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tv   Frontline  PBS  April 17, 2018 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

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>> narrator: tonight... >> our deliberations are more partisan than at any time that i can remember... >> narrator: the life and politics of a maverioh... >>mccain fused together two almostpposing concepts.s he il about duty and he is all about dissent. >> narrator: ...and what it tells us about america today. >> in some ways, mccain is a pioneer of the politics i think we're going to getand in some ways i think he's the last of eed of something we're losing. >> narrator: tonight on "frontline," "mccain." >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station fr viewers like you. thank you. g.d by the corporation for
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public broadcast major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. moat information is availabl additional support is providedhe bybrams foundation: committed to excellence in th foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the frontline journalism fund, wi major support from jon and jo ann hagler. >> this is a big day... can't underestimate... >> narrator: on july 27, 2017... t>> the senate is schedul vote on the latest version of the bill to replace obamacare... >> they're going to be there ala night,s called a vote-a-rama.
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>> narrator: washington was closely watching senator john mccain. >> a vote on healthcare, a vote that... >> narrator: he was the key vote on president trump's first major legislative initiati: a repeal of obamacare. h every time we saw him, it was like, "do you kn you're going to vote? do you know how you're going to vote?" and he was grouchier and d grouchier as t went on, as he sometimes gets. and he just said, "stay tuned," you know? it was sort of like... he kindas ofven saying, like, "watch the vote. it'll be a show." h is expected to return to capitol hill today... >> narrator: just 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 who had been fighting 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. leads... >> narrator: it all came down to one vote, on one night, at 1:30 in the morning. th >> it wamost dramatic night on the senate floor i had seen in l my years up there.
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>> mr. barrasso... >> the vote's ticking away, th vote's ticking 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 judgnt on president trump's major legislative initiative. >> narrator: fellow republican senator susan collins had been pushing mccain to vote against the bill trump was backing. >> lisa murkowski and i knew that he had reservations. we were taing with him about the bill, and all of a sudden, he pointed to both of us and he said, "you know, y two are right." it was then that i felt tap on my shoulder, and i turned around, and it was vic president pence. >> narrator: pence had come to pressure mccain to support 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. they went on for, i don't know, it seemelike 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 crical defeat early in his presidency. >> vice president nce turned on his heel and walked away. >> narrator: and then was time for mccain to vote... >> you saw mitch monnell looking more and more unhappy, his arms were closed. and u could tell from the bo language on the republican side that they were very worried. >> john mccain walks up to where the vote clerks are and he lifts his hand very dramatically. >> mrs. ernst... >> he knew that this was his one last chance to really take aan 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, shockede amber. >> no. (gasping, light applause) >> you could hear audible gaspsr in the cha td those gasps of surprise came from both sides aisle. >> no. (gasping, light applause) >> this was johnccain as people have come to know him over decades in public service. and it sort of stood out as kind of this cinematic culmination of the career that he has had in shington. >> in a shocking vote, senator john mccain delired a death blow... >> narrator: president trump was furious. >> he tends to lash out most bitterly in those moments. and with john mccain's thumbs- down no vote, he just watchednt six of his presidency kind of evaporate into nothingness-- he gotten nothing, nothing done in that time.
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>> narrator: the president used the weight of his office to try punish mccain. >> president trump is holding a make america great again rally in phoenix... >> narrator: the occasion was a' rally in mccaihome state. >> a campaign-style event tonight. >> narrator: here inn country, trump took him on. >> they all said, "please, prt, don't mention any names."ro cheering) 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."on vote away. >> 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 defeated in the primaries. graduated last in his ass at annapolis-- dummy! (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: he portrayed mccain as a symbol of the old republican party... >> retweet: cain epitomizes the career politicians who have gotten us into our $19 trillion train wreck. (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: trump attacked him as a fai >> john mccain let us down by losing to barack obama in hisid run for prt! (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: and trump expressed his personal disdain. >> retweet: senjohnmccain is always talking, talking but nothing gets done. (computerized tweet sound) >> let's stop insulting each other. >> right, yeta >> let's respecting... >> 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 respectful debate, not whether somebody is a jerk or >> donalp is everything john mccain doesn't like. he's not someone who's served in the militar 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) >> narrator: trump even attacked mccain's record as a vietm veteran. >> he's not a war hero. >> he's a war hero. >> he's a war hero... >> fivand-a-half years of... >> he's a war hero because he was captured. i like people that weren't captured, okay? hate to tell you. >> do you agree with that? >> he's a war hero because he was captured. okay? >> republican senator john mccain challenged president ump... >> narrator: it was not the first time john mccain had clashed with a powerfull politival... >> john mccain, maverick of legend, emerged... >> narrator: ...his more than three-decade career defined byct confith his own party. >> john mccain, of course, a frequent critic of presidentre obama's n policy... >> narrator: a self-styled maverick in an increasingly w partishington. >> narrator: john mccain had been a public figure since that day he was captured in north vietnam when hwas 31. >> i was on a flight over the
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city of noi. and i was bombing and was hit by eitr a missile or anti-aircraft fire, i'm not sure which. >> he landed in a lake in hanoi,ent down, somehow managed with his teeth, 'cause his arms were, like, all screwed up, to pull the plug that caused the life, life vest to inflate. >> narrator: mccain wrote about it in his autobiography, "faith of my fathers." >> "a crowd of several hundred etnamese gathered around me as i lay dazed before them, shouting wildly at me, 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. di >> john wouldn't go to sleep. he's in a cast, his eyes are
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feverish. he's in bad, bad shape. i thought he was going to die. t >> w your name? >> lieutenant commander john mccain.ra >> nr: the north vietnamese had discovered mccain was 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. >> doing what? >> he's commander-in-chi of u.s. naval forces in europe. er>> narrator: mccain's fa would soon be in charge of all forces in the pacific.oh >>was a prize. they referred to him as "the prince." "wve 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." nc>> narrator: the crown ps grandfather-- they called him popeye-- was a legendary admirar in war ii, here 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, mc reluctantly had followed them to the naval academy. >> "i was an arrogant, undisciplined, insolent midspman who felt it necessa 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 catalogue of demerits. >> he may not have wanted 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. aneverything in his life w because of what his last name was. >> it's hard to grow up in a family with the military legacy that his family had., i meanit goes back to george washington's general sff. that stuff is there, it's like tmosis. so john's got all s. then he goes and gets shot down. and now he's almost dead. and he fights to survive. m >> hy raids have you done
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until the last one? >> about 23. >> narrator: mccain says he made a decision. he would compromise with hiss: captooperate with this interview in return for medical attention and a chance to send a message his wife. >> if you have anything to say u, the people you love and the people who love lease tell it now. this time is yours. >> (sighs) (voice breakin: i would just like to tell... my wife i'll get well. (crying) and i lo her and hope to see hesoon. 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 toav my feet, and gme the worst 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 wouldun brear torture, mccain saw only one way to avoid dishonor-u ide. >> "despairing of any relief from pain and further torture, and fearing the close approach of my moment of dishi tried to take my life. withy right arm, i pushed my shirt through one of the upper shutters and back through a bottom shutter. as i looped it around my neck, the prick saw the shirt through the window. 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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in. and if we couldn't take the pain, we were scared tdeath we'd do something to hurt our country. >> narrator: he had failed to kill himself. they continued to beat him. eventually, john mccain gave up. they would get their confession. >> "finall they had me sign the document. nfe next morning, they ordered me to record my sion on tape. i refused, and was beaten until i consented." >> narrator: he believed he had dishonoredis country and disgraced his family. >> we all feel guilty because the code of couct says you'll give only name, rank, serial number, and date of birth. and john wayne, of course, could do that, because he was tough and he could spit in their eye and get away with it. iswell, the real world is ge you cat information from people. (mccain on tape): >> narrator: and they did. (mccain on tape):
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>> narrator: the confession was broadcast as north vietnamese. propagan (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 disgrace were a fever." >> he was que disconsolate. but it was the guy in the cell next to him who told him he had done the best he could, gath 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 leann you and depend you. some very, very basic, core, fundamental things in life that some people go through their whole lives and never learn, he learned at a relatively early age. and i think he went from being 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 treatment: an early release. >> mccain believed that this was an effort on the part of the north vietnamese to embarrassho his father, tothe son of a high-ranking admiral being released and having l 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 about those obligations-- spoken or sworn to-- that you just don'do things like that. >> narrator: in the end, it would be nearly five more years before john mccain was released. >> we today have concled an agreement to end the war and bring peace with honor in
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vietnam. >> john siey mccain. thenarrator: the effects o torture and his injuries would remain. he'd never be able to raise his arms above his head. r he was a foro.w., a war hero, a celebrity, so the navy tt him right out front wi politicians. >> when members of congress travel, they usually have a captain or colonel as escort officer, and john was our escort officer on several trips. >> he s just fun to be with. and he had a sense of derring-do and, "letdo some things. let's hop on a plane, let's go to such and such a country.">> ather quickly, he becomes friends with some of the younger senators: gary hart, bill cohen, later secretary of defense. >> we would hit a couple of bars and have some beers together. it was mostly three relatively young guys who were having age good time er.
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>> narrator: after a while, mccain decided he want to join the club. >> he was a bright, sharp guy, and i'm sure h and said, "boy, if these guys can do this, i can do this." >> narrator: the congress john mccain wanted to join was very different from the one today. g ot to know a young staffer in bill cohen's offi: susan 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 saw each other as colleagues, not enemies. and it would color his view. it would shape his view of how washington should work for the rest of his career. >> narrator: but before getting into politics, mccain rearranged his personal life. his fe, carol, had 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 vietnam. but soon the couple would vorce. >> "my marriage's collapse was attributable to 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 l taste for the ife. 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 gal that 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 d i were members of his wedding party when he and cindy were married in arizona. >> narrator: cindy's father owned a lucrative beer distributorship in arizona. he was rich and connected. soon john cain would be, too. >> for me, it was naturale saying, "you love with 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." an>> john mccain has energ optimism. vist what we want! his leadership is us something precious: hope for the future! >> narrator: he ran as an old- fashioned, pragmatic, small government conservative. >> ♪ america... >> narrator: he won aco ressional election and orthen barry goldwater's fmer seat in the senate. >> (crowd chanting): john mccain! john mccain! >> narrator: mccain adjued quickly to ronald reagan and george h.w. bush's washington,ic where repus often worked with democrats to pass legislation. i >> i worked hethe senate 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's a term you
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don't hear mh anymore-- and conservative democrats. >> narrator: in that environment, john mcin's star was rising. but en his career was nearly derailed. >> never before have five setors been accused of intervening with federal regulators... >> the keating five-- fourmo atic senators... >> everything is going great, and then, bam, this scandal, hid even by today's standards, it was a big scandal involving five very importantme ers of the united states senate. >> the worst financial scandal in u.s. history... >> narrator: at the center of ene scandal was mccain's f and contributor charles keating, an arizona high-roller and the owner of a failed savings and loan. >> mccain understands, and he'll admi that 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 onis career. he understands that. >> narrator: mccaiand four other senators were accused of pressuring government regulators
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to back off of keating a his bank. >> and it got to the core of the things that john mccain nares about most-- his per integrity, his honesty. it got to the very core of what is most importa to him. >> i seek a speedy and just resolution tthis 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 call for. >> and he says, "so from this day forward," he says, "we're going to take ery interview that we can take. we're going to prioritize arizona media over national media, but we'll do them all." ♪ >> this man is a united states senar and you are about to here 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 a. moments of cri he'll stand there until the last reporter sits down. and i think it's worked very 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 specific rule of thed states senate. >> narrator: they said he was guilty of poor judgment. >> most people said, after having gone through what he went through in the keang five, that's it. his chances of any national office are over, are done with. and by the way, 's probably 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 othe scandal, mccain began to repair his political image. >> he will survive a vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp, he willrv e political scandal, and he is relentless. nothg will stop him no matte how many times he trips up. >> but the rublican party 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 shookhi capita. >> the '94 elections had fundamentally changed the nature of the republican party. so you had the gingrich revolution, which had created the idea of a party with a much harder edge than it had been prior to that, whether it was george h.w. bushr ronald reagan. >> there could be a fundamental shift in the american... >> this is the first time the party ha majority... >> narrator: the leader of the party was now speaker of the house newt gingrich. the republicans were t.coming more ideological and mccain didn't >> i think mccain has a really deep, desperate sense of marching to his own drummer. and what that means, at one level, is that it expresses itself sometimes in a need tope go kicle in the shins. 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 defined by pandering to the outer reaches of american politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be louis farrhan or al sharpton on the left or pat robertson ora jerrell on the right. (applause and cheering) >> mccain had called leaders of the christian right "agents of intolerance." this was ahrase never forgotten. >> mccain was willing to go into battle with his base on issue afr issue. he was still a conservative republican, but he was more willing to break from the party mainstream than almost any other national g.o.p. leader. >> this moing, the candidates are already in new hampshire... >> with the caucuses behind them, the presidential candidates... >> narrator: by 2000, with a national reputation as a maverick and reformer....p >> the ghopeful who left iowa far, far behind... >> narrator: john mccain had
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decided to run for president. m >> john felt theht be a grassroots, populist rebellion brewing about reforming government, reforming the campaign system. so he decided to do it. >> a look at john mccain, on the trail and in the lead... it's helped him steadily wingg a bi and bigger slice of the republican electorate... >> narrator: he ran an insurgent campaign o of a bus he called the "straight talk express," challenging the establishment favote george w. bush. >> would you instruct the party not to take any money from the t bacco... >> i would instructhe party not to take any soft money, ando that's tobsteel, whoever it is. >> to beat george w. bush in the republican primaries in 2000, you had to make a virtue of what was at your disposal. what was at his disposal was oris great personality and this great sense of hum and this true reformer, maverick spirit. and the decision was to go out and put it on display. >> i'll be satisfied with whatever the voters decide. thank you. okay, guys. narrator: 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 extordinary 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 hampshi. >> (crowd chanting): john mccain! >> narrator: mccain's victory sent shockwas through the sh campaign and the party establishment. >> people don't realize how much the republican establishment was nervous about johnccain. they really did not think they could control him. w and that's wsaw so much power, wealth, and focus go against him in south carolina. it was incredible. (tires screech) >> narrator: just over two weeks later, in south carolina, the establishment and the bush team struck back. >> things happened in south carolina that were pretty ugly. south carolina'sot a long tradition of being very tough.
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listen, politics is a tough, tough, tough sport and there's no tougher tn south carolina in america. >> narrator: bush allies orchestrated a bitter d underground attack desig opeal to the republican base. >> it was a seriattacks, personal life distorted, political record distorted. it's a real smear mpaign, but it hurt. rs >> there were rull over the state that mccain had s thered a black child out of wedlock, and that fe, cindy, was a drug addict. >> narrator: mccain's daughter bridget was adopted from bangladesh, and cindy mccaind en open about how she had overcome a prescription drug addiction. >> it's just despicable. .at they did was despicab i think they were desperate.if anou think about it, had bush lost south carolina, it was over for george bush. >> and it's wrong, and it's
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my friends, s what's going on around here. >> you saw more and more angercc from senatorn himself, who was openly frustrated and angry about the ads against him, the attacks against his wife. and you could also sense that ht wasn't sure o do about it, that he had a conflict within him over how hard he pushed back. >> narrator: some mccain staff wanted to counteratto fight fire with fire. bumccain wasn't willing. >> he is a scrapper and a battler, but he did not wa 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 bught his insurgent presidential campaign to an end today. >> narrator: he would go on to lose by almost 12 points. >> w. sh... >>narrator: before long, he shut down his presidential campaign. george w. bush went on to win the presidency. >> the president-elect, george w. bush, will become the 43rdes ent of the united states. >> narrator: as john mccain
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returned to the senate, to many republicans, he was an outsider. >> it had been bad for him in the republican 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 angrfor the way he was treated. he was angry because his staff were not asked to be part of the new administration. he was angry, because he thought george bush was playg to the most conservative elements within his own party.d anfor all those reasons, he felt alienated. to >> nar mccain positioned himself as the voice of dissent in bush's republican party. >> mccain came out of the 2000wn campaign do the idea that he had become a brand. he represented something to the american public of independencea pragmatism, isanship, and 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. and while he support the iraq war, he criticized the president's strategy as inadequate. >> demonstrators gathered outside iraq's abu ghr protesting treatment... >> narrator: but it was e use of iraqi prisoners by american soldiers at abu ghraib that most enraged the former p.o.w. >> he was incensed.wa he thought ishameful. >> i'm gravely concerned thatil many americanshave the same impulse as i did when i sah picture, and that's to turn away from them. and we risk losing public support for this conflict. as americans turned away from the vietnam war, they may turn i'ay from this one. now, mr. secretarylike to know, what were the instructions to the guards? >> that is what the investigation that i've indicated has been undertaken is determining. >> but mr. secretary, that's a very simple, straightforward
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question. n rator: mccain 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 r enemies. >> narrator: he'd been fighting with the bush administration for years, but as e 2008 election approached, mccain still had ambitions to be president. il >> it takes a until he kind of comes around to the idea that, for his own interest, he needs to fd a way to reconcile with the president, and reconcile with the party. it is, at this point, george p bushty. >> narrator: first, he would make peace with george w. bush. >> if he could forgive and makec e with the leaders of north etnam, who tortured him for six years, it wasn't that hard to get 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 ticket?
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>> narrator: even morecc challenging,n had to win over the republican voters who had rejected him last time.f >> and 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 falwell, the founder of the evangelical liberty university, a man he had previously called an "agenof intolerance." >> reverend falwell came to seei said, you know, "put our past differences behind us, our acrimony behind us," or something. and then asked him on the spot if he would considerg the commencement address at liberty. and he responded on the spot, "sure." >> senator! i heard this crazy story thatse tor john mccain is giving the commencement address at jerrfalwell's university. >> well, before i bring on mys, two attorn'd like to... (laughter and applause)
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>> don't... don't make me love you! >> it cut against everything th mccain had done and sai up to that point. >> why i did it is because of the fact that my kids said, "why haven't you been othe jon stewart show lately?" and i figured that was the best way to do that. >> senator! >> john mccain is a politician. 's been elected to the senate. he's involved in politics. he understands that yesterday's battles are yesterday's batts, and if you're going t win tomorrow's, you may have to do things differently. >> so, you freaking out on us? 'cause if you're freaking out and you're going into the crazy base world... are you going into crazy base world? >> i'm afraid... i'm afraid so. >> mccain has demonstrat both a temperamental inclination and a real ability over the course h political life to, to do things that are politically 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. th, 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 like mccain 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 shed them what a comeback looks like! (cheers and applause) >> narrator: mccain had positioned himself as the heir apburent to george w. bush, there was a growing problem. the party was changing, the president's support among the base deteriorating. >> no republican wants to be the third term of george w. bush. t is a radioactive figure that point 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 butem cont... >> narrator: inside the republican party, a rebellion was underway, and mccain-- now the establishment candidate-- was a target. >> i think john mccain has a big problem with conservatives. >> narrator: they called him a rino-- republican in name only. >> he's confusing republicans with his liberal friends... >> ...reach out toemocrats... >> 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 peopley they'd be cr vote for this guy. io>> narrator: the oppositn to mccain came to a head here-- at the annual meeting of cpac,va the consve political action conference. they reluctant agreed to hear john mccain plead for their support. (crowd booing) >> i've never seen an instancen where somebodyhis position,o whis the de 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. (booing continues)
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i mean, it was extraordinary to hear it.s it's not aough everybody in the audience was booing, but ita was loud and ireal. >> it's been a little since i've had the honor of addressing you, and i appreciate very much your courtesy to me today. you know, we should do this more often. (laughter, light appuse) >> john wanted to make the case that, "here's who i am on judges, here's who i am on taxes. i believe in limited government. here's why i fight earmarking. earmarking is a corruption of i believe today, as i dlieved 25 years ago, in small government, fisccipline, low taxes, a strong defense, judges who inform and not make our laws... >> it's like the thinnest t balance beamt's probably existed, because on one side, he's trying to still retain the, "i'm the independent, i'm the m moderate, i can appeal, e maverick." on the other side is, "you can trust me, i'm a good republican." >> i am o-life and an advocate for the rights of man everywhere
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in the world. i will never waver in that conviction, 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. insir, and he tried to become mr. establishment. and the truth was, it didn't work. b nobodyelieved it on either side. and it made him look kind of foolish. he's not an insider. >> are you fired up? ready to go? fired up? we can finally bring the change we need to washington. >> narrator: making things inrse for mccain, he faced a formidable opponenhe general election. >> the american people are looking for change in america. n rator: barack obama was ngrging in the polls.
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>> mccain is loot his campaign, and he sees that the energy is on the other side, that the momentum is on the other sidethat the freshness is on the other side. >> and because somebody stoodre up, a few tood up, and 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-amican candidate, this exciting, young, charismatic figure who represented change just by getting up in the morning. >> wwill win this election, 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, we were behind. and we would have expected to go into the fall behind. so john wanted to do something a little different.
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>> this is where john mccain will appear with his rning mate. >> narrator: the announcement of his vice presidential running mate was a closely arded secret. >> it was amazing, it was so amazing. all the secrecy abou, the secret cars and secret nes and the false airports. it was the most wanted story by any political reporter in this country. everybody wanted to find out who this was. (cheering) >> thank you, thank you. thank you, thank you. >> he needed to find someone. an african-american running, yoo goind a woman. 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 uted states, governor sarah palin of the great state of alaska. >> narrator: at the time, fewal ized that the decision was a turning point for e republican party and the history of american politics.
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>> it was probably the rashest decision thajohn mccain and the people around him ever made. the truth is, they didn't know enough about her otherthe fact that she excited the base. >> mccain's advisers thought she was veryif turned out to be. they didn't realize that she would this populist crusadero and turn isort of right-wing grassroots populist. >> ladies and gentlemen, the governor of alaska and the next vice president... >>atarrator: as she arrived mccain's republican convention... >> sarah palin! n rator: palin stole the show... >> well, i'm not a member ofe rmanent political establishment. (cheering) >> palin's arrival on the scene the opening 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 toge who appeal to grievance.
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>> i'm not going to washington to seek their good opi i'm going to washington to serve the people of this great country. >> narrator: she 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 ese last few days that if you're not a member in good standing of the inshington elite, then som the media consider a candidate qualified for that reason alone, but... (audience booing) but... >> she didn't talk like politicians. she wasn't careful with her words.dn she make a lot of sense sometimes. >> i love those hockey moms. you know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? ck.s (laughter, cheering)
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>> sarah palin was whatever she needed to be to get attention and applause a money. she was an eertainer. 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 for elite institutions. >> but this governor, from alaska, she's something else. >> sarah palin has completely transformed 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 connected to the party's base in a way he never could. >> i kidded john about it constantly.da ona week, they campaigned together. and he would always double his crowds when she was ther she had tremendous appeal among the conservative grassroots.
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s> narrator: and among the campaign's grassro supporters, the anger was boiling over.em >> i rember going to john mccain rallies in 2008 and for the fit 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 toward barack obama on e right. >> obama's a terrorist, don't you know that? >> obama's a muslim. he's a terrorist himself. >> narrator: he saw the hostility 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 a. >> no, ma'am, 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. narrator: mccain wouldn't take advantage of racial prejudice.>> hey had 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 from republican politics. was a red line that was never crossed 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. >> narrator: mccain tried to reassure his >> i havell you, i have to tell you, he is a decent person, and a person that u do not have to be scared as president of the united states. (crowd boos) now, i just... i just...
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w, look... (booing) if i didn't think... >> he doesn't want to play into that, and yet he has pickedce somebody as a resident who encourages that kind of politics. so he has both tapped into this force that she is, at that point, ands wary of what he has got himself into. en barack obama is projected to be the next pres.. >> senator barack obama of illinois... >> narrator: when johnain's quest for the presidency ended, on the conservative airwaves, they blamehim. >> this campaign never had a prayer and everybody knew it om the get-go. john mccain is a disaster. a complete, unmitigatedst di. >> the mccain campaign was one of the biggest, ridiculous disasterin the history of campaigns. >> a little while ago, i had the honor of calling senator barack obama to congratulate him... (crowd booing) please. to congratulate him on beingxt elected the resident of the country that we both love.
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(crowd booing) >> narrator: john mccain's time as leader of the republican party was ending. >> i am also, of course, very thankful to governor sarah palin, one of the best campaigns i've ever seen. (cheers and applause) >> narrator: but mccain's decision tchoose 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 obrilliance was choosing sarah palin. >> i know the 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 put r, you know, within a few feet su the presidency. and i would be verrised if that didn't haunt him from then after. >> president obama lng to the people, deceiving... >> a giant step backwards in race relations. >> nartor: in the months that followed... >> rammed it down america's throats, government run amok. >> narrator: ...the populist
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heger sarah palin had tapped into exploded intoea party movement. >> nancy pelosi deceivin.. >> you wanna kill my grandparents, you come through me first! >> the things that obama's doing are the exact things tha hitler did. >> narrator: the politics of grievance and resentment that mccain had resisted were on the rise. r >>ical, communist, and socialist. >> this is a party that john m mccain andost republicans don't recognize they didn't even have the vocabulary to talk to the members of their party. th there is an ugliness wi these fringe people who are comparing the president to hitler. >> from that point on, he's a misfit in the party, and clear to everyone watching and involved that he no longer speaks for sort of the ascennt republican base. >> 2016, the road to the white house bens in iowa... >> narrator: mccain could only watch as the changes in the inpublican party culminated in a crucial momen016... >> to win iowa, everybody wants to do it... >> narrator: the woman h mccain anointed.... >> governor sarah palin-- special, special person, thank
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you. >> narrator: endorsed a new chverick. >> thank you so it's so great to be in iowa, lending our support for the next president of our great united stes of america, donald j. trump. t>> john mccain sees donamp and, in effect, what he's seeing i the manifestation of what he brought to the tab2008 by picking sarah palin. >> heads are spinnin', media heads are spinnin'. this igoing to be so much fun. >> sarah palin was something republican voters loved in 2008. and you saw donald trump completely take advantage of it fd take all of these sort palin voters and add to them. >> and breaking news frothe campaign trail, trump is picking up the endorsement from sarah palin. >> ...struggle within the republican party... narrator: 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 swampng of wasn. we're gonna drive the cars over the illegals! build the wall! ild the wall!
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>> almost everything stylistically, and many things wabout trump substantivele anathema to john mccain. there's almost nothing about trumthat is in the same spac 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 off one of the biggest political upsets in american history. >> one of the most ocking elections in our political history.. >> world order, at least a new washington order... >> ...after watchi 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 president with whom he is at odds. and there is a senate and house that are doing things that are probably more conservative than he thought was wise. >> narrator: congress was now very different from the one that mccain had witness 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 way forward on common ground. and that common ground was shrinking dramatically.k and i ths reaction was, that's... you know, it's not good for us. it's not good for the country. >> there's gridlock in washington... >> narrator: griock... >> the paralysis of the... >> narrator: confrontation... >> the deep dysfunction... >> narrator: and ideological purity had replace 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 fs party and it's hard to imagine whether there can be another one these days. the system doesn't encourage independent thinkers and people wilpunished for that. >> sad and shocking news about senator and former presidentiajo candidat mccain... >> doctors found the tumor... >> narrator: last summer, even
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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 voted against the president's at repeal obamacare... >> no. (gasping, light plause) >> 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 i themember. and right now th aren't producing much for the american people. >> it felt like it really was symbolic of who he has wanted to be. i thwho john mccain thinks he is in his heart. >> john mccain critical of the president... >> narrator: john cain was again fighting back... >> after a scathing statement from senator john mccain... >> iarrator: earning him there of a president... >> taking another swipe at president trump... >> narrator: putting him again in conflict with his own party... >> some pretty sharp words about his own party... >> narrator: ...and at thef centerttles that continue. >> john mccain says the only person smiling today is vladimir putin.
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>> he's saying that those public stements emboldened syrian president, bashar al assad... >> john mccain said thatp president tr sending a dangerous message to the world... >> got to to explore extended interviews with lindsey graham...a >> it'al smear campaign, but it hurt. >> orson swindle... >> andf we couldn'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 fil page where you can watch more than 200 frontline documentaries. t connect frontline community on facebook and twitter. then sign up for our newsletter at >> this is a crime that hides in plain sight. >> in our own country we have, a lot of victims of human trafficking. some of them are kids. >> it's probably one of theseyo things that just don't want know. do you suspect that this is going on?
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probably. but do you really wanna tr digging into it? we've got these kids. they're living on our soil. i don't care what you think about immigration policy. w itng. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station om viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation forin public broadca major support is provided by the john d. and catherint. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at additional support is provided t abrams foundation: committed to excellence in journalism.e rk foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from
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jon and jo ann hagler. ca ioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on 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 available for download on itunes. ♪
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you're watching pbs george lopez: 'charlotte's web' leslie stahl: 'war and peace'he john green: atcher in the rye' vo: but what is america's leslie favorite book?d peace'he gabrielle union: 'the color rple' allison williams: 'frankenstein: wil wheaready player one' vo: we've got a list of america's one hundred n best-lovedovels, and we need you to help us pick number one. ming-na wen: 'the joy luck club' devon kennard: 'd' kill a mockingb jenna bush: 'the book thief' leland melvin: 'the martian' vo: is your favorite on the list? join host meredith viera, and cast your vote in the great american read. it all begin tuesday, may 22nd at 8/7c. only on pbs.
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w.s. merwin, voice-over: poetry begins with hearing. it begins with hearing the sounds of passion. man: he was a minstrel, a troubadour, a jongur, a throwback. different man: he has evolved as a poet in remarkable ways that i can't think there's a parallel in contemporary american poetry. different man: he's different from most people. he would do whatever he needed to do-- cut his own hair, wear the same clothes, whatever it was just in order to maintain his independence. some people e,ve taken it as arroga but the truth is people are struck by his depth and his authenticity. announcer: t "w.s. merwin: to plantree" was made possible in part by... th hhotels and resorts ofekulani is proud to support this documentary celebrating w. merwin


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