For more than three decades Arizona has danced with Senator John McCain. One thing we’ve learned is that John leads on the dance floor, period. That’s the way it works when you dance with a war hero, who also happens to be a prisoner of war.
Arizona conservatives have been to a lot of dances with John and never found his rhythm particularly comfortable. In the past several re-election campaigns, we did our best to oust him. We failed, John won, again and again.
In 2016, Arizona conservatives were left with McCain again who, at the age of 80, ascended to his unproductive Senatorial throne for another six years.
And now, in a mysterious way, it looks like McCain is about to finish his political run. He will finish it his way, falling victim to glioblastoma, a deadly and merciless form of brain cancer. Senator Ted Kennedy succumbed to the same monster.
John will not request, expect or worse, accept, pity.
There’s a noble quality about McCain. His John Wayne persona was shaped by his military father and life in an era when men were expected to be far less sentimental about life and less attached to their emotional inner world.
Senator John McCain is in the home stretch of a life that most of us would not have been able to survive and too complex for us to understand and appreciate.
John’s home in the Verde Valley of central Arizona is about 70 miles from my office, an idyllic home situated along a narrow portion of the Verde River. Although the media often refers to the home as a ranch and even a compound, it’s neither. When John is not a Walter Reed or Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, he will be there because this is his quiet retreat from life and the place where he has often found space, the absence of media chatter and political banter.
I suspect he will want to be there when the end comes.
There are three things I will want to remember about John McCain. None of these points is meant to hypocritically flatter him since I have been a critic of most of his decisions the past 18 years and his abandonment of conservative principles are not ignored.
1. John McCain is Due the Respect of a Nation.
McCain’s time in Vietnam and his subsequent imprisonment and torture at the hands of his ruthless captors is hereby saluted.
That awful war exacted a toll on the nation and forever changed the relationship between politicians who prosecute wars and the people who sacrifice their sons and daughters in such wars.
One of my high school yearbooks was dedicated to Michael J. Reinhold, the first person I knew who was killed in Vietnam. It was a treacherous time that transformed blind allegiance to guys like Robert McNamara into skepticism and deep resentment.
This was the era of John McCain, and yet he has somehow been able to serve that same nation without glancing over his shoulder.
I want the nation to respect John McCain for his service and sacrifice, not for his political policies.
When he passes as we all will, DC should shut down, flags should be positioned at half mast, and the nation should pause, pray, reflect and honor his legacy as a military hero.
President Donald Trump should finally apologize to him and his family for the spiteful comments made during the campaign of 2016 about John’s imprisonment. It’s unlikely the President will apologize.
While ripping John’s political duplicity, I will not rip his honor…not one bit!
I will not forget and neither should Arizonans and the nation.
2. John McCain Never Flinched even When Ridiculed by Conservatives
Although I possess no first-hand knowledge of John’s private words, I strongly suspect that his wife Cindy and his daughters could fill a book with John’s expressions of dissatisfaction about adversaries and even colleagues.
Publically, John never flinched. Privately, he must have always been a handful.
His life was a brawl, and on more than one occasion, he would go to the dark side of nastiness. He could be vulgar, crass and disrespectful.
He was reportedly a womanizer in his younger days. My wife once commented that in his dashing days, he was handsome and easy on the eyes.
When Arizona Conservatives reprimanded him for his unconservative positions and actions, he starred them down.
In 1989, the Phoenix New Times called McCain, “The Most Reprehensible of the Keating Five.”
Tom Fitzpatrick wrote:
You’re John McCain, a fallen hero who wanted to become president so desperately that you sold yourself to Charlie Keating, the wealthy con man who bears such an incredible resemblance to The Joker.
His lost Presidential bid to an up-and-coming young Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama was the final major blow to John’s aspirations to become Commander and Chief.
It wasn’t to be…but not a twitch was seen. Regret perhaps.
John McCain is a tough guy, takes no prisoners, seeks no sympathy, stands on his own two feet and just stares down hell itself to get what he wants.
And leaders who don’t flinch are dwindling in numbers. It’s something I’ll remember about him.
3. John McCain was DC’s Original True Maverick.
Long before tough guy Donald Trump’s run for President and long before online Twitter insults, there was John McCain.
When he came back into the well of the Senate following brain surgery, the Ol’ Maverick surfaced again in a defiant thumb down rejection of the GOP repeal of Obamacare. He did it…he beat the GOP again, just as he had done so many times in the past.
He is the original True Maverick. And, his sly wit and sick sense of humor enjoyed foiling the plans of his colleagues, if for no other reason than to reinforce what was already obvious, John McCain likes a good fight…McCain likes to start the fight…John is always willing to finish a fight.
His history, steely resolve and rebellious temperament served him well and left a mark on Arizona and Washington.
Make no mistake, I do not believe John McCain was ever a fully committed, principled conservative, but I respect his history, his independence, and his resolve.
I wish John McCain God’s blessings and his family ongoing happiness for generations to come.
Be assured, John, I’m watching, hoping and praying that you recover to show us once again who you are.