Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McCain Views New Senate Role as Way to Redefine His Legacy; Pentagon Overhaul, Stronger Defense Are Goals over Next Two Years

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McCain Views New Senate Role as Way to Redefine His Legacy; Pentagon Overhaul, Stronger Defense Are Goals over Next Two Years

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is waging another national campaign this time, to define his legacy.

After two unsuccessful presidential bids, McCain, 78, a former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war, has rebounded as the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. The post gives hiim a significant say on national security and a chance to ensure that his loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 White House race isn't the final word in the colorful McCain chronicles.

McCain wants to prod the Obama administration, which he derides as feckless, to adopt a tougher policy against worldwide threats. He wants budget and spending changes at the Pentagon.

A defense hawk in a party with a growing number of noninterventionists he once dismissed a few as "wacko birds" McCain wants to help educate new senators. McCain is calling foreign policy luminaries to share their world views with the committee, beginning this week with former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. His friendships across Washington are points of pride.

But ask McCain what he wants people to think of when they will recall his chairmanship. Then ask how he wants to be remembered generally.

The answers are nearly identical.

"To be able to play a significant role in defeating the forces of radical Islam that want to destroy America," he says to the first.

To the second: "That I made a major contribution to the defense of the nation."

It's legacy time for McCain, and he clearly wants the chairmanship to help define it, before voters in 2016 get the chance again to decide control of the Senate. The senator will turn 80 that year, and all signs point to McCain's running for a sixth Senate term.

Two years is a short window for a lot of work, but the leadership role gives McCain new power. He still has the energy that has helped him survive a hard-to-make-up biography: three plane crashes, an aircraft carrier fire, five years in captivity in Vietnam, nearly three decades in the Senate and too many hours with reporters aboard the "Straight Talk Express" campaign bus in 2000 and 2008. …

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