win. the presiden >> the president-elect, george w. bush, will become the 43rd t president united states. >> narrator: as john mccain
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returned to the senate, to manyu icans, he was an outsider. >> it had been bad for him in the repuican caucus. he had been booed at one point when he walked in. he really felt like these are not the guys he was comfortable with. they didn't have that much in common. he was really a bitter man in those days. >> he was angry for the way he was treated. he was angry bause his staff were not asked to be part of the new administration. he was angry, because he thought george bush was playing to the most conservative elements within his own and foose reasons, he felt alienated. >> narrator: mccain positioned himself as the voice of dissentl in bush's rean party. >> mccain came out of the 2000 campaign drawn to th that he had become a brand.ep hesented something to the american public of independence, pragmatism, bipartisanand he moved very aggressively to maximize the leverage of the brand legislatively. >> narrator: mccain fought the bush administration's tax cuts
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as benefiting the wealthy. qnd while he supported the i war, he criticized the president's strategy as inadequate. >> demonstrators gathered ouide iraq's abu ghraib protesting treatment... >> narrator: but it was theof abusraqi prisoners by american soldiers at abu ghraib that most enraged the former p.o.w. >> he was incensed. he thought it was sh. >> i'm gravely concerned that many americans will ha same impulse as i did when i sae this picand that's to turn away from them. and we risk losing public support for this conflict. as americans turned away from e vietnam war, they may turn away from this one. tw, mr. secretary, i'd li know, what were the instructions to the guards? >> that is what the investigation that i've indicated has been undertaken im deing. >> but mr. secretary, that's a very simple, straightforward
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question. m >> narratoain would insist the bush administration change its policy on torture. >> this isn't about who they are, it's about who we are. and these are values that distinguish us from our enemie >> narrator: he'd been fighting with the bush administration for years, but as the 20 election approached, mccain still had ambitions to be pres >> it takes a while until he kind of comes around to the ide that, s own interest, he needs to find a way to reconcile with the president, and reconce with the party. it is, at this point, george bush's party. >> narrator: first, he would make peace with george w. bush. >> if he could forgive and make peace with the leaders of north, vietho tortured him for six years, it wasn't that hardto et over it and make reconciliation with george bush. >> is this the best the republicans can do? >> are any of you tempted to vote for the mccain tiet?
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>> narrator: even more challenging, mccain had to win over the republican voters who had rejected him last time. >> and if he wants those votes... >> he decided that to become the nominee, he had to make peace with the bush wing of the party and with people who are avid bush supporters. and he set out to do so. >> narrator: he even embraced reverend jerry falwellthe founder of the evangelical liberty university, a man he had previously called an "agent of intolerance." >> reverend falwell came to see him, said, you know, "put our past differences behind us, our acrimony behind us," or something. and then asked him on the spot ifee would consider giving commencement address at liberty. and he respondedn the spot, "sure." >> senator!is i heard razy story that senator john mccain is giving the commencement address at jerry falwell's university. ik well, before i bring on my two attorneys, i'dto... (laughter and applause)
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>> don't... don't make me love you!t >> it cut agaierything that mccain had done and said up to that point. >> why i did it is because of the fact that my kids said, "why haven't you been on the jon stewart show lately?" and i figured that was the best way to do that.>> enator! >> john mccain is a politician. he's beeelected to the senate. he's involved in politics. he understands that yesterday's battles are yesterday's battles, and if you're going to win tomorrow's, you may have to do things differently. >> so, you freaking out on us? 'cause if you're freout and you're going into the crazy base world... are you going int crse world? >> i'm afraid... i'm afraid so. >> mccain has demonstrated both a temperamental inclination and a real ability over the courseit of his pal life to, to do things that are politilly expedient, and at the same time
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signal with a sense of irony and detachment that he doesn't really like doing it. that, in a sense, he's being forced by political necessity to do it. narrator: by the first republican presidential primary in new hampshire, it looked lika in was on the right track. >> my friends, you know, i'm past the age when i can claim the noun "kid" no matter what adjective precedes it. but tonight we sure showed them what a comeback looks like! (cheers and applause) >> narrator: mccain had positioned himself as the heir leparent to george w. bush, but there was a growinm. the party was changing, the esident's support among the base deteriorating. >> no republican wants to be the third term of georgesh. he is a radioactive figure at that pnt for the party. and they are divided over what the party should stand for at this point. >> mccain, frankly, has shown
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conservatives little but contempt... >> narrator: inside the republican party, a rebellion was underway, anmccain-- now the establishment candidate--s target. >> i think john mccain has a big problem with conservatives. >> narrator: they called him a rino-- republican in name only. >> he's confusing republicansis withiberal friends... >> ...reach out to democrats... >> how's this guy going to unite his party? what's he going to do? rush limbaugh's out there on the radio every day telling people r they'd be crazy to vote is guy. >> narrator: the opposition to mccain came to a head here-- at the annual meeting of cpac, the conservative pol action conference. they reluctantly agreed hear john mccain plead for their support. (crowd booing) >> i've never seen an instance siwhere somebody in his potion,e who is te facto leader of the party heading into the next election, walks into an audience like that and gets the kind of boos that he got. ue (booing cont
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i mean, it was extraordinary to hear it. it's not as though edy in the audience was booing, but it was loud and it was real. >> it's been a little while since i've had the honor of dressing you, and i appreciate very much your courtesy to meto y. you know, we should do this more often. (laughter, light applause) >> john wanted to make the case that, "here'who i am on judges, here's who i am on taxes. i believe in limited governmente 's why i fight earmarking. earmarking is a corruption of government."el >> ive today, as i believed 25 years ago, in small government, fiscal discipline, low taxes, a strong defense, judges who inform and not make our laws... >> it's like the thinnest balance beam that's ably existed, because on one side, he's trying to still retain the, "i'm the independent, i'm the moderate, i can appeal, i'm the maverick." t other side is, "you can trust me, i'm a good republican." >> i am pro-life a an advocate for the rights of man everywhere
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in the world. i will never waver in thatic coon, i promise you. >> that day was a reminder that he still had a considerable amount of work to do with the conservative base of the party. >> thank you and god bless you. (cheers and applause) >> i think what mccain did, which almost killed him, was, he tried to become mr. insider, a he tried to become mr. establishment. and the truth was, it didn't work.d nobody believeit on either side. and it made him look kind of foolish. he's not an insider. >> are you fed up? ready to go? fired up? we can finallyring the change we need to washington. >> narrator: making things worse for mccain, he faced a rmidable opponent in the general election. >> the american people are looking for change in america. b >> narratoack obama was surging in the polls.
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>> mccain is looking at his campaign, and he sees that the t energy is other side, that the momentum is on the other side, that thereshness is on the other side. >> and because somebody stood up, a few more stoodnd then a few thousand stood up, and then a few million... >> it was really hard for john mccain, especially having worked so hard to prove himself a real conservative, to run against the first african-american candidate, this exciting, young, charismatic figure who represented change just byg gett in the morning. >> we will win this election, we will change the course of history, and the world... >> narrator: mccain was in trouble, and he knew it. he needed a dramatic gesture. >> by the summer, when mccain got ready to make a vice presidential selection, weeh wered. and we would have expected to go into the fall behind. so john wanted to do something a ttle different.
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>> this is where john mccain will appear with his running mate. >> narrator: the announcement of his vice presidential running mate was a closely guarded cret. >> it waamazing, it was so amazing. all thsecrecy about it, the secret cars and secret names and the false airports. it was the most wanted story by any political reporter in this country. everybody wanted to find outis who th was. (cheering) >> thank you, thank you. thank you, thank you. >> he needed to find someone. an african-american running, yoa got to find a but you have to find a woman who meets some of the litmus tests in your own party. >> i am very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the united stes, governor sarah palin of the great state of alaska. >> narrator: at the time, fewha realizedt the decision was a turning point for the republican party and the history of american politics.
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>> it was probably the rashest decision that john mccain and the people around him ever made. the truth is, they didn't know enough about her other than the fact that she excited the base. >> mccain's advisers thought she was very different than what she turned out to be. they didn't realize that she would be this populist crusader and turn into a sort ofra right-wingroots populist. >> ladies and gentlemen, the ngovernor of alaska and tt vice president... >> narrator:s she arrived at mccain's republican convention... >> sarah palin! p >> narratoin stole the show... >> well, i'm not a member of the permanent political establishment. (cheering) >> palin's arrival on the scenee is theng chapter, in a way, of the transformation of the republican party into the tea party movement. the idea that what we are going to reward are people who want to blow up the system, who are bomb throwers, who are firebrands, who appeal topp anger, whol to grievance.
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>> i'm not going to washington to seetheir good opinion. i'm going to washington to serve the people of this great country. s >> narrahe electrified the crowds with her own brand of "prairie populism"-- attacks on the washington establishment and those she labeled "the elites." >> i've learned quickly these last few days that if you're noe er in good standing of the washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone, but. (audience booing) but... >> she didn't talk like politicians. e wasn't careful with he words. she didn't make a lot of sense sometimes. >> i love those hockey moms. you know, they say the mofference between a hocke and a pit bull? lipstick. (laughter, cheering)
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>> sarah palin was whatever she needed to be to get attention and applause and money. she was an entertain. and she was antithetical to everything john mccain believed about politics. >> thank you and god bless america. >> john mccain ushered an insurgent, somebody coming in from the outside, literally from alaska, and then also in every other way in terms of her background and her regard forin elititutions. >> but this governor, fromal ka, she's something else. >> sarah palin has completely transford republican party and the next presidency. >> boy, were you right about this one. did you know how great she is? she's unbelievable. >> narrator: mccain stood by as palin connted to the party's base in a way he never could. >> i kidded john about constantly. one day a week, they campaigned together. and he would always double his crowds when she was there. she had tremendous appeal amongo thervative grassroots.
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>> narrator: and among the campgn's grassroots supporters, the anger was iniling over. >> i remember gog to john mccain rallies in 2008 and for the first time having members of the crowd start to throw things at reporters, you know? that was new. there was so much anger that members in the mccain audience wanted to throw it somewhere. >> narrator: much of the anger was directed at mccain's opponent, barack obama. >> one thing that was observable and yet ignored was the degree to which there was real hostility ward barack obama on the right. a terrorist, don't you know that? >> obama's a muslim. he's a terrorist himself. >> narrator: he saw theit hostily firsthand. >> i can't trust obama. i have read about him, and he's not... he's not... he's a... he is an arab, he is not >> no, ma'no, ma'am.
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no, ma'am, no, ma'am. he's a... he's a decent family man, citizen, that i just happen to have disagreements with.ra >> nr: mccain wouldn't take advantage of racial prejudice.y >> td a rule in the mccain campaign that if you... if there was any hint that. that the mccain campaign was going to use racial animus against barack obama, you would have been fired and banned fromn republolitics. it was a red line that was never ossed in 2008. >> my wife and i are expecting our first child, april 2, next year-- thank you- and, frankly, we're scared. we're scared of an obama presidency. >> narrato mccain tried to reassure his supporters... >> i have to tell you, i have to tell you, he is a dece person, and a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the united states. (crowd boos) no i just... i just...k.
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now, loo (booing) if i didn't think... i>> he doesn't want to plo that, and yet he has picked somebody as a vice president who encourages that kind of politics. so he has both tapped into this force that she is, at that point, and is wary owhat he has got himself into. >> barack obama is projected to the next president... >> senator barack obama of illinois... >> nartor: when john mccain's quest for the presidency ended, on the conservative airwaves, they blamed him. >> this campaign never had a prayer and everybody knew it from the g-go. john mccain is a disaster. a complete, unmitigated disaster. >> the mccain campaign was one of the biggest, ridiculous disasters in the history of >> a little ago, i had the honor of calling senator barack obama to congratulate him... (crowd booing) please. to conatulate him on being elected the next president of the untry that we both love.
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(crowd booing) >> narrator: john mc time as leader of the republican party was ending.m >> i aalso, of course, very thankful to governor sarahli one of the best campaigners i've ever seen. (cheers and applause) >> narrator: but mccain's decision to choose palin would go on to shape the future of the republican party. >> thank you and god bless you... >> i'm glad at least he didn't blame palin. >> the flash of brilliance was choosing sarah >> ithe people around him regret it, that he had not only given a platform to someone who was very corrosive to the political process and to the party, but had very nearly putou her,now, within a few feet of the presidency. and i would be very surprised if that didn't haunt him from then after. >> president obama lying to th people, deceiving... >> a giant step backwards in race relations. months that: in th followed... >> rammed it down america's throats, government run amok. >> narrator:..the populist
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anger sarah palin had tapped into exploded into the tea party movement. >> nancy pelosi deceiving... >> you wanna kill my grandparents, you come through me first! >> the things that obama's doing are the exact things that hitler did. >> narrator: the politics ofva grience and resentment that mccain had resisted were on the rise. >> radical, communist, and socialist. bl this is a party that john mccain and most reicans don't recognize anymore. and they didn't even have the vocabulary to talk to the members of their party. >> there is an ugliness with these fringe people who arear ing the president to hitler. from that point on, he's a misfit in the party, and clear to everyone watching andhe involved thao longer speaks for sort of the ascendant republican base. >> 2016, the road to the white house begins in iowa... >> narrator: mccain could only watch as the cnges in the republican party culminated in a crucial moment in 2016... >> to win iowa, everybody wants to do it... >> narrator: the woman mccain had anointed.... >> governor sarah palin-- special, special person, thank
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you. >> narrator: endorsed a new maverick. >>hank you so much, it's s great to be in iowa, lending our support for the next president of our great united states of america, donald j. trump. >> john mccain sees donald trump and, in effect, what he's seeing is the manifestion of what he brought to the table in 2008 by picking sarah palin. >> heads are spinnin', media heads are spinnin'. this is going to be so much fun. >> sarah palin was something republican voters loved in 2008. and you saw donald trumpco letely take advantage of it and take all of these sort of palin voters and add to them. >> and breaking news from the campaign trail, trump is picking up the endorsement from sarah >> ...ggle within the republican party...ra >> nr: as the republican nominee, trump exploited the forces that mccain would not. >> we are led by very stupid people. we're going to drain the swamp of washington. we're gonna drive thrs over the illegals! build the wall! build e wall!
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>> almost everything stylistically, and many things aboutrump substantively, wer anathema to john mccain. ere's almost nothing about trump that is in the same space as john mccain. >> stunning upset, donald trump is on his way... >> narrator: and on election day, trump did what mccain could not-- win the presidency >> well, donald trump pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in american history. >> one of the most shocking elections in our political history.. >> world order, at least a new washington order... >> ...after watching president trump's inauguration. >> narrator: as donald trump took office, john mccain began his third decade in the senate. >> it's an uncomfortable washington for john mccain, i mean, in part because there's a esident with whom he is odds. and there is a senate and house that are doing things that are probably more conservative thane hought was wise. >> narrator: congress was very different from the one that mccain had witnessed all those years ago.
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>> it was a different sort of period of time when we both first entered the congress. there were certain issues that were very divisive, but most of the issues, there was a way forward on common ground. and that common ground was shrinking dramatically. and i think his reaction was, that's... you know, it's not u good f it's not good for the country. >> there's gridlock insh gton... >> narrator: gridlock... >> the paralysis of the... >> nrator: confrontation... >> the deep dysfunction... >> narrator: and ideological purity had replaced collaboration. for mccain, washington was an increasingly difficult place. >> mccain is one of the last of the giants in the senate who has an independent identity that is separate from his party and it's hard to imagine whether there can be another one these days. the system doesn't encourage independent thinkers and mavericks. people will get nished for that. >> sad and shocking news about senator and former presidential candidate john mccain... >> doctors found the tumor... n rator: in the summer of
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2017, even as he was diagnosed with brain cancer, mccain was again the center of attention. >> that much anticipated vote on health care that is still too close to call... >> narrator: as he vgainst the president's attempt to repeal obamacare... >> no. (gasping, light applause) >> narrator: ...and stood up to deliver a message to his colleagues. >> our deliberations today are more partisan, more tribal, more of the time than at any time that i can remember. and right w they aren't producing much for the american people. >> it felt like it really was symbolic of who he has wanted to be. is is who john mccain thinks he is in his heart. >> after a scathing statement from senator john mccain >> john mccain critical of the president... >> narrator: mccain continued to fight. >>enator john mccain said the president's performance was disgraceful. a low point in the history of the american presidency. >> narrator: to the very end. >> john mccain senator, presidential candidate,
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and vietnam war hero has died. >> got to to explore extended interviews arth lindsey graham... >> it's a real sampaign, but it hurt. >> orson swindle... >> and if we coun't take the pain we were scared to death we would do something to hurt our country. >> and others... >> a very impressive catelogue of demerits. >> visit our films page whe you can watch more than 200 liontline documentaries. connect to the fro community on facebook and twitter. then sign up for our newsletter at >> the stock market is down 21 percent. >> narrator: 10 years after the great recession. >> that took a piece of our soul. >> narrator: cities like dayton are still struggling t back. >> i actually worked in this same exact plant for gm. i'd say it probably averaged out around $35 an hour. at fuyao you started out at $12
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an hour.>> ayton is not unique in the probms that we are facing. but, what is unique is that dayton is still small enough to fix this. >> narrator: "left behind america", next time on frontline. " ontline" is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewe like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful wod. more information is available at the ford foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines ofl change worldwide, at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicatedei totening public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust, supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the "frontline"
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journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann haglerby captioned media access group at wgbh or >> foron this and other programs, visit our website at ♪ "frontline's" "mccain" is available on dvd. to order, visit or call 1-800-play-pbs. "frontline" is also availabler wnload on itunes. ♪
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>> you're watching pbs. >> frontline brings you breakthrough journalism,uc ial answers, and stories you can't ignore. >> ♪ and way down we go be mor.. pbs
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- [carlos] kirsten gillibrand comes from a family of strong, vocal women. but after her life in corporate law left her in a morale risis, she abandoned crative career ntfor life as a public ser - if you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, cen you will repeal throsive policy. - [carlos] so, what inspired this political newcomer to take on, and beat, the powerful congressman in her home district, climb the steep ladder all the way to the u.s. senate, and become a leader of the modern day women's movement. stood strong and stood firm. - [carlos] and what keeps her moving on the mpaign trail to breaking bi (audience cheering)