Letters Blogatory remembers John McCain, who died Saturday. Senator McCain, a real-life war hero and a lifelong public servant, was perhaps the last of his generation of Republican statesmen in the Senate. He was a conservative Republican, but he also spoke often about the importance of putting country above party. He was the most senior Republican I know of to speak out against torture. He was gracious to then-Senator Obama during the race and in defeat in 2008. His “no” vote doomed the 2017 attempt to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. Perhaps the moment that stands out most to me now is his 2008 rebuke of a voter at a town hall meeting who wouldn’t have been out of place at many political rallies today:
Fearing the raw and at times angry emotions of his supporters may damage his campaign, John McCain on Friday urged them to tone down their increasingly personal denunciations of Barack Obama, including one woman who said she had heard that the Democrat was “an Arab.”
Each time he tried to cool the crowd, he was rewarded with a round of boos.
“I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States,” McCain told a supporter at a town hall meeting in Minnesota who said he was “scared” of the prospect of an Obama presidency and of who the Democrat would appoint to the Supreme Court.
“Come on, John!” one audience member yelled out as the Republican crowd expressed dismay at their nominee. Others yelled “liar,” and “terrorist,” referring to Obama.
McCain passed his wireless microphone to one woman who said, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not, he’s not uh — he’s an Arab. He’s not — ” before McCain retook the microphone and replied:
“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’s not [an Arab].”
I didn’t agree with him politically, and although I’m lauding his character, there are times in which, like all politicians, he didn’t live up to his reputation for good character. But I do believe that the country needs more men and women, in and out of public life, with the character and courage of John McCain.