We have lost a hero and a statesman. (More)

John McCain died yesterday after a lengthy battle with a brain tumor. We will miss him.

I did not agree with most of his policy positions, but I respected his courage, integrity, and decency.

Yes, he chose Sarah Palin as his 2008 running mate, and some argue that set the stage for the God-King. I disagree. First, for all her cluelessness, Palin at least had experience in government, as a mayor and then as Governor of Alaska. She fueled the politics of white resentment – even as McCain tried to take a higher road – but the GOP had been on that path for decades. Palin was a awful choice as a running mate, but that choice should not define McCain’s legacy.

Instead, we should remember him as a man who served his country throughout his adult life, and at great cost. He learned the ugliness and futility of torture firsthand, as a prisoner of war, and the God-King was not the first to mock him for standing against it. Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed McCain as having “a pre-911 mindset” and other Republicans and conservatives voiced similar ignorance. During the 2000 GOP South Carolina primary, the Bush campaign smeared McCain for having an adopted daughter, a girl of Bangladeshi birth whom a Bush ad implied was black. Again, the GOP’s politics of racial resentment began long before Palin.

There is no shortage of McCain elegies today and they’ll doubtless multiply over the coming week. But I will remember him for his touching tribute to his colleague, Ted Kennedy. McCain and Kennedy disagreed on almost everything … except their deep respect and affection for each other. Would that more of our leaders learned from their example.

Fittingly, in one of history’s many poignant coincidences, they died on the same date.

Rest in peace, Senator McCain. Have a drink and an argument with Teddy.

We’ll miss you.

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Photo Credit: AFP

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Happy Sunday!