Statesman or Henchman?

He's already the state's GOP power broker. He'll soon be Arizona's senior senator. Will the volatile John McCain Rule by fear or respect?

These days, Steiger can be reached at McCain's Phoenix office, where his title is special assistant to the senator.

Surprisingly, when asked to pick one Arizona politician to call his hero, John McCain chooses retired Tucson congressman Mo Udall, the liberal Democrat who is as renowned for his wit and grace as McCain is for his temper.

As he prepares to take a leadership role in the Arizona congressional delegation next January (another post he'll yank away from Bob Stump, who deserves it through seniority), McCain says he hopes to emulate Udall's leadership style.

"I'm envious without malice," says McCain, "at the way he was able to engender an atmosphere of good will in even the most difficult circumstances."

"What?" says Paul Johnson. "Did he say that? . . . I'll bet you Mo Udall wouldn't consider him his prize student." Bruce Wright says Udall generally limited his involvement in party politics to voter-registration drives. And McCain's reputation among current Arizona delegation staff is not that of peacemaker; quite the contrary.

But Wright says he's not surprised to hear of McCain's admiration for Udall's style. McCain was elected to Congress at the peak of Udall's power. Despite their different political affiliations, Wright says, Udall welcomed McCain to the Arizona delegation and helped him along. Maybe, Wright continues, John McCain is entering a new phase of his political persona: statesman. "You act in a different way when you're in a particular position," says Wright. "I think John now sees himself as emerging as sort of the dean of the delegation or as the lead person for Arizona. He would probably approach . . . issues a little differently." Paul Johnson begs to differ, no matter what the consequences.

"There's no doubt Mo Udall was a compromiser," Johnson says. "I mean, he could take you into a room and tell you what was important and what needed to happen, but he always did it with a sense of humor and he made you laugh. When you left the meeting, you never felt bad. You felt really positive; you felt positive about yourself, positive about him."

As for McCain? Johnson says, "He needs to take a refresher course.

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