Today was a big day for maverick Senator John McCain: he got a standing ovation from Democrats despite literally using government-provided healthcare to make sure he could vote to take government-provided health care away from the people he serves, followed that vote with a very disappointed speech about how bad the bill he’d just voted to debate was, then promptly voted yes on a full repeal-and-replace of Obamacare. But how did McCain end up with his reputation as a straight-shooter to begin with? To find out, we took a look back at some of McCain’s funniest, savviest appearances on The Daily Show, where a generation of Americans somehow fell in love with him.
Dec. 16, 1999
In McCain’s first appearance on The Daily Show, Steve Carrell asks a tough question: “Senator, how do you reconcile the fact that you were one of the most vocal critics of pork-barrel politics, and yet while you were chairman of the Commerce Committee, that committee set a record for unauthorized appropriations?” The joke is that he doesn’t expect McCain to answer, and indeed, McCain doesn’t answer.
Nov. 8, 2005
After opening with a joke about looking for weapons of mass destruction—not just tasteless,but stolen, and not just stolen, but stolen from George W. Bush, McCain ducks and dodges when asked about Dick Cheney’s support of torture. “We need to tell the world we won’t do those things,” McCain says, three years before voting against a torture ban.
April 4, 2006
Jon Stewart treats McCain like a bad widdle boy for giving a commencement speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University after calling Falwell “an agent of intolerance” in 2000. “I hope you know what you’re doing there,” Stewart says. Apparently McCain did—a few months later he hired Brett O’Donnell away from Liberty University to run his campaign messaging, then won the Republican nomination. (O’Donnell went on to work for Michelle Bachman’s presidential campaign before pleading guilty to making false statements to investigators for the Office of Confessional Ethics in the course of an investigation into the misuse of campaign finance funds.)
July 24, 2006
John McCain defends the Iraq war, and repeats his 2005 joke about the long-gone couch. “Mistakes have been made, but I think the stakes are still such that we need to win!”
May 7, 2008
Now the presumptive nominee for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, McCain declines the opportunity to distance himself from President Bush. He does promise to run a “respectful” campaign, months before announcing his Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Dec. 1, 2014
Senator John McCain gets cheers from the audience of The Colbert Report by suggesting he might run for president in 2016.
All Day, Every Day, Apparently Forever