NEWBERRY, South Carolina (CNN) - Perhaps it's only the smallest of ironies, but Sen. John McCain just delivered the commencement speech at tiny Newberry College, the alma mater of legendary political strategist Lee Atwater.
Atwater may be best known as the mastermind of George H.W. Bush's victory over Michael Dukakis in 1988, but Palmetto State political junkies know him as the talented and brash native son that had a take no prisoners approach when it came to politics.
The Newberry graduate, who died of cancer in 1991, introduced all sorts of aggressive tactics to state political campaigning, while working for towering Republican figures such as former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell and former Sen. Strom Thurmond.
McCain became a victim of that hardball legacy when he lost to George W. Bush here in the 2000 primary following a vicious whisper campaign mounted against him by McCain opponents.
McCain spoke to the graduates Saturday about the value of honor and sacrifice.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby