While answering questions at a town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican candidate John McCain was told by a supporter about the then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama: “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he is not… he is an Arab.”
McCain cut her off with a nod of disapproval and, taking the microphone back, went on to defend Obama, saying: “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man (and) citizen that just … I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not (an Arab).”
A highly decorated war hero, McCain, who passed away last week after a yearlong battle with a brain tumor, was a testament to what politics should be: civil disagreement over fundamental issues and a statesmanlike attitude in discourse.
At a time when the United States government seems to run on blame games, McCain was one of the few who understood and respected the gravity of decisions made by politicians and the importance of bipartisanship.
As a United States senator, McCain belonged to an era where politicians went across the aisle to push legislation that mattered the most. The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 stemmed from McCain partnering with Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold to find a working solution at a time when both parties were adamant at blaming each other rather than finding a resolution.
He then cast the decisive vote against a Republican repeal to Obamacare, rationalizing his decision by saying he wanted Congress to find working solutions by coming together rather than pushing partisan bills that could harm the American people.
In a last-ditch effort to promote community at a divisive time, McCain requested that former president Barack Obama give one of the eulogies at his funeral, along with former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Joe Biden.
While McCain was known to be close to Biden, a Democrat, he did not share that bond with Obama.
It is understood, though, that they held strong mutual respect for each other and that admiration drove the decision.
McCain was a tactful politician and a genuine civil servant, and as he is put to rest under the eyes of two former presidents, his funeral will be like no other. Even in death, McCain teaches us a thing or two about the importance of working together, that despite the differences, the nation can come together as one to promote what is best for all.