The Thinker: Rich Galen


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We Make History

Rich Galen

Monday August 27, 2018

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  • In his concession speech on the night of the election of Sen. Barack Obama to be President of the United States, Senator John McCain strove to strike a balance expressing his thanks to his supporters; expressing his disappointment in the results; and expressing his desire to close ranks behind our new soon-to-be President.

  • In a remembrance of John McCain written for the Weekly Standard, Editor-in-Chief Stephen F. Hayes concluded reminding us of the words with which McCain ended his concession - but not submission - speech:
    "Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history."

  • I didn't know John McCain very well. On the rare occasions when we were in the same place at the same time, he acted as though he recognized me and, when I said my name, he acted as though he knew it all along.

  • The last time I saw him was in the runup to his final primary campaign for U.S. Senate. I hadn't been to any U.S. Senate primary night activities in the 2016 cycle and, because I happened to be in the time zone, I decided to drop in to Arizona.

  • NBC reporter Kelly O'Donnell and I showed up at an event the afternoon before where a local fire department endorsed McCain. Kelly asked the questions, I made notes about the atmosphere.

  • When we trouped into the actual fire station as the fire fighters got to show off a new piece of equipment, McCain glanced up, saw me, smiled and nodded, and went back to listening to the proud first responders.

  • That was it. No slow motion running to embrace one another. No "Hi, Rich." Just a raise of the eyebrows and a nod of recognition.

  • John McCain was elected to the U.S. Congress in November 1982. As we've discussed before, two of my other favorite freshmen that year were former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, and soon-to-be former Ohio Governor John Kasich.

  • I was the communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) that year so I met all the incoming freshmen (that was not a good year for us, it was Ronald Reagan's first mid-term), and McCain was one of them.

  • Years went by and in 1989 Rep. Newt Gingrich had been elected House Republican Whip and he had selected me to be his press secretary. Our office was right across the hallway from the House GOP cloakroom.

  • We were hanging out one afternoon, when the office door opened and in walked now-Senator John McCain. He asked the Whip if they could go for a stroll.

  • Newt and McCain left and as the door closed, we could see them walking slowly down the hallway in front of the House chamber.

  • When Newt got back, he was subdued. He told us that McCain was terribly upset about being involved in the Keating Five business - that included five U.S. Senators meeting with the head of a huge savings and loan business that had gone under.

  • There is a link to all this on the Secret Decoder Ring today, but suffice it to say that of the four Ds and one R (McCain) involved; three Democrats (Alan Cranston of California, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, and, Don Reigle of Michigan) were found to have "substantially and improperly interfered with the investigation."

  • McCain (also of Arizona) and John Glenn (of Ohio) were only found to have exercised bad judgement in taking the meeting in the first place.

  • Newt told us that McCain had said, in effect, that people had questioned his temper, his judgement, his problems dealing with authority, but no one had ever before questioned his honor.

  • I'm not certain Senator McCain ever got over that.

  • The Republican Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey will appoint a successor. That person will have to run in 2020 for the seat which is officially up for election in 2022.

  • The Governor's office said (according to there will be no comment about a possible replacement until after Sen. McCain has been laid to rest.

  • There will be some shuffling around given McCain's chairmanship of Armed Services and his membership on the Indian Affairs, and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees.

  • But, those are matters internal to the Republicans in the Senate.

  • For the rest of us, this is what matters: John McCain died on Saturday afternoon. He had never quit; never surrendered; never hid from history.

  • John McCain made history.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Stephen Haye's piece, to the Keating Five matter, and to the Politico summary on a successor to Sen. McCain.

    The Mullfoto is of a sign on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, VA over the weekend.

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