Commentary: McCain showed himself in concession speech

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

When he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, John McCain traveled on the "Straight Talk Express" and lived up to his reputation. The forthright war hero was brought down in that election by nasty politics, as loyalists of Texas Gov. George W. Bush stayed on the lowest roads.

This time out, having captured his party's nomination, McCain got pretty rough himself. But on Election Night, conceding to President-elect Barack Obama, the Arizona senator sounded an eloquent call for unity. His speech in defeat was inspiring and admirable.

"Whatever our differences," he said at one point, "we are fellow Americans." He credited Obama with motivating those who had felt disenfranchised. He pledged his personal support for the next president. What Obama had done, he said, was "a great thing" for the country, and McCain appeared genuinely moved that America had at long last elected a person of color to the White House.

Regrettably, some of McCain's supporters who were present for his speech in Arizona booed. McCain admonished them not to do so. As a five-year P.O.W. in Vietnam who declined early release (he was the son and grandson of admirals, and the North Vietnamese thought his release might be a good stunt), McCain endured wounds and torture. He demonstrated his patriotism and gave his country everything he had. As a member of Congress he has done no less, and will continue in that role. But he knows that every new president deserves the best wishes of the people, all of them, because that president is charged with grave responsibility.

John McCain will carry on. Because his country needs him.