On a special edition of the Powerhouse Politics podcast, hosts Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein reminisced about covering Sen. John McCain from the halls of the Capitol to his running for president the first time in 1999.
Karl joked that the “third-tier” reporters, like himself, who covered the Arizona Republican on McCain's Straight Talk Express campaign bus, were his “base.”
"He had no money, so he decided that his strategy would be to basically use free media be surrounded by the press all the time. So, he had that bus -- the Straight Talk Express. And I'll tell you, I think I lived on that damn thing for months. All day long, morning until night. Almost all the time, on the record," Karl said.
“Any reporter of our generation, or anyone who's covered politics for the last couple of decades, has McCain stories because one of the things, one of the tremendous things about covering John McCain, is that he actually liked interactions with reporters. He enjoyed the engagement. He enjoyed the teasing, and the back and forth, and the cat and mouse involved in all of it.”
Klein recounted a story about bringing his five-year-old son to the green room of a TV studio and watching McCain kindly entertain his young son with a coloring book and hot chocolate.
“When I came back they were coloring together, and they both had hot chocolates. It just struck me that there was a guy -- you know an absolute legend -- a man who had done everything in politics. And there was just no pretense around it. He was just a guy talking to a kid and passing the time,” Klein said.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, a veteran reporter who also covered McCain during the Straight Talk Express years, talked about his memories.
Millbank remembered how McCain opposed divisive politics all the way to the very end of his life. “He stood up against it. Even through his illness and right up to the end. Look I have no doubt that it bothered him on some level. But McCain relished a fight. He really enjoyed it. And I think that he took some pleasure in being the antidote to Donald Trump, into fighting that. I do think he was, you know, optimistic about how things would turn out.”
Milbank added that watching President Trump demonize McCain at his rallies, and now refusing to fully honor McCain’s legacy, only highlights the differences between the two men. “So I suspect that having Trump -- who is really sort of a polar opposite -- probably gave him an extra spring in his step these last couple years.”
Every Wednesday, ABC Radio and I-tunes brings you the Powerhouse Politics podcast which includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Hosted by ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.