It is with sorrow and respect that we remember the life of Sen. John McCain. His death is a loss for Arizona, and for the nation.
Arizona Sen. McCain was a man with whom we often disagreed on matters of policy and politics. We never, however, doubted that he was propelled by his own sense of public service; it was clear in everything he did.
McCain died Saturday.
McCain, a Republican, was first elected to Congress from Arizona in 1982. His lengthy Senate career began in 1986; he won re-election in 2016.
The Star’s Editorial Board endorsed McCain multiple times, finding his experience in the Senate and on the international stage notable, as we did in 2016 when he ran against Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick:
“…When it comes to encyclopedic knowledge of a complicated world, McCain has the advantage. He chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been so involved in American foreign policy that he brings a perspective others can’t.
He’s been in Washington long enough to have seen policy cycles, to watch as partisanship and ideology have taken deep root, particularly in his own party. “A lot has changed over the years,” he said. “I think it disillusions young people.”
Arizonans will recall, perhaps with some frustration, that McCain famously never went in for “earmarks” — a way many in Congress would allocate money to pay for specific local projects — in the federal budget process. McCain criticized earmarks as political payoffs to help elected representatives drum up support at home.
While he eschewed earmarks, McCain did support some projects in Arizona, including Tucson’s modern streetcar. He worked on water policy and veterans’ issues.
Over the years his aspirations and influence shifted to the national stage. McCain ran for president in 2000 and 2008.
While neither campaign was successful, he became America’s senator — a voice strong on national security, a promoter of immigration reform, an outspoken figure unafraid to ruffle feathers on either side of the aisle.
We remember conversations with McCain from his regular visits to the Arizona Daily Star’s Editorial Board. He would speak on everything from wildfire prevention to immigration policy to foreign affairs to his view of particular Senate colleagues (he admired Bernie Sanders, and seemed to loathe Hillary Clinton) with expertise and sharpness.
He was pugnacious. He was self-possessed.
And he was funny. He had his chestnuts —saying he slept like a baby after his 2008 election loss: Cry a little, sleep a little, cry some more — but he’d crack wise, in the moment, during interviews. And, just as quickly, he’d heatedly challenge a member of the Star’s editorial board to a debate.
A person like John McCain, we dare say, wouldn’t want to be remembered in gauzy terms that smoothed over any rough edges — McCain owned his rough edges.
Looking back over a life marked by five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, by time in the U.S. House, more than five terms in the Senate and two presidential runs, it is impossible to sum up the man.
So we say thank you, Sen. McCain, for your fortitude and for your dedication to our country and to our state.