From aviator to war hero, to Congressman, to Senator, to presidential nominee, John McCain has lived a very interesting life indeed. Frequently referred to as a “maverick,” a title McCain has used to describe himself as well, this term also well describes his views on gambling, which are very liberal, especially for a Republican.
John Sidney McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone, then under the control of the United States, where his family had been stationed. John McCain certainly traveled around a great deal while growing up, attending a total of 20 different schools.
After graduating from high school in 1954, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who both rose to become four-star admirals and attend the United States Naval Academy. In spite of being very intelligent, McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his class, due to a combination of not being all that interested in certain academic subjects, and frequent conflicts with those of a higher rank.
John was in fact known as someone who didn’t like to play by the rules, even that far back. He also had quite a reputation for partying back then. He then completed flight school but wasn’t particularly good at it, although his skills did improve over time even though he was still known as being on the reckless side.
McCain got married in 1965 to Carol Shepp and had a daughter together to go along with the two children Shepp brought from a previous marriage, who he adopted. Not long after that he requested a combat assignment, was granted.
So it was off to Vietnam for McCain, and before too long he ended up being captured by the North Vietnamese after having his plane shot down. He ended up serving 5 ½ years as a POW, at the infamous prison known as the Hanoi Hilton.
At the time, his father was the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and when the North Vietnamese found out who he was, they finally treated his injuries and even offered to release him. He refused though unless all the other prisoners he served with were released first. This was in spite of the particularly brutal torture that he faced in captivity.
This only strengthened the resolve of his captors to break him, and the beatings were so frequent and severe now that McCain attempted suicide, which they thwarted. His cellmates remarked that they did not expect him to live very much longer. He also served two years in solitary confinement which didn‘t help matters.
Their goal with this torture was to extract an anti-American “confession” out of him, and like so many other prisoners, they finally broke him. While not proud of this, “I learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.”
Upon his release, he required lengthy therapy to regain his health. He recovered, although he did suffer some permanent damage, and was made a commanding officer of a flight squadron. His marriage hit the rocks during this time, and not long afterward he met another woman, Cindy Lou Hensley, who he ended up marrying after his divorce from Carol was finalized.
By this time he was serving as the Navy liaison to the U.S. Senate and rose to the rank of captain. It became clear though that he wasn’t going to ever make it to the rank of admiral though, and ended up retiring from the navy in 1981 to work for his new wife’s father, who was a beer distributor in Arizona.
So this is how John McCain ended up in Arizona, and the time working in the Senate had whetted his appetite for politics, and in 1982 decided to seek the nomination to run for Congress. Being a newcomer in the state, he was accused of being a “carpetbagger,” which he responded that being in and around the Navy all his life, “we in the military service tend to move a lot,” and “the place I lived longest in my life was the Hanoi Hilton.”
He won the nomination, won the election, and served as a congressman until 1987, where he now set his sights on the U.S. Senate. He easily defeated his Democratic opponent and still holds that Senate seat to this day, almost 3 decades later.
One of the people who got his political career off the ground was none other than Charles Keating, of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which became later embroiled in scandal, and McCain became wrapped up in this as well, having been found to have taken illegal campaign contributions from Keating from 1982 to 1987. McCain later repaid this money.
McCain started his Senate career on the Armed Services committee, which given his service was a natural fit, but he also joined the Commerce Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee.
This was around the time where gambling on Indian land was a big topic, and McCain, being a lifelong gambler with close ties to the gambling industry, was also a very good fit for this role. He played a key role in authoring the 1998 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the law which gave Native Americans the legal power to operate gambling establishments on their lands.
McCain’s political influence grew, and in 1996, he was considered as a running mate for Bob Dole‘s presidential bid, although Jack Kemp was picked instead. The next year though he made Time Magazine’s list of The Top 25 Most Influential People in America.
In the next presidential election, Senator McCain decided to seek the nomination for the first time, putting him up against George W. Bush, who had the majority of the support from the Republican Party and its backers. Bush won the nomination and went on to serve two terms as President of the United States.
Not known as one to follow party lines, the “maverick Republican” became the target of an anonymous smear campaign, which among other things accused him of being a homosexual, of fathering a “black child” (he and his wife Cindy had adopted a child from Bangladesh), and that he was a Manchurian Candidate who was either a traitor or insane, from his time as a POW.
So there were certainly some segments out there who he wasn’t a favorite with to inspire such a vicious attack, although his influence in the Senate continued to grow and he became even more prominent as the years passed during the George W. Bush presidency.
Once Bush finished his second term, the opportunity arose again for McCain to gain his party’s nomination for president, and this time he succeeded and went up against Barrack Obama in the presidential election. Obama prevailed though, as the 8 years of a Republican presidency had America ready for a change.
John McCain remains a real force in the United States Senate though, currently serving as Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.
Senator McCain is well known for his temper, which sometimes is evident in his gambling exploits as well, and he is indeed an avid gambler, with slots being his preferred game. A few years ago, while attending a conference in Puerto Rico, he got into an altercation with a woman beside him at a craps table, where the woman dared touch, McCain.
“Don’t touch me,” shouted McCain at the woman. The woman tried to explain that McCain, due to being distracted, failed to observe proper etiquette by keeping his hands above the table. McCain didn’t permit her to explain though. He just shouted at her, “do you know who I am? Do you know who you are talking to?”
This temper is evident at political tables as well, referred to as “explosive anger.” Fellow Senator Thad Cockburn, who has known him for decades, remarks: “He is erratic. He is a hothead. He loses his temper and that worries me.”
In spite of that, now in his fifth term as senator, John McCain does get things done, hothead or not. One of the things he’s been working on is trying to get sports betting legalized in the U.S., not that it could even be made legal at the federal level anyway, although there are laws on the books that get in the way of this happening, and he is leading the charge against them.
So getting the federal government to stand down more here would be a welcome thing for sports bettors, and champions of this cause at the federal level are few and far between, especially in the Republican Party.
It’s not just that John McCain is in favor of gambling, he also takes a practical view of such things. “We obviously know that there are huge amounts gambled on sporting events, particularly football,“ McCain remarks, and by some estimations, as much as $400 billion a year. So it’s going on anyway, so we might as well regulate it.
McCain also likes to play a little poker as well, and not too long ago was caught playing poker on his iPhone during a hearing on whether the U.S. should bomb Syria. He later tweeted: “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game during 3+ hour Senate hearing. Worst of all, I lost!” However, he has not lost either his sharp wit nor his disregard for convention.
While many politicians choose their words very carefully, it is refreshing that we have someone of the stature of Senator McCain in a position of power and influence who is certainly not afraid to speak his mind on anything. In a party that is for the most part way too puritan in its ideals, John McCain is having none of that, at least as far as it comes to gambling, . He follows the beat of his own drum and is certainly not afraid to beat it loudly.