John McCain: blunt, hawkish, conciliatory, patriotic

“We have to fight isolationism, protectionism, and nativism. We have to defeat those who would worsen our divisions.”

John-McCain-VODI’m SO conflicted about John McCain. He fought in Vietnam, a war that I had actively opposed. But it’s long been my feeling that war is in the providence of civilian leadership. I understand that McCain, son, and grandson of four-star admirals, found his own way to serve his country, after his carousing youth, and suffered five and a half years of torture as a result.

After returning from Vietnam, McCain remained in the Navy until 1981, after which he embarked on a second career in politics. He was elected to the House of Representatives as a congressman from Arizona in 1982, then to the Senate in 1986.

His Vietnam experience made him a powerful advocate against “enhanced interrogation” by the United States, which this country, to its shame, surely participated in. And it created in him a great supporter for veterans. But it also helped make him an unrelenting war hawk, with whom I largely disagreed.

The first time I participated in the ABC Wednesday, in October 2008, it was re: the Keating Five when I wrote about McCain receiving about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates in 1987, but hesitant about intervening on the financier’s behalf in the dealings with the Lincoln Savings and Loan.

That lapse, which he owned up to, led him to be an advocate for campaign finance reform with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) in legislation now rendered moot by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling.

The Weekly Sift captured the reason why I would have voted for John McCain in the New York Republican primary for President in 2000, had I been eligible to do so, against George W. Bush.

“Presidential politics in New Hampshire traditionally has revolved around the town hall meeting, and McCain was the absolute master of that form. No matter what they’re asked, shallow candidates find a way to segue into their canned talking points. But… McCain always answered the questions he was asked. Usually, he did it knowledgeably and articulately while radiating a sense of earnestness tempered by self-deprecating humor.”

Then, of course, he blows it by pandering to South Carolina voters over the Confederate flag then hanging over the statehouse. Later that year, he admits he was wrong.

During the Iraq war, John McCain was right about those non-binding resolutions the Democrats tried to pass: it’s immoral to continue to, on one hand, fund the war and on the other hand, suggest the war is wrong.

During the 2008 campaign for President, McCain went to Selma, Alabama where on March 7, 1965, peaceful civil rights demonstrators were attacked by state and local lawmen. “I’m aware of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me. But I’m going to be the president of all the people and I will work for all of the people and I will listen to all of the people, whether they decide to vote for me or not.”

I became sure that John McCain would finally become President that year because of the Clinton/Obama infighting. He had considered then-Senator Joe Lieberman, a hawkish Democrat from Connecticut to be his Vice-President. But once again, to his greatest detriment, he essentially allowed the party to pick the relatively unknown former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Frank Schaeffer, a longtime supporter of John McCain, wrote in October 2008 that McCain-Palin rallies were starting to resemble lynch mobs. “If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as ‘not one of us,’ I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.”

Does that sound familiar? No wonder he had to correct that woman during a town hall event.

If not for Palin, or maybe Tina Fey, McCain might have won. Or not. I thought in September 2008: “McCain’s self-declared lack of strength in the economic side is problematic. His economic policy, deemed ‘incomplete’ by the hardly liberal US News makes the rich richer. He declares that fundamentals of the economy are strong even as Wall Street collapses.”

John McCain and Ted Kennedy, Died August 28, 9 Years Apart, of Brain Cancer (Jim Watson, Getty Images)

In August 2009, McCain noted that the health care debate has been stymied in part because his friend Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the “Lion of the Senate”, wasn’t able to participate in the debate fully. Kennedy, like McCain, was an “old-time” senator who really DID work “across the aisle.”

In 2012, McCain called out the sheer lunacy of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) when she and four Republican colleagues accused Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin of being circuitously connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. He needed to do that sort of thing more often.

And of course, there were three Republican Senators who voted against the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, in July 2017. One was John McCain, who made a dramatic return to DC that week after a diagnosis of brain cancer.

In his October 30, 2017 speech to the Naval Academy, he said: “We have to fight against propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories. We have to fight isolationism, protectionism, and nativism. We have to defeat those who would worsen our divisions. We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on earth by tearing down walls, not building them.”

In a most divisive time in history, two former presidents, Obama and Bush 43, the guys who kept him out of the Oval Office – have been asked to deliver eulogies at the funeral.

His Farewell Statement, written back in March 2018, showed that John McCain might be the last good Republican.