Thad Cochran has already retired from the United States Senate, and, given his medical issues, John McCain is unlikely to be there much longer.
No reflection on who replaces them — Mississippi voters will choose Cochran’s this fall — but it’s doubtful either successor will match the longevity and influence of their predecessor.
Cochran, who replaced James O. Eastland in 1978, served in the Senate for 40 years, and before that was a congressman.
McCain, from Arizona, was first elected to the Senate in 1986 which puts him there for more than three decades.
The two octogenarian Republicans, who haven’t always been on the same page politically, were in the news last week for different reasons.
Cochran, who resigned his Senate seat earlier this year, was honored at the University of Mississippi’s commencement program Saturday with the school’s Humanitarian Award in recognition of his contributions to the state of Mississippi and the university.
McCain, who is battling the effects of brain cancer, was the subject of crass comments by a White House staffer and also a retired Air Force general because of his opposition to President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel. McCain opposes Haspel because of her past association with torturous interrogation methods following the 9/ll attack.
White House aide Kelly Sadler allegedly commented during a closed-door meeting that McCain’s opposition to Haspel didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway.”
And, appearing on the Fox Business Network, Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney alleged that McCain was referred to as “Songbird John” following his imprisonment during the Vietnam War because he disclosed information under torture.
The National Review opined that “one of the ironies of McInerney’s comment is that his example makes the opposite argument he thinks it does; McCain gave his captors a lot of false information and nonsense. Asked the names of the men in his squadron, he listed the names of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. When forced to sign a confession, McCain ‘deliberately used misspellings, grammatical errors, and Communist jargon to show he was writing under duress.’”
Reports that McCain gave the Vietnamese valid information under torture have long been debunked.
Give Fox News, which is as pro-Trump as CNN is anti-Trump, some credit for firing McInerney as an analyst after his remarks backlashed.
Cochran and McCain have some things in common. They are near the same age. Both served in the Navy. McCain, like Cochran, has Mississippi roots. His grandfather, Navy Admiral John Sidney “Slew” McCain Sr., was born in Carroll County.
But the two have not always been allies.
Cochran, to the benefit of Mississippi, was a master at directing funds to his state. As Appropriations Chairman in the Senate, his role in securing money for Hurricane Katrina relief to Mississippi and Louisiana was crucial. A building is named for him at Ole Miss, and the largesse he has directed that way is a major reason he received that award Saturday.
McCain, on the other hand, has long been a critic of earmarks and pork barrel spending, crusading against them.
During the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, Cochran, who was supporting Mitt Romney, said this about McCain, according to the Boston Globe:
“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hot-headed. He loses his temper and he worries me.”
McCain won the nomination, though, and Cochran supported him in the general election.
In 2014, when Cochran was in a close primary race against challenger Chris McDaniel, McCain came to Mississippi to campaign for Cochran.
McCain is reported to have said that President Trump — who during his presidential campaign casts aspersions on McCain’s heroism because he was captured — would not be welcomed at his funeral.
I suspect Thad Cochran would be welcomed and vice versa.