Prayers and well-wishes for Sen. John McCain poured in overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning from politicians past and present at the highest levels of both political parties.
Former presidents and secretaries of state offered support for McCain, who is battling brain cancer, as did Republican and Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress, evidence of the extent to which the longtime Arizona senator and war hero is respected and revered across party lines.
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McCain himself, in a post to Twitter, struck a optimistic note in the face of his diagnosis, writing that “I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support – unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!”
Echoing the sentiment of a statement released Wednesday by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence wrote online Wednesday night that his wife, “Karen & I are praying for @SenJohnMcCain. Cancer picked on the wrong guy. John McCain is a fighter & he’ll win this fight too. God bless!”
Pence’s predecessor, former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau Biden died in 2015 from the same type of tumor McCain has been diagnosed with, also weighed in on Twitter. “John and I have been friends for 40 years. He’s gotten through so much difficulty with so much grace. He is strong – and he will beat this,” said Biden, who served 35 years in the Senate before becoming vice president and has dedicated his post-political life to a “cancer moonshot” search for a cure.
“Incredible progress in cancer research and treatment in just the last year offers new promise and new hope. You can win this fight, John,” Biden wrote in a second post.
According to a statement from McCain’s Mayo Clinic doctors in Arizona, the senator was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor called glioblastoma during a surgical procedure to remove a blood clot from behind his right eye. McCain’s tumor is of a particularly aggressive and malignant type, according to the American Brain Tumor Association, because the cancer cells are fed by a large number of blood vessels that allow them to reproduce quickly.
It was the same type of tumor that claimed the life of another long-serving and influential senator, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, in 2009.
Multiple former presidents offered their own words of encouragement for McCain, including Bill Clinton, who wrote on Twitter that, “as he’s shown his entire life, don’t bet against John McCain. Best wishes to him for a swift recovery.” Barack Obama wrote online that “cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against” in McCain, urging the man he beat for the presidency in 2008 to “give it hell.”
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who was McCain’s 2008 running mate, posted a photo of the two together to her Facebook page and wrote that the former GOP presidential nominee “is one tough fighter – we know he’ll face this diagnosis with courage and strength. Our family continues to lift John and his family up in prayer.”
Former President George H.W. Bush was one of many who referenced McCain’s history as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, where he was tortured but refused an offer for early release because he did not want to return home ahead of other prisoners who had been held longer, as proof that he was up to the challenge of fighting cancer.
“The Hanoi Hilton couldn’t break John McCain’s spirit many years ago, so Barbara and I know – with confidence – he and his family will meet this latest battle in his singular life of service with courage and determination,” Bush said in his statement.
John Kerry, a former secretary of state, fellow Vietnam War veteran and a longtime friend of McCain’s from their tenures in the Senate, also pointed to the Arizona lawmaker’s experience as a POW as proof of his toughness.
“I love @SenJohnMcCain. Unbeatable, unbreakable. He’s Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘man in the arena’ even when we’re on opposite sides. God bless,” Kerry wrote on Twitter in a post that also included a black and white photo of a younger McCain stepping off a military aircraft. In a second post, Kerry linked to the lengthy statement released by McCain’s daughter and wrote “Well said, Meghan. Teresa and I are thinking of you, your dad, and the entire family tonight.”
Dozens of lawmakers from both parties offered their own warm words for McCain. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the Arizona senator “a warrior” who will “fight this with the same sheer force of will that has earned him the admiration of the nation.” The speaker added that “the prayers of the whole House are with Senator McCain and his family.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) weighed in as well, writing on Twitter that McCain “is a hero, a patriot and a fighter. I am privileged to call him a friend. Paul & I pray for his recovery and his family.” Her Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said McCain is a “true fighter & I’ll be praying for you until you beat this. I know you will.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called McCain “a hero to our conference and a hero to our country.”
“He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life,” McConnell’s statement said. “We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.”