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McCain's Family Fights to Define Legacy of Stability, Public Service

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

John McCain's family is asking Americans to reach out to one another and agree to disagree in honor of the late senator's commitment to civility in public life.

The family is making the request near the anniversary of McCain's death from brain cancer. It's part of the family's effort to define his legacy in an era of harsh exchanges over politics on social media and cable television.

McCain's widow, Cindy, says Arizona State University has donated about 26 acres in Tempe, for a library that the McCains hope will be a national "gathering place" for civil discourse.

McCain has been the target of criticism from President Donald Trump. Trump continues to complain at rallies about McCain's 2017 vote that sank the Republican rewrite of the Affordable Care Act.

For now, the McCains say they are still grappling with his absence. Cindy McCain said she is focused on her family and on the impending birth of a grandchild. But grief, she says, sometimes washes over her.

Jack McCain, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was in Afghanistan before and after his father's death and insulated from much of the aftermath. He's moved from active duty to the Navy Reserves and is home in Maryland now, with a 2-year-old son and his wife, Renee, trying to figure out what comes next. "I'm attempting to find a way to reorder my life without the person who had been basically my role model, my leader, the person I turned to when I needed sound advice," he said. Running for public office, he said, is not part of the plan.

As for legacy building in the Trump era, McCain's allies say it's a long game.

Utah Republican U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, who's had his own battles with the president, said McCain's public life is too long for one president to define. "I don't think the family's going to worry too much what President Trump has to say about Senator McCain," he said Tuesday. "It's a 50-year-plus legacy that is not going to be changed or obstructed by virtue of some tweets."

Said Democratic U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island: "I do think that in the long run what John stood for aligns so much better with our American values, and he will have the last laugh over Trumpism."

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