Appreciating John McCain

 

For many years, conservatives were ideological zealots. Like Spanish inquisitors, they were on guard for the slightest indications of heresy. Talk radio gurus in particular were punctilious keepers of the flame. If a Republican figure was thought to be “squishy” on any matter – guns, spending, immigration, or anything else – he or she was reviled. Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who headed the Heritage Foundation for a time, said in 2009 that he’d rather have 30 conservative purists in the senate than 60 Republicans of varying hues.

Now the Republican Party is led by a man who donated to Democrats, promised never to reform entitlements, insisted more than once that we should “take the oil” from the Middle East, and spewed more apostasy in five minutes than most Republicans could manage in a lifetime. Accordingly, we are told that personality is more important than substance.

I still care a great deal about substance, but character more. Before too long, many Americans may conclude that we need dull competence in public life and particularly in government. The spirit of President Calvin Coolidge would be salutary. He was laconic even by the standards of the early 20th century, but when he spoke or wrote, it was after thinking. He observed about politicians that:

The political mind is the product of men in public life who have been twice spoiled. They have been spoiled with praise and they have been spoiled with abuse. With them nothing is natural, everything is artificial. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation, which sooner or later impairs their judgment.

He was wry. “What I have ever been able to do has been the result of first learning how to do it. I am not gifted with intuition. I need not only hard work but experience to be ready to solve problems.” Quaint, right?

On the subject of character, this seems a good time to praise John McCain. McCain is one of those Republican Party squishes whose lily liver — or something – supposedly drove heaps of disgusted voters to choose a reality TV star. Being human, McCain isn’t perfect. Being a politician, he has compromised and trimmed many times. But his courage and dignity are magnificent things to behold.

I have no idea how McCain will vote on the latest Obamacare modification bill. But when it comes to human rights, the Arizona senator has always been stalwart. When Bill Browder knocked on his door looking for justice for the murdered Sergei Magnitsky, McCain didn’t hesitate. He became one of the first sponsors of the Magnitsky Act. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intimated that human rights were all very well, but henceforth America’s foreign policy would be based on hard-headed self-interest and realism, McCain fired off a passionate defense of human rights, denying that they are in conflict with our interests.

I consider myself a realist. What I’ve learned is that it is foolish to view realism and idealism as incompatible. In the real world, as lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for liberty and justice and opportunity, the hatred of oppression and corruption and cruelty is reality. By denying this experience, we deny the aspirations of billions of people, and invite their enduring resentment.

McCain, who has already survived melanoma, is now undergoing treatment for an aggressive brain tumor. Within days of receiving the devastating diagnosis, he was thanking well-wishers and quipping that “Even those that want me to die don’t want me to die right away, so that’s good.” Who is that droll in the face of such news?

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, McCain demonstrated that same spirit – a blend of grace and impishness all his own. There were two ways of dealing with challenges like this, he reflected, and one was “to celebrate” (he didn’t say what the other was). “I am able to celebrate a wonderful life and I will be grateful for whatever additional time I have.” He quoted a playwright who said he knew that no one was immortal but always hoped there would be one exception. He was optimistic about his treatment so far, pausing to praise the doctors, nurses, and others who had, he winked, “inflicted so much pain on me,” but acknowledged that he was facing a “vicious form of cancer.” He would do everything possible to fight it, but “every life has to end one way or another.” How did he wish to be remembered? “He served his country.”

Did he ever. He flew combat missions, endured years of torture and refused early release that would have placed him ahead of others captured before him, spoke up for prisoners, refugees, freedom fighters, the American military, and American values. He does us proud to this day. This is American greatness.

There are 110 comments.

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  1. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member

    This is a piece about John McCain, right? So just imagine: you could have written this piece and left the second paragraph out (the “I Hate Donald Trump” paragraph), and it would lose nothing.

    So why was it necessary to include that?

    • #1
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:17 PM PDT
    • 27 likes
  2. Hoyacon Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Imagine: you could have written this piece and left the second paragraph out (the “I Hate Donald Trump” paragraph), and it would lose nothing.

    So why was it necessary to include that?

    My first thought as well. Note also the reference to “Spanish inquisitors,” and the dismissive tone of:

    McCain is one of those Republican Party squishes whose lily liver — or something – supposedly drove heaps of disgusted voters to choose a reality TV star.

    There’s a column to be written about honoring McCain, and I’m rather surprised that a professional such as Ms. Charen can’t really write it without the usual slights.

    • #2
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Kevin Schulte Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    This is a piece about John McCain, right? So just imagine: you could have written this piece and left the second paragraph out (the “I Hate Donald Trump” paragraph), and it would lose nothing.

    So why was it necessary to include that?

    It’s like cud. It must be chewed and chewed and chewed. Unsightly to say the least.

    • #3
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:24 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  4. Profile Photo Member

    John McCain’s militarily career is extremely honorable. His political career has not been honorable. As an elected politician, Trump has been far more conservative than McCain, which is all I care about.

    • #4
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  5. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    There’s a column to be written about honoring McCain, and I’m rather surprised that a professional such as Ms. Charen can’t really write it without the usual slights.

    Even Zubrin was able to passively appreciate President Trump today.

    • #5
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:28 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Jager Member

    John McCain enjoys insulting and name calling fellow Republicans. He has a shown that he has a temper. The Maverick sought out positive press coverage and was the medias favorite Republican until he won the nomination. He is just a toned down version of Trump with an impressive military record.

    Each Senator has a ridiculous amount of power to delay nominations and slow down everything. McCain advocates for increased American military power. If he was truly as honorable as you say, he would have stopped everything he could and made as big a fuss as possible until the VA problems were fixed.

    This is the vote for President that I am actually ashamed of.

    • #6
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:33 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  7. Liver Pate Inactive

    • #7
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:33 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  8. Gary Robbins Reagan

    Arizona has given two incredible Statesmen to the United States, Barry Goldwater, and John McCain, who was elected to Barry’s seat when Barry retired. A great article.

    • #8
    • September 20, 2017, at 3:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    So which will be remembered as a greater achievement from McCain? Attacking the 1st Amendment through the campaign finance laws or saving Obamacare?

    • #9
    • September 20, 2017, at 4:18 PM PDT
    • 21 likes
  10. Skyler Coolidge

    Gag.

    • #10
    • September 20, 2017, at 4:19 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  11. Jager Member

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):
    So which will be remembered as a greater achievement from McCain? Attacking the 1st Amendment through the campaign finance laws or saving Obamacare?

    He was one of 2 Senators to oppose the Bush Tax cuts, but no one remembers that. His Obamacare vote will be what he is remembered for only if nothing gets passed. Otherwise I think the attack on the 1st Amendment.

    • #11
    • September 20, 2017, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  12. Albert Nonymoose Inactive

    Now the Republican Party is led by a man who donated to Democrats, promised never to reform entitlements, insisted more than once that we should “take the oil” from the Middle East, and spewed more apostasy in five minutes than most Republicans could manage in a lifetime. Accordingly, we are told that personality is more important than substance.

    Color me unimpressed. He’s not quite the anti-Trump you make him out to be. Before Trump, Senator Maverick was the favorite Republican of Democrats with his “I’m not like them” schtick. He’s always been out for himself, politically. I don’t see much daylight between him and Trump on that count. And if you’re going to list his plaudits, you might want to talk about the less savory parts of his public life. Anyone remember the Keating Five? John McCain is undoubtedly a great American, but a terrible senator.

    • #12
    • September 20, 2017, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  13. Liver Pate Inactive

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used to be the UFC’s biggest adversary in the late 1990s. More than 15 years later, he told UFC lightweight champ Jon Jones on Tuesday that he’d be watching his championship fight with Glover Teixeira on April 26.

    I don’t want to suggest the change in heart had something to do with beer sponsorship rights moving from boxing to the UFC, but…

    • #13
    • September 20, 2017, at 4:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Albert Nonymoose Inactive

    Leonard of Port Maurice (View Comment):

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used to be the UFC’s biggest adversary in the late 1990s. More than 15 years later, he told UFC lightweight champ Jon Jones on Tuesday that he’d be watching his championship fight with Glover Teixeira on April 26.

    I don’t want to suggest the change in heart had something to do with beer sponsorship rights moving from boxing to the UFC, but…

    Yes, funny that.

    • #14
    • September 20, 2017, at 4:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    Short version: Mona Charen cares a lot more about opposing Trump than she does Obamacare or blatantly lying to constituents.

    • #15
    • September 20, 2017, at 5:29 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  16. Skyler Coolidge
    1. Archie Campbell (View Comment):
      John McCain is undoubtedly a great American, but a terrible senator.

    Oh, there’s plenty of room for lots of doubt.

    • #16
    • September 20, 2017, at 6:15 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  17. DocJay Inactive

    I’ll appreciate him if he quits. But he won’t quit because he’s a blatant narcissist.

    His little thumbs down routine was vomit inducing and I am curious if Mona genuinely admires his actions or more his self-aggrandizing Trump oppo schtick.

    • #17
    • September 20, 2017, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 19 likes
  18. Profile Photo Member

    My take is that McCain’s innate recklessness and narcissism (which is right up there with Trump’s) put him in the seat of an A-4. This, in turn, led to his capture by the North Vietnamese. Yes, he was treated brutally and survived, which is no more than one would expect of any red-blooded male (dare I say that?). But McCain’s accidental “heroism” hardly puts him in a league with true military heroes.

    The pity of it is that McCain’s accidental “heroism” enabled his election to Congress. He has stayed there for 34 years thanks to his accidental “heroism” and penchant for garnering publicity.

    I hope that he will be succeeded by a principled Republican who is actually a conservative.

    • #18
    • September 20, 2017, at 8:26 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  19. namlliT noD Member

    Mona Charen: Now the Republican Party is led by a man who donated to Democrats

    McCain actively campaigned for Obama in 2008, both by suspending his campaign, and by declaring, “You have nothing to fear from an Obama presidency.”

    • #19
    • September 21, 2017, at 1:00 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  20. drlorentz Member

    I used to enjoy reading Mrs. Charen’s columns and listening to the NTK podcast. It’s sad to have lost such an intelligent and thoughtful commentator. This is such a shame, especially because it didn’t have to end this way.

    • #20
    • September 21, 2017, at 2:01 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  21. Concretevol Thatcher

    A piece praising John McCain and slamming Trump? This is just trolling at this point. I’m not going to try to find fault with the man’s service record or dispute what it means to be a hero but his recent showing of his ass against republicans over the healthcare bill reinforced that he needs to get out of DC forever.

    • #21
    • September 21, 2017, at 4:11 AM PDT
    • 17 likes
  22. I Walton Member

    Folks here are jumping on Mona for her Trump comments, but those comments were about us. Trump did not run as a conservative, had shown few signs of being a conservative and many of being a progressive, and the party chose him over at least three real conservatives. So her point is very valid. However, President Trump seems to be learning and his appointments demonstrated more conservative instincts than we could have hoped for. Senator McCain has never been a conservative, he was a cold warrior when we needed it but, in contrast to President Trump he doesn’t show much learning. McCain Feingold, was a predictable disaster and demonstrated how little the Senator actually understood about the world those many years ago.

    • #22
    • September 21, 2017, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Curt North Inactive

    McCain seems to have peaked during his military career. As a politician he was early-on involved the the Savings and Loan scandal from the late 80’s as a member of the Keating 5. Remember that one? Go back and read about that, it’s salacious stuff, free trips, “investments” for his wife’s real estate deals, giant campaign donations, very ugly stuff. He later ran a completely dreadful campaign for POTUS where he actually suspended his campaign (no drama there right?) during the “too big to fail” B.S shoved down our throats by Bush 43 and then threw his own VP nominee under the bus. He famously opposes Trump (that’s a 2-way street to be fair) and even went so far as to send a liaison to London to pick up fake Russian documents about Trump paying prostitutes to pee in a bed Obama slept in when in Moscow, you can’t make this stuff up.

    Oh yeah, he blatantly lied to his constituents when running for reelection saying that he was for a wall/fence and enforcement of our border laws, and he called members of the Tea Party “hobbits” on the senate floor, and not in a cute endearing way, but in a nasty, typically McCain way, throwing out insults when nobody is there to fight back. And let’s not forget we have Obama Care today because of his typical diva routine of waiting to the last moment in order to elicit an audible gasp from his Senate colleagues with his dramatic thumbs down vote. Gee what honor, what service to your country, please.

    We all salute his military service, I just wish his public service had ended there. As a politician he has been an utter failure.

    As for Mona, I no longer read or listen, but just check in occasionally to make sure she’s being fact checked when she does her typical assault from the opera box, from the looks of things on this thread we’re having none of it from her and her ilk. Good on ya deplorables!

    • #23
    • September 21, 2017, at 7:00 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  24. Liver Pate Inactive

    Why John McCain voted to save Planned Parenthood and Obamacare

    • #24
    • September 21, 2017, at 7:19 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Liver Pate Inactive

     typical assault from the opera box

    Nicely played.

    • #25
    • September 21, 2017, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. Hang On Member

    The country would have been better if Keating 5 had taken the good senator down. Too bad it didn’t.

    • #26
    • September 21, 2017, at 7:54 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Curt North Inactive

    Hang On (View Comment):
    The country would have been better if Keating 5 had taken the good senator down. Too bad it didn’t.

    Reading about that scandal today it’s a wonder he survived. I wish he had been re-introduced to the private sector after that one.

    • #27
    • September 21, 2017, at 8:11 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Front Seat Cat Member

    John McCain’s state of AZ had 130% increase in healthcare premiums – one of the worst in the country – I am glad his health insurance is covered by whatever the feds give Senators – I can assure you its not Obamacare – if he throws another political wrench in the works regarding the repeal and replace – there will be much more suffering – the Republicans have had this issue on their plates to deal with for a long time and they haven’t done it – it’s appalling what has happened to our country’s healthcare system. Even MD Anderson – the best cancer treatment center in the US doesn’t take Obamacare. No praise here for McCain unless he does something positive in this area.

    • #28
    • September 21, 2017, at 8:34 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  29. Jager Member

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    I am glad his health insurance is covered by whatever the feds give Senators

    Us hobbits and Waco birds need to understand the good health insurance is not for the “little people” only Public Servants deserve this benefit.

    • #29
    • September 21, 2017, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Hang On Member

    Curt North (View Comment):

    As for Mona, I no longer read or listen, but just check in occasionally to make sure she’s being fact checked when she does her typical assault from the opera box, from the looks of things on this thread we’re having none of it from her and her ilk. Good on ya deplorables!

    With Mona, it’s swine before pearls.

    • #30
    • September 21, 2017, at 9:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
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