Sen. John McCain, naval captain and commander of the "Straight Talk Express," passed away Saturday.
As a captain he served his country, stood for honor and was unwilling to be released from the infamous Hanoi Hilton ahead of his fellow prisoners. As commander of his campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, he ran two presidential campaigns and regularly raised his distinct voice from the floor of the United States Senate.
Far from perfect, he acknowledged a fiery temper, born of the passion for his country, forged during a season of isolation and abuse as a prisoner in Vietnam and fueled by his commitment to the Senate and the people of Arizona he served.
Sen. McCain had little patience for incompetence, carelessness or selfishness. He would unleash a verbal barrage on an ill-prepared staffer, weak-minded reporter or self-aggrandizing colleague in the Senate with equal fight and fury.
In a bit of synchronicity, he died on the same day, Aug. 25, that his rival and friend Ted Kennedy did nine years ago. They both suffered from the same form of brain cancer. Political opponents on many days, the two shared a love of country and a willingness to reach across the aisle to engage in dialogue on the critical issues of the day.
A critic of politicians on the left and the right, Sen. McCain was often an equal opportunity offender. That kind of straight talk regularly ruffled the feathers of those who had become too comfortable in Congress. He was capable of surprising admirers and critics at any moment with an unexpected vote, comment or strategic alliance.
In Sen. McCain’s more than four decades in the U.S. Senate, working in foreign affairs and on the armed services committee, he may have met with more world leaders and traveled to more troubled parts of the world than any senator in history. He understood America’s unique place in the world as a beacon of hope and freedom and traveled the globe to raise that light of liberty wherever and whenever needed.
After losing his bid for the presidency, he returned to the Senate in January 2009. With self-deprecating humor, which seemed to emerge more in his later years, he said, "I remind all my colleagues: We had an election … I think the message the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together, and get to work." We hope those words echo in the Senate chamber in the days ahead and serve as a reminder that working for the American people, not political parties, is the responsibility of every senator.
Responding to a question from CNN reporter Jake Tapper on how he hoped he would be remembered, Sen. McCain, in a simple and straightforward manner, stated, “He served his country and not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors, but served his country. And I hope we could add honorably.” In an era of self-serving, self-promoting politicians, he was a steady example of self-sacrifice and duty. For those who love this country Sen. McCain will always stand as an example of honorable service instead of self-interest.
Straight talk and a commitment to put service to country first created in Sen. John McCain a legacy that will last.