By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
While the late John McCain was considered a conservative on civil rights, some African-American leaders praised him for having the courage of his convictions and being an authentic American hero.
McCain, a Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to the present and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-1987, was a war hero during the Vietnam War that endured five years of torture and mistreatment by the Vietnamese.
That sacrifice and his willingness to be a maverick in an increasing ultra conservative Republican Party earned him respect from African-American leaders.
“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds and competed at the highest level of politics,” former President Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in the 2008 presidential election, said in a statement. “But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher-the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home.”
Obama will be one of the main speakers at McCain’s funeral-at McCain’s request-at the Washington National Cathedral on Sept. 1.
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, praised McCain as a “war hero and a savvy politician but a man who always put American values before himself.”
“He was open to dialogue and conversation about some of this country’s most controversial issues, and he will forever be remembered for his fighting spirit,” Johnson said.
On the NAACP’s congressional legislative score card for 2017, McCain got 17 out of 100 votes and merited an “F” by the organization for his stands on civil rights. In the past, McCain voted against the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Holiday bill as a House member in 1982 but voted to override his mentor’s veto, President Reagan, on sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa in 1986.
During the 2008 campaign, he publicly corrected a woman who said Obama was “an Arab” by saying that his Democratic opponent was a decent family man with whom he had disagreements.
Last year, he famously voted against his party’s attempt to gut Obamacare and many embraced that act as a vote of courage. President Donald Trump frequently mocked McCain’s thumbs downs gesture, which came just before his deciding vote.
U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) both had good things to say about McCain as an engaging colleague. Fiery U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said McCain “was a true patriot and hero.”
McCain didn’t support D.C. statehood legislation. He voted against the “District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009” that would have given the city a voting representative in the House, saying that amending the U.S. Constitution could only do that.
Nevertheless, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) praised McCain as a “fighter.”
“The District of Columbia struggles for representation in the Senate, but appreciated Senator McCain’s service there, where our city particularly benefits from bipartisanship,” the delegate said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) ordered the District’s flags be flown at half-staff in honor of McCain.