Kaufer Recalls McCain As Hero And Role Model
Meeting John McCain 10 years ago helped convince Aaron Kaufer to pursue a career in public service and politics.
Kaufer, a Republican who serves the 120th District in the state House of Representatives, was a student at Lafayette College then.
He traveled to New Hampshire, site of the first primary of the 2008 presidential campaign, during the January winter break to work for McCain — a man Kaufer says he admired since 2000, when Kaufer was just 12 years old.
Kaufer helped run the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, office of McCain for President.
At a campaign event one day, Kaufer said “everyone got pushed into a circle together” and he found himself next to Cindy McCain, the candidate’s wife.
The two chatted and became friendly, Kaufer said. When the man of the hour — long-time U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona — made the rounds at the event, his wife pointed to Kaufer.
“Apparently you are someone my wife thinks I should meet,” the senator told Kaufer as he shook his hand.
McCain shook lots of hands that day, according to Kaufer. The senator, widely described as a political “maverick” before and after his death from cancer on Saturday, loved to talk to ordinary people, Kaufer said.
For example, McCain enjoyed chatting with restaurant chefs about their favorite recipes, according to Kaufer.
“He was not the guy who wanted to be in the spotlight,” Kaufer said. “He wanted to see how you were making the ribs.”
Kaufer said he admired McCain as a straight-talking honest man, who would not make false promises to gain votes even when behind in the polls.
“When I was working for him nobody thought he had a chance to win,” Kaufer said. “He was supposed to get trounced.”
That changed when McCain won an unexpected victory on the night of the primary, finishing ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
McCain went on to win the 2008 Republican nomination for president, though he lost the presidential election to Democrat Barack Obama that November.
Kaufer returned to college soon after the New Hampshire primary, but that experience set his feet on the path that would lead to winning a state House seat in 2014, at age 26, he said.
McCain “has been my inspiration in getting involved in politics,” Kaufer said. “I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for meeting John McCain.”
Kaufer said he admired McCain’s willingness to disagree with leaders of his own party, and to cross party ines to gain support for legislation he believed in.
“Whether you agreed with him or not, he was principled,” Kaufer said. “He believed in doing what is right.”
Kaufer got a close-up look at the trauma McCain endured following more than five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
McCain could not lift his arms above his head, thanks to his wartime injuries, Kaufer said.
Because of that, McCain rarely signed things, according to Kaufer. That made it a special honor when McCain once signed a hat for Kaufer, he said.
The physical limitation “was just something he lived with,” Kaufer said. “He never complained. That’s the way it was.”
Kaufer said he will remember McCain as “someone who gave everything he can for this country.”
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