McCain lauds Obama as a 'patriot'

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — one of President Obama's most strident critics — praised the president's speech in Arizona at a memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shooting spree. 

The Arizona senator and Obama's 2008 opponent penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, saying Obama "comforted and inspired the country" by calling for greater civility in the nation's political discourse.

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"I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause," McCain wrote. "I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals. And I reject accusations that Americans who vigorously oppose his policies are less intelligent, compassionate or just than those who support them."

Over the past two years, McCain has ripped Obama for his stance on nearly every policy area, making Friday's op-ed a rare example of praise from the GOP senator for the president. 

McCain and Obama famously came to rhetorical blows during the Feb. 2010 White House healthcare summit. After McCain criticized the bill process, Obama replied, "Let me just make this point, John, because we are not campaigning anymore."

"I'm reminded of that every day," McCain shot back. 

But after it was announced Obama would speak at the memorial service to honor the victims and survivors at the University of Arizona, McCain cut short his congressional delegation trip to South America to attend the ceremony. 

Obama's speech received plaudits from pundits and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” he said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

The senator wrote that, "Politics can be a bruising business at times, but in the end its rewards are greater than the injuries sustained to earn them.

"There are too many occasions when we lack that empathy and mutual respect on all sides of our politics, and in the media," he continued. "But it is not beyond us to do better; to behave more modestly and courteously and respectfully toward one another; to make progress toward the ideal that beckons all humanity: to treat one another as we would wish to be treated."

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