Someone is peddling a demonstrable lie:
He had found a sense of purpose in an apprenticeship to some of the Senate’s fiercest cold warriors. And in Senator John G. Tower, a hawkish Texas Republican, he had found a new mentor, beginning a relationship that many compared to the bond between a father and son.
With Mr. Tower’s encouragement, Mr. McCain declined the prospect of his first admiral’s star to make a run for Congress, saying that he could “do more good there,” Mr. Lehman recalled. But Mr. Lehman knew duty was only part of the reason.
“He just loved it up there,” Mr. Lehman recalled. “Like very few military people, John heard the music up there, and he really wanted to do it.”
From prisoner of war to politician in a hurry, it was the turning point that started Mr. McCain on the trajectory toward the Republican presidential nomination this year.
After five and a half years of listening to senators’ antiwar speeches over prison camp loudspeakers, Mr. McCain came home in 1973 contemptuous of America’s elected officials, convinced Congress had betrayed the country’s fighting men by hamstringing the war effort. But in the halls of the Senate, he discovered a new calling, at once high-minded and glamorous.
This is the same John Tower who was such a raging party animal drunk he couldn't get confirmed as Secretary of Defense?
There was no way McCain was ever going to pin on an Admiral's star--he was known far and wide in Washington as a womanizing party animal himself. It's fitting that Tower would be his mentor.
The always unhinged Ted Sampley fills us in by going to Robert Timberg:
At the Academy, aside being known as a "rowdy, raunchy, underachiever" who resented authority, Midshipman McCain became infamous as a leader among his fellow midshipmen for organizing "off-Yard activities" and hard drinking parties. Robert Timberg wrote in his book, The Nightingale's Song, that "being on liberty with John McCain was like being in a train wreck."
Timberg described McCain's advancement: "in the fall of 1974, McCain was transferred to Jacksonville as the executive officer of Replacement Air Group 174, the long-sought flying billet at last a reality. A few months later, he assumed command of the RAG, which trained pilots and crews for carrier deployments. The assignment was controversial, some calling it favoritism, a sop to the famous son of a famous father and grandfather, since he had not first commanded a squadron, the usual career path."
While Executive Officer and later as Squadron Commander McCain used his authority to arrange frequent flights that allowed him to carouse with subordinates and "engage in extra-marital affairs."
This was a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice rules against adultery and fraternization with subordinates. But, as with all his other past behaviors, McCain was never penalized; instead he always got away with his transgressions.
Timberg wrote, "Off duty, usually on routine cross-country flights to Yuma and El Centro, John started carousing and running around with women. To make matters worse, some of the women with whom he was linked by rumor were subordinates . . . At the time the rumors were so widespread that, true or not, they became part of McCain's persona, impossible not to take note of."
In early 1977, Admiral Jim Holloway, Chief of Naval Operations promoted McCain to captain and transferred him from his command position "to Washington as the number-two man in the Navy's Senate liaison office. McCain was promptly given total control of the office. It wasn't long before the "fun loving and irreverent" McCain had turned the liaison office into a "late-afternoon gathering spot where senators and staffers, usually from the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, would drop in for a drink and the chance to unwind."
Forgive the lengthy excerpt, but does this sound like a man who envisioned pinning on an Admiral's star? Once again, the source is Robert Timberg:
In 1979, John McCain came face to face with his future.
He was in Hawaii, attending a military reception. While there, he met a young, blond former cheerleader from Phoenix named Cindy Hensley.
McCain was immediately dazzled and spent the event chatting her up.
"She was lovely, intelligent and charming, 17 years my junior but poised and confident," McCain wrote in his 2002 book, Worth the Fighting For. "I monopolized her attention the entire time, taking care to prevent anyone else from intruding on our conversation. When it came time to leave the party, I persuaded her to join me for drinks at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. By the evening's end, I was in love."
McCain recalls that both he and Cindy initially misled each other about their ages. McCain made himself a little younger, and Cindy made herself a little older. They found out their real ages when the local paper published them. McCain was 43, Cindy 25.
"So our marriage," McCain cracks, "is really based on a tissue of lies."
Early in the courtship, McCain called Cindy from Beijing, where he was traveling with a Senate Foreign Relations Committee contingent. Cindy was in the hospital recuperating from minor knee surgery. She thanked him for the lovely flowers in her room, sent from "John."
What McCain didn't tell Cindy was that he hadn't sent the flowers. They were from another John, who lived in Tucson.
"I never thanked him," Cindy notes with a grin.
After a whirlwind courtship, John asked Cindy to marry him. But there were some details to clear out of the way.
McCain needed a divorce from Carol, his wife of 14 years from whom he was separated. After McCain's dramatic homecoming from Vietnam, the couple grew apart. Their marriage began disintegrating while McCain was stationed in Jacksonville. McCain has admitted to having extramarital affairs.
"If there was one couple that deserved to make it, it was John and Carol McCain," author Robert Timberg wrote in John McCain: An American Odyssey. "They endured nearly six years of unspeakable trauma with courage and grace. In the end it was not enough. They won the war but lost the peace."
In February 1980, less than a year after he met Cindy, McCain petitioned a Florida court to dissolve his marriage to Carol, calling the union "irretrievably broken."
Bud Day, a lawyer and fellow POW, handled the divorce proceedings.
"I thought things were going fairly well, and then it just came apart," Day later recalled. "That happened to quite a few. . . . I don't fault (Carol), and I don't really fault John, either."
In his book Worth the Fighting For, McCain offers his own post-mortem on his failed marriage. He "had not shown the same determination to rebuild (his) personal life" as he had to excel in his naval career.
"Sound marriages can be hard to recover after great time and distance have separated a husband and wife. We are different people when we reunite," McCain wrote. "But 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."
Carol, who remains on good terms with her former husband, generally has avoided reporters interested in hearing her side of the story.
She did briefly address her divorce to Timberg: "The breakup of our marriage was not caused by my accident or Vietnam or any of those things. I don't know that it might not have happened if John had never been gone. I attribute it more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again than I do to anything else."
In the divorce settlement, McCain was generous with Carol, the mother of their daughter Sidney and two sons, whom McCain had adopted. Among other things, McCain gave Carol the rights to houses in Florida and Virginia and agreed to provide insurance or pay for additional treatment she was expected to require.
Except for signing the property settlement, Carol did not participate in the divorce. A court summons and other paperwork sent to her during the proceeding went unanswered.
In April 1980, the judge entered a default judgment and declared the marriage dissolved.
A month later, McCain married Cindy in Phoenix, where the couple would move. The wedding party included a couple of McCain's high-profile friends from Washington. Sen. William Cohen was the best man. Sen. Gary Hart was a groomsman.
Carol went her separate way, finding work as a personal aide to Nancy Reagan during the 1980 presidential primary campaign and later running the White House Visitors Office.
McCain for Congress
The move to Arizona was convenient for the budding politico McCain. After the 1980 census, Arizona was sure to get a new, fifth congressional seat.
But was it too convenient?
McCain explains the reaction of some of his new neighbors: "My ambition was plainly obvious, and to some, it was presumptuous and arrogant. If not said, it was thought by many that when I had decided to start a political career, I had looked around the country for a place where I thought the locals were gullible enough to take a chance on a novice. Worse, some critics contended that I had married Cindy because of her Arizona residency and her wealth and connections there. Neither charge is fair, and I am surprised at how angry I still become when some fool hints that such ruthlessness lay behind decisions to marry and relocate."
McCain truly was at a turning point in his life and ready for a new challenge.
He had a new wife. He retired from the Navy in 1981. His father, Adm. Jack McCain, died on March 22, 1981.
Politics occupied his mind.
According to Timberg's book, McCain actually had toyed with the idea of seeking a House seat as far back as 1976, when he was still living in Florida, but determined he probably couldn't win. After his Senate liaison duty, it became an obsession.
During his run for Congress, McCain dealt with these issues as only he can:
McCain confronted Mack after a subsequent campaign event.
McCain recounts in his book: "When the debate ended, I walked over to the opponent who had attempted to mine some little nasty opposition research from my failed marriage and told him with as much steel as I'm capable of demonstrating, 'If you ever try to hurt anyone in my family again, I will personally beat the shit out of you.'"