Remembering Sen. John McCain — 1936-2018
Sen. John McCain has died at 81, one day after his family announced he had decided to end treatment for an aggressive brain cancer.
One of the things I’ll remember most about Sen. John McCain was a moment during his campaign for the presidency.
It was October 10, 2008, and McCain was speaking with voters at a town hall meeting in Minnestota. A woman in a red sweater said she didn’t trust McCain’s opponent, Barack Obama, because he was an “Arab.” Before she could finish her sentence, McCain gently took the microphone out of her hand, saying, “No, ma’am.”
“He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about,” he told her. At times, the crowd booed McCain’s attempts to defend his political opponent.
In 2008, it seemed unusual. A decade later, as our political discourse has further deteriorated, it seems almost unfathomable.
In 2009, McCain said South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, the man who yelled, “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was out of line for having done so and called for Wilson to apologize:
Our current president, who remained silent as McCain’s family made the announcement that he was ending treatment for his cancer, said in 2015 of McCain that the senator was only called a “hero” because he was captured and spent five years as a prisoner of war.
“I like people who weren’t captured,” he said in July 2015. It was a thoroughly inexcusable remark to make about an American serviceman who served his country and wound up being tortured for years in Viet Nam.
Last year, while still recovering from a recent surgery, McCain cast a vote against an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The White House seemed unwilling to end any hostilities.
It was only after word came of McCain’s passing that the president tweeted condolences to his family, but he stopped short of saying anything positive about the senator himself.
There comes a point at which it’s time to end hostilities. Unfortunately, not everyone seems capable of acknowledging that.
For someone like me, who is decidedly middle of the road politically, it’s difficult to find a politician in whom I can invest a great deal of respect.
I respected John McCain. I didn’t agree with him on certain issues, but I didn’t agree with his opponents on other issues.
He encouraged both sides to work together and seemed to be part of an increasingly rare breed of politicians that was willing to cross party lines to get things done.
When he returned from cancer surgery last year, he urged his colleagues to trust each other.
“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor.
It was a departure from the normal business of the day, but it was a message that was needed then and now.
“I was raised in a military family,” he told 60 Minutes last year. “I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the – is the lodestar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.”
McCain could be counted on to speak his mind and then stand by it. Even when I felt he was on the wrong side of the issue, at least it was clear he’d stand by his own beliefs.
You have to respect that, especially these days.
He announced he’d been diagnosed on July 19, 2017, with glioblastoma, the brain cancer that would take his life. It was the same kind of cancer that killed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau. Biden told McCain’s daughter, Meghan, that if anyone could beat that cancer, it’d be her father.
“I do not meant to be maudlin or anything,” he said. “But I have had the best life that anyone I’ve ever known has ever had.”
While this final fight was unsuccessful, he lived more than a year after his diagnosis, longer than most expected he could.
He was, literally, a fighter to the end.
Thank you for your service, Sen. McCain.