Iowa’s political community is mourning this weekend’s death of Arizona Senator John McCain.
McCain twice ran for president. His 2000 “Straight Talk Express” mostly by-passed the Iowa Caucuses, but in early 2007 McCain brought his second campaign for the White House to Iowa. On October 26th of that year he was in Iowa. It was the 40th anniversary of his capture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
During a telephone interview with Radio Iowa that day, McCain credited Colonel Bud Day of Sioux City — one of the other POWs in the “Hanoi Hilton” — with “literally” saving his life.
“Bud Day was the senior ranking officer in almost every situation and he inspired us to do things that we otherwise were incapable of and so it’s not that these are bad memories,” McCain said of his POW experience. “Many of them are the most wonderful memories of my entire life.”
McCain has written that it was during those years as a POW that he “fell in love with his country” and he voiced the same sentiments during that Radio Iowa interview.
“You don’t appreciate America until you’re parted from her company,” McCain told Radio Iowa. “And then you really appreciate what a wonderful nation we live in.”
Nearly four decades after his safe return to American soil, McCain had landed the GOP’s presidential nomination. McCain finished fourth in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, but he kept campaigning here in the spring, summer and fall of 2008.
“I want to be president because I want to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest,” McCain said in most speeches.
At a McCain rally in September of 2008 in Cedar Rapids, a group of protesters began yelling and McCain’s supporters in the crowd started chanting to drown them out.
“You know what, my friends? The one thing Americans want us to do is to stop yelling at each other, don’t they?” McCain asked the crowd, chuckling.
McCain, who cast himself as the underdog to Barack Obama in that 2008 race, often referred to the country’s heartland as “the real America” during his speeches in Iowa that year.
“We’ve got tough times, but we’re the greatest nation on Earth,” McCain said. “I love this country. I love you. Get out to vote.”
McCain returned to the Iowa campaign trail once more, in 2014, to campaign with Joni Ernst. Ernst, who won that U.S. Senate race, this weekend called McCain “a true American hero” and praised his “tenacious spirit.” Senator Ernst said McCain was a mentor who “personified service to our country.”
Senator Chuck Grassley also praised McCain’s tenacity and courage, including his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Grassley and McCain have served in the senate for the past 32 years and Grassley noted McCain’s humor, saying McCain often greeted him by saying: “Nothing runs like a Deere” or joking about having a daily glass of ethanol. McCain
was an outspoken critic of “ethanol subsidies.”
All four of the Iowans serving in the U.S. House have issued statements on McCain’s passing, describing McCain as a statesman, hero and patriot.
Congressman Steve King praised McCain for using “every day of his life in preparation for or actively serving our country. Congressman Dave Loebsack said McCain was a “brave, honorable man” who proudly served the country in uniform and in congress.
Congressman Rod Blum called McCain a “great statesman and American war hero” whose service and commitment will not be forgotten. Congressman David Young said McCain was a patriot who “inspired many to give the best they could to make community and country better.”