August 27, 2018
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) spoke on the Senate floor today about his deep admiration and respect for the life and service of Sen. John McCain.
I can't think of anything more difficult than to speak after the last two speakers. Of course, I've known them for a long time, they're two totally different, opposite people. Susan Collins is a well-recognized moderate. She's one who understands and has a great appreciation for the environment. Not the kind of person that you would associate with a tough guy like John McCain that's gone out there and has done things that other people haven't done—we just talked about it.
Then you hear this statement form the Senator from Georgia. It's just-you know, I was thinking about that—I'm a few years older than he is and we have a lot of things in common. They were talking about him being drafted—I was drafted.
I remember, actually I was enrolled—and this was many many years ago—I was going to be at the University of New Mexico in Mexico City in an international program and so at that time, I was at the University of Colorado and I did all of my finals and all of that early so I could get back in time to go down to Mexico.
So, I got back to Tulsa, where I'm from—and I got a letter from a very important person. The President of the United States. and I thought "how nice of Eisenhower to remember me" and it was my draft notice.
And so, that changed my life, but it changed my life in a way that is the greatest single experience that I've ever had and I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if it had not been for that. The discipline that comes with being in the military.
And then you always have heroes that you deal with and we are dealing with a hero when we deal with Sen. McCain. You know, I've often said that, I think Timothy, when he wrote 2 Timothy 4:7 had John McCain in mind when he said "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
That's exactly what he did. He wasn't always the most lovable person to be around, but he was a fighter and never shied away from a good fight. He was passionate for the causes that he believed in, a strong advocate for human rights and democratic values—standing up for oppressed people aurum the world.
You know, that was a soft side of John McCain that a lot of people don't know about, but he was a fighter. But not just a fighter, he was a fighter for the people of Arizona.
You know, after he got back from the time that he spent in prison, he got back to Arizona and he started fighting again and he did that for 36 years after his incarceration. He was shaped by his own military service, and that of his father and grandfather. It's been said several times, statements about his father and grandfather, I have done some studying on them and that is really what formed John McCain.
Both of them were Admirals in the Navy and it was natural that he was going to be in the Navy, of course he was and during his leadership in the Senate Armed Services Committee, he continually focused on impact. Now, those individuals, the occupier of the chair right now has served on the Armed Services Committee with Sen. McCain and she knows as I know and anybody else who served with him, that he was always for the underdog, always for the troops out in the field.
I think that the Senator from Maine articulated that very well—those were the people that he had compassion for. He would always take care of the Soldier, the Sailor, the Airman, the Marines and he articulated this, by the way, in one of his books "The Faith of my Fathers." He was talking about his father and his grandfather.
This is a quote and this says it better than any of the rest of us could say it. He said "An officer's obligations to enlisted men are the most solemn of all." An officer must not confer his responsibilities to the men under his command. They are his alone. He does not put his men in jeopardy for any purpose that the country has not required they serve. He does not risk their lives and welfare for his sake, but only to answer the shared duty they're called to answer."
Now, that's Senator McCain. He looked after those individuals who were under his command. He was a ferocious opponent. But the key thing about Sen. McCain is that he was willing to take on those tough debates with you. It’s becoming more and more rare in this chamber—but John would relish the debate, earning the respect and admiration of everyone.
I can remember, there were so many areas because of all the years we served together, not just in the Armed Services Committee, but in his time in the House and my time in the House. We had differences of opinion. And I think I'm a little bit stubborn sometimes too. I remember one was a commissary issue.
I mean, that got pretty violent before it was over and we took on each other. The BRAC issue, he wanted to have another BRAC Round in this last defense authorization bill and I didn't want one because I thought we shouldn't be closing down missions that we may be needing as we are rebuilding, so we had an honest, different opinion.
I remember, in 2003, that was back when everyone was jumping on this whole global warming thing and that was going to be everyone's ticket to the White House and I remember when John, they had the McCain-Lieberman bill and I remember that lasted three days of debate and I had hardly any Senators come down on my side of the issue, but we won anyway.
And after that was over, that was one that John had his heart in, he came over to me, he said, "Good job. You won, I lost," and that was it, no hard feelings and that's the kind of person that John McCain is—one we will never forget.
A lot of people look at Oklahoma and they think it's always been a Republican state. It wasn't. It wasn't until after, well after 1994. In 1994, I ran for the United States Senate. Now, it's kind of interesting, because it was a Democrat State. I had this guy that was kind of the darling of the Democrat party that was my opponent and nobody would come out and help me.
Only three Senators came out and helped me during that race. And they were Senator Grassley, Senator Bob Dole and John McCain. Now, John McCain came out and I always remember this because we had a lot of things that we had in common, but I hardly knew the guy.
But, he came out not just once, he came out twice.
But, the first time he came out, because he has a background in aviation, I have a background in aviation, and I remember I have a nice air conditioned twin engine plane, but I lost an engine the night before, so I had to fly my kid’s plane. It’s called a Grumman Tiger and it doesn’t have any air conditioning—it got close to 100 that day.
We started out, and I wrote down the different places we went. We first went to Oklahoma City and then to Shawnee where he visited the Vietnam Memorial there.
And then we flew to Lawton, the home of Fort Sill, the number one area in the world for artillery. All the time, he was campaigning for me, a guy that couldn’t win. Went from there to Altus, Altus Air Force Base where we now train C-17s and KC-135s—a top training base. We ended up in Bartlesville and then hosting a dinner for me with the NRA.
Now I know he wanted to spend more time in that plane, because he came back two weeks later and we did it again. There was no reason for him to do that because we hardly knew each other. We got to know each other up there in all that heat.
You always remember the people who help you when no one else would. So you are going to hear a lot of things about John McCain—you’re going to hear them on the floor, you are going to hear more—the hero, the patriot—but what is never in dispute is that Sen. McCain was a fighter who, above all, was deeply loyal to his country, his family, his constituents and the causes he cared about. He was a patriot and always faithful.
We all know that patriotism and loyalty to your country isn’t based on your words. You have to live it. And of course, he did that every day. As a young Naval Officer following in his family’s footsteps—his father and his grandfather—John kept the faith. He graduated from the Naval Academy. It was kind of interesting, he never talked about being the outstanding student. In fact, he used to say he was fifth in the class…fifth from the bottom. But he became a naval aviator and was deployed during the Vietnam War. He flew 23 missions before being shot down over enemy territory.
As a POW in Vietnam, John kept the faith. We know this story, we all know he kept his faith, but it bears repeating. Held for over five years by the North Vietnamese, I actually remember going there and seeing the conditions in which he was held in that period of time. Here was a guy who had the opportunity because both his father and grandfather were Admirals to bail out, but he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t want any special treatment. That was John.
After the Navy, John kept the faith by continuing to serve his country—this time as a Congressman and then a Senator, and ultimately as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. John also kept the faith on the causes he believed were just—not ever wavering under political pressure.
And now, we all grieve because John has finished his race here on Earth on his own terms and surrounded by his loving family.
John served his country faithfully for 60 years. We owe him a great debt for that service. This week we will mourn him. We will honor him. And we will celebrate the truly remarkable life of an American hero.
We all have our John McCain story—a time when we were moved by his stubbornness, his courage, or his passion –sometimes all three at the same time. I look forward to hearing these stories and tributes from my good friends.
We all grieve for Cindy and the family, they will continue to be in our prayers. And lastly, I do believe that is what Timothy had in mind when he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
So we say, thank you John McCain.