Originally Published: April 5, 2008 7:32 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Republican presidential nominee John McCain avoided the usual kind of stump speech in Prescott Saturday, instead offering his perspective on the bipartisanship of two legendary Arizona politicians, Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall, and pledging to continue their example.
McCain urged the crowd to also remember that they have more in common as Americans than they have differences.
A wide variety of people filled the north side of the Yavapai County Courthouse lawn to hear him speak, some with signs of protest and some with signs of support.
"I was expecting a stump speech," Prescott City Council Member Bob Roecker said, but instead McCain's speech brought back memories of hearing Udall speak when he and his wife lived in Tucson.
During his final stop on his "Service to America Tour," McCain's focus on Arizona's political history surprised yet delighted some people in the audience, especially when he brought up Prescott's role in that history.
"Prescott is where our beloved Barry Goldwater formally began his Senate campaigns and his campaign for the presidency on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse," McCain said at the start his speech. "As his successor and in deference to his tradition, I have ended all my Senate campaigns here.
"Prescott, Arizona's territorial capital, occupies a special place in the history of Arizona, and in the Goldwater legend."
McCain noted how the friendship between the Goldwater and Udall families began with Barry's and Mo's grandfathers Michael and David, the patriarchs of Arizona's most famous Republican and Democratic families. Barry Goldwater served in the Senate for decades while Mo Udall served in the House, and both ran for president.
"The grandsons of Michael and David, despite differences in political parties and philosophies, were very, very close friends," McCain said. "The friendship of Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall was based in their mutual respect for each other's character, devoted service to the state they loved, and patriotism."
Every Republican who represents this region attended Saturday's event except U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, who is under federal indictment on 35 charges including extortion and money laundering. Renzi was McCain's campaign co-chair in Arizona. His absence prompted one protester to continually shout "Where's my Congressman?" after McCain's speech.
McCain is following in Goldwater's tradition in more than one way by speaking on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps during his presidential run, fellow Sen. Jon Kyl said.
"He does not put politics above principle," Kyl said of McCain.
"Barry put us on the map, and John is keeping us there," said Ken Bennett, former state Senate president from Prescott.
McCain's speech "spoke to bipartisanship, which John McCain has always been known for and which is why he gets things done," said Arizona Rep. Lucy Mason, R-Prescott. "And he truly has made Arizona his home."
While Goldwater and Udall were famous sons of Arizona pioneer families, "I was 45 years old when I moved to Arizona and finally found a home and the comfortable feeling of belonging to something smaller than a nation," McCain said. "When I entered politics here, I was viewed with resentment by some for my lack of an Arizona pedigree."
But Udall took him under his wing. Udall chaired the House Interior Committee and McCain was a junior member.
"Never lie to them," Udall advised McCain in his dealings with American Indians. "They've been lied to enough."
After briefly listing numerous challenges facing the nation, McCain said public servants must "work cooperatively across party lines without compromising our principles ... Mo Udall and Barry Goldwater taught me to believe that we are Americans first and partisans second, and I want to be a president that honors their faith in us."
Americans have their "noisy debates," McCain noted as one man in front shouted "Out of Iraq" and others tore his sign away from him.
However, "We have so much more that unites us than divides us," McCain said. "We need only to look to the enemy who now threatens us, and the benighted ideals to which Islamic extremists pledge allegiance - their disdain for the rights of Man, their contempt for innocent human life - to appreciate how much unites us."
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