ABC News’ Ron Claiborne Reports: In his speech to the NAACP convention in Cincinnati today, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) praised Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and made a rare mention of the historic nature of his candidacy as the first African-American to be nominated for president by a major political party.
"Don’t tell him I said this," McCain said, "but he is an impressive fellow in many ways. He has inspired a great many Americans, some of whom had wrongly believed that a political campaign could hold no purpose or meaning for them. His success should make Americans, all Americans, proud."
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McCain noted that when President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House, many Americans were outraged.
"America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time," he said. "There is no better evidence of this than nomination of an African-American to be the presidential nominee of his part. Whatever the outcome in November, Senator Obama has achieved a great thing."
In his speech on June 3rd, the night Obama effectively wrapped up the Democratic nomination, McCain did not mention the history that was made by his nomination. In an interview broadcast the next morning on Good Morning America, he was asked why he had not cited it. McCain said, "I congratulate him and I congratulated Senator Obama not because of any reason except that he (ran) a very effective campaign. And he’s done a very admirable job. And, as I said, he’s motivated a lots of Americans to be involved in the political process."
The following day, Charles Gibson asked McCain if he ever thought he’d see a day when there was a black person nominated for president by the Republican or Democratic parties.
"I did because — as I felt there will be a woman who is president of the United, because I have a great faith in the American people. And I have a great faith in their sense of justice and their judgment of people on their qualities, as Dr. King said … by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin."