Joe Biden is visiting Arizona to honor John McCain. But will he honor all of him?

In this Oct. 16, 2017, file photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receives the Liberty Medal from Chair of the National Constitution Center's Board of Trustees, former Vice President Joe Biden, in Philadelphia.
In this Oct. 16, 2017, file photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receives the Liberty Medal from Chair of the National Constitution Center's Board of Trustees, former Vice President Joe Biden, in Philadelphia.
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I thought something was up a few weeks ago when all our top Democratic leaders in Arizona spontaneously broke out in fond recollection of Republican John McCain, may he rest in peace.

There was Gov. Katie Hobbs (“He was a stalwart for Arizona”) ...

Attorney General Kris Mayes (“Sen. McCain was a real American hero”) ...

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (“We are a better, stronger country because of him”) ...

And even the Arizona Senate Democrats (“Our caucus sends their love”).

Because I believe in a hereafter and that John McCain is a favored son of the Almighty, I suspect he sat on some brightly lit cloud and savored this prayer circle of crocodiles.

Lake rejected McCain. Democrats step in

It was the fifth anniversary of McCain’s death, and Democrats could legitimately say they were filled with fraternal ardor for their lifelong foe.

Who am I to judge?

Then came President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would be coming to Arizona on Sept. 27-28 to honor the legacy and service of John McCain.


While he’s here the president will attend a soiree hosted by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Rep. Greg Stanton. A fundraiser at $3,300 a seat.

But as we were saying, John McCain, that glorious John McCain.

Of course, it’s politics.

And you can see why. Republican Kari Lake lost the governorship in part by telling McCain Republicans to “go to hell.”

She lit herself up like a Texas barbecue, and now the Democrats control the Arizona governor’s office and much more.

Will they honor his support for gun rights?

You can almost hear the strategy sessions over at Biden/Harris 2024 — “Look, we’ve already got Cindy. If the Republicans don’t want John McCain, we’ll take him and turn Arizona a vibrant shade of blue.”

To which I say beautiful. Let’s celebrate John McCain.

Katie Hobbs called John McCain “a stalwart for Arizona.” He was that. He was also a stalwart for the Second Amendment.

“For more than two decades, I’ve opposed efforts to ban guns, ban ammunition, ban magazines and dismiss gun owners as some kind of fringe group unwelcome in modern America,” he once said.

No one took more delight in Democrats playing gunslingers at election time than John McCain.

McCain Republicans still exist: We're just ignoring the GOP

“It seems every election, politicians who support restrictions on the Second Amendment dress up in camouflage and pose with guns to demonstrate they care about hunters, even though few gun owners fall for such obvious political theater.”

In 2008, Barack Obama criticized his primary opponent Hillary Clinton of the same thing, saying “(She’s acting) like she’s on the duck blind every Sunday, packing a six-shooter.”

To which McCain remarked dryly, “Someone should tell Senator Obama that ducks are usually hunted with shotguns.”

McCain also was an opponent of abortion

While President Biden is here in Arizona, he’s always welcome to praise McCain’s defense of life.

McCain was not always a stalwart on the issue. He felt compassion for unborn children and for the women who carried them.

When he ran for president in 2000, he softened his position on abortion and reflected the uncertainty and ambivalence in the country. One might also say he played politics.

He did.

His abortion stance was a hash, saying at once that he did not support overturning Roe in the short or long term, then later saying Roe would ultimately have to go.

But that all changed.

By 2008 he had locked down in opposition to abortion.

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McCain was not indifferent to the rights of American women, but he also believed in defending living creatures who could not defend themselves.

“I have stated time after time after time that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, that I support a woman — the rights of the unborn — that I have fought for human rights and human dignity throughout my entire political career. To me, it’s an issue of human rights and human dignity.”

Such was his opposition to abortion that in 2008 he won the contempt of Nancy Keenan, then president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“I think it comes back to that moderate maverick image that he’s tried to portray. But when you peel the onion back, the record shows that this is a guy who’s been very anti-choice since he entered the U.S. House of Representatives back in 1983.”

Go ahead, Democrats. Make hay out of that and feed it to the donkeys.

Biden and McCain were friends, but be real

I give Joe Biden and John McCain a lot of credit for looking past politics and building a long friendship over the years. That is a model for all Americans.

Politics are not religion. A free country can’t exist unless there is a competition of ideas, and that means we need to leave our differences in the arena and accept each other outside of political debate.

But Joe Biden, the politician, is fortunate. Had John McCain been alive and in the arena at the time, he would have skinned Biden alive for his botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the “drunken sailor” spending of Biden’s White House.

He would have recognized instantly Joe Biden’s surrender to the progressives in his party and their toxic turn toward identity politics. He was warning about this poison before he died.

Go ahead, Democrats. Celebrate John McCain. Use him in your campaign ads and convention speeches. Maverick will be chuckling on his cloud somewhere over the Scottish Highlands.

But stay sober.

If you embrace McCain too hard you’re going to start looking a lot like the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life.

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic. Email him at

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Biden visits Arizona to honor John McCain. Will he honor all of him?