Barack Obama, John McCain, Bob Schieffer: 2008 Presidential Debate

Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday/MCT/Sipa USA

CBS News' Schieffer: 'John McCain Was Truly A Man Of Honor'

August 27, 2018 - 3:15 pm
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880) -- U.S. Sen. John McCain appeared on CBS News “Face the Nation” 112 times – more than any other guest – and longtime moderator Bob Schieffer held McCain in high regard.

Schieffer, longtime chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, joined WCBS 880’s Steve Scott to talk about his memories of the senator.

Schieffer noted that McCain did not vanish or shy away from the news media when the going got tough.

“In Washington, when the news is good about a politician, you can always find them. But when the news is bad, you need a pack of bloodhounds to track them down. They can go into hiding in every corner of the capital,” Schieffer said. “But John McCain, what set him apart was, good news or bad, you could always find him. And when you had a question for John McCain, he’d give you an answer. You might not like the answer, but he wasn’t afraid to take the question.”

McCain ended up being a regular on “Face the Nation” because he was involved in every major issue of our time, from the 1991 Gulf War to the Iraq War that began in 2003, Schieffer said. McCain also had two runs for president, served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was informed and willing to answer questions, Schieffer said.

“John McCain understood what we do, and he expected us to understand what he did, and he had great respect for members of the media. And we didn’t ask him easy questions; he got some pretty tough grilling,” Schieffer said. “But he was always willing to come and sit down and defend whatever position he had taken, and so I really admired him.”

Schieffer said he had many memorable moments sitting at the table with McCain on “Face the Nation.” He noted that he interviewed McCain the day after the senator won the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, and just after McCain had picked then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

“We had inklings then; we now know for sure, he had really wanted to put Joe Lieberman on the ticket. I got an exclusive with him. He came on ‘Face the Nation’ the Sunday after getting the nomination, and that was good. We had several over the years,” he said.

But no matter what the subject, there was a rare quality in McCain that stood out, Schieffer said.

“I have to tell you, John McCain was truly a man of honor. He was a man of service, and a lot of the things we think of as clichés these days, really, John McCain lived that way. He lived to serve his country. John McCain and I would not say this about many other people I’ve known, and I’ve known a lot of people in my long life,” Schieffer said. “John McCain was a great man, and it was an honor to be in his presence.”

Scott noted that in a post on social media over the weekend, someone wrote, “For the first time in my life, there are no greats in the Senate.” Schieffer said he agrees that McCain was at least one of the last of the lions – and he said the realities of serving in the U.S. Senate and House have changed, and not for better, over the years.

“The way we go about electing the people to the House and the Senate, has degenerated to the point, so much of it because of the money, and it’s all about raising money now, and we have made running for office so odious that our best and brightest people no longer want to be a part of it. They don’ t want to do it. They don’t want to come to Washington, be elected to the Congress, and then be told by their congressional leaders – and this is both parties – and this is the rule, you were expected to spend three hours of every day you’re in Washington making cold calls to raise money. Raise money not just for your campaign, but just raise money for our party,” Schieffer said. “Well who wants to spend their life doing something like that?”

McCain passed away Saturday at the age of 81 after a battle with brain cancer.