Former aide: McCain spent his life serving the dignity of his fellow man

Former aide: McCain spent his life serving the dignity of his fellow man
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A former staff aide and speechwriter for Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West Five takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit MORE, who died on Saturday, says the Arizona Republican spent his life serving the dignity of his fellow man.

“He died knowing that a life spent serving the dignity of his fellow man brought the most satisfaction and with it a little hope for God’s mercy,” Mark Salter wrote in The Washington Post Saturday night.

“He was far from perfect and willing to detail his imperfections. But to the downtrodden, the freedom fighters, the forgotten and the desperate, he was their champion,” he added.


McCain was at peace with his death as it neared, according to Salter, who said that when the senator was diagnosed with brain cancer, he marked: “Nobody’s cheated me. I’m 80, and I’ve had a hell of a life.”

Salter also explained the late senator's dual understanding of the world.

“McCain was a romantic about his causes and a cynic about the world ... He understood the world as it is with all its corruption and cruelty," he wrote. "But he thought it a moral failure to accept injustice as the inescapable tragedy of our fallen nature.”

McCain held this view, in part, because of what he himself had suffered as a prisoner of war, Salter wrote. 

“When he said to the Myanmar political prisoner, or the harassed Belarusan dissident, or the Ukrainian captive, 'I know a little of what you’ve suffered,' it needed no elaboration,” Salter wrote. “He was in league with them — united by suffering, endurance and the knowledge that the most marvelous of human achievements is to not lose hope when experience has taught you hope is for fools.”

Salter also wrote that McCain in particular hated the leader of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He hated Putin because Putin presented himself as the disruptor of the world the West had made, and McCain was militant in defense of its values.”

And Salter recounted an incident when he, McCain and the senator's wife, Cindy McCain, were driving in Moscow late at night.

“Suddenly, we encountered three men beating another in the street with rifle butts, seemingly to death,” he wrote.

“ ‘Stop,’ McCain shouted to the driver. 'Nyet!' the driver replied. Repeating, 'Stop, damn it, stop!' he pulled at the door handle as if he were going to slide the door open and jump from the van,” Salter wrote.

Salter said he grasped the senator’s arm until they had passed the trouble, then McCain, “gave me a look I’ve never forgotten and didn’t speak to me the rest of the night.”