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John McCain had an eye for detail

Cindy McCain prays at the coffin of her

Cindy McCain prays at the coffin of her husband, U.S. Sen. John McCain, in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / POOL / Kevin Lamarque

Anyone who has followed my cartoons over the years knows John McCain’s policy positions and mine weren’t harmonious, and I hit him hard for choices he made in his 2008 presidential campaign. But I always respected the man.

In 2002, McCain, whose body laid in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, came to speak to a political cartoonists conference in Washington. I was tasked with greeting him on the steps of the former Hotel Washington and escorting him to the podium.

I had woken up very early and rapidly thrown on a shirt and jacket I pulled from my suitcase in a last-minute attempt to look respectable. After receiving a call from a McCain staff member that he was en route, I left my room and stood on the hotel steps in the sweltering July heat, looking for the ubiquitous black government Suburban with tinted windows.

After 10 minutes, no McCain. I started to worry. Then, pushing through a teeming crowd of tourists came a compact, white-haired man in a dark suit, running up the hotel steps, perspiration dripping from his brow. I told him I was expecting a car and entourage. “I don’t need that bullshit,” he snapped with a smirk. “It’s quicker to walk here than mess with D.C. traffic.”

As I led him down the event hall, he told me he hated most of the political cartoonists, and also that he loved most of the political cartoonists.

“Like sharks in the political sea, we may not like it, but you guys perform a needed role,” he said.

I handed him a bottle of water and a towel to wipe the sweat, and pointed him toward the podium. He turned to me, winked, punched my shoulder and said, “Your shirt needs ironing, Matt.”

— Matt Davies