PERRY/McCain, home in Miss.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 1:00 AM
John McCain is sometimes called Mississippi's third U.S. Senator. Monday he was on stage at the War Memorial in Jackson with Mississippi's current Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker at a Cochran campaign rally.
McCain and Cochran have had a rocky relationship at times, particularly on trade policy and earmark issues. In 2008, Cochran supported Mitt Romney over McCain in the Republican Primary. But now, Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell said, "I guess they buried the hatchet."
McCain and Cochran demonstrate the Reagan adage that "an 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy." They work together on military funding and have much in common: naval veterans, years of service in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and both sons of Mississippi.
McCain's Mississippi's roots run deep. He has said, being in an itinerant military family it is hard to have roots anywhere, but he has them in Mississippi.
McCain's maternal family moved from South Carolina to Pontotoc County in 1800, the same home county of Cochran and Wicker. McCain's great-grandfather - John Sidney McCain - served as sheriff of Carroll County and during that time supported Jessie Lott for state treasurer - a distant uncle of former U.S. Senator Trent Lott. John Sidney's brother, Major General Henry Pickney McCain,is the namesake for Camp McCain in Grenada County (and known as the father of Selective Service).
John Sidney's son (same name, but John Sidney McCain Sr.) attended the University of Mississippi and transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy. "Slew," as he was called, commanded a carrier group in the Pacific during World War II as a four-star Navy Admiral. Slew's brother, Joe, remained in Carroll County on the family land named Teoc ("Tall Pines") and McCain spent summers with him as a child. At Teoc, McCain said he could imagine "what it must have been like for the McCains who came before me to be so connected to one place; to be part of a community and a landscape as well as a family." Joe served as campaign manager for Arnie Watson for state senate, again, Trent Lott's uncle.
We of course know the story of McCain and his father, Admiral John McCain Jr. While McCain - a naval aviator - was being tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, his father commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam and even ordered bombings over Hanoi where he knew his son was being held. The North Vietnamese offered to release McCain, knowing his father's position, as a propaganda tool. But McCain refused to be released before other prisoners held longer than him.
Monday, McCain was back in Mississippi which in 2008 voted 57 percent in favor of him over Democrat Barack Obama. McCain said in addition to his childhood, and the events in Mississippi during his presidential campaign, two of the best years of his life was when he was a trainer at Naval Air Station in Meridian. McCain Field at NAS Meridian is named for his grandfather.
About eight years ago, a friend of mine was close to one of McCain's advisors and I asked if he could get McCain to sign his book, "Faith of My Fathers" to my own father who along with my uncle fought in Vietnam. My father earned two purple hearts in the Big Red One (First Infantry). McCain did, and more than sign it, personalized a message with details of my father's service. McCain wrote the message while on a conference call with Bush National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as they hammered out "enhanced interrogation" policy to restrict the US government from engaging in what McCain thought could be torture. It was touching to me that he would take time during substantial American policy negotiations, to sign a note to a fellow veteran.
I had the opportunity to thank McCain at a reception on Monday - for his service to our country and for the kind gesture toward my own father. But I didn't. I knew I would become emotional if I did, so I deferred to thank him instead in this column.
As I write this, the outcome of the Mississippi Senate Republican Primary has yet to be determined; as you read this, Lord willing, it has concluded.
If Senator Cochran has been re-nominated and is re-elected in November, he and McCain will be a strong force for Mississippi, particularly if Republicans retake the Senate majority. McCain will be Chairman of Armed Services while Cochran will be Chairman of Appropriations. Together, we can expect them to work together for Mississippi's military bases and industries like Ingalls shipyard.
If Senator Cochran was not re-nominated, we can be grateful that he, like McCain, has served our country with honor and distinction for many years, and has made Mississippi proud.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. He is treasurer of Mississippi Conservatives, a super-PAC which supported Thad Cochran in this week's concluded Republican Primary.