U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) arrives at the Capitol for a vote on November 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. McCain passed away on August 25.

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) arrives at the Capitol for a vote on November 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. McCain passed away on August 25.

Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain passed away Saturday. The Arizona Republican was 81. He was suffering from a brain tumor, and last week, his family announced that he was discontinuing medical treatment.

Many considered McCain a maverick. He pursued campaign finance reform and criticized the use of torture, even when it went against the Republican Party platform. He also cast an influential vote that doomed a bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the summer of 2017.

McCain represented bipartisanship and fortitude in an era in which Congress has been criticized for perceived spinelessness.

A former aide remembered him this way, in The Atlantic:

John McCain was graceful, too, even amid his generally blunt and sometimes combative demeanor. I watched him speak quietly to grievously injured servicemen and women in the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. I saw him tour the old prison in Hanoi and then discuss improving national ties with Vietnam’s leaders. I witnessed him sit patiently with the few remaining dissidents in Uzbekistan and pledge support for their cause. And on election night 2008, I stood on the grass at Phoenix’s Biltmore Hotel while McCain gave a concession speech for the history books. Pledging to help Barack Obama lead the American people through the days to come, he wished “Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.” It seems almost quaint, this graciousness in the face of political defeat, a vestige of better political times. Our leaders today could learn much from it.

His one-time opponent for the presidency, Barack Obama, also shared a remembrance:

“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did,” Mr. Obama said Saturday. “But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means.”

In the last years of his role as a senator, McCain often repeated calls for a truly bipartisan government, or a return to “regular order.”

How will we remember McCain’s legacy? And what should we make of his calls for regular order? Is it possible? What would we need to do to make it happen?

Produced by Danielle Knight. Text by Gabrielle Healy.


  • Julian Zelizer Political historian, Princeton University; political analyst, CNN; fellow, New America Foundation; co-host, Politics and Polls podcast; @julianzelizer
  • Molly Ball National political correspondent, TIME; political analyst, CNN; @mollyesque
  • Richard Fontaine President, Center for a New American Security; former foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain; former staff member, Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee; @RHFontaine

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