I’ve never known Washington without John McCain. I started on Capitol Hill more than 30 years ago interning for Dennis DeConcini, “the other senator from Arizona,” which is what they call every Arizona senator not named McCain. When I eventually became the other senator from Arizona, too, I came to understand that it’s a title that comes with being in the shadow of a giant. It was like having an older brother to protect me. The guy nobody wants to mess with.
But John McCain has been much more than that to me. Just as he taught the country the value of standing alone to do what is right, he taught me that as well. Early in my service in the House of Representatives, I managed to incur the wrath of a host of locally elected officials and newspaper columnists by challenging funding for a number of parochial spending projects. I was feeling pretty low, wondering if I was doing the right thing.
In the midst of my inner tumult, on a flight from Washington to Arizona, Sen. McCain made his way back to my seat with a stern look on his face. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Not him, too.” He stuck his finger in my chest and demanded: “Don’t. Back. Down! You’re in the right, they’ll come around.” It was all that I needed.