John McCain: This Is My Last Term

In a new book, Senator John McCain makes an announcement that everyone was anticipating.

Arizona Senator John McCain, who is currently in Arizona battling brain cancer, says in a new book that his current term will be his last:

Republican Sen. John McCain, who is battling brain cancer in his home state of Arizona, says in his new book that his current term is his last and, as a result, he feels he can open up about how he sees the current political climate.

“This is my last term. If I hadn’t admitted that to myself before this summer, a stage 4 cancer diagnosis acts as ungentle persuasion,” he wrote in his book, “The Restless Wave,” according to the excerpt published on Apple News on Monday. “I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry.”

Referring to President Donald Trump, McCain wrote, “He has declined to distinguish the actions of our government from the crimes of despotic ones. The appearance of toughness, or a reality show facsimile of toughness, seems to matter more than any of our values.”

McCain said he wants to see the nation’s politics “return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history” and says, “you’re damn right, I’m a champion of compromise.”

“I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different,” he wrote. “We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one. Even in times of political turmoil such as these, we share that awesome heritage and the responsibility to embrace it.”

McCain, 81, made public last summer his brain cancer diagnosis. He’s been recovering from side effects of the cancer treatment at his home in Arizona since late last year.

“‘The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in For Whom the Bell Tolls,” McCain wrote in his book. “And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”

Even without McCain’s cancer diagnosis, this is not an unexpected announcement. McCain has been in the Senate since first being elected to replace Barry Goldwater in 1986, and won his sixth term in office in 2016 in a rather easy win over both his Republican primary challenger and his Democratic opponent. Before that, McCain had served for four years in the House of Representatives. He had turned 80 years old just a few months before the 2016 election and would be 86 when his seat comes up again in 2022. During the last election, most political observers assumed that McCain’s sixth term in office would be his last even though he never formally announced that until now. Once he announced last year that he was suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer, a decision like this seemed inevitable and, at least in some quarters, the speculation has been more attuned to the question of whether he would be able serve out his current term. One possible scenario has him retiring this year and thus creating a second open seat in Arizona in November, something which could cause Republicans serious problems in their bid to hold on to a Senate majority. This speculation became more pronounced when McCain told reported that his prognosis was poor. At this point, though, McCain is holding on and says he plans to return to Washington soon.

Notwithstanding his illness, though, McCain has not been quiet. Although he has not appeared in public recently, he has used a combination of Twitter and Facebook posts to take on President Trump and recently told reporters that he feels freer to speak his mind. The most recent example of that came just this weekend when McCain said that President Trump is more interested in appearing tough than in protecting the nation’s values:

In a new memoir, Sen. John McCain offers a harsh assessment of President Trump’s leadership, asserting that his “reality show facsimile of toughness” seems to matter more to him than the nation’s values.

In the book, McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer and says he feels more free to speak out because he is not seeking reelection, writes that he has sometimes heatedly disagreed with all six of the presidents who have held office during his 36 years on Capitol Hill.

McCain takes particular aim at Trump, a real estate developer and former reality-television star, writing that he “has declined to distinguish the actions of our government from the crimes of despotic ones.”

“The appearance of toughness, or a reality show facsimile of toughness, seems to matter more than any of our values,” McCain says.

The assessment is included in excerpts of McCain’s forthcoming book, “The Restless Wave,” that were published Monday by Apple News. The book, co-written by Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime aide and writing collaborator, is slated for publication on May 22.

In the excerpts published Monday, McCain laments the decline of civility and bipartisanship in Washington, writing that “whether we think each other right or wrong on the issues of the day, we owe each other respect.”

McCain is absolutely correct, of course, and one hopes that he’ll be able to say these words in person when he’s back in Washington.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Slugger says:

    An upper age limit on high public office would be o.k. with me, and I am 72.
    Immediate retirement would be beneficial to him, his state, his country, and his political party.

  2. James Joyner says:

    While it’s an understandable part of the game, it’s really sad that it takes brain cancer and impending retirement to be able to speak one’s mind and vote one’s conscience. That should be the job description, not something one only does as one is exiting.

  3. rachel says:

    @James Joyner: So true. Moreover, if more office holders had been willing to do that from the beginning, would we be in the state we’re in now?

  4. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: My thoughts exactly. It is especially sad/ironic given that McCain had an actual brand (however credible or not) for being a “maverick”.

    The Senate presumes that citizens who obtain that stature would have egos and influence enough to be independent checks. If someone with McCain’s level of incumbency and personal brand doesn’t feel free to vote his conscious, the entire structure/design of the Senate becomes an issue. ..

  5. Andy says:

    For a very long time, I was a great admirer of McCain and still respect the positive things he’s done for this country, but he’s gone downhill since the 2008 election. Despite my respect for his previous accomplishments and his consistent stands or important issues like torture, I could not in good conscience vote for him in ’08 given his radical, hawkish views on foreign policy. He should have, IMO, retired from the Senate after that term.

  6. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    It is sad, but that’s the way politics works, unfortunately. Politicians want to stay in power that requires a degree of moral flexibility.

  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Sooo…he’s fine with saying he’s been a coward all this time? That now he’s finally able to be honest? How out-of-touch can you possibly be?