America lost a great leader yesterday. There are so many nice things being said about John McCain since his passing by folks on both sides of the political aisle, world leaders, all far more notable than I. They have championed his zeal, passion, kindness and fairness, all so well deserved.
My own encounter with McCain came several years ago in Jerusalem. I was walking down a side street with the head of our affiliate in London. We had just finished dinner and were walking out of the restaurant when McCain, Joe Lieberman and finally Lindsey Graham (I will explain) were sitting at one of the outdoor tables. We had just hired a former McCain aide to head our Washington office and I had spoken with him a few months earlier to get a reference. I went over to introduce myself, told him we had made the hire. He was so pleased, introduced me to Lieberman, and said “sit down and have a drink.” He joked they were waiting for Graham, who apparently has a penchant for running late.
What so impressed me about McCain, personally, in that short interaction, was his genuine friendliness, loyalty for a former aide and kindness. He and Lieberman both laughed when I ordered a sparkling water –McCain suggesting he offered a “drink” not water, and Lieberman laughing when I said I drink grape juice instead of wine on the Sabbath. When Graham showed up we briefly talked about their trip and I shared a few random thoughts on some of the people they would be meeting. The three were genuinely found of one another. It was a great snapshot for me of what American politics should be –people from different walks of life, with different opinions and priorities, being able to sit at the same table, have a drink, a laugh and most importantly, an overabundance of mutual respect.
I will always remember that moment, how I was impressed at the hospitality of this iconic political figure and the way he conducted himself. This was not a planned moment. A guy like me shows up, triggers a memory of a recent conversation, and is invited to sit at his table for a few moments.
America has lost a great statesman at a time in our history when we could least afford to!