WASHINGTON — There has been political tension throughout John McCain’s long career on Capitol Hill.
He was for years a giant on the national stage, wielding influence on national security and defense issues, as well as a two-time Republican presidential candidate.
But he was also a senator from Arizona, elected six times to represent the people of his home state, some of whom have not always appreciated his national political ambitions or an almost constant presence in the national media.
A week of events commemorating his life brought both sides closer to the political split personality that defined McCain’s political career.
Speakers at a Memorial Thursday in Phoenixin addition to former Vice President Joe Biden, included close friends from Arizona — a community leader, longtime friend and former aide, sports star.
Saturday’s memorial in Washington, DC, brought powerhouse players to the Washington National Cathedralor McCain’s daughter has spoken alongside a secretary of state, a colleague from the Senate and two former presidents.
In both places, McCain’s quirks and shortcomings elicited laughs of self-conscious recognition. But in death, each side of John McCain was celebrated for representing a spirit of cooperation in an increasingly polarized political climate.
McCain died on August 25 at age 81. at his family home in Cornville, Arizona. Impromptu public commemorations in his memory began the same night in Arizona.
“That was the whole idea,” said Rick Davis, who managed McCain’s two presidential campaigns and helped McCain plan the funeral. “We knew he was going to die in Arizona. It was his instructions: I’m not going to leave Sedona if I get sick because I want to die in Sedona. He was very clear about that. There was no no other choice…”
“It felt so natural that we would move him from his home in Sedona to Phoenix and celebrate his life in Phoenix first.”
McCain was a relative newcomer to Arizona — naysayers called him all-in during his first run for Congress in 1982. But he often noted that after growing up in a Navy family that moved frequently, it was the first place where he really felt at home.
the Thursday memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church pointed out McCain the Arizonan. Speakers included his first congressional chief of staff, Grant Woods; his friend Tommy Espinosa, former leader of the Chicanos Por La Causa organization; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald; as well as former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Saturday, two former presidents — Democrat barack obama and republican George W. Bush – praised McCain, while a third, Democrat Bill Clinton, was present along with many current and former senators and celebrities such as the comedian Jay Leno and actor Warren Beattywho was one of McCain’s honorary bearers.
President Donald Trump, who had a notoriously hostile relationship with McCainwas not invited, although his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, were thereas well as other members of the Trump administration such as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Arizona, for the most part, did not come to the DC service. Only daughter Meghan McCain has mentioned her father’s death ‘in front of Oak Creek, Arizona’ during his magnificent tributewhich also came across as an unmistakable rebuke from Trump.
“John McCain’s America doesn’t need to be great again because America has always been great.” Meghan McCain said in a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Henry Kissingerwho served as Secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and former Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut also delivered eulogies.
Political commentators have widely interpreted the Saturday’s praise is an implied rebuke from Trump, who was never named.
In an interview with The Republic of Arizona, Davis said there was no coordination with the speakers. No topics were assigned and their remarks were unedited, he said.
“We didn’t keep score, did we, and say, ‘You’re talking about Trump,’ no,” Davis said. “And you know what? It’s not just Trump… It’s been a really long time since we’ve had a national figure that transcends these feuds.”
McCain’s flag-draped casket this week was also on display at both the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix and in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington. In both cities, thousands of people lined up for hours to pass his coffin.
Speakers at the State Capitol included Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and two Arizona Republicans who served with McCain in the Senate, Senator Jeff Flake and former Senator Jon Kyl. Former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, also participated.
“The ones from Arizona were a lot more ‘Arizona,'” said Flake, who has attended all of McCain’s memorial events and is going to McCain’s burial ceremony on Sunday at the US Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis. , Maryland.
Davis described the Arizona ceremonies as “building blocks” that built “the big national events, the lying in the state then the cathedral on Saturday, then back to where it all started, at the very end, where he will finally be buried in Annapolis.”
A political pundit called the week of McCain commemorations unprecedented for someone who never became president.
“McCain was a prominent national figure, so it makes sense,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “The Arizona one focused on Arizona. This one focused on the nation, as it should. You had three former presidents there, but two spoke, although Meghan McCain them has surpassed all.”
Sabato cited John Kerry, Bob Dole and the late Edward Kennedy as senators with similar stature to McCain. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate who is expected to win a Senate seat in Utah this year, is poised to become another, he said.
This national stature helped McCain get things done for his home country.
“If John McCain wanted something for Arizona, who wasn’t going to answer John McCain’s call? That doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, but you have to put your foot in the door,” Sabato said. . “And when you have a nationally and internationally renowned senator, you have a much better chance of success.”
Flake said McCain’s work for Arizona was sometimes overlooked because he didn’t receive as much publicity.
“He was obviously important in terms of national security and foreign policy and so on, but people tend to forget what he did for the state and how involved he was in water issues, forest health, mining, or the myriad of issues that come with having a state that’s largely state-owned,” Flake said. “He’s worked hard on those issues, as well as on tribal issues.
“Given its importance in other areas, few people have focused on it,” Flake added. “But it sure is. I felt it working with him on these issues.”
Dan Nowicki is the national political editor of The Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter, @dannowicki.
REMEMBRANCE SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: