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tv   Frontline  PBS  August 29, 2018 4:00am-5:01am PDT

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>> narrator: tonight... >> our deliberations are more partisan than at any time that i can remember... >> narrator: as america remembers john mccain... >> john mccain fused togethero most opposing concepts. he was all about duty and he was all about dissent. >> narrator: the life politics and legacy of a verick. >> in some ways, mccain is a pioneer of the politics i thinko we're goinet, and in some ways i think he's the last of breed of something we're losing. >> narrator: tonight on rontline," "mccain." >> "frontline" is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank yo and by the corporation for public broadcasting.pp
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major t is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. blmore information is avai at the ford foundation, workingth isionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide, at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awarenessc tical 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 jon and jo anngl >> this is a big day... can't underestimate... >> narrator: on july 27, 2017... >> the senate is scheduled to vote on the latest version of the bill to replace obamacare...
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>>llhey're going to be there night, what's called a vote-a-rama. >> narrator: washington was closely watching senator john mccain. a >> a vote on healt vote that... >> narrator: he was thvote on president 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?yo do you know hore going to vote?" and he was grouchier and grouchier as the day went on, as he sometimes gets. and he just ?id, "stay tuned," you kn it was sort of like... he kind of was even saying, like,at the vote. it'll be a show." >> he is expected to return to catol hill today... >> narrator: just over a week before, mccain had been diagnosed with a deadly form of brain caer. >> 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. a and all ey on him. ar >> today senatorvoting on a repeal-only plan... >> g.o.p. leaders... >> narrator: it all came dowto one vote, on one night, at 1:30 in the morning. >> it was the most dramatic
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night on the senate floor i hadi seall my years up there. >> mr. barrasso... , >> the vote's ticking awe vote's ticking away, and mccain's on the floor, but he's not voting. >> mr. blunt... >> it was perfect maation of john mccain's career, that it would fall to him, in the middle of he night, to render final judgment on president trump'major legislative initiative. >> narrator: fellow republican senator susan collins had been pushing mccaino vote against the bill trump was backing. at lisa murkowski and i knew that he had resens. we were talking with him about the bill, and all of a sudden, he pointedo both of us and he said, "you know, you two are right." it was then that i felt a tap on my shoulder, and i turned around, and it was vice president pence. >> narrator: pence had come to pressure mccain to support the president.
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>> the vice president stood toe- to-toe with john mccain, and he was in his space, it was very close. they went on for, i don't know,s med 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 ew he had the power to enable trump's presidency, to give him a new lease on life, o to enscritical defeat early in his 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 were closed. and you could tell from the body 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...t >> he knew tis was his one last chance to really take a
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heand, capture the nation's imagination in trocess, but also remind his party that they have tdo things differently. >> narrator: mccain, with a thumbs-down gesture, shocked the chamber. >> no. (gasping, light applause) >> you cld hear audible gasps in the chamber.os and gasps of surprise came from both sides of the aisle. >> (gping, 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 kind of this cinematic culmination of the career that he has had in washington. i a shocking vote, senator john mccain delivered a death blow...>> arrator: president trump was furious. >> he tends to lash out most bitterly in those moments. and wi john mccain's thumbs- down no vote, he just watched six months of his presidency kind of evaporate intoes
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nothin- he'd gotten nothing, nothing done in that time. >> arrator: the president used the weight of his office to try to punish mccain. >> president trump iing a make america great again rally in phoenix... >> narrator: the occasiowas a rally in mccain's home >> a camign-style event tonight. >> narrator: here in mccain country, trump tk him on. >> they all said, "please, mr. president, don't mention any names." (crowd cheering) so i won't. i won't. rowd cheering) we were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody prlaiming, "repeal and replace." one vote away. >> he criticizes john mccain, who 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
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>> narrator: had been targeting mccain for years. >> @senjohnmccain should be defeated in the primaries. graduated last in his class at annapolis-- dummy! (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: he portrayed mccain as a symbol of the old republican party... >> retweet: mccain epitomizes the career politicians who hav gotten us into our $19 trillion train wreck.ze (computetweet sound) >> narrator: trump attacked him as a failed presidential candidate... >> john mccain let us down by losing to barack obama in his run for president! (computerized tweet sound) >> narrator: and trump expressea his personal d. >> retweet: senjohnmccain is always talking, talking but nothing gets done. (computerized tweet sound) >> let's stop insulting each other. >> right, yes. >> let's start respecting... >> what he did was, he fired up ore crazies... >> narrator: andis 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 not. >> donald trump is everything john mccain doesn't like. he's not someone who's servedit in the my.
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he's not somebody who had given to his country in any 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 vietnam veteran. >> he's not a war hero. >> he's a war hero. >> he's a war hero...>> ive-and-a-half years of... >> he's a war hero because he was captured. i like people that weren't caured, okay? i hate to tell you. >> do you age with that? >> he's a war hero because heca waured. okay? >> republican senator john mccainhallenged president trump... >> narrator: it was not the first time john mccain had ashed with a powerful political rival... >> john mccain, maverick of legend, >>tor: ...his more than three-decade career defined by conflict with his own party. >> john mccain, of course, a obama's foreign policy...t >> narrator: a self-styled maverick in an increasingly partisan washington. >> narrator: john mccain had been a public figu since that day he was captured in north vietnam when he was 31.
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i was on a flight over the city of hanoi. and i was bombing and was hit by either a missile or anti-aircraft fire, i'm not sure whic e >>nded in a lake in hanoi, went 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 faith his autobiography, of my fathers." >> "a crowd of several hundred vietnamese gathered around me as i lay dazed before them,ng shouildly 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 died.
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>> john wouldn't go to sleep. he's in a cast, his eyes are haverish. he's in bad, bad. i thought he was going to die. an what is your name? >> lieutenant cor john mccain. >> narrator: the north vietnamese had discovered mccain was not just any captive. >> may i know who is your father?me could you im 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-chief of u.s. naval forces in europe. >> narrator: mccain's father would soon be in charge all forces in the pacific. >> john was a prize. they referred to him as "the prince." "we've got the prince." >> they realize that they have this exceptional public relationtool. and they say to him, "a-ha! you're the crown prince." >> narrator: the crown prince's grandfather-- they called m popeye-- was a legendary admiral in world war ii, here posing
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nth mccain's father in ja on the day the japanese surrendered. with the family legacy of service and duty, mccain reluctantly had followed them to the naval ademy. >> "i was an arrogant, undisciplined, insolent dshipman who felt it necessary or prove my mettle by challenging auy." >> he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class, and he managed to accumulate, 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. and everything in his life washa because ofhis last name was. >> it's hard to grow up in a egfamily with the militaryy that his family had. i mean, it goes back to georgeen washington's gal staff. that stuff is the, it's like osmosis. so john's got all of this. then he goes and gets shot down. and now he's almost de. and he fights to survive.
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>> how many raids have you done until st one? >> about 23. >> narrato mccain says he made a decision. he would compromise with his captors: cooperate with this interview in return for medical attention and a chance to sendss a e to his wife. >> if you have anything to say to the people you love and the people who love you, please tell it now. this time is yours >> (sighs) (voice breaking): i would just like to tell... g my wife i' well. (crying)i anve her and hope to see r soon. and i'd appreciate it if you'd h te. >> narrator: before long, the north vietnamese wanted even more-- a confession of war crimes, something mcca duty-bound not to give them. he refused and was beaten.
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>> "the prick came in with two other guards, liftede to ex feet, and gave me the worst beating i had yerienced. 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 rimiliation. it's a horrible exce. we had to endure it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for five, six, seven, eight, nine years. >> narrator: fearing he would break under torture, mccain sawy ne way to avoid dishonor-- suicide. >> "despairing of any relief from pain and furtheure, 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 shutters and back through att bottom s. 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
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because we couldn't take the pain.e and ifuldn't take the pain, we were scared to death we'd do somethg 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. >> "finally, they had me sign the doment. the next morning, they ordered me to record my confession on tape. i refused, and was beaten until i consented." >> narrator: he believed he hadh ored his country and disgraced his family. >> we all feel guilty because the code of conduct 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. well, the real world is this: you can get information from people. (mccain on tape): >> narrator: and they did. (mccain on tape):
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>> narrator: the confession was broadcast as north vtnamese propaganda. (mccain on tape): "i couldn't rationalize away my confession. i was ashamed. i felt failess, and couldn't control my despair. i shook as if my disgrace were a fever." >> he was quite disconsolate. but it was the g 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-dcovery 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 depend on you. some very, very basic, core, handamental things in life some people go through their whole lives and never learn, he learned at a retively early age. and i think he went from being probably a really coy s.o.b. to being a fellow who's pretty
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well-grounded in what'sif important in >> narrator: mccain's fellow point to a key event int his den. 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 pt of the north vietnamese to embarrass his father, to show the son 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 t a family legacy. again, it's about honor, it's about those obligations-- spoken or sworn to-- that you just don't do things like that. y narrator: in the end, it would be nearlve more years before john mccain was releasede >> we today ha concluded an agreemento end the war and
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bring peace th honor in vietnam. ec john sidney mccain. >> narrator: the ets of the torture and his injuries would remain he'd never be ableo raise his arms above his head. he was a former p.o.w., a war hero, a celebrity, so the navy put him right out front with the politicians. >> when members of congress travel, they usually have a ptain or colonel as escort officer, and john was our escort officer on several trips. he was just fun to be with. and he had a sense of derring-do and, "let's go do some things. let's hop on a plane, let's goto uch and such a country." >> rather quickly, he becomes friends with some of the younger senators: garyart, 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 a
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good time together. >> narrator: after a while, mccain decided he wanted to join the club. >> he was a bright, sharp guy,su and i' he looked around and said, "boy, if these guys can do this, i can do this." >> narrator: the congress johnn mccaanted to join was very different from the one tay. he got to know a young staffer in bill cohen's office: susan collins. >> when hn was the navy liaison, he saw a congress that worked much mo collaboratively, that was far less partisan, and that got more done. >> republicans and democrats saw each other as colleagues, noten ies. and it would color his view. it would shape his view of how washinon should work for the rest of his career. >> narrator: but before getting into politics, mccain rearrangef his personal his wife, carol, had dutifully waited through the p.o.w. yes.
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a form model, she'd been severely crippled in a car accident while mccain was in vietnam. but soon the couple would divorce. >> "my marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness animmaturity more than it was to vietnam, and i cannot eape blame by pointing a finger at the war. the blame was entirely mine." >> narrator: he was known to have an e 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 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 and i were members of his wedding pty when he and cindy were married in arizona. >> narrator: cindy's father owned a lucrative beerhi distributoin arizona. he was rich and connected.oh soonmccain would be, too. >> for me, it was natural saying, "you're in love with this young woman from arizona.
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you're a conservative. ar.ona's a conservative sta go run in arizona. you'll have your family theran that will be the basis where you'll start." >> john mccain has energy and opmism. just what we want! his leadership is giving us something precious: pe for the future! >> narrator: he ran as an old-ne fashio pragmatic, small government conservative. >> ♪ america... >> narrator: he won a congressional election and then barry goldwater's formere seat in nate. >> (crowd chanting): john mccain! john mccain! >> narrator: mccain adjusted quickly to ronald reagan and george h.w. bush's washington, where republicans often worked with democrats to pass legislation. >> i worked here in the 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 leas20 who overlapped, more liberal
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republicans-- there's a term yoe don' much anymore-- and conservative democrats. >> narrator: in that environment, john mccain's star was rising. but then his career was nearly derailed. >> never before have five senators been accused of intervening th federal regulators... >> the keating five-- four democratic senators... >> everything is going gre, and then, bam, this scandal hits, and even by today's anstandards, it was a big l involving five very important members of the united states senate. >> the worst financial scandal in u.s. history... >> narrator: at the center of the scandal was mccain's friend and contributor arles keating, an arizona high-roller and the owner of a failed savings and loan. >> mccain understands, and he'll admit, that when his obituary is writte the keating scandal will be somewhere high in the obituary. had so he understands the dark stain that thaon his career. he understands that. r: >> narraccain and four
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other senators were accused of pressuring government regulatora to back off ofng and his bank. >> and it got to the core the things that john mccain cares about most-- his personal integrity, his honesty. it got to the very core of i what is moortant to him. >> i seek a speedy and justti reso 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 lled for. >> and he says, "so from this day forward," he says, "we'reak going toevery interview that we can take. we're going to prioritize arizona media er national media, but we'll do them all."♪ ♪ >> this man is a united states senator 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. o the appearana meeting with five senators was bad and wrong and i agonized it over
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the time. gi >> this was the ing of a pattern that he has developed at moments of crisis. he'll stand there until the last reporter sits down.k and i th'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 the united states senate. >> narrator: they said he was guilty of poor >> most people after having gone through what he went through in the keating five, that's it. his chances of any national office are over, are done with. and by the way, he's probably ssnot going to be very sucl 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 political >> he will sur vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp, he will survive political scandal, and he is relentless. ipthing will stop him no matter how many times he up.he >> but t republican party was changing around mccain.
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>> one of the most contentious elections... >> ...a few sweet mocrnts for the ats... >> the republican revolution of election '94 shook capital hill. >> the ' elections had fundamentally changed the nature of the republican party. so you had the gingr revolution, which had created the idea of a party with a much harder edge than it had beenpr r 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 in the majority... >> narrator: the lear of the party was now speaker of the house newt gingrich. the 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 mean at one level, is that it expresses itself sometimes in a need to go kick people in the shins. anhe occasionally adopts a idea which is abhorrent to modern conservatism. >> narrator: mccain would chart his own course as an
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independent-mindedepublican: a champion of campaign finance reform, a supporter of environmental protections, and he wasn't afid 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 farrakhan or al sharpton on the left or pat robertson or jerry falwell on the right. (applause and cheering) >> mccain had called leaders of the christian right "agents of intolerance."is as a phrase never forgotten. >> mccain was willing to go into battle with his base on issue after issue. he was still a conservative republican, but he was morewi ing to break from the party mainstream than almost any other national g.o.p. leader. hi >>morning, 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 reforme.. >> the g.o.p. hopeful who left
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iowa far, far behind... >> narrator: john mccain had decided to run for president. >> john felt there might be a grassroots, populist rebellion brewing about reforming government, reforming the campaign stem. so he decided to do it. >> a look at john mccain, on tht trail and in lead... it's helped him steadilyin a bigger and bigger slice of the republican electorate... >> narrator: he ran anai insurgent gn out of a bus he called the "straight talk express," challenging theen establishmfavorite george w. bush. rtywould you instruct the 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 primaries in 2000,ak you had toa virtue of what was at your disposal. what was at hidisposal was this great personality a this great sense of humor 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 dede.
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thank you. okay, guys. >> narrator: he had put together a coalition of moderates and independents, and in a key .imary, he upset george w bush. >> victory over the favorite >> beextraordinary political day as the voters of new hampshire have spoken... >> the mccn win was so overwhelming, the fact that he won in every demographic... >> the primaryight itself, i think he loved it. i think he loved the experience of new hampshire. >> (crowd chanting): johnca mc! >> narrator: mccain's victory sent shockwaves through the bush campaign and the party altablishment. >> people don't e how much the republican establishment was nervous about john mccain. th really did not think they could control him. and that's why we saw so much power, wealth, and focus go againshim in south carolina. it was incredible. (tires screech) >> narrator: jusover two weeks later, in south caroli, the establishment and the bush team struck back. >> things happened in south carolina that were pretty ugly.
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south carolina's got a long tradition of being very tough. sten, politics is a toug tough, tough sport and there'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, personal life distorted, d political recotorted. it's a real smear campaign, but it hurt. >> there were rumors all over the state that mccain had fathered a black child out of wedlock, and that his wife, cindy, was a drug addict. >> narrator: mccain's daughter bridget was adopted from bangladesh, and cindy cain had been open about how she had overcome a prescription drug addictn. >> it's just despicable. what they did was despicable. i think they were desperate. and if you think about it, had bush lost south carolina, it was over f george bush.
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>> and it's wrong, and it's wrong. my friends, this is what's going on around here. >> you saw more anmore anger from senator mccain himself, who was openly frustrated and angry about the ads against him, the attacks against his wife. and you could also sense that he wasn't sure what to do about it, that he had a conflict within him ov how hard he pushed back. in stafftor: some mc wanted to counterattack, to fight fire with fire. but mccain wasn't willing. h 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 thate felt was being done to him. he wasn't going to answer in >> john mcrought his insurgent presidential campaign to an end today.>> arrator: 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 presidency. >> the president-elect, george w. bush, will become the 43r
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president of the united states. >> narrator: as john mccain returned to the sena, to many republicans, he was an outsider. >> it had been bad for 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 t se days. >> he was angry for the way he was treated. he was angry because his staff were not ask to be part of the new administration. he was angry, because he thought george bush aying to the most conservative elements within his own party. and for all those reasons, he felt alienated. >> narrator: mccain positioned hitelf as the voice of diss in bush's republican party. >> mccain came out of th2000 campaign drawn to the idea that he had become a brand. he represented something to the american public of independence, pragmatism, bipartisanship, and he moved very aggressively to maximize t leverage of the brand legislatively.
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>> narrator: mccain fought the bush administration's tax cuts asenefiting the wealthy. and while he supported the iraq war, he criticized the president's strategy aste inadeq >> demonstrators gathered outside iraq's abu ghraib t otesting treatment... >> narrator: but iwas the abuse of iraqi prisoners by american soldiers at abu ghraib that most enraged the form p.o.w. >> he was incensed. he thought it was shameful. >> i'm gravely concerned that many americans will have the same impulse as i did when i saw this picture, and that's to turn away from them. and we risk losing public support fothis conflict. as americans turned away from the vietnam war, they may turn away from this one. now, mr. secretary, i'd like to know, what were the instructions to the guards? is >> thahat the investigation that i'veha indicatebeen undertaken is determining. ec
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>> but mr.tary, that's a very simple, straightforward question. >> narrator: 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 our enemies. >> narrator: he'd been fighting with the bush administration fob year as the 2008 election approached, mccain still had ambitions to be president. >> it takes a while until he kind of comes around to the idea that, for his own interest, heed to find a way to reconcile with the president, and reconcile with the party. it is, at th 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 vietnam, 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?
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>> are any of you tempted to t vote f mccain ticket? >> 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 at to become the nominee, he had to make peace with the bush wing of the party and with people o are avid bush supporters. and he set out to do so. >> narrator: he even embraced reverend jerry falwell, the founder of the evangel anberty university, a man he had previously calleagent of intolerance." >>eeverend falwell came to him, 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 consider giving the commencement address at liberty.d responded on the spot, "sure." >> senator! i heard this crazy story that senator john mccain is giving the commencement address at rry falwell's university. >> well, befe i bring on my
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two attorneys, i'd like to... (laughter and applause) >> don't... don't make me love you! >> it cut against everything that mccain had done and said up to that point. >> why i didt is because of the fact that my kids said, "wh haven't en on the jon stewart show lately?" and i figured that was the best way to do that. >> senator! >> john mccain is a politician. he's been elected to the senate. he's involved in politics. he understan that yesterday's battles are yesterday's battles, and if you're going to win tomorrow's, you may have to do this differently. >> so, you freaking out on us? 'cause if you're freaking out and you're going intthe crazy base world... are you going into crazy base world? >> i'm afraid... i'm afraid so. ns >> mccain has deated both a temperamental inclination and a real ability over the cour of his political life to, to doa
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thingsare politically expedient, and at the same time 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. ia narrator: by the first republican presideprimary 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. s but tonight wee showed them what a comeback looks like! (cheers and plause) >> narrator: mccain had positioned himself as the heir apparent to george w. bush, but 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. he is a radioactive figure at that point for the party. and they are divided over what the party should stand for at
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is point. >> mccain, frankly, has shown conservatives little but contempt...ra >> nartor: inside the republican party, a rebellions derway, and mccain-- now the establishment candidate-- was a target. >> i think john mccain has a big problem with conservatives. >> narrator: they caim a rino-- republican in name only. >> he's confusing republicans with his liberal friends...h >> ...ret to democrats... >> how's this guy going to unite his party? what's he gointo do? rush limbaugh's out there on the radio every day telling people they'd be crazy to vote for this guy. >> narrator: the opposition to mccain came to a heahere-- at the annual meeting of cpac, the conservative political action conference.ta they relly agreed to hear john mccain plead for their support. (crowd booing) >> i've never seen ainstance where somebody in his position, who is the de facto leader of the party heading into the next election, walks into a audience like that and gets the kind of boos that he got.
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(booing continues) i mean, it was extraordinary to hear it. it's not as though everybody 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 addressing you, and i appreciate very much your courtesy to me today.ow you kn, we should do this more often. l (laughteht applause) >> john wanted to make the case at, "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 government." >> i believe 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 probably 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." on the other side is, "you can trust me, i'm a good
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republican." a >>pro-life and an advocate for the rights of man everywhere in the world. i will never waver ithat conviction, i promise you. >> that day was a reminder tt he still had a considerable amount of work to do with the conservati base of the party. >> thank you and god bless you. (cheers and applause) >> i think what mccain did, which almost killed him, was, h tried to becommr. insider, and he tried to become mr. establishment. and the truth was, it didn't work. nobody believed it 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 an finally bring the change we need to washington. >> narrator: making things worse for mccain, he faced a formidable opponent in the general election. >> the american people are looking for change in america.
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>> narrator: barack obama was rging in the polls. >> mccain is looking at his campgn, and he sees that the energy is on the other side, that the momentum is on thesi othe, that the freshness is on the other side. >> and becauseomebody stood up, a few more stood up, and then a few thoand 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 r against the first african-american candidate, this exciting, ung, charismatic figure who represented changeust by getting up in the morning. >> we will win this election, wh will changcourse of history, and the world... >> narrator: mccain was trouble, and he knew it. he needed a dramatic gesture. >> by the summer, when mcc got ready to make a vice presidential selection, we were behind. w and ld have expected to go into the fall behind.
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so john wanted to do something a little different. is this is where john mccain will appear withunning mate. >> narrator: the announcement of his vice presidential ing mate was a closely guarded secret. >> it was amazing, it was so amazing. all the secrecy about it, the secret cars and secret names and the false airports. it was the most wanted story by any political reporter in this eduntry. everybody wanto find out who this was. (cheering) >> thank you, thank you. thank you, thank you. >> he needed to find someone. an african-american running, you got to find 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 t president united states, governor sarah palin of the great state of alaska. >> narrator: at the time, fe realized that the decision was o turning poinr the republican
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party and the history of american politics. >> 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. ht mccain's advisers thoughe 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 of right-wing grassroots populist. >> ladies and gentmen, the governor of alaska and the next vice president... >> narrator: as she arrived at mccain's republican convention... >> sarah palin! >> narrator: palin stole the show... >> well, i'm not a member of the permanent politicalta ishment. (cheering) >> palin'srrival on the scene is the opening chapter, in a way, of the transformation of the republican party into theme tea party mo. the idea that what we are going to rewarare people who want to blow up the system, who are bomb throwers, who are firebrands, who appeal to
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anger, who appeal to grievance. >> i'm not going to washington to seek their good opinion. 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 o the washington establishment and those she laled "the elites." >> i've learned quickly these last few days that if you're not a member 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 politician she wasn't careful with her words. she didn't make a lot of sense sometimes. s.>> i love those hockey m you know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? pstick. (laughter, cheering)
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>> sarah palin was whatever she needed to be to get attentnau and appl and money. she was an entertainer. and she was antithetic everything john mccain believed about politics. >> thank you a god bless america. ed >> john mccain ushn insurgent, somebody coming in from the outside, literally from alaska, and then n 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 yoknow how great she is? she's unbelievable. palin connected to the party'ss base in a way he never could. >> i kidded john about it constantly. one day a week, they campaigned together. and he would always double his crowds when she was there. she had tremendous appeal among
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the conservative grassroots. >> narrator: and among the campaign's grassroots supporters, the anger was boiling over. >> i remember going to john mccain rallies in 2008 and for the first time having members of the crowstart to throw things at reporters, you know? that was new. there was so mh anger that members in the mccain audience wanted to throw it sewhere. >> narrator: much of the anger was directed at mccain's opponent, barack obama. th one thing that was observable and yet ignored wadegree to which there was real hostility toward barack obama on the right. >> obama's a terrorist, don't you know that? >> obama's a muslim. w 's a terrorist him. >> narrator: he sae hostility >> i can't t obama. i have read about him, and he's not... he's not... he's a... he is an arab, he ia... >> 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. >> they 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 bn fired and banned from republican politics. it 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 sced of an obama presidency. >> narrator: mccain tried to reassure his supporters... >> i have to tell you, i have t tell y is a decent person, and a person that you do not dehave to be scared as pre of the united states. (crowd boos)
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now, i just... i just... now, look... (booing) if i didn't thin.. >> he doesn't want to play into that, and yet he has picked somebody as a vice president who encourages that kind of polics. so he has both tapped into this force that she is, at that a poin is wary of what he has got himself into. >> barack obama is projected to be the next president... >> senat barack obama of illinois... >> narrator: when john mccain's quest for the presidency ended, on the conservativela airwaves, theyd him. >> this campaign never had a prayer and everybody knew it from the get-go. john mccain is a daster. a complete, unmitigated disaster. >> theccain campaign was one of the biggest, ridiculous disasters in the history of campaigns. >> a little while ago, i had thl honor ofng senator barack obama to congratulate him... (crowd booing) please. to congratulate him on being
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elected the next president of the country that we both love. (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 bestca aigners i've ever seen. (cheers and applause) >> narrator: but mccain'ssi de 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. f >> tsh of brilliance was choosing sarah palin. >> i know the people around him regret it, t had not only given a atform to someone who was very corrosive to the political process and to t party, but had very nearly put her, you know, within a few feet of the presidency. and i would be very surprised if that didn't haunt hm then >> president oying to the people, deceiving... >> a giant step backwards in race relations. >> narrator: in the months that followed... >> rammed it down america's
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throats, government run amok.>> narrator: ...the populist 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 of teievance and resentment that mccain had resiswere on the rise >> radical, communist, and socialist. >> thiis a party that john mccain and most republicans don't cognize anymore. o d they didn't even have the vocabulary to talke members of their party. >> there is an ugliness with these fringe people who are comparing the president to hitler. rt from that point on, he's a misfit in the pa and clear to everyone watching and hevolved that he no longer speaks for sort ofscendant republican base. >> 2016, the road to the whiteus begins in iowa... >> narrator: mccain could only watch as the changes in the republican party culmited in a crucial moment in 2016... >> to win iowa, everybody wants to do it... >> narrator: ...ashe woman mccain had anointed....
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>> governor sarah palin-- special, special person, thank you. >> narrator: endorsed a new maverick. >> thank you so much, it's so great to be in iow lending our support for the next president of our great united states of amica, donald j. trump. >> john mccain sees donald trump and, in effect, isat he's seeing he manifestation of what he brought to the table in 2008 by picking sarah palin. >> heads are spinnin', media heads are spinnin'. is is going to be so much fun. >> sarah palin was something republican voters loved in 2008. and you saw donaldrump completely take advantage of it and take all of these sort of palin vote and add to them. >> and breaking news from the campaign trail, trump is picking up the endorsement from sarah palin. >> ...struggle within the republican party... >> narrator: as the republicanmp nominee, txploited the forces that mccain would not. >> we are led by very stup people. we're going to drain the swamp of washington. we're gonna drive the cars over the illegals!
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build the wall! build the wall! >> almost everything stylistically, and many things about trump substantively, were anathema to john mccain. there'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 coulh not-- wipresidency. >> well, donald trump pulled hf one of the biggest political upsets in americtory. >> one of the most shocking elections in our political history.. >> world order,ast 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.' >>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 thaw mccain hnessed all those
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years ago. >> iwas a different sort of period of time when we both first entered the congress. there were certain issues at 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 good for us. it's not good for the country. >> there's gridlock in >> nar gridlock... >> the paralysis of the... >> narrator: confrontation... >> the deep dysfction... >> 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 andma it's hard tone whether there can be another one these days. the system doesn't encourage indendent thinkers and mavericks. people will get punished for that. >> sad and shocking news about senator and former presidential candidate john mccain...
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>> doctors found the tumor.. >> narrator: in the summer of 2017, even as he was diagnosed with brain cancer, mccain was again the center of attention. >> that much anticipat vote on health care that is still too close to call... >> narrator: as he voted against the esident's attempt to repeal obamacare... >> no. (gping, light applause) >> norator: ...and stood up t 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 now they aren't producing much for the american people. >> it felt like it really wasf symbolico he has wanted to be. this is who john mccain thinkss he his heart. >> after a scathing statement from senator john mccain >> john mccain critical of the president... >> narrator: mccain continued to fight. >> senator john mccain said the president's performance was disgraceful. a low point in the history of the american >> nar to the very end.
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>> john mccain senator, esidential candidate, and vietnam war hero has died. >> got to to explore extended interviews with lindseyraham... >> it's a real smear campaign, but it hurt. >> orson swindle... a if 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 films page where you can watch more than 20 frontline documentaries. connect to the frontline community on facebook and twitter. then sign up for our newsletter at >> the stock market is down 21 percent. >> narrator: 10 years the great recession. >> that took a pie of our soul. >> narrator: cities like dayton are still struggling to come back. >> i actually worked in this same exact plant for gm. i'd say it probably averaged out
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around $35 an at fao you started out at $12 an hour. >> dayton is not unique in the problems that we are facing. w but,t is unique is that dayton is still small enough t fix this. >> narrator: "left behind america", next time on frontline. >> "frontline" is made possible by contributions to your pbsio stfrom viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporationor public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. more information is ave at the ford foundation, workingwi 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, dicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust, supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires.
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and by the "frontline" journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo annha er captioned 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" islso available for download on itunes. ♪
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wa >> you'rhing pbs. >> frontline brings you breakthrough journalism, crucial answers, and stories you can't ignore. >> ♪ and way down we go be more... 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 moral crisis, she abandoned the lucrative career for life as a public servant. - if you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, then you will repeal this corrosive policy. - [carlos] so, what inspired this polital 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. - this is the moment when women stood strong and stood firm. - [carlos] and what keeps her moving on the campaign trail to breaking big. (audience cheering)


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