Coleman: McCain was a mentor

Norm Coleman
Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in the lobby of his Washington, D.C., lobbying firm.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News File

Former Minnesota Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman remembered his colleague John McCain Monday as a friend and someone who mentored him and others in the U.S. Senate.

McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, died Saturday of brain cancer days before his 82nd birthday.

When Coleman first arrived in the Senate in 2003, McCain was fresh off losing a run for the Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush and was something of a curmudgeon.

"I think Sen. McCain aged well," Coleman said. "He became a mentor. The softer side of John McCain came out."

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You still didn't want to get into an argument with McCain, Coleman added.

In partisan times, Coleman said, "John McCain was a guy who could reach across the aisle. He could push as hard as one could push for what he believed in, but in the end always acted with dignity and with grace and with honor. And that's I think his legacy."

As for whether the ability to play that role died with McCain, Coleman said he doesn't believe it did.

"For the sake of not just of the party but of the country, I hope that doesn't end with him. And I don't think it does. I think America is stronger than that. I think the Senate's stronger than that. I think the Republican Party is stronger than that," he said.

Coleman recently announced he was fighting a second bout with cancer, and said he has learned from watching McCain.

"I admired the courage, I admired the attitude, I admired the grace, and again I'm simply the novice at the foot of the master, even in dealing with cancer," he said. "I think he showed the way in which to do it, which is to fight as hard as you can fight, but to also accept the fact that there are some things that you can't control."