McCain's Maverick Nature Would Fuel His Political Climb

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One night in 1957, during his junior year at the U.S. Naval Academy, John Sidney McCain III found himself in trouble, an incident that destined him for yet another tense discussion with his frustrated father. While on liberty, he and a couple of classmates had gotten into an argument at a Washington park with a group of guys from nearby Georgetown University who'd tried crashing an impromptu party that McCain and his friends were having with a few girls. An exchange of insults escalated to pugnacious challenges, then shoves, with McCain in the center of the confrontation. One participant remembers the dispute as bloodless, a simple case of testosterone briefly running amok among rival alpha males.

But a witness had called authorities. Hearing that some of the young men appeared to be in the distinctive dress blues of midshipmen, the authorities notified the Navy's Shore Patrol, whose duties included rounding up midshipmen misbehaving away from campus. Detaining McCain and his buddies, the Shore Patrol contacted McCain's father, a naval officer who, living in Washington with McCain's mother, was rousted from bed to pick up his son and at least one other midshipman involved in the incident.

Arriving in uniform, with his trademark cigar in his mouth, Jack McCain came to get the boys and drove home. Midshipman Walt Ryan sat sheepishly in the back seat, staring at silent father and son for a few moments. "It was 2 in the morning or so, and it seemed like John's father had been sleeping before it happened," he said. "He got to the point pretty quickly after we got moving."

"Gentlemen, this will not happen again," Capt. McCain said.

"Yes, sir," his son responded.

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