Barack Obama on Monday heaped praise on his former electoral rival, John McCain, toasting the Republican senator as “a rare and courageous public servant.”
Obama hosted a black-tie dinner for the 72-year old Vietnam war veteran, whose ordeal as a prisoner of war provided McCain “a unique and renewed perspective” about what is important, enabling him to adopt a bipartisan approach to politics, Obama said.
Promoting his theme of unity and a less divisive brand of politics, Obama said McCain had a sense of “common purpose and common effort ... built into the very content of his character.”
While the campaign last year turned them into “fierce competitors” engaged in “vigorous and sometimes heated debate,” Obama said he and McCain now shared a responsibility “to usher in a new season of cooperation built on those things we hold in common.”
During the long run-up to the Nov. 4 election, the two candidates traded harsh criticism and McCain at one point referred to Obama as “that one” in one public debate.
Long considered a maverick in the Republican party, McCain can be proud of his “long list of ... bipartisan accomplishments,” Obama said. “All those times he has crossed the aisle and risked the ire of his party for the good of his country.
“And yet, what makes John such a rare and courageous public servant is not the accomplishments themselves, but the true motivation behind them,” Obama said.
“It has not been a quest for fame or vanity that has driven this man ... It is rather a pure and deeply felt love of his country that comes from the painful knowledge of what life is like without it,” he said, referring to McCain’s five years as a prisoner of war.
“Thank you, John, for your service to America and the service you will continue to render in the months and years ahead,” Obama said, introducing McCain to take the podium.