Friends, Colleagues, Adversaries Reflect On Sen. John McCain's Life, Impact

By Mark Brodie, Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Published: Monday, August 27, 2018 - 1:46pm
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2018 - 3:52pm

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Sen. John McCain
Lauren Loftus/KJZZ
Sen. John McCain visited KJZZ Phoenix studios on Aug. 5, 2016.

As The Show continues to look back at the life of Arizona’s senior senator, John McCain, it's a time to reflect on the words of his friends, colleagues, and — even sometimes — his adversaries.

Former Sen. Dennis DeConcini served as a Democrat from 1977 to 1995. He told The Show that while he and the late Senator were not close — they were on opposite aisles — he had the greatest respect for McCain, between his military service to his country to taking on battles with the executive branch.

On Saturday, The Show also turned to a longtime friend of the late Sen. McCain’s for reflection. Wes Gullett worked for him for many years and he said McCain was the most remarkable person he ever spent time with. His nickname “Maverick,” he said, sometimes manifested itself like a bull in a china shop, politically.

MORE: Family, Public Officials Remember Sen. John McCain

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake shared with The Show one of his first experiences meeting Sen. McCain when he was still a Congressman.

The no-nonsense spirit McCain exuded created respect throughout the Senate, Sen. Flake said. Although, he joked, sometime it meant name recognition didn’t trickle down his way.

As for the journalists who covered them, the impact of the man won’t be quickly forgotten. Bob Robb, opinion columnist of the Arizona Republic, said McCain’s impact on foreign policy was significant.

The Show also talked with Kris Mayes, now at ASU’s Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, who covered McCain’s presidential run in 2000 when he had his bus he called “The Straight Talk Express.”

Mayes was actually kicked off the bus, and she talked about her experience covering the campaign from the outside.

Of course, McCain’s famous temperament also included a great sense of humor. He once hosted Saturday Night Live in 2002 and made a number of appearances on the program. In 2008, he poked fun at his own legislation during his run for the presidency against then-candidate Barack Obama.

Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is a Democrat, but she worked with McCain on veterans issues and immigration reform over the last several years in Washington, D.C.

Sinema said she was heartbroken at news of his death.

Joe Garcia, the director of Latino Public Policy Center at ASU, Garcia covered McCain for years as a journalist at the Arizona Republic. He remembers a man larger than life with his impact on politics, near and far.

Garcia says McCain faced innumerable challenges from political opponents, not only on the Senate floor but from his own backyard.

McCain, he says, was able to sustain through “sheer will” a more moderate arm of the Republican party and his loss for that faction of the party won’t be replaced in the near future.

The core of McCain was his dedication to military service and the principles learned there. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. And nearly 60 years later he came back to the school to address graduates. Here were his words:

"I believe in Americans. We’re capable of better. I’ve seen it. We’re hopeful, compassionate people. And we still have leaders who will uphold the values that made America great, and a beacon to the oppressed. But I don’t take that for granted. We have to fight. We have to fight against propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories. We have to fight isolationism, protectionism, and nativism. We have to defeat those who would worsen our divisions. We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on earth by tearing down walls, not building them."

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