Reconsidering John McCain

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The televised memorial service the evening of Aug. 28 for Ted Kennedy was mesmerizing.

For nearly 3 1/2 hours, political figures, personal friends and family members joined to remember the fallen senator.

Far from an interminable series of eulogies, the service was beautifully, movingly staged, interspersed with soulful performances by the likes of two Irish tenors and the Boston Community Chorus.

Several of Sen. Kennedy’s Senate colleagues — Republicans Orrin Hatch and John McCain, Democrats Christopher Dodd and John Kerry — spoke, as did Vice President Joe Biden.

Some of them clearly spoke from the heart.

For example, Sen. Kerry (with whom I usually take issue) delivered what might have been the most sincere speech of his career. He recalled how Kennedy stood at Harvard, loudly applauded by his audience, after delivering a speech that began haltingly due to the effects of the brain cancer that eventually struck him down.

"We wanted him to stay there forever," Kerry declared — and you believed he meant every word.

Listening to Sen. McCain’s elegy, however, I found myself increasingly bothered.

"We disagreed on most issues," McCain said at one point, "but I admired his passion for his convictions … ."


Kennedy was the farthest-left liberal during nearly five decades in the U.S. Senate. McCain, just one year ago, campaigned for president, proclaiming his conservative convictions. And without doubt, Kennedy’s wholehearted support of Barack Obama helped to torpedo McCain’s campaign.

Perhaps one moment disturbed me most:

"When we worked together on the immigration issue," McCain recalled, "we had a daily morning meeting with other interested senators. He and I would meet for a few minutes in advance" to decide which other senators "needed a little special encouragement or … a little straight talk."

That ill-conceived and doomed immigration plan on which McCain so proudly recalled working with Kennedy did more than any other issue to divide at every level — and ultimately conquer — the Republican Party in 2006 and 2008.

Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows. And, yes, sometimes senators must go along to get along and thus get things done.

Yet, listening to McCain’s eulogy, I found myself wondering if he truly felt such common cause with Kennedy — and if so, how he reconciles that with the conservative convictions on which he campaigned for president and on which his own party is based.

It left me questioning if my support for John McCain in the 2008 election might have been misplaced.

Dick Scaife owns the Tribune-Review.