McCain Died on Same Day, of Same Cancer, as Friend Ted Kennedy

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA) (R) greets Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) before Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius' (C) confirmation hearing for secretary of Health and Human Services on Capitol Hill March 31, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA) (R) greets Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) before Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius' (C) confirmation hearing for secretary of Health and Human Services on Capitol Hill March 31, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

History has its way of reminding that the flare-ups of the moment can conceal an underlying truth. It was that way with John McCain and his odd-couple friend, Ted Kennedy.

On the surface, the Arizona Republican and the Massachusetts Democrat and bearer of his family's legacy had nothing in common. The decibel levels rose each time they faced off on the Senate floor on this issue or that, but off the floor they were close friends.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, McCain died at age 81 of brain cancer -- glioblastoma -- nine years to the day after Kennedy died of the same terminal disease at age 77.

"History does rhyme," Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Twitter.

Bharara said he felt "overpowering sadness" on learning of McCain's death.

"Last time I felt this way was 9 years ago to the day when his friend across the aisle, Ted Kennedy, succumbed to the same cruel cancer," Bharara said.

Shortly after announcing his diagnosis of glioblastoma in July of 2017, McCain repeated to CBS' "60 Minutes Overtime" a story he had told previously about one of his epic floor fights with Kennedy.

McCain, who often said that "a fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed, said "Some of the biggest and best fights I ever had was with one Ted Kennedy."

Two freshman senators, a Republican and a Democrat, had gotten into it on some forgotten issue. Senators from either party rushed to the floor to defend their side, and McCain and Kennedy squared off in the process.

When it was over, McCain recalled, Kennedy put an arm around him and said, "Did pretty good on that one, didn't we?"

His critics would never forgive him for his closeness with the liberal icon, but McCain said the remark after their floor fight "was the quintessence of Ted Kennedy. He was always ready to do battle but he wasn't ready to get personal and that's what matters."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who also jousted with McCain as a Democratic senator from Delaware, recalled McCain's kindness when his son, Beau Biden, also died of glioblastoma.

"John McCain's life is proof that some truths are timeless. Character. Courage. Integrity. Honor. A life lived embodying those truths casts a long shadow," Biden said. "John McCain will cast a long shadow. His impact on America hasn't ended. Not even close."

At the memorial service for Ted Kennedy nine years ago, McCain recalled that Kennedy helped keep him true to the responsibilities of a senator.

"He was the most reliable, the most prepared, and the most persistent member of the Senate. He took the long view. He never gave up. And though on most issues I very much wished he would give up, he taught me to be a better senator," McCain said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@Military.com.

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