McCain Adviser: ‘He Believed in American Exceptionalism to the Very Core of His Being’

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Randy Scheunemann, a former foreign policy aide to the late Sen. John McCain, remembered his friend on Fox News Friday, saying McCain inspired people around the world.

McCain died of brain cancer Saturday and will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, and Scheunemann appeared on "America’s Newsroom" to talk about his character and accomplishments. McCain served in the U.S. Navy, suffered torture in a Vietnamese prison, and had a distinguished career in the Senate, but Scheunemann said what he’ll remember most is McCain's optimism about America.

"Of all the things I'll remember about John McCain—his heroism, his vision, his energy—it's really his optimism, because for John McCain, he believed in American exceptionalism to the very core of his being," Scheunemann said.

"For him, it's not just American power that made us great in the world, it is American purpose," he added. "The sharing of American values that made us special, unique, and that will be his enduring foreign policy legacy."

He went on to explain how McCain’s stature around the world as a champion of freedom affected him personally.

"If you travel anywhere in the world and people learn that you had some association with John McCain, as I was privileged to have, they will tell you a story about either seeing John McCain, hearing of him or how John McCain inspired him," he said. "He stood for human rights. He stood for freedom. He stood for opposition to tyranny and literally anywhere you would go there were people that would tell you John McCain inspired them."

He described how underprivileged people in countries from Burma to Georgia knew McCain stood up for democracy.

"He would stand with the lowest, most downtrodden, most oppressed peoples, whether in Burma, or in Belarus, in Ukraine. He would stand for democracy in very difficult situations in places like Georgia. I had the privilege of traveling with him and he made his commitment evident through the time he devoted and the results that he helped create," he said.

He said it was an honor when McCain called him his "consiglieri," describing how it was to work with the late senator on matters of foreign policy.

"He is intellectually curious and John always believed he could learn from others, that he wasn't the smartest person in the room," he said. "He could always learn from people in the room whether they were civic society activists or presidents and prime ministers. That's what I'll always remember: his ability to travel the world and learn about the world, not just tell the world what he thought it should do or should be."

Scheunemann also said McCain’s legacy will live on thanks to the work he did with younger senators, specifically those brought into the Armed Services Committee.

"They will make sure that John McCain's vision stays alive as will the institutions like the McCain Institute for International Leadership, the International Republican Institute, which promotes democracy around the world, that John led for 25 years," he said.

"Even though John's voice is no longer with us, his vision will remain," he added.

Paul Crookston

Paul Crookston   Email Paul | Full Bio | RSS
Paul Crookston is the deputy war room director at the Washington Free Beacon. He was previously a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review. A 2016 graduate of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., he served as the managing editor of the Tartan campus newspaper. He is originally from Tampa, Fla., but he still roots for Dad’s Ohio teams. His Twitter handle is @P_Crookston. He can be reached at crookston@freebeacon.com.

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