In an interview with CNN's "State of the Union," McCain said he believes Palin made the right decision by stepping down from her post as Alaska's governor 18 months before her first term was up and said he was upset that the ex-veep candidate continues to be the victim of searing criticism.
"I respect Sarah Palin," McCain said in an interview that aired Sunday. "I appreciate her and her husband enormously. I think she will continue to play a major role in the future of the Republican Party. And I have to respect the decision she made."
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McCain said Palin's stunning resignation last month was "clearly" the "best decision" for her family -- and she will have a significant presence and future in the Party.
The former presidential candidate said he was "saddened by the fact that there are still such vicious attacks on her and her family."
"I've never seen anything quite like it," he said.
Palin plans to pen a book but her long-term political goals are unclear and there is much speculation she could throw her hat in the ring for a potential 2012 presidential bid.
McCain said he would welcome Palin to campaign with him in Arizona when he runs for re-election in 2010.
During the same interview, McCain said was still on the fence about voting to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.