I first got to know John McCain when I was a fresh-faced analyst at the recently established Congressional Budget Office and he was a captain in the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs. We dealt briefly with each other when he served in the House of Representatives, and I was an official in Caspar Weinberger’s Defense Department. Over the years I got to know him quite well, and the better I came to know him, the more my respect for him continued to grow.
I was one of George W. Bush’s “Vulcans,” so I did not work with McCain during the 2000 presidential campaign, but I never stopped admiring him, then or later. I did support his ill-fated run for the presidency against Barack Obama, and was glad that he remained his outspoken self when he returned to the Senate.
But McCain is more than just outspoken, more than a man of words. He is that unusual politician who is a true crusader for what he thinks is right. Totally fearless, he will take on anyone, including the current resident of the White House. He is a powerful voice for freedom around the world, and has been the inspiration behind the International Republican Institute, which fosters liberal democracy in those parts of the world that do all they can to resist it.
His determination to do what is right has manifested itself as much at home as abroad. I recall that during the early stages of what became a major scandal involving bids to build a new tanker, prior to my testifying before him, McCain told me that before the investigation of the bids was over he would see to it that people went to jail. He was prescient — and also dogged in getting to the bottom of the matter. Two years later, senior officials at the contractor and a senior Air Force official did go to jail, just as McCain had predicted.