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April 14, 2008

On Loyalty

A story that makes me think more of John McCain:

One wall of Udall's hospital room was cluttered with photos of his family back in Arizona; another bore a single photograph of Udall during his season with the Denver Nuggets, dribbling a basketball. Aside from a congressional seal glued to a door jamb, there was no indication what the man in the bed had done for his living. Beneath a torn gray blanket on a narrow hospital cot, Udall lay twisted and disfigured. No matter how many times McCain tapped him on the shoulder and called his name, his eyes remained shut.

A nurse entered and seemed surprised to find anyone there, and it wasn't long before I found out why: Almost no one visits anymore. In his time, which was not very long ago, Mo Udall was one of the most-sought-after men in the Democratic Party. Yet as he dies in a veterans hospital a few miles from the Capitol, he is visited regularly only by a single old political friend, John McCain. "He's not going to wake up this time," McCain said.

On the way out of the parking lot, McCain recalled what it was like to be a nobody called upon by a somebody. As he did, his voice acquired the same warmth that colored Russell Feingold's speech when he described the first call from John McCain. "When you called Feingold … " I started to ask him. But before I could, he interrupted. "Yeah," he says, "I thought of Mo." And then, for maybe the third time that morning, McCain spoke of how it affected him when Udall took him in hand. It was a simple act of affection and admiration, and for that reason it meant all the more to McCain. It was one man saying to another, We disagree in politics but not in life. It was one man saying to another, party political differences cut only so deep. Having made that step, they found much to agree upon and many useful ways to work together. This is the reason McCain keeps coming to see Udall even after Udall has lost his last shred of political influence. The politics were never all that important.

Of all the qualities humans possess, I have always prized a loyal heart the most highly.

I think that may be because, being in the military all my life, I have had to learn to let go of so many places and people I cared deeply about. In all these years, I have never learned how to guard my heart. It just seems so important to me that somewhere, somehow, there ought to be some permanent affections in which we can place our trust, some bonds which withstand the nagging voices of cynicism and expediency.

No one is perfect, but it makes me think a bit better of McCain that he still takes the time to visit a colleague who can no longer do anything for him.

Posted by Cassandra at April 14, 2008 05:22 AM

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Well said.

Posted by: Grim at April 14, 2008 08:53 AM

Not being a fan of many of McCain's political ideas and positions, I've always admired him for his conduct and behavior while in the Hanoi hellhole and his gumption to pick his spot and stand tall regardless of the prevailing winds. Gumption, conviction, loyalty... sticktion was a favorite word handed down to and used by my dad to describe people like McCain... These things make up a person's character, for good or bad.

When viewed through the pragmatic lens of picking a leader this November, McCain, for all his objectionable positions on some issues, has the important character attributes that dwarf those of both Hill and BO by orders of magnitude. And this does not even require a comparison of his security bonifides.

Given the choices before us, McCain the man and the politico it is. Warts and all. You go to the White House with the choices you have...

And what Grim said.

Posted by: bthun at April 14, 2008 09:08 AM

Motion carried, indeed it is well said.

McCain is Janus. The public and private meet only in the dark. McCain the politician is not a pretty story, nor is he particularly likeable. He has prostituted himself for every liberal cause but the war. Give me Churchill, or Jefferson - good lord, Harry Truman.

Posted by: Mark at April 14, 2008 12:10 PM

I'm worried, and predictably pessimistic, about McCain's ability to avoid being backstabbed by Democrats that pretend to act like his friend and buddy. And if he, as President, gets backstabbed, then so we will we.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 14, 2008 02:29 PM

The Udalls and the Goldwaters were friends for many years.
Mo Udall was a very funny and witty fellow, always making fun of Barry, but they were very good friends.
I would estimate that Barry introduced McCain to Mo Udall, or was at least instrumental in them getting to know each other.

They were/are all good men, although different.
Sad to hear that Morris Udall's life has become so tragic at the end.
Were all such men in politcs that decent.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 14, 2008 03:10 PM


Posted by: The Loneliest Nut at April 14, 2008 03:58 PM

I'm not a huge fan of any politicians, but I see the things in both President Bush and John McCain that I don't see in any democratic politicians or candidates for that matter. What I see can be summed up in one word... character. Far too many people read way into what people with character say, not understanding they mean what they say and say what they mean. And they understand the concepts of personal loyalty and doing the right thing regardless of consequence.

Here's a couple of simple examples... compare the Bush Ranch in Crawford to Gore's house or John Edwards' house. Or remember that McCain does have a dog in the hunt in Iraq in the form of his son, the Marine. Or his other son at the U.S. Navy Academy. Neither President Bush nor John McCain have much to say about things in their personal lives, not because they aren't proud of them, but because they are both men of character and not braggarts saying all the things they think the world wants to hear regardless of truth or honesty.

I'll take honesty and character every time.

Posted by: Scott at April 14, 2008 07:30 PM

I don't agree with McCain on a number of issues, but at least he has the courage of his own convictions.

That alone puts him head and shoulders above most...

Posted by: camojack at April 15, 2008 01:19 AM

It takes a lot more courage/character to be with a man during his passing than it does to "talk" about him with fondness. John McCain is a terribly flawed man, like many of us, but he is head and shoulders above most politicians in understanding what is important.

Posted by: Sluggo at April 15, 2008 04:13 AM