ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.
The news has sparked an outpouring of support for the 80-year-old lawmaker, including here in Minnesota.
One of McCain’s most iconic political moments happened in St. Paul, when he accepted the Republican presidential nomination at the convention in 2008.
Later that year, at a campaign stop in Lakeville, he took the microphone from a woman who criticized his opponent, then candidate Barack Obama.
“I have read about him,” the woman said, as McCain led a town hall meeting. “He’s not…he’s…he’s an Arab!”
Shaking his head, McCain interrupted.
“No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man who I just happen to have disagreements with.”
Former Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was with McCain that day.
He said via telephone from Washington that the moment revealed a lot about McCain’s character.
“John McCain had sharp differences, philosophical and political differences with President Obama and other political opponents,” Pawlenty said. “But he stood up for civility and decency in that moment.”
McCain spent years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, where he refused his own release until other prisoners were freed.
Minnesota Democratic Sen Amy Klobuchar traveled with McCain to the prison cell where he was tortured.
“He made that courageous decision to stay as a prisoner of war, not knowing if he would ever get out,” Klobuchar said. “And you think about that courage and bravery, and that’s why he’s going to fight this to the end.”
Pawlenty has known McCain since the 1980s, when he drove McCain around Minnesota during a visit.
He was the co-Chair of McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and was considered as a possible vice presidential pick.
“He’s a no-BS, no-nonsense, call-it-as-you-see-it person, “ Pawlenty said. “We need more of that, not less of that in public service.”
Doctors say McCain and his family are reviewing further treatment, including a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.