Saturday, December 31, 2011

Will We Soon Have to Say Goodbye to Non-stick Cookware?

Apparently there has long been a controversy about Teflon non-stick pans. I only heard about it today when I saw a commercial for some kind of non-stick pan and it mentioned that the EPA was going to be banning those made with Teflon.

The nonstick coating used in DuPont’s Teflon® pans has been found to release one or more of 15 different toxic gases when heated to certain temperatures, but is generally safe when used according to manufacturers' specifications. Which chemicals are released depends on the temperature of the pan. This outgassing can be fatal to pet birds and can cause "polymer fume flu," also known as "Teflon® flu," in humans.

Teflon® flu creates flu-like symptoms of chills, headache, fever and nausea. Usually, symptoms subside within a few days, and chances are many people who have experienced it mistook it for the flu. However, there are also more serious risks.

One of the main chemicals used in the manufacturing process of Teflon® and other nonstick pans is perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) also known as C-8. This chemical has led to cancer and birth defects in lab animals, and may have led to birth defects in DuPont plant workers. In 2005, an independent panel reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared PFOA a likely human carcinogen.

Though DuPont is quick to point out the safety of Teflon® and to distance it from the chemical PFOA, studies show Teflon® cookware releases PFOA when heated to 680°F (360°C). This temperature can be reached fairly quickly, for example, a forgotten pan is left empty preheating on a very hot burner. DuPont acknowledges this, but points out that this is incorrect use of the cookware.

In April 2003, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action against DuPont for what it classified as an 18-year cover-up regarding the dangers of the Teflon® chemical PFOA. Factory workers exposed to PFOA inside the Teflon® plants had high levels of the manmade, indestructible chemical in their blood. This included seven pregnant women and their fetuses, which also showed elevated levels of PFOA.

DuPont’s own research suggested a link between PFOA and rare birth defects in animals. Of the seven pregnant women at the West Virginia plant, two of the seven babies born bore similar serious birth defects. In response to the EWG petition, the EPA fined DuPont 16.5 million US dollars (USD) in December 2005 for failing to report the dangers of PFOA.

Related chemicals used in the process of non-stick cookware are sometimes referred to as "Teflon® chemicals" or perfluorinated chemicals. This family of chemicals includes fluorotelomers, used in non-stick food packaging and stain resistant products for clothing, furniture, and carpets. Fluorotelomers break down to PFOA in the environment and bloodstream, but PFOA does not break down. Studies have revealed that 95% of all men, women and children in the United States have traces of PFOA in their blood due to exposure to various industrial products that use this nonstick chemical. PFOA has also been found in the environment and in wildlife.

While DuPont remains insistent that Teflon® is safe and inert with proper use, it voluntarily pledged to substantially reduce environmental emissions and to phase PFOA out by 2015. DuPont also urges consumers to use Teflon® responsibly and considers overheating or burning food abusive use of the cookware. Teflon®, and all cookware that uses nonstick coatings, should not be preheated. Use low-to-medium heat and do not allow food or oil to burn. According to peer-reviewed studies as reported by the EWG, nonstick cookware, including Teflon®, begins outgassing particles at 396°F (202.2°C).

If you own pet birds, Teflon® and nonstick cookware is not recommended. Note that stovetop burner drip pans may also have nonstick coatings. These drip pans can reach very high temperatures.

A nonstick alternative to Teflon® is baked enamel cookware, or porcelain cookware. This cookware is inert at all temperatures, is dishwasher safe, and according to many professionals, cooks all types of food superbly. Stainless steel, aluminum and cast iron are other alternatives, though these require cooking oil to prevent sticking.

Arizona: Jon Kyl (R) [Private profession - lawyer]

Jon Llewellyn Kyl ( born April 25, 1942) is the junior United States Senator from Arizona and the Senate Minority Whip, the second-highest position in the Republican Senate leadership. In 2010 he was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world for his persuasive role in the Senate.

The son of U.S. Representative John Henry Kyl, he was born and raised in Nebraska and lived for some time in Iowa. He received his bachelor's degree and law degree from the University of Arizona. He worked in Phoenix, Arizona as a lawyer and lobbyist before winning election to the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 1987 to 1995. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994 and has been re-elected by large margins since.

Kyl was ranked by National Journal in 2007 as the fourth-most conservative U.S. Senator. He has been a fixture of Republican policy leadership posts, chairing the Republican Policy Committee (2003–2007) and the Republican Conference (2007). In December 2007 he became Senate Minority Whip. In February 2011, Kyl announced that he would not seek reelection to the Senate at the end of his third term, which concludes January 3, 2013. He expressly ruled out running for further office except, if offered, the Vice-Presidency.

Early life, education and career
Kyl was born in Oakland, Nebraska, the son of Arlene Pearl (née Griffith) and John Henry Kyl, a teacher at Nebraska State Teachers College. His father served as a Congressman from Iowa after moving his family to Bloomfield, Iowa. After graduating from high school in 1960, Kyl attended the University of Arizona where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1964, graduating with honors. Kyl is a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He then earned a law degree in 1966 at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law, and served as editor-in-chief of the Arizona Law Review. Before entering politics, he was a lawyer and lobbyist with Jennings, Strouss & Salmon in Phoenix, Arizona.

Kyl is married to Caryll Collins, with whom he has had two children. They also have seven grandchildren.

U.S House of Representatives
Kyl served in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 1995. He was first elected in 1986 against Democrat Philip R. Davis, 64.5% to 35.5%. He was reelected in 1988 against Gary Sprunk of the Libertarian party, 87% to 13%; in 1990 against Democrat Mark Ivey, Jr., 61% to 39%; and in 1992 against Democrat Walter R. Mybeck, II, 59.2% to 26.7%.

U.S. Senate
Committee assignments

* Committee on the Judiciary
o United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism (Ranking Member)
o United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
o United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
* Committee on Finance
o United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight (Ranking Member)
o United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care
o United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy
* Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

Kyl has been elected by his fellow Senate Republicans to a succession of leadership posts: Policy Committee chairman (2003–2007), Conference chairman (2007), and most recently (in December 2007), Senate Minority Whip. Kyl's ascension to Minority Whip makes him the first Arizonan to hold such an influential Senate leadership post since Democrat Ernest W. McFarland served as Senate Majority Leader from 1951 to 1953. Kyl is the only Arizona Republican to hold such a powerful leadership position.

Political positions
Kyl is considered to be a conservative, and was ranked by National Journal as the fourth-most conservative United States Senator in their March 2007 conservative/liberal rankings. In addition, in April 2006, Kyl was selected by Time Magazine as one of "America's 10 Best Senators"; the magazine cited his successful behind-the-scene efforts as head of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Kyl is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Crime victims' rights
Kyl was one of the original sponsors, along with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, of an effort to amend the United States Constitution to protect crime victims' rights in the criminal justice system. When in 2004 it appeared that the constitutional amendment would not receive the requisite 2/3 support to pass the Senate, Kyl and Feinstein authored the Crime Victims' Rights Act, which listed a victims' bill of rights and provided mandamus relief in appellate court for any victim denied those rights. The act also offered sanctions against government officials who wantonly and willfully refused to comply with the Crime Victims' Rights Act.

Arms control
In November 2010, Kyl announced that he would oppose the New START arms control treaty's ratification in the lame duck session. He was unsuccessful in this regard, as the treaty passed easily.

Internet gambling
In September 2006, working with then-Congressman Jim Leach, Jon Kyl was a major Senate supporter of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The Act was passed at midnight the day Congress adjourned before the 2006 elections. Prior to it being added to the bill, the gambling provisions had not been debated by any Congressional committee, although the general issue had been debated in multiple times in the past.

When publication of the associated regulations was delayed until June 2010, Kyl responded by denying unanimous consent to confirm the appointment of 6 nominees to the US Treasury Department, none of whom specialized on gambling issues.

Kyl voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

In February 2006, Kyl joined Senator Lindsey Graham in an amicus brief in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case. The brief presented to the Supreme Court of the United States an "extensive colloquy" added to the Congressional Record. It was not, however, included in the December 21st debate as evidence that "Congress was aware" that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 would strip the Court of jurisdiction to hear "pending cases, including this case" brought by the Guantanamo detainees.

In 2011, Kyl said that the GOP had abandoned opposition to defense cuts.

Planned Parenthood

On April 8, 2011, Kyl spoke on the Senate floor and claimed that performing abortions is "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." Planned Parenthood responded that 90 percent of its services are to provide contraception, STD and cancer testing and treatment, and only 3 percent are abortion-related. A spokesperson for Kyl later claimed the senator’s remark "was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."

Politifact noted that Planned Parenthood's numbers (from their most recent Annual Report, year ending June 30, 2009) are the result of self-reporting and that there is no national audit on such claims, but stated their belief that Kyl "vastly overstated" the number. A political science professor writing at National Review Online suggested that perhaps Kyl's comments were based on the services specific to pregnancy itself, citing Planned Parenthood's 2009 annual report figures and claiming that 98% of those services were for abortion. The phrase "not intended to be a factual statement" was mocked by political comedians such as Stephen Colbert, who joked, "You can’t call him out for being wrong when he never intended to be right."

Political campaigns
then a member of the House of Representatives, 54% to 40%. Libertarian Party candidate Scott Grainger got 6% of the votes.

Kyl was reelected in 2000 without major-party opposition, with 79.3% of the vote. Independent William Toel got 7.8%; Green Party candidate Vance Hansen also got 7.8%; and Barry Hess of the Libertarian Party got 5.1%.

On November 7, 2006, Kyl defeated real estate developer and former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Jim Pederson to win his third term in the Senate. Kyl won with 53.3% of the vote; Pederson received 43.5%; and Libertarian Party candidate Richard Mack received 3.2%. The race was one of the most expensive in Arizona history, with Kyl raising more than $15 million and Pederson raising just shy of that amount.

A major issue in the campaign was illegal immigration. While in the Senate, Kyl cosponsored legislation that would give illegal immigrants up to five years to leave the country. Once there, they could apply for permanent residence or be guest workers.

Since fellow Arizona Senator John McCain opposed this legislation, Pederson tried to use the issue as a way of allying with McCain and dividing the Republicans in Arizona. Controversy also arose when each candidate accused the other of supporting the amnesty provisions in a 1986 immigration bill, although both candidates deny ever supporting those provisions.

In 2012, Obama to press ahead without Congress

From the Chicago Tribune: In 2012, Obama to press ahead without Congress
Leaving behind a year of bruising legislative battles, President Barack Obama enters his fourth year in office having calculated that he no longer needs Congress to promote his agenda and may even benefit in his re-election campaign if lawmakers accomplish little in 2012.

Absent any major policy pushes, much of the year will focus on winning a second term. The president will keep up a robust domestic travel schedule and aggressive campaign fundraising and use executive action to try to boost the economy.

Partisan, down-to-the-wire fights over allowing the nation to take on more debt and sharply reducing government spending defined 2011. In the new year, there are almost no must-do pieces of legislation facing the president and Congress.

The one exception is the looming debate on a full-year extension of a cut in the Social Security payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. Democrats and Republicans are divided over how to put in place that extension.

The White House believes GOP lawmakers boxed themselves in during the pre-Christmas debate on the tax break and will be hard-pressed to back off their own assertions that it should continue through the end of 2012.

Once that debate is over, the White House says, Obama's political fate will no longer be tied to Washington.

"Now that he's sort of free from having to put out these fires, the president will have a larger playing field. If that includes Congress, all the better," said Josh Earnest, White House deputy press secretary. But, he added, "that's no longer a requirement."

Aides say the president will not turn his back on Congress completely in the new year. He is expected to once again push lawmakers to pass elements of his jobs bill that were blocked by Republicans last fall.

If those efforts fail, the White House says, Obama's re-election year will focus almost exclusively on executive action.

Earnest said Obama will come out with at least two or three directives per week, continuing the "We Can't Wait" campaign the administration began this fall, and try to define Republicans in Congress as gridlocked and dysfunctional.

Obama's election year retreat from legislative fights means this term will end without significant progress on two of his 2008 campaign promises, an Immigration overhaul and closing the military prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Presidential directives probably won't make a big dent in the nation's 8.6 percent unemployment rate or lead to significant improvements in the economy. That's the chief concern for many voters and the issue on which Republican candidates are most likely to criticize Obama.

In focusing on executive actions rather than ambitious legislation, the president risks appearing to be putting election-year strategy ahead of economic action at a time when millions of Americans are still out of work.

"Americans expect their elected leaders to work together to boost job creation, even in an election year," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Still, Obama and his advisers are beginning 2012 with a renewed sense of confidence, buoyed by a series of polls that show the president's approval rating climbing as Congress becomes increasingly unpopular.

They believe his victory over Republicans in the payroll tax debate has boosted his credentials as a fighter for the middle class, a theme he will look to seize on in his Jan. 24 State of the Union address.

Obama's campaign-driven, domestic-travel schedule starts in Cleveland on Wednesday, the day after GOP presidential hopefuls square off in the Iowa caucuses. He will also keep up an aggressive re-election fundraising schedule, with events already lined up in Chicago on Jan. 11.

Campaign officials say Obama will fully engage in the re-election campaign once the Republicans pick their nominee. He will focus almost exclusively on campaigning after the late summer Democratic National Convention, barring unexpected developments at home or abroad.

Among the issues that could disrupt Obama's re-election plans: further economic turmoil in Europe, instability in North Korea following its leadership transition and threats from Iran.

The president's signature legislative accomplishment will also come under greater scrutiny in the new year, when a critical part of his health care overhaul is debated before the Supreme Court.

Obama's foreign travel next year will be limited mainly to the summits and international gatherings every U.S. president traditionally attends. He's expected to travel to South Korea in March for a nuclear security summit and to Colombia in April for the Summit of the Americas. He's also likely to visit Mexico in June for the G-20 economic summit.

Two other major international gatherings -- the NATO summit and the G-8 economic meeting -- will be held in Chicago, on home turf.

Let's Re,move Layers of Bureacuracy From Our Life!

As a freelance writer, I come into contact with all forms of writing. Today I was tasked to take a look at the Landlord Tenant laws from West Virginia and write a summary of them - in English.

Currently they are written in gibberish - aka legalese.

I looked at the 30 articles in this contract and I'm like... what the heck? No wonder lawyers make fortunes - there's no way to understand this material if you're not a lawyer - everything's in some foreign language that only this select few can understand.

And there's no reason for it to be that way!

I say we the people should mount a campaign against legalese in the documents that rule our lives. If the average person can understand what's in them, there'll be no need for the lawyers. And the average language is good enough to write iron-clad contracts that are understandable and don't have to be in such archaic language!

Watch the Two if By Tea commercial winners via Youtube.

The Blaze/Yahoo News shared the winning videos here:
(You need to visit the site via a computer to watch the videos).

This fall, Rush Limbaugh announced a listener contest to see who could come up with the best commercial for his new line of tea, Two If By Tea. Here’s how Rush described it in October:


But why stop at one? We thought we’d highlight some of the other contest entries. Take a look at a few of them below:

(You can see these at original article link)

So who won? Well, there were actually two winners.

“So these submissions flowed in here and after countless hours of watching the videos we’ve selected the first place winners — and I say ‘winners’ plural because we had such a hard time picking one that we chose two first place winners,” Rush said earlier this month.

You’ve already seen part of one winner — it was the one in Greta’s video. But we’ve decided to post both below:

The winners received a flat screen 55-inch Sony LED TV and eight cases of Two If By Tea.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Iran threat: Serious or saber-rattling?

From CNN News: Iran threat: Serious or saber-rattling?
(CNN) -- Iran's vice president has warned that the country could block the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are imposed on its exports of crude oil. What does the threat mean and what is likely to happen next?

What is the Strait of Hormuz used for?
It is one of the most important strategic chokepoints in the world, a narrow (34 miles wide) strip of water through which more than 15 million barrels of oil a day passed (through the Strait) in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. That's about a third of all oil shipped by sea worldwide. Shutting off the Strait would be disastrous for the world economy, causing oil prices to skyrocket.

Have there been previous incidents of heightened tension?
Iran has threatened several times previously to close the Strait but it has never carried through with it. Doing that would be shooting itself in the foot as almost 80% of its revenues come from the oil industry. Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer. Much of the oil that is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz goes to China, a crucial customer for Iran.

Why Strait of Hormuz matters
Iran attacked ships in the Gulf during the 1980s in an attempt to cut off Iraq's oil exports when those two countries were at war. The impact on prices was minimal however after foreign navies began escorting oil tankers through the Strait.

Is the latest escalation serious? Or is it saber-rattling? Is it related to the dispute between the West and Iran over the nuclear issue?
The latest threat to close the Strait, according to experts and U.S. administration officials, appears to be an attempt by Iran to intimidate the U.S., and specifically President Barack Obama, not to proceed with tough new sanctions that could target Iran's oil industry and its oil exports as well as companies that do business with Iran's Central Bank. Those sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to curtail its nuclear program, over which Iran and the West have been sparring for many years. Iran says its uranium enriching activities are for peaceful purposes, but many Western governments suspect they are intended to produce a weapon.

How could Iran disrupt shipping if it wanted to? Does it have the naval capability or would it use other means?
Matthew Kroenig at the Council on Foreign Relations, formerly an Iran expert at the Pentagon, tells CNN "(Iran) could try to close the Strait of Hormuz. What that would mean, though, is physically closing the strait militarily. That would be their only option. So it means laying mines and physically attacking ships coming through the Strait. I think any U.S. president would be forced to respond to that and to open the Strait; that would also mean military action against Iran so an Iranian attempt to close the straits could mean war."

How would the international community react if they did carry out the threat?
The international community will not allow the Strait to be closed. It is too important. Many experts say Iran would only have limited success in blocking the Strait for an extended period of time as many governments maintain a naval presence in the region, notably the United States.

Dangerous mix: Iranian oil and U.S. sanctions
A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the issue, told CNN: "We've been committed to Gulf security for decades and it should come as no surprise to anyone that we'll do what we must to ensure the Strait remains open."

What effect is the tension having on oil supply and price?
Prices initially spiked, then dropped back. But the prospect of conflict continues to make markets nervous. "We are in a situation where there is essentially no communication between the Iranian government and the U.S. government," Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, told CNN Monday after reports said Iranian military forces confronted a Western helicopter near the Strait. "It is very worrisome."

Investment bank Merrill Lynch predicts a $40 rise in oil prices if the country's 2.2 million barrels day of crude are shut off completely.

What is likely to happen next?
The most likely outcome is more saber-rattling. But experts say there is a danger of miscalculation by Iran, which has been increasingly provocative and unpredictable. Witness the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the U.S., a claim that Iran denies

Obama team: $29.4B arms sale to Saudis will create U.S. jobs

Saudi Arabia is not our friend (all the 9/11 suicide bombers came from Saudi), and the way they treat their women is abominable, as they are not a secular country. Yet, here we are sending them fighter aircraft.

From The Oval: Obama team: $29.4B arms sale to Saudis will create U.S. jobs
The United States has completed a $29.4 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration announced today, saying the deal "will support more than 50,000 American jobs."

Under the agreement signed by the governments of each country, the United States will provide advanced F-15SA combat aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

"Valued at $29.4 billion, this agreement includes production of 84 new aircraft and the modernization of 70 existing aircraft as well as munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics," said White House spokesman Joshua Earnest.

"These F-15SA aircraft, manufactured by the Boeing Company, are among the most sophisticated and capable aircraft in the world," Earnest said.

Earnest also said in a statement:

"This agreement will positively impact the U.S. economy and further advances the president's commitment to create jobs by increasing exports.

According to industry experts, this agreement will support more than 50,000 American jobs, engaging 600 suppliers in 44 states, and providing $3.5 billion in annual economic impact to the U.S. economy.

This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mark Belling on Rush today

The Pride of Wisconsin, WISN's Mark Belling, filled in on Wednesday.

Mark Steyn joins us tomorrow, and Rush returns on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

"If we fail, I think it sets back courage in government by at least 10 years and maybe a generation. People will be too afraid to do the hard things." -Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin

Welcome new subscribers

I've gotten several new subscribers, so I thought I'd better explain what's going on.

Rush is on vacation until January 2 - so we're getting "Best of Rush" programs, and perhaps the occasional sit in host like Mark Steyn or Mark Davis.

Since I only listen to Rush, I don't pay much attention to these. (Although I do wish that "The Best of Rush" would be the best of Rush, in other words not reruns of past programs but selected excerpts from several programs, in which he expresses various principles and Rushisms, etc.

Anyway, so what I'll be doing for the next several days is sharing biographies of politicians - right now I'm doing Senators but I will be moving on to Congresspeople... I will also be sharing various news articles.

Then, come Jan 2, with Rush back behind the Golden EIB microphone, things here will get back to normal!

Arizona: Senator John Mcain (R) [Private profession - Navy]

From Wikipedia:
John Sidney McCain III (born August 29, 1936) is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 United States election.

McCain followed his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals, into the United States Navy, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958. He became a naval aviator, flying ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. McCain experienced episodes of torture, and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. His war wounds left him with lifelong physical limitations.

He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, he served two terms, and was then elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, winning re-election easily four times, most recently in 2010.

While generally adhering to conservative principles, McCain at times has had a media reputation as a "maverick" for his willingness to disagree with his party on certain issues. After being investigated and largely exonerated in a political influence scandal of the 1980s as a member of the Keating Five, he made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually led to the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002.

He is also known for his work towards restoring diplomatic relations with Vietnam in the 1990s, and for his belief that the war in Iraq should be fought to a successful conclusion. McCain has chaired the Senate Commerce Committee, opposed spending that he considered to be pork barrel, and played a key role in alleviating a crisis over judicial nominations.

McCain ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 but lost a heated primary season contest to George W. Bush. He secured the nomination in 2008 after coming back from early reversals, but lost to Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the general election. He subsequently adopted more orthodox conservative stances and attitudes and largely opposed actions of the Obama administration.

Early life and military career, 1936–1981
Formative years and education
John McCain was born on August 29, 1936 at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, to naval officer John S. McCain, Jr. (1911–1981) and Roberta (Wright) McCain (b. 1912). At that time, the Panama Canal was under U.S. control.

McCain's family tree includes Scots-Irish and English ancestors. His father and his paternal grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr., both became four-star United States Navy admirals. His family, including his older sister Sandy and younger brother Joe, followed his father to various naval postings in the United States and the Pacific. Altogether, he attended about 20 schools.

In 1951, the family settled in Northern Virginia, and McCain attended Episcopal High School, a private preparatory boarding school in Alexandria. He excelled at wrestling and graduated in 1954.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, McCain entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. There, he was a friend and informal leader for many of his classmates, and sometimes stood up for targets of bullying. He also became a lightweight boxer. McCain came into conflict with higher-ranking personnel, and he did not always obey the rules, which contributed to a low class rank (894 of 899), despite a high IQ.

He did well in academic subjects that interested him, such as literature and history, but studied only enough to pass subjects he struggled with, such as mathematics. McCain graduated in 1958.

Naval training, first marriage, and Vietnam assignment
John McCain's early military career began when he was commissioned an ensign and started two and a half years of training at Pensacola to become a naval aviator. While there, he earned a reputation as a partying man. He completed flight school in 1960, and became a naval pilot of ground-attack aircraft, assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons aboard the aircraft carriers USS Intrepid and USS Enterprise in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.

McCain began as a sub-par flier who was at times careless and reckless; during the early-to-mid 1960s, the planes he was flying crashed twice and once collided with power lines, but he received no major injuries. His aviation skills improved over time, and he was seen as a good pilot, albeit one who tended to "push the envelope" in his flying.

On July 3, 1965, McCain married Carol Shepp, a model originally from Philadelphia. McCain adopted her two young children Douglas and Andrew. He and Carol then had a daughter named Sidney.

McCain requested a combat assignment, and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal flying A-4 Skyhawks. His combat duty began when he was 30 years old, in mid-1967, when Forrestal was assigned to a bombing campaign, Operation Rolling Thunder, during the Vietnam War. McCain and his fellow pilots became frustrated by micromanagement from Washington, and he would later write that "In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn't have the least notion of what it took to win the war."

On July 29, 1967, McCain, by then a lieutenant commander, was near the center of the Forrestal fire. He escaped from his burning jet and was trying to help another pilot escape when a bomb exploded; McCain was struck in the legs and chest by fragments. The ensuing fire killed 134 sailors and took 24 hours to control. With the Forrestal out of commission, McCain volunteered for assignment with the USS Oriskany, another aircraft carrier employed in Operation Rolling Thunder. Once there, he would be awarded the Navy Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star for missions flown over North Vietnam.

Prisoner of war
John McCain's capture and subsequent imprisonment began on October 26, 1967. He was flying his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam when his A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a missile over Hanoi. McCain fractured both arms and a leg ejecting from the aircraft, and nearly drowned when he parachuted into Truc Bach Lake. Some North Vietnamese pulled him ashore, then others crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt and bayoneted him. McCain was then transported to Hanoi's main Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton".

Although McCain was badly wounded, his captors refused to treat his injuries, beating and interrogating him to get information; he was given medical care only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a top admiral. His status as a prisoner of war (POW) made the front pages of major newspapers.

McCain spent six weeks in the hospital while receiving marginal care. By then having lost 50 pounds (23 kg), in a chest cast, and with his hair turned white, McCain was sent to a different camp on the outskirts of Hanoi in December 1967, into a cell with two other Americans who did not expect him to live a week. In March 1968, McCain was put into solitary confinement, where he would remain for two years.

In mid-1968, John S. McCain, Jr. was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater, and the North Vietnamese offered McCain early release because they wanted to appear merciful for propaganda purposes, and also to show other POWs that elite prisoners were willing to be treated preferentially. McCain turned down the offer; he would only accept repatriation if every man taken in before him was released as well. Such early release was prohibited by the POW's interpretation of the military Code of Conduct: To prevent the enemy from using prisoners for propaganda, officers were to agree to be released in the order in which they were captured.

In August 1968, a program of severe torture began on McCain. He was subjected to rope bindings and repeated beatings every two hours, at the same time as he was suffering from dysentery. Further injuries led to the beginning of a suicide attempt, stopped by guards. After four days, McCain made an anti-American propaganda "confession". He has always felt that his statement was dishonorable, but as he later wrote, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine." Many American POWs were tortured and maltreated in order to extract "confessions" and propaganda statements, with many enduring even longer and worse treatment; virtually all of them eventually yielded something to their captors. McCain subsequently received two to three beatings weekly because of his continued refusal to sign additional statements.

McCain refused to meet with various anti-war groups seeking peace in Hanoi, wanting to give neither them nor the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory. From late 1969 onward, treatment of McCain and many of the other POWs became more tolerable, while McCain continued actively to resist the camp authorities. McCain and other prisoners cheered the U.S. "Christmas Bombing" campaign of December 1972, viewing it as a forceful measure to push North Vietnam to terms.

Altogether, McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years. He was released on March 14, 1973. His wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head.

Commanding officer, liaison to Senate, and second marriage
McCain's return to the United States reunited him with his family. His wife Carol had suffered her own crippling ordeal due to an automobile accident in December 1969. McCain became a celebrity of sorts, as a returned POW.

McCain underwent treatment for his injuries, including months of grueling physical therapy, and attended the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. during 1973–1974. Having been rehabilitated, by late 1974, McCain had his flight status reinstated, and in 1976 he became commanding officer of a training squadron stationed in Florida. He improved the unit's flight readiness and safety records, and won the squadron its first-ever Meritorious Unit Commendation. During this period in Florida, McCain had extramarital affairs, and the McCains' marriage began to falter, for which he later would accept blame.

McCain served as the Navy's liaison to the U.S. Senate beginning in 1977. In retrospect, he has said that this represented his "real entry into the world of politics and the beginning of my second career as a public servant." His key behind-the-scenes role gained congressional financing for a new supercarrier against the wishes of the Carter administration.

In April 1979, McCain met Cindy Lou Hensley, a teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, whose father had founded a large beer distributorship. They began dating, and he urged his wife Carol to grant him a divorce, which she did in February 1980, with the uncontested divorce taking effect in April 1980.

The settlement included two houses, and financial support for her ongoing medical treatments due to her 1969 car accident; they would remain on good terms. McCain and Hensley were married on May 17, 1980, with Senators William Cohen and Gary Hart attending as groomsmen. McCain’s children did not attend, and several years would pass before they reconcil John and Cindy McCain entered into a prenuptial agreement that kept most of her family's assets under her name; they would always keep their finances apart and file separate income tax returns.

McCain decided to leave the Navy. It was doubtful whether he would ever be promoted to the rank of full admiral, as he had poor annual physicals and had been given no major sea command. His chances of being promoted to rear admiral were better, but McCain declined that prospect, as he had already made plans to run for Congress and said he could "do more good there."

McCain retired from the Navy on April 1, 1981 as a captain. He was designated as disabled and awarded a disability pension. Upon leaving the military, he moved to Arizona. His 17 military awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and Navy Commendation Medal, for actions before, during, and after his time as a POW.

House and Senate elections and career, 1982–2000
U.S. Congressman

McCain set his sights on becoming a Congressman because he was interested in current events, was ready for a new challenge, and had developed political ambitions during his time as Senate liaison. Living in Phoenix, he went to work for Hensley & Co., his new father-in-law Jim Hensley's large Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship.

As Vice President of Public Relations at the distributorship, he gained political support among the local business community, meeting powerful figures such as banker Charles Keating, Jr., real estate developer Fife Symington III and newspaper publisher Darrow "Duke" Tully.

In 1982, McCain ran as a Republican for an open seat in Arizona's 1st congressional district. A newcomer to the state, McCain was hit with charges of being a carpetbagger. McCain responded to a voter making that charge with what a Phoenix Gazette columnist would later describe as "the most devastating response to a potentially troublesome political issue I've ever heard":
Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.

With the assistance of local political endorsements, his Washington connections, as well as money that his wife lent to his campaign, McCain won a highly contested primary election. He then easily won the general election in the heavily Republican district.

In 1983, McCain was elected to lead the incoming group of Republican representatives, and was assigned to the House Committee on Interior Affairs. Also that year, he opposed creation of a federal Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but admitted in 2008: "I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support [in 1990] for a state holiday in Arizona."

McCain's politics at this point were mainly in line with President Ronald Reagan, including support for Reaganomics, and he was active on Indian Affairs bills. He supported most aspects of the foreign policy of the Reagan administration, including its hardline stance against the Soviet Union and policy towards Central American conflicts, such as backing the Contras in Nicaragua.

McCain opposed keeping U.S. Marines deployed in Lebanon citing unattainable objectives, and subsequently criticized President Reagan for pulling out the troops too late; in the interim, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing killed hundreds. McCain won re-election to the House easily in 1984, and gained a spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In 1985, he made his first return trip to Vietnam, and also traveled to Chile where he met with its military junta ruler, General Augusto Pinochet.

Growing family
In 1984, McCain and Cindy had their first child together, daughter Meghan, followed two years later by son John Sidney (Jack) IV, and in 1988 by son James (Jimmy). In 1991, Cindy McCain brought an abandoned three-month old girl needing medical treatment to the U.S. from a Bangladeshi orphanage run by Mother Teresa. The McCains decided to adopt her and named her Bridget.

First two terms in U.S. Senate
McCain's Senate career began in January 1987, after he defeated his Democratic opponent, former state legislator Richard Kimball, by 20 percentage points in the 1986 election. McCain succeeded longtime American conservative icon and Arizona fixture Barry Goldwater upon the latter's retirement as United States Senator from Arizona.

Senator McCain became a member of the Armed Services Committee, with which he had formerly done his Navy liaison work; he also joined the Commerce Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee. McCain continued to support the Native American agenda. As first a House member and then a senator – and as a life-long gambler with close ties to the gambling industry – McCain was one of the main authors of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which codified rules regarding Native American gambling enterprises. McCain was also a strong supporter of the Gramm-Rudman legislation that enforced automatic spending cuts in the case of budget deficits.

McCain soon gained national visibility. He delivered a well-received speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention, was mentioned by the press as a short list vice-presidential running mate for Republican nominee George H. W. Bush, and was named chairman of Veterans for Bush.

McCain became enmeshed in a scandal during the 1980s as one of five United States Senators comprising the so-called Keating Five. Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in lawful political contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and his associates at Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, along with trips on Keating's jets that McCain belatedly repaid in 1989.

In 1987, McCain was one of the five senators whom Keating contacted in order to prevent the government's seizure of Lincoln, and McCain met twice with federal regulators to discuss the government's investigation of Lincoln. In 1999, McCain said: "The appearance of it was wrong. It's a wrong appearance when a group of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators, because it conveys the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to do."

In the end, McCain was cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee of acting improperly or violating any law or Senate rule, but was mildly rebuked for exercising "poor judgment". In his 1992 re-election bid, the Keating Five affair was not a major issue, and he won handily, gaining 56 percent of the vote to defeat Democratic community and civil rights activist Claire Sargent and independent former Governor Evan Mecham.

McCain developed a reputation for independence during the 1990s. He took pride in challenging party leadership and establishment forces, becoming difficult to categorize politically.

As a member of the 1991–1993 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, chaired by Democrat and fellow Vietnam War veteran John Kerry, McCain investigated the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, to determine the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War. The committee's unanimous report stated there was "no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia."

Helped by McCain's efforts, in 1995 the U.S. normalized diplomatic relations with Vietnam. McCain was vilified by some POW/MIA activists who, unlike the Arizona senator, believed large numbers of Americans were still held against their will in Southeast Asia.

Since January 1993, McCain has been Chairman of the International Republican Institute, an organization partly funded by the U.S. Government that supports the emergence of political democracy worldwide.

In 1993 and 1994, McCain voted to confirm President Clinton's nominees Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg whom he considered to be qualified for the U.S. Supreme Court. He would later explain that "under our Constitution, it is the president's call to make." McCain had also voted to confirm nominees of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, including Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

McCain attacked what he saw as the corrupting influence of large political contributions – from corporations, labor unions, other organizations, and wealthy individuals – and he made this his signature issue. Starting in 1994, he worked with Democratic Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform; their McCain-Feingold bill attempted to put limits on "soft money". The efforts of McCain and Feingold were opposed by some of the moneyed interests targeted, by incumbents in both parties, by those who felt spending limits impinged on free political speech and might be unconstitutional as well, and by those who wanted to counterbalance the power of what they saw as media bias.

Despite sympathetic coverage in the media, initial versions of the McCain-Feingold Act were filibustered and never came to a vote.

The term "maverick Republican" became a label frequently applied to McCain, and he has also used it himself. In 1993, McCain opposed military operations in Somalia. Another target of his was pork barrel spending by Congress, and he actively supported the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, which gave the president power to veto individual spending items but was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998

In the 1996 presidential election, McCain was again on the short list of possible vice-presidential picks, this time for Republican nominee Bob Dole. The following year, Time magazine named McCain as one of the "25 Most Influential People in America".

McCain's 1999 family memoir
In 1997, McCain became chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee; he was criticized for accepting funds from corporations and businesses under the committee's purview, but in response said the small contributions he received were not part of the big-money nature of the campaign finance problem.McCain took on the tobacco industry in 1998, proposing legislation that would increase cigarette taxes in order to fund anti-smoking campaigns, discourage teenage smokers, increase money for health research studies, and help states pay for smoking-related health care costs.

Supported by the Clinton administration but opposed by the industry and most Republicans, the bill failed to gain cloture.

Start of third term in the U.S. Senate
McCain won re-election to a third senate term in November 1998, prevailing in a landslide over his Democratic opponent, environmental lawyer Ed Ranger. In the February 1999 Senate trial following the impeachment of Bill Clinton, McCain voted to convict the president on both the perjury and obstruction of justice counts, saying Clinton had violated his sworn oath of office.

In March 1999, McCain voted to approve the NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, saying that the ongoing genocide of the Kosovo War must be stopped and criticizing past Clinton administration inaction. Later in 1999, McCain shared the Profile in Courage Award with Feingold for their work in trying to enact their campaign finance reform,although the bill was still failing repeated attempts to gain cloture.

In August 1999, McCain's memoir Faith of My Fathers, co-authored with Mark Salter, was published; a reviewer observed that its appearance "seems to have been timed to the unfolding Presidential campaign." The most successful of his writings, it received positive reviews, became a bestseller, and was later made into a TV film. The book traces McCain's family background and childhood, covers his time at Annapolis and his service before and during the Vietnam War, concluding with his release from captivity in 1973. According to one reviewer, it describes "the kind of challenges that most of us can barely imagine. It's a fascinating history of a remarkable military family."

2000 presidential campaign
McCain announced his candidacy for president on September 27, 1999 in Nashua, New Hampshire, saying he was staging "a fight to take our government back from the power brokers and special interests, and return it to the people and the noble cause of freedom it was created to serve". The leader for the Republican nomination was Texas Governor George W. Bush, who had the political and financial support of most of the party establishment.

McCain focused on the New Hampshire primary, where his message appealed to independents. He traveled on a campaign bus called the Straight Talk Express. He held many town hall meetings, answering every question voters asked, in a successful example of "retail politics", and he used free media to compensate for his lack of funds.

One reporter later recounted that, "McCain talked all day long with reporters on his Straight Talk Express bus; he talked so much that sometimes he said things that he shouldn't have, and that's why the media loved him." On February 1, 2000, he won New Hampshire's primary with 49 percent of the vote to Bush's 30 percent. The Bush campaign and the Republican establishment feared that a McCain victory in the crucial South Carolina primary might give his campaign unstoppable momentum.

The Arizona Republic would write that the McCain–Bush primary contest in South Carolina "has entered national political lore as a low-water mark in presidential campaigns", while The New York Times called it "a painful symbol of the brutality of American politics".

A variety of interest groups that McCain had challenged in the past ran negative ads. Bush borrowed McCain's earlier language of reform, and declined to dissociate himself from a veterans activist who accused McCain (in Bush's presence) of having "abandoned the veterans" on POW/MIA and Agent Orange issues.

Incensed, McCain ran ads accusing Bush of lying and comparing the governor to Bill Clinton, which Bush said was "about as low a blow as you can give in a Republican primary". An anonymous smear campaign began against McCain, delivered by push polls, faxes, e-mails, flyers, and audience plants.

The smears claimed that McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock (the McCains' dark-skinned daughter was adopted from Bangladesh), that his wife Cindy was a drug addict, that he was a homosexual, and that he was a "Manchurian Candidate" who was either a traitor or mentally unstable from his North Vietnam POW days. The Bush campaign strongly denied any involvement with the attacks.

McCain lost South Carolina on February 19, with 42 percent of the vote to Bush's 53 percent, in part because Bush mobilized the state's evangelical vote and outspent McCain. The win allowed Bush to regain lost momentum. McCain would say of the rumor spreaders, "I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those." According to one report, the South Carolina experience left McCain in a "very dark place".

McCain's campaign never completely recovered from his South Carolina defeat, although he did rebound partially by winning in Arizona and Michigan a few days later. He made a speech in Virginia Beach that criticized Christian leaders, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, as divisive conservatives, declaring "... we embrace the fine members of the religious conservative community. But that does not mean that we will pander to their self-appointed leaders."

McCain lost the Virginia primary on February 29, and on March 7 lost nine of the thirteen primaries on Super Tuesday to Bush.

With little hope of overcoming Bush's delegate lead, McCain withdrew from the race on March 9, 2000. He endorsed Bush two months later, and made occasional appearances with the Texas governor during the general election campaign.

Senate career after 2000
Remainder of third Senate term
McCain began 2001 by breaking with the new George W. Bush administration on a number of matters, including HMO reform, climate change, and gun legislation; McCain-Feingold was opposed by Bush as well.

In May 2001, McCain was one of only two Senate Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts. Besides the differences with Bush on ideological grounds, there was considerable antagonism between the two remaining from the previous year's campai Later, when Republican Senator Jim Jeffords became an Independent, throwing control of the Senate to the Democrats, McCain defended Jeffords against "self-appointed enforcers of party loyalty". Indeed, there was speculation at the time, and in years since, about McCain himself leaving the Republican Party, but McCain has always adamantly denied that he ever considered doing so. Beginning in 2001, McCain used political capital gained from his presidential run, as well as improved legislative skills and relationships with other members, to become one of the Senate's most influential members.

McCain's Senate web site from 2003 to 2006 illustrated his concern about pork barrel spending.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, McCain supported Bush and the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. He and then-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman wrote the legislation that created the 9/11 Commission, while he and Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings co-sponsored the Aviation and Transportation Security Act that federalized airport security.

In March 2002, McCain-Feingold passed in both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Bush. Seven years in the making, it was McCain's greatest legislative achievement.

Meanwhile, in discussions over proposed U.S. action against Iraq, McCain was a strong supporter of the Bush administration's position. He stated that Iraq was "a clear and present danger to the United States of America", and voted accordingly for the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002.

He predicted that U.S. forces would be treated as liberators by a large number of the Iraqi people. In May 2003, McCain voted against the second round of Bush tax cuts, saying it was unwise at a time of war. By November 2003, after a trip to Iraq, he was publicly questioning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, saying that more U.S. troops were needed; the following year, McCain announced that he had lost confidence in Rumsfeld.

In October 2003, McCain and Lieberman co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act that would have introduced a cap and trade system aimed at returning greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels; the bill was defeated with 55 votes to 43 in the Senate. They reintroduced modified versions of the Act two additional times, most recently in January 2007 with the co-sponsorship of Barack Obama, among others.

In the 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign, McCain was once again frequently mentioned for the vice-presidential slot, only this time as part of the Democratic ticket under nominee John Kerry. McCain said that Kerry had never formally offered him the position and that he would not have accepted it if he had. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain supported Bush for re-election, praising Bush's management of the War on Terror since the September 11 attacks. At the same time, the Senator defended Kerry's Vietnam war record.

By August 2004, McCain had the best favorable-to-unfavorable rating (55 percent to 19 percent) of any national politician; he campaigned for Bush much more than he had four years previously, though the two remained situational allies rather than friends.

McCain was also up for re-election as Senator in 2004. He defeated little-known Democratic schoolteacher Stuart Starky with his biggest margin of victory, garnering 77 percent of the vote.

Start of fourth Senate term
In May 2005, McCain led the so-called Gang of 14 in the Senate, which established a compromise that preserved the ability of senators to filibuster judicial nominees, but only in "extraordinary circumstances". The compromise took the steam out of the filibuster movement, but some Republicans remained disappointed that the compromise did not eliminate filibusters of judicial nominees in all circumstances. McCain subsequently cast Supreme Court confirmation votes in favor of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, calling them "two of the finest justices ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court."

Breaking from his 2001 and 2003 votes, McCain supported the Bush tax cut extension in May 2006, saying not to do so would amount to a tax increase. Working with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, McCain was a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, which would involve legalization, guest worker programs, and border enforcement components. The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act was never voted on in 2005, while the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 passed the Senate in May 2006 but failed in the House.

In June 2007, President Bush, McCain, and others made the strongest push yet for such a bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, but it aroused intense grassroots opposition among talk radio listeners and others, some of whom furiously characterized the proposal as an "amnesty" program, and the bill twice failed to gain cloture in the Senate.

By the middle of the 2000s, the increased Indian gaming that McCain had helped bring about was a $23 billion industry. He was twice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, in 1995–1997 and 2005–2007, and his Committee helped expose the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal. By 2005 and 2006, McCain was pushing for amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that would limit creation of off-reservation casinos, as well as limiting the movement of tribes across state lines to build casinos.

Owing to his time as a POW, McCain has been recognized for his sensitivity to the detention and interrogation of detainees in the War on Terror. In October 2005, McCain introduced the McCain Detainee Amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill for 2005, and the Senate voted 90–9 to support the amendment. It prohibits inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, by confining military interrogations to the techniques in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogation. Although Bush had threatened to veto the bill if McCain's amendment was included, the President announced in December 2005 that he accepted McCain's terms and would "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad".

This stance, among others, led to McCain being named by Time magazine in 2006 as one of America's 10 Best Senators. McCain voted in February 2008 against a bill containing a ban on waterboarding, which provision was later narrowly passed and vetoed by Bush. However, the bill in question contained other provisions to which McCain objected, and his spokesman stated: "This wasn't a vote on waterboarding. This was a vote on applying the standards of the [Army] field manual to CIA personnel."

Meanwhile, McCain continued questioning the progress of the war in Iraq. In September 2005, he remarked upon Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers' optimistic outlook on the war's progress: "Things have not gone as well as we had planned or expected, nor as we were told by you, General Myers."

In August 2006, he criticized the administration for continually understating the effectiveness of the insurgency: "We [have] not told the American people how tough and difficult this could be."

From the beginning, McCain strongly supported the Iraq troop surge of 2007. The strategy's opponents labeled it "McCain's plan" and University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato said, "McCain owns Iraq just as much as Bush does now." The surge and the war were unpopular during most of the year, even within the Republican Party, as McCain's presidential campaign was underway; faced with the consequences, McCain frequently responded, "I would much rather lose a campaign than a war." In March 2008, McCain credited the surge strategy with reducing violence in Iraq, as he made his eighth trip to that country since the war began.

2008 presidential campaign
John McCain formally announced his intention to run for President of the United States on April 25, 2007 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He stated that: "I'm not running for President to be somebody, but to do something; to do the hard but necessary things not the easy and needless things."

McCain's oft-cited strengths as a presidential candidate for 2008 included national name recognition, sponsorship of major lobbying and campaign finance reform initiatives, his ability to reach across the aisle, his well-known military service and experience as a POW, his experience from the 2000 presidential campaign, and an expectation that he would capture Bush's top fundraisers.

During the 2006 election cycle, McCain had attended 346 events and helped raise more than $10.5 million on behalf of Republican candidates. McCain also became more willing to ask business and industry for campaign contributions, while maintaining that such contributions would not affect any official decisions he would make. Despite being considered the front-runner for the nomination by pundits as 2007 began, McCain was in second place behind former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani in national Republican polls as the year progressed.

McCain had fundraising problems in the first half of 2007, due in part to his support for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which was unpopular among the Republican base electorate. Large-scale campaign staff downsizing took place in early July, but McCain said that he was not considering dropping out of the race. Later that month, the candidate's campaign manager and campaign chief strategist both departed. McCain slumped badly in national polls, often running third or fourth with 15 percent or less support.

On March 5, 2008, President Bush met with the McCains, endorsing the presumptive nominee.

The Arizona senator subsequently resumed his familiar position as a political underdog, riding the Straight Talk Express and taking advantage of free media such as debates and sponsored eve By December 2007, the Republican race was unsettled, with none of the top-tier candidates dominating the race and all of them possessing major vulnerabilities with different elements of the Republican base electorate.

McCain was showing a resurgence, in particular with renewed strength in New Hampshire – the scene of his 2000 triumph – and was bolstered further by the endorsements of The Boston Globe, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and almost two dozen other state newspapers, as well as from Independent Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman. McCain decided not to campaign significantly in the January 3, 2008, Iowa caucuses, which saw a win by former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee.

McCain's comeback plan paid off when he won the New Hampshire primary on January 8, defeating former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney in a close contest, to once again become one of the front-runners in the race. In mid-January, McCain placed first in the South Carolina primary, narrowly defeating Mike Huckabee. Pundits credited the third-place finisher, Tennessee's former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, with drawing votes from Huckabee in South Carolina, thereby giving a narrow win to McCain. A week later, McCain won the Florida primary, beating Romney again in a close contest; Giuliani then dropped out and endorsed McCain.

On February 5, McCain won both the majority of states and delegates in the Super Tuesday Republican primaries, giving him a commanding lead toward the Republican nomination. Romney departed from the race on February 7. McCain's wins in the March 4 primaries clinched a majority of the delegates, and he became the presumptive Republican nominee.

McCain, having been born in the (Panama) Canal Zone, if elected would have become the first president who was born outside the current 50 states. This raised a potential legal issue, since the United States Constitution requires the president to be a natural-born citizen of the United States. A bipartisan legal review and a unanimous but non-binding Senate resolution both concluded that he is a natural-born citizen. Also, if inaugurated in 2009 at age 72 years and 144 days, he would have been the oldest U.S. president upon ascension to the presidency, and the second-oldest president to be inaugurated.

McCain has addressed concerns about his age and past health concerns, stating in 2005 that his health was "excellent". He has been treated for a type of skin cancer called melanoma, and an operation in 2000 for that condition left a noticeable mark on the left side of his face. McCain's prognosis appears favorable, according to independent experts, especially because he has already survived without a recurrence for more than seven years. In May 2008, McCain's campaign briefly let the press review his medical records, and he was described as appearing cancer-free, having a strong heart and in general good health.

Upon clinching enough delegates for the nomination, McCain's focus shifted toward the general election, while Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton fought a prolonged battle for the Democratic nomination. McCain introduced various policy proposals, and sought to improve his fundraising. Cindy McCain, who accounts for most of the couple's wealth with an estimated net worth of $100 million, made part of her tax returns public in May. After facing criticism about lobbyists on staff, the McCain campaign issued new rules in May 2008 to avoid conflicts of interest, causing five top aides to leave.

When Obama became the Democrats' presumptive nominee in early June, McCain proposed joint town hall meetings, but Obama instead requested more traditional debates for the fall. In July, a staff shake-up put Steve Schmidt in full operational control of the McCain campaign.

Throughout these summer months, Obama typically led McCain in national polls by single-digit margins, and also led in several key swing states. McCain reprised his familiar underdog role, which was due at least in part to the overall challenges Republicans faced in the election year.

McCain accepted public financing for the general election campaign, and the restrictions that go with it, while criticizing his Democratic opponent for becoming the first major party candidate to opt out of such financing for the general election since the system was implemented in 1976. The Republican's broad campaign theme focused on his experience and ability to lead, compared to Obama's.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was revealed as McCain's surprise choice for running mate on August 29, 2008. McCain was only the second U.S. major-party presidential nominee to select a woman for running mate and the first Republican to do so; Palin would have become the first female Vice President of the United States if she had been elected. On September 3, 2008, McCain and Palin became the Republican Party's Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees, respectively, at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. McCain surged ahead of Obama in national polls following the convention, as the Palin pick energized core Republican voters who had previously been wary of him.

However, by the campaign's own later admission, the rollout of Palin to the national media went poorly, and voter reactions to Palin grew increasingly negative, especially among independents and other voters concerned about her qualifications.

On September 24, McCain said he was suspending his campaign, called on Obama to join him, and proposed delaying the first of the general election debates with Obama, in order to work on the proposed U.S. financial system bailout before Congress, which was targeted at addressing the subprime mortgage crisis and liquidity crisis.

McCain's intervention helped to give dissatisfied House Republicans an opportunity to propose changes to the plan that was otherwise close to agreement. After Obama declined McCain's suspension suggestion, McCain went ahead with the debate on September 26.

On October 1, McCain voted in favor of a revised $700 billion rescue plan. Another debate was held on October 7; like the first one, polls afterward suggested that Obama had won it. A final presidential debate occurred on October 15. During and after it, McCain compared Obama's proposed policies to socialism and often invoked "Joe the Plumber" as a symbol of American small business dreams that would be thwarted by an Obama presidency. McCain barred using the Jeremiah Wright controversy in ads against Obama, but the campaign did frequently criticize Obama regarding his purported relationship with Bill Ayers.Down the stretch, McCain was outspent by Obama by a four-to-one margin.

The election took place on November 4, and Barack Obama was projected the winner at about 11:00 pm Eastern Standard Time; McCain delivered his concession speech in Phoenix, Arizona about twenty minutes later. In it, he noted the historic and special significance of Obama becoming the nation's first African American president. In the end, McCain won 173 electoral college votes to Obama's 365; McCain failed to win most of the battleground states and lost some traditionally Republican ones. McCain gained 46 percent of the nationwide popular vote, compared to Obama's 53 percent.

Senate career after 2008
Remainder of fourth Senate term

Following his defeat, McCain returned to the Senate amid varying views about what role he might play there. In mid-November 2008 he met with President-elect Obama, and the two discussed issues they had commonality on. Around the same time, McCain indicated that he intended to run for re-election to his Senate seat in 2010. As the inauguration neared, Obama consulted with McCain on a variety of matters, to an extent rarely seen between a president-elect and his defeated rival, and President Obama's inauguration speech contained an allusion to McCain's theme of finding a purpose greater than oneself.

Nevertheless, McCain emerged as a leader of the Republican opposition to the Obama economic stimulus package of 2009, saying it had too much spending for too little stimulative effect. McCain also voted against Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor – saying that while undeniably qualified, "I do not believe that she shares my belief in judicial restraint" – and by August 2009 was siding more often with his Republican Party on closely divided votes than ever before in his senatorial career.

McCain reasserted that the Afghanistan War was winnable and criticized Obama for a slow process in deciding whether to send additional U.S. troops there. McCain also harshly criticized Obama for scrapping construction of the U.S. missile defense complex in Poland, declined to enter negotiations over climate change legislation similar to what he had proposed in the past, and strongly opposed the Obama health care plan.

McCain led a successful filibuster of a measure that would allow repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy towards gays. Factors involved in McCain's new direction included Senate staffers leaving, a renewed concern over national debt levels and the scope of federal government, a possible Republican primary challenge from conservatives in 2010, and McCain's campaign edge being slow to wear o As one longtime McCain advisor said, "A lot of people, including me, thought he might be the Republican building bridges to the Obama Administration. But he's been more like the guy blowing up the bridges."

In early 2010, a primary challenge from radio talk show host and former U.S. Congressman J. D. Hayworth materialized in the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Arizona and drew support from some but not all elements of the Tea Party movement. With Hayworth using the campaign slogan "The Consistent Conservative", McCain said (despite his own past use of the term), "I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities."

The primary challenge coincided with McCain reversing or muting his stance on some issues such as the bank bailouts, closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, campaign finance restrictions, and gays in the military. When the health care plan, now called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed Congress and became law in March 2010, McCain strongly opposed the landmark legislation not only on its merits but also on the way it had been handled in Congress. As a consequence, he warned that congressional Republicans would not be working with Democrats on anything else: "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it."

McCain became a vocal defender of Arizona SB 1070, the April 2010 tough anti-illegal immigration state law that aroused national controversy, saying that the state had been forced to take action given the federal government's inability to control the border. In the August 24 primary, McCain beat Hayworth by a 56 to 32 percent margin. McCain proceeded to easily defeat Democratic city councilman Rodney Glassman in the general election.

In the lame duck session of the 111th Congress, McCain voted for the compromise Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, but against the DREAM Act (which he had once sponsored) and the New START Treaty. Most prominently, he continued to lead the eventually losing fight against "Don't ask, don't tell" repeal, with his opposition. In his opposition, he sometimes fell into anger or hostility on the Senate floor, and called its passage "a very sad day" that would compromise the battle effectiveness of the military.

Start of fifth Senate term
While control of the House of Representatives went over to the Republicans in the 112th Congress, the Senate stayed Democratic and McCain continued to be the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. As the 2011 Middle East and North Africa protests took center stage, McCain urged that embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak step down and thought the U.S. should push for democratic reforms in the region despite the associated risks of religious extremists gaining power.

McCain was an especially vocal supporter of the 2011 military intervention in Libya. In April of that year he visited the Anti-Gaddafi forces and National Transitional Council in Benghazi, the highest-ranking American to do so, and said that the rebel forces were "my heroes".

In August, McCain voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011 that resolved the U.S. debt ceiling crisis. In November, McCain and Senator Carl Levin were leaders in efforts to codify in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 that terrorism suspects, no matter where captured, could be detained by the U.S. military and its tribunal system; following objections by civil libertarians, some Democrats, and the White House, McCain and Levin agreed to language making it clear that the bill would not pertain to U.S. citizens.

Caucus memberships
* International Conservation Caucus
* Senate Diabetes Caucus
* Senate National Security Caucus (Co-Chair)
* Sportsmen's Caucus
* Senate Wilderness and Public Lands Caucus

Political positions
Various advocacy groups have given Senator McCain scores or grades as to how well his votes align with the positions of each group. The American Conservative Union awarded McCain a lifetime rating of 83 percent through 2010, while McCain has an average lifetime 12 percent "Liberal Quotient" from Americans for Democratic Action through 2010.

The Almanac of American Politics collects the National Journal ratings of congressional votes as liberal or conservative on the political spectrum in three policy areas: economic, social, and foreign. For 2005–2006, McCain's average ratings were as follows: economic 59 percent conservative and 41 percent liberal; social 54 percent conservative / 38 percent liberal; and foreign 56 percent conservative / 43 percent liberal.

Columnists such as Robert Robb and Matthew Continetti have used a formulation devised by William F. Buckley, Jr. to describe McCain as "conservative" but not "a conservative", meaning that while McCain usually tends towards conservative positions, he is not "anchored by the philosophical tenets of modern American conservatism." Following his 2008 presidential election loss, McCain began adopting more orthodox conservative views; National Journal magazine rated McCain along with seven of his colleagues as the "most conservative" Senators for 2010 and he achieved his first 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union for that year.

From the late 1990s until 2008, McCain was a board member of Project Vote Smart (PVS) which was set up by Richard Kimball, his 1986 Senate opponent. PVS provides non-partisan information about the political positions of McCain and other candidates for political office. Additionally, McCain uses his Senate web site to describe his political positions.

McCain is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Cultural and political image
John McCain's personal character has been a dominant feature of his public image. This image includes the military service of both himself and his family, his maverick political persona, his temper, his admitted problem of occasional ill-considered remarks, and his close ties to his children from both his marriages.

McCain's political appeal has been more nonpartisan and less ideological compared to many other national politicians. His stature and reputation stem partly from his service in the Vietnam War. He also carries physical vestiges of his war wounds, as well as his melanoma surgery. When campaigning, he quips: "I am older than dirt and have more scars than Frankenstein."

Writers often extolled McCain for his courage not just in war but in politics, and wrote sympathetically about him. McCain's shift of political stances and attitudes during and especially after the 2008 presidential campaign, including his self-repudiation of the maverick label, left many writers expressing sadness and wondering what had happened to the McCain they thought they had known.

In his own estimation, the Arizona senator is straightforward and direct, but impatient. Other traits include a penchant for lucky charms, a fondness for hiking, and a sense of humor that has sometimes backfired spectacularly, as when he made a joke in 1998 about the Clintons widely deemed not fit to print in newspapers: "Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? — Because Janet Reno is her father."

McCain subsequently apologized profusely, and the Clinton White House accepted his apology. McCain has not shied away from addressing his shortcomings, and apologizing for them. He is known for sometimes being prickly and hot-tempered with Senate colleagues, but his relations with his own Senate staff have been more cordial, and have inspired loyalty towards him.

McCain acknowledges having said intemperate things in years past, though he also says that many stories have been exaggerated. One psychoanalytic comparison suggests that McCain was not the first presidential candidate to have a temper, and cultural critic Julia Keller argues that voters want leaders who are passionate, engaged, fiery, and feisty.

McCain has employed both profanity and shouting on occasion, although such incidents have become less frequent over the years. Senator Joe Lieberman has made this observation: "It is not the kind of anger that is a loss of control. He is a very controlled person Senator Thad Cochran, who has known McCain for decades and has battled him over earmarks, expressed concern about a McCain presidency: "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." Ultimately Cochran decided to support McCain for president, after it was clear he would win the nomination.

All of John McCain's family members are on good terms with him, and he has defended them against some of the negative consequences of his high-profile political lifestyle. His family's military tradition extends to the latest generation: son John Sidney IV ("Jack") graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2009, becoming the fourth generation John S. McCain to do so, and is a helicopter pilot; son James served two tours with the Marines in the Iraq War; and son Doug flew jets in the Navy. His daughter Meghan became a blogging and Twittering presence in the debate about the future of the Republican Party following the 2008 elections, and showed some of his maverick tendencies.

News: Beyond the bus

An interesting article on how all fundamentalist religions exclude women - not just Islam...

From Haaretz: Beyond the bus
Israel hasn't seen a consensus like this on women's rights in a long time. It's only been a few weeks since the phrase "exclusion of women" became a staple of the news pages, and already it's become a catchphrase that calls to mind associations like ultra-Orthodox extremism, religious coercion, the slogan "Iran is here," oppression of women and fear of further escalation.

On the streets, on the Internet, in the media, on university campuses, in the Knesset and in the government, Israelis are protesting the exclusion of women by the ultra-Orthodox. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch have condemned the phenomenon, and last week Kadima jumped on the bandwagon - or should we say on the bus? - with a campaign it is calling "Women in Front: Saying No to the Exclusion of Women."
gender segregation, women discrimination

Women’s right activists. 'Secular society also tends to see women as sex objects,' says a rape crisis center volunteer.
Photo by: Daniel Bar-On

It almost seems as if the exclusion of women were a specifically ultra-Orthodox hang-up, that in Israel, full equality exists between the sexes, threatened only by sex-segregated bus lines. But many of the women protesting the discrimination reject Netanyahu's statement that it is a "limited phenomenon that does not reflect the entire population," and say the fight against Haredi discrimination should be just the beginning.

"On my way to an accountants conference in Jerusalem I passed through the city's neighborhoods full of Hanukkah celebrations and looked for excluded women," Stav Shaffir, one of the leaders of this summer's social protests, wrote on her Facebook page. "I saw no sign of segregation on public transit. It was only when I reached the conference itself that I discovered the true exclusion. In the [conference] hall there was one woman for every 10 men. And on the panel? One woman (myself ) and four men. When we speak of free day care, we must not forget that its objective is not only to reduce social inequality or lessen the financial burden on young families. It is also to allow women to work where they please, and as long as they choose, and to receive maximum support for doing so."

Shaffir's comment is a reminder of a reality of which many of the women leading the protests are already well aware. The "true exclusion," as Shaffir calls it, is in the law and the economic and social structure, not least in its most liberal outposts. While the country was in a frenzy over Israel Defense Forces soldiers walking out of military events featuring female singers, two theory and criticism periodicals identified with the radical left published issues that did not include a single article written by a woman. Not many were bothered by this.

Yet the demonstrations against the most visible forms of discrimination against women - like sex-segregated buses geared toward the ultra-Orthodox, the elimination of women from outdoor advertising campaigns in Jerusalem for fear of angering the ultra-Orthodox, and ultra-Orthodox attacks on the students and chaperones of a religious (but non-Haredi ) girls school in Beit Shemesh - pave the way for a struggle against the "true exclusion."

"The struggle against the exclusion of women has gained public legitimacy," said Hadar Shemesh, 31, from Tel Aviv, who organized rotations of women to ride in the front of sex-segregated buses. "Because it is against the ultra-Orthodox, it is very easy for everyone to say, 'They're the ones who are excluding women, not us.'"

And it is easier to protest such tangible exclusion, said Shemesh. "It is a physical struggle that can focus on direct action, whereas fighting against male domination in the theater and the press is much harder," she said. Shemesh hopes that "if there is consistent collaboration among women over a long time, we'll be able to take the struggle one step forward. We need to address ultra-Orthodox exclusion, but just as a basis for something much broader."
Change begins with anger

Kadima's campaign is directed against the Haredi exclusion of women and what is perceived to be the growing extremism in Israeli values in general. Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said the struggle is not just against the ultra-Orthodox.

"For many years women have been fighting for their place in politics, in the army, and in centers of decision-making," said the opposition leader. "Suddenly, in recent years, after there is no longer a need for the High Court of Justice to settle cases like the [1995] Alice Miller case so that women can apply for pilot training courses and serve with distinction in army units, an opposite development has been taking place. It begins in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and moves to secular ones, all with public funding."

Livni said she did not enter politics with a feminist agenda. "Things that seemed obvious when I was young, for example that women should not serve in certain units, began to seem warped only at a later stage in my life," she said. The election campaign sharpened her vision. "When people said 'It's too much for her' and tried to belittle me, many women became angry, and anger is the beginning of struggle and change. Even if I didn't mean it, it suddenly happened."

College students have also been looking to bring gender discrimination to people's attention, and have received assistance from the Knesset Caucus for Equality between the Sexes and Unico Israel, a group that advocates for gender equality on campus.

"Throughout the year we receive complaints regarding equality, from both women and men, whose long-term results are in fact exclusion of women from the academic sphere," said Unico representative Lirit Gruber. Now that discrimination against women has suddenly become a popular cause, Gruber said there is a "certain feeling of consensus which was perhaps foreign to the feminist sphere over the years."

"I myself believe in collaboration between men and women, based on the belief that equality is a common interest that we should all promote," she said. "The subject that has now come to the foreground encourages collaboration, and I would like to see in it a beginning of collaboration, or a further step in collaboration, and from there go on to address all the disparities."

Last week, Rabbi Menachem Froman, a West Bank religious leader who promotes interfaith dialogue with Palestinians, told Haaretz correspondent Yair Ettinger: "This goes way beyond women's singing ... Secular people ask religious ones, 'Do you see nothing but the sexual aspect of a woman's singing? Why can't you see a woman as a human being?'"

But for Hadas Svirsky, a 29-year-old clinical psychology student who volunteers at a rape crisis center, the ultra-Orthodox conception of women as temptresses is not that different from the pornographic representations that abound in secular society.

"It's the other side of the coin," said Svirsky. "Secular society also tends to see women as sex objects. So it's infuriating to hear the reactions of the prime minister and politicians, who on the one hand are responsible for trampling women's rights and, on the other hand, call exclusion a limited phenomenon that they utterly oppose."

"I think it is important to understand that this is a protest against patriarchal oppression and not against the ultra-Orthodox," she said. "It is no mere coincidence that the ultra-Orthodox exclusion has made its way into the secular public sphere. If we focus the fight on the ultra-Orthodox alone, we're liable to forget that women are excluded from all public arenas."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Alaska: Mark Begich (D) [Private profession, none]

From Wikipedia
Mark Peter Begich (born March 30, 1962) is the junior United States Senator from Alaska and a member of the Democratic Party. A former mayor of Anchorage, he served on the Anchorage Assembly for almost ten years prior to being elected mayor in 2003. In the highly competitive 2008 Alaska Senate election, Begich defeated incumbent Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican member of the Senate of all time.

Born in Anchorage, he is the son of U.S. Representative Nick Begich, who disappeared and was presumed dead following a 1972 plane crash. He graduated from high school and has taken continuing education classes at University of Alaska Anchorage, but does not have a college degree. At age 26 he was elected to the Anchorage Assembly. After serving as chairman for three years, he left the Assembly in 1998. Begich ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor in 1994 and 2000. He was finally elected in 2003, winning a narrow three-way race by 11 votes.

Begich handily won the Democratic nomination in the state's 2008 U.S. Senate election. He faced longtime incumbent Republican Ted Stevens, who was facing ethics and corruption charges during his re-election campaign. Stevens was convicted of felony violations a week before the election, and Begich won by a narrow margin.

A member of the Moderate Dems Working Group, Begich is considered a moderate Democrat. He is pro-choice and supports ANWR drilling, gun rights, and benefits for same-sex couples. He opposes the Patriot Act. Begich has generally supported President Barack Obama's legislative agenda, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. Begich became the Chairman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in 2011.

Early life, education, and early political career
Begich was born in Anchorage at the old Providence Hospital, and is the first person born in Anchorage to be elected as the city's mayor. He is the son of former U.S. Representative Nick Begich, who disappeared (and was declared legally dead) in October 1972 during a flight from Anchorage to Juneau with then House Majority Leader Hale Boggs.

The fourth child of six born to Nick and Pegge Begich; he has two sisters and three brothers. His Croatian paternal grandfather John Begich immigrated to the United States from Austria–Hungary (today Croatia) in 1911. He attended Steller Secondary School in Anchorage. Begich has taken continuing education classes at University of Alaska Anchorage without graduating. As of 2009, Begich is the only U.S. Senator without a college degree.

Begich was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 1988, at age 26, and served until 1998, including three years as chairman and two as vice chairman. In 1989, Begich led the opposition to the sale of the municipally-owned Anchorage Telephone Utility (ATU) to private interests. ATU was eventually sold in 1999 (after Begich had left the Assembly). Begich was also one of the chief sponsors of the introduction of photo radar.

Begich served for a number of years on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, including as its chair. In 2001, Governor Tony Knowles appointed Begich to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, but the Legislature did not confirm the appointment.

Mayor of Anchorage
He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1994 against Rick Mystrom, and in 2000 against then-Assemblyman George Wuerch. In the 2003 mayoral race he narrowly defeated both Mystrom and Wuerch, earning only 11 votes over the number needed to win, due to a simultaneously approved law increasing the threshold needed to avoid a runoff election from 40 to 45 percent. He was re-elected in April 2006, winning against local advertising and radio personality Jack Frost. Though the office is officially nonpartisan, Begich is the first Democrat to be elected Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage since Tony Knowles, who was later elected to two terms as Governor of Alaska.

Begich is a former member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. His split from the mayor's group was well-publicized.

U.S. Senate
2008 election

On February 27, 2008, Begich announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for the United States Senate. After winning the Democratic nomination, he went on to face Republican incumbent Ted Stevens in the general election. The polls showed the race to be leaning for Begich due to Stevens' indictment and later felony convictions. On November 18, 2008, the Associated Press called the election for Begich, who was leading and likely to win by more than the 0.5% margin needed to trigger an automatic recount, with the remainder of uncounted ballots originating from the Anchorage area. Stevens conceded the race the next day.

Begich's victory over Stevens in the 2008 Senate elections made him the first Democrat to represent Alaska in either chamber of the United States Congress since Mike Gravel, who was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1980 and left the Senate in 1981 upon the expiration of his term. Begich is the first Croatian-American elected to the United States Senate. He is also the first Mayor of Anchorage to be elected to the Senate. Begich's father, Nick Begich, was the last Democrat to represent Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives, which he did until he was declared legally dead at the end of 1972, following his disappearance along with Boggs earlier that year.

Stevens's conviction was later set aside due to prosecutorial misconduct. Alaska Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich issued a call for Begich to resign so a special election could be held. Ruedrich argued that Begich's win was illegitimate because of "improper influence from the 'corrupt' Department of Justice." The same day Governor Sarah Palin seconded Ruedrich's call, although she later denied having said Begich should resign. Begich said in a statement that he intends to serve his full six-year term.

Begich's political views are considered to be moderate. He is a member of the Moderate Dems Working Group. He is in favor of ANWR drilling and a supporter of gun rights. He is pro-choice, supports benefits for same-sex couples (though it is unclear if he supports same-sex marriage), opposes the Patriot Act, and claims to "generally" oppose the death penalty while acknowledging to sometimes "evolve on that issue".

Begich supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Begich became the Chairman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in 2011. On December 18, 2010, Begich voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

Committee assignments
* Committee on the Budget
* Committee on Armed Services
o Subcommittee on Airland
o Subcommittee on Personnel
o Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
* Committee on Commerce, Science, Transportation
o Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
o Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet
o Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion
o Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
o Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
* Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Caucus memberships
Senate Oceans Caucus