Former Congressman Kolbe on McCain


TED SIMONS: FORMER CONGRESSMAN JIM KOLBE SERVED ON CAPITOL HILL FROM 1985 TO 2007, WHICH MADE HIM A MEMBER OF THE STATE'S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION DURING MUCH OF McCAIN'S CAREER IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE. WE VISITED WITH THE CONGRESSMAN AT HIS HOME IN WASHINGTON, D.C. TO HEAR ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES WITH SENATOR McCAIN. -- CONGRESSMAN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALLOWING US INTO YOUR HOME AND IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU.

JIM KOLBE : THANK YOU.
TED: YOUR THOUGHTS, IT'S A TOUGH TIME, ISN'T IT?

JIM KOLBE : IT IS A TOUGH TIME. I FEEL LIKE I LOST A GREAT FRIEND AND A MENTOR. I'VE KNOWN JOHN McCAIN SINCE WE BOTH FIRST RAN FOR CONGRESS TOGETHER IN 1982. HE WON THAT YEAR, I LOST MY FIRST ELECTION, AND HE HELPED ME A LOT IN WINNING TWO YEARS LATER, AND THEN WE SERVED TOGETHER FOR 22 YEARS IN THE CONGRESS. THE FIRST TWO TOGETHER IN THE HOUSE, THEN HE WENT TO THE SENATE. HE HAS BEEN A VERY CLOSE FRIEND AND MENTOR, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY THE NATION, THE COUNTRY LOST A GREAT PATRIOT, A GREAT STATESMAN, I LIKE TO THINK OF A HERO NOT ONLY FOR PHYSICAL HEROISM WHICH HE CERTAINLY EXHIBITED IN VIETNAM BUT FOR THE WAY HE LIVED HIS LIFE AND EXEMPLIFIED THE VALUES OF FREEDOM, OF INTEGRITY, OF LOYALTY TO FRIENDS.

TED SIMONS: YOU KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING, WE KNOW JOHN McCAIN, WE'RE HERE IN WASHINGTON BECAUSE THE STATE HAS LOST ONE OF ITS ICONS AND HERE IN WASHINGTON WE'RE SEEING JOHN McCAIN'S PICTURE AT BUS STOPS. WE'RE SEEING THEM IN THE PAPER. CAB DRIVERS ARE TALKING ABOUT HIM WITHOUT PROMPTING. ARE YOU SURPRISED AT THE OUTPOURING OF PEOPLE WANTING TO TALK ABOUT JOHN McCAIN?

JIM KOLBE : I AM A LITTLE SURPRISED. IN FACT, I WAS TALKING TO ONE OF HIS STAFFERS JUST A FEW MINUTES AGO, AND HE WAS SAYING I REALLY DIDN'T REALIZE HOW FAMOUS JOHN McCAIN WAS AROUND THE WORLD AND IN PLACES BACK HERE, BUT HE WAS KNOWN, HE WAS EXTRAORDINARILY WELL KNOWN AND IS A BIT OF AN ICON, AND CERTAINLY FOR THOSE IN ARIZONA BUT NATIONALLY HE STOOD FOR SO MUCH.

TED SIMONS: WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

JIM KOLBE : I THINK IT'S HIS CHARACTER. I THINK JOHN McCAIN, THROUGH HIS ENTIRE LIFE HAS BEEN DEVOTED TO PUBLIC SERVICE FROM THE DAY HE ENDED THE NAVAL ACADEMY TO THE DAY HE PASSED AWAY. HIS WAS A LIFE OF PUBLIC SERVICE, AND HE DID THAT IN THE VERY BEST POSSIBLE WAY THROUGH HIS CAREER IN THE MILITARY AND THROUGH YEARS HE SPENT AS A NAVY LIAISON HERE AND AS A MEMBER OF CONGRESS, AND I THINK IT'S THE CHARACTER HE SHOWED THROUGHOUT ALL OF THAT. HE WAS WILLING TO ADMIT MISTAKES WHEN HE MADE THEM AND WILLING TO STAND UP AGAINST PEOPLE IN HIS OWN PARTY OR PEOPLE THAT WERE HIS FRIENDS WHEN HE THOUGHT THEY WERE WRONG. HE WOULD SAY SO. AND I THINK THAT'S A RARE ATTRIBUTE TODAY.

TED SIMONS: IS IT BECOMING MORE RARE?

JIM KOLBE: YES, DEFINITELY BECOME MORE RARE. YOU DON'T FIND THAT MUCH OF A PERSON ANYMORE.

TED SIMONS: WE'RE HERE IN YOUR HOME ON CAPITOL HILL. CONGRESS HAS BEEN YOUR LIFE. YOU PULSE ON WHAT'S GOING ON. FINGER ON THE PULSE WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND HERE. IS IT JUST -- IS IT AS BAD HERE AS IT SEEMS BACK IN ARIZONA AND AROUND THE COUNTRY AS FAR AS PEOPLE JUST NOT GETTING ALONG?

JIM KOLBE : WELL, IT IS AND IT ISN'T. LET ME JUST SAY FIRST IT IS IN THE SENSE THAT, YES, NOTHING IS GETTING DONE. WE HAVE COMPLETE GRIDLOCK IN THE CONGRESS, AND THAT'S VERY WORRISOME, CONGRESS HAS GIVEN AWAY AUTHORITY JUST UNDER THE CURRENT PRESIDENT, GIVEN AWAY AUTHORITY TO THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, AND SO THEY'VE GOT TO START TO REASSERT THAT AUTHORITY TODAY IT. ISN'T IN THE SENSE THAT SURPRISING WHEN YOU GO TO CAPITOL HILL AND MEET WITH PEOPLE. THEY'RE STILL TALKING TO EACH OTHER. WORKING TOGETHER. BUT THE SYSTEM IS JUST BROKEN DOWN THE WHOLE GEARS OF THE FUNCTIONING OF THE PLACE HAS BROKEN DOWN AND NOTHING IS GETTING ACCOMPLISHED.

TED SIMONS: ARE THEY SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER OFF-CAMERA, IN HALLWAYS, IN RESTAURANT, NOT WHEN THE LIGHTS COME ON?

JIM KOLBE : NOT WHEN THE LIGHTS COME ON. I THINK A LOT OF IT HAS TO DO WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, PEOPLE ARE LIVING IN THE LIFE OF SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY. THEY DO TALK TO EACH OTHER AND THEY DO SHARE STORIES WITH EACH OTHER, BUT WHEN THE LIGHTS COME ON AS YOU SAY, IF THEY'RE RUNNING FOR OFFICE, THEY DON'T TALK MUCH TO EACH OTHER.

TED SIMONS: THAT'S WHY I WONDER IF JOHN McCAIN WAS THE LAST OF THE BREED. HE ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT CIVILITY, LOVED THE IDEA YOU COULD GO AT EACH OTHER IN THE CHAMBER AND AFTERWARDS, HAVE A STEAK DINNER AND BE FRIENDS.

JIM KOLBE : THAT WAS ONE OF THE ATTRIBUTES OF JOHN McCAIN. JOHN McCAIN HAD A TEMPER AND LOSE THAT TEMPER AND GET ANGRY WITH PEOPLE BUT HE ALWAYS CAME BACK. HE NEVER HELD A GRUDGE AGAINST ANYBODY FOR TAKING A DIFFERENT POSITION. HE WAS DIFFERENT IN THAT SENSE, AND THAT'S A HARD THING TO FIND TODAY THERE. ARE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, BUT AN AWFUL LOT OF THEM ARE LEAVING. I'M VERY ACTIVE IN THE FORMER MEMBERS ASSOCIATION AND FIND AMONG THOSE THAT ARE LEAVING IN THE LAST DECADE, THEY'RE TIRED OF THE WHOLE BUSINESS.

TED SIMONS: WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN THIS BUSINESS IF YOU WERE A YOUNG MAN NOW?

JIM KOLBE : I HOPE SO. I ENCOURAGE -- ONE OF THE THINGS I DO NOW, IN FACT, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I FIND DOING TODAY IS THE MENTORING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE, PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERNS OF THE ORGANIZATIONS I WORK WITH. PEOPLE WHO ARE FORMER YOUNG STAFFERS THEY KNOW. I MENTOR THEM AND I ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO THIS BECAUSE IT'S UP TO THEIR GENERATION. WE DON'T HAVE THAT GENERATION THAT DOES GET INVOLVED. WE REALLY ARE IN TROUBLE.

TED SIMONS: AND A CORROLARY QUESTION TO THE LAST ONE, COULD JOHN McCAIN HAVE ACHIEVED ON CAPITOL HILL IF HE WERE A YOUNG MAN TODAY?

JIM KOLBE : IT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TODAY. IF HE WERE STARTING OUT NOW, VERY DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO DO THAT, BUT, YOU KNOW, I LIKE TO THINK THERE'S PEOPLE THAT COMING ALONG LIKE THAT, AND WILL BE ABLE TO SEE THAT AGAIN. I THINK THERE'S THAT SENSE OF THE MOMENT WITH JOHN McCAIN'S PASSING AND THIS IS THE PASSING OF AN ERA AND NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT FINDING A WAY OF BRINGING THE COUNTRY TOGETHER AND WORK TOGETHER. THE QUESTION IS WILL IT LAST? WILL THIS MOOD LAST?

TED SIMONS: AND ALSO THE PASSING OF A LOT OF INFLUENCE IN ARIZONA HERE IN WASHINGTON.

JIM KOLBE : YES, FOR SURE. THE ARIZONA'S CLOUT AND INFLUENCE WITH THE PASSAGE EVER PEOPLE LIKE JOHN McCAIN AND MO UDALL AND DENNIS DeCONCINI AND THE ONES THAT HAVE GREAT SENIORITY IN THE BODY ARE GONE NOW, AND WE'RE LACKING THAT INFLUENCE TODAY.

TED SIMONS: HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE BEFORE WE GET BACK UP TO SPEED?

JIM KOLBE : WELL, OVER A DECADE FOR SURE.

TED SIMONS: YEAH, YEAH, BEFORE WE LET YOU GO, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR INVITING US INTO YOUR HOME. GRACIOUS OF YOU. ESPECIALLY IN A ROUGH TIME LIKE THIS. FINAL MEMORIES, FINAL THOUGHTS OF JOHN McCAIN?

JIM KOLBE : WHAT I REMEMBER MOST OF ALL IS THE LOYALTY HE SHOWED TO PEOPLE. I REMEMBER WHEN I CAME OUT AS A GAY PERSON, JOHN McCAIN WAS THE FIRST TO SAY, JIM IT DOESN'T MAKE DIFFERENCE, YOU'RE A GREAT FRIEND AND LEGISLATOR, IT'S NOT GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO OUR FRIENDSHIP AND THE WAY THAT YOU WORK. THAT WAS VERY REASSURING TO ME. HE HAD THAT SENSE OF LOYALTY TO PEOPLE HE WAS CLOSE TO.

TED SIMONS: PERSONAL SENSE OF HONOR.

JIM KOLBE :YEP, PERSONAL SENSE OF HONOR.

TED SIMONS: CONGRESSMAN, APPRECIATE IT.

JIM KOLBE: THANK YOU.

Former Congressman Jim Kolbe served 22 years in congress along with Senator McCain. In an interview from his Washington, D.C. home, Kolbe talks about his recollections of the late senator.

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Former Congressman Jim Kolbe

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