Word has come down that John McCain, a lion of the Senate, has passed following his very long struggle with brain cancer. It was announced Friday that he was ending his brain cancer treatment, a sign that nothing more could be done. And Saturday late evening Eastern Time, he passed.
My feelings about John McCain are much like everyone else’s. He was a war hero, a man, a maverick. He stood his ground. He fought for what he thought was best for the American people. But my views of McCain are enhanced by what his party has become. Even if I disagree with much of his politics, McCain may be the last giant principled Republican in American history.
A central feature of John McCain’s biography was his capacity for change. After he sullied himself in the Savings and Loan scandal of the late eighties, he self-consciously transformed into a warrior on behalf of the cause of political reform. And then, in the course of his insurgent challenge to the anointed candidacy of George W. Bush—which McCain referred to as the “Death Star”—he came to understand how the mindless libertarianism of his early political career didn’t fully reflect his true beliefs. McCain began to criticize the regressive tax cuts that he once supported—what began as a tactical maneuver, then seemingly acquired the weight of conviction. Luke Skywalker didn’t win that fight, but he returned to fight the Bush tax cuts in the Senate.
This is what made McCain so admirable to those who disagree with his politics: a profound sense of humility, openness to learning from his own error, an ability to adjust core beliefs in response to changing evidence, an insatiable hunger for rebellion.
The video below is what I will always remember about McCain.
This was when Fox News was in its lying infancy — really ginning about incorrect things about Obama, and McCain, to his eternal credit, corrected the record. Being honest may have cost him the election.
I also give McCain credit for acknowledging the white nationalist underpinnings of Trump support, long before even many Democrats:
And continued to do the right thing, even if it was not in his party’s interest.
After @MicheleBachmann, Trent Franks, @replouiegohmert , @TomRooney, and @Westmoreland_GA falsely accused @HumaAbedin of being part of a conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the US government, Senator McCain stood on the Senate floor for seven minutes to defend her. pic.twitter.com/WzPHZQ4ncF— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 27, 2018
Trump’s response has been sickening. When it was learned that he was ending treatment, Trump said nothing. Then this…
And when word came out that McCain died, what did Trump do?
The Washington Post reports that White House staffers prepared a statement offering praise of the accomplishments and service given the nation by Arizona Senator John McCain. But the release of that statement was blocked by Donald Trump.
White House aides drafted a statement for Pres. Trump on Sen. John McCain’s death, a source tells CNN.— New Day (@NewDay) August 27, 2018
It never went out.
“Instead he sent out a short tweet … and he put out an Instagram post with a photo of himself instead of John McCain,” reports @JohnBerman. pic.twitter.com/1jlwhPBCSZ
Following the death of John McCain, Trump issued a single bland tweet of condolences to the Senator’s family. With politicians and others, left, right, and center praising McCain, Trump offered not a word in recognition of McCain’s service to the military or the Congress. Trump then followed this tweet with attacks on the Justice Department, attacks on the news media, attacks on social media, and attacks on President Obama. It was almost as if Trump, watching the national mourning for a war hero and statesman, was growing increasingly frustrated that his usual litany of lies was not drawing what he perceives as the proper level of attention.
Finally, as the day wore on, Trump got around to providing that praise. For himself. In a fresh series of tweets, Trump bragged about the economy by quoting that noted source … Donald Trump. Then he bragged about the stock market. Then he turned to quoting numbers to show how much “your all time favorite” was beloved “despite all the made up stories by the Fake News Media.” And in the process, he made up poll numbers, citing an approval rating that seems to have been taken out of pure fantasy.
As people across Arizona gathered on the roadside to bow their heads at the motorcade bearing McCain’s body, Trump had many, many words of praise for Trump. But not one single word for McCain.
According to the Post report, press secretary Sarah Sanders, chief of staff John Kelly, and other members of the Trump White House staff wrote up a document that named McCain a “hero” for his military service, which included over five years as a prisoner of war. That statement also recognized McCain’s long fight for human rights around the world, and his accomplishments as a senator for three decades. With McCain’s health rapidly declining, a draft of the document was created over recent weeks, with Sanders and others putting in the final touches as news of McCain’s passing came on Saturday.
But Trump blocked the release of the document. Instead, he told his staff that he would make a tweet … a tweet that included not a single kind word for the military pilot, congressman, senator, and Republican presidential candidate.
This morning, the White House flag should be at half staff along with the others in Washington. It’s not. It was lowered Saturday, and now it is back up. This is needless antagonism.
And….. it’s on!
Sens. Schumer and McConnell request that the Dept. of Defense “provide necessary support so that U.S. flags on all government buildings remain at half mast through sunset on the day of Senator McCain’s interment,” Sen. Schumer’s spokesperson says.— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 27, 2018
American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan to WH:— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) August 27, 2018
“I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his internment.”
It says everything that McCain’s opponents for president — George Bush and Barack Obama — have been invited to deliver eulogies at his funeral. Trump, himself, is not invited.
The Trump disease is deep. Fox News has disabled comments on YouTube videos about the death of John McCain following an outpouring of nastiness on the network’s own website from its commenters.
“Comments are disabled for this video,” the space under the videos reads on YouTube videos about McCain from the network. A cursory review of the Fox News YouTube channel demonstrates that this policy appears to apply to all stories about McCain released following his death.
The comments at Fox News’ website were appalling in their viciousness.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t celebrate the life of a man who has done so much evil,” one commenter on the Fox News site wrote. “He is burning in Hell right now, and receiving the due payment for his evil deeds.”
A common response was “good riddance.”
That’s a terrible note to end this post on, so instead, I will leave it with this image — the last page of McCain’s final memoir:
UPDATE — Well, he got shamed into changing his position.