Newsletter: ‘There was an authenticity’ in John McCain

Shared moments in the American conversation often revolve, when not around tragedy or triumph, around some sort of moment of nostalgia — some sense that time is marching on.

Time, and the end of an important era in politics, certainly seems present in so much of what’s being said about the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain.


McCain, the heir to a naval family’s proud history who found his calling in the Senate but not the nation’s highest office, died Saturday at the age of 81. Few can dispute that the self-described Republican “maverick” became a political icon.


“As irascible and curmudgeonly as he could be, he was real,” said Charlie Cook, a nonpartisan campaign analyst. “There was an authenticity.”

It took little time for political leaders across the spectrum to offer their praise for the late senator.

That historic moment on the Senate floor last summer — a dramatic moment that resulted in the defeat of President Trump’s healthcare bill — was only one of a number of memorable moments in the McCain story. Remember, too, his polite but firm rejection of a supporter in 2008 calling former President Barack Obama an “Arab.”

Longtime politics watcher Doyle McManus summed up the war hero-turned-politician’s legacy this way: “The test of character, he argued, was whether you owned up to your errors and spurred yourself to do better.”


The frosty relationship between McCain and Trump was well chronicled — and the president’s brief Saturday tweet of condolence was the extent of his comments — but what happens next will be important.

McCain’s passing raises the question of whether any other Senate Republicans will take up his cause in challenging the president.

The senior senator’s seat will be filled, until the next election, through an appointment by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. But the state’s other seat in the Senate will be filled in an election that now swirls with the memory of McCain and the thorny problem of Trump.

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-- The Trump administration is appealing a judge’s preliminary injunction against family separation, saying it would not derail the effort to reunify hundreds of migrant children who remain apart from their parents or guardian as a result of the zero-tolerance immigration policy.

-- Shelters serving immigrants often lock horns with immigration authorities, but El Paso’s Annunciation House and Customs and Border Protection have formed an unusual partnership.

-- Trump stepped up his attacks against Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions on Saturday and appears to be laying the groundwork to fire the nation’s top law enforcement official.

-- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the embattled Orange County congressman, said Friday that Sessions should resign.

-- On Saturday more than 100 activists in Chicago gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the antiwar protests, and the brutal police response, at the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

-- In a move aimed at getting past the acrimony from the 2016 presidential primary, the Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to dramatically reduce the role of superdelegates in choosing its next presidential nominee.

-- A federal judge has blocked key provisions of a series of Trump administration executive orders aimed at making it easier to fire federal employees and weaken their labor unions.


When the two houses of the California Legislature convene in a few hours, they’ll be up against the ultimate deadline: Friday night marks, by law, the end of the two-year session in Sacramento.

There are hundreds of bills left to weigh — and a key deadline on Tuesday night for final bill language, thanks to a voter-approved change to the process — but keep an eye on three topics above all others.

First, no topic seems higher on the list than some kind of changes to wildfire preparedness regulations. While some lawmakers want to focus on quickly and effectively removing trees and fire-prone brush, the real fight is an effort to allow electric utility companies to include money from their customers in the final solution for cash damages when companies’ equipment is involved. We’ll see actual legislative language by Tuesday.

Next, there’s police accountability. Legislation to address the killing of civilians by law enforcement officers was significantly scaled back on Friday, but the proposal still faces a tough slog to get onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Finally, there’s the battle of powerful interest groups over an effort to impose California-based net neutrality rules. Two proposals by California legislators would establish the strongest such rules in the country, and telecommunications companies are fighting tooth and nail to stop them before the final gavel falls on Friday night.

One other major topic — an end to cash bail in courtrooms across the state — was settled by the Legislature last week and now is on its way to the governor’s desk.

Our team in the Sacramento bureau will be watching these and a number of other bills all week; follow the latest action on our Essential Politics news feed.


-- The saga of Rep. Duncan Hunter played out on so many fronts in recent days, after a federal grand jury indicted him and his wife, Margaret Hunter, on charges of illegally using campaign cash for personal expenses. Hunter has since laid some of the blame on his wife, while the San Diego Republican’s fellow military veterans are now taking a second look at his action.

-- And no, the fact that Hunter’s constituents can’t write in a replacement candidate on Nov. 6 isn’t an unintended consequence of the state’s top-two primary. It was a planned change to the law almost a decade ago.

-- Republican state Sen. Joel Anderson is facing a legislative investigation after a female lobbyist accused him of threatening to “bitch slap” her and harassing her at a Capitol-area bar, sources say.

-- Immigrants living in California who are not U.S. citizens could be appointed to public boards and commissions under a bill passed in the state Legislature Friday.

-- With marijuana legalized by the state’s voters, Californians with past convictions for cannabis-related offenses would get state help in expunging their records under a bill sent by lawmakers to the governor.

-- Brown must soon take action on a bill that would require water or milk as the primary choices for children’s meals in some California restaurants, an effort designed to combat the health effects of sugary drinks.

-- And yes, the governor must also weigh in on whether plastic straws in many restaurants should only be provided only upon request.


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