Senator John McCain passed away recently, succumbing to the brain tumor he had been fighting for some time.
The brain cancer that killed McCain is similar to the one that ended the life of my brother when his only child was a year old. Senator McCain was also a veteran and former POW with an inspiring story retold in books and movies, not to mention being referenced countless times. That is a very important part of his legacy but he was released as POW around 45 years ago when I was a baby, so my impression of McCain has more to do with what happened afterward.
To be blunt, I am no fan of John McCain. I maintain that my vote for McCain in 2008 remains the one vote I cast that I am embarrassed to admit. It was also the last vote I will ever cast just because someone has an “R” instead of a “D” after their name. While I appreciate the service of each and every man and woman that has served in the U.S. military, in no way does ones status as a veteran or even a POW provide amnesty for their actions afterward. That didn’t stop the inevitable angry backlash on social media when I or anybody else criticized McCain, as I often did, a backlash that usually was in all caps and went something like this “JOHN MCCAIN WAS A WAR HERO AND YOU SHUT YOUR FILTHY MOUTH!”. For many people, ironically mainly Republicans, McCain was absolutely off limits for any criticism, no matter what the topic. But you can’t spend more than three decades in the House and Senate without leaving behind a legacy that is independent of your military service.
McCain’s main legacy in the Senate is as a warmonger. He has compiled a pretty lengthy list of wars he either supported or pushed for. Pat Buchanan calls him the interventionist leader in Congress. He didn’t mean it as a compliment. At seemingly every turn McCain was pushing for the U.S. to intervene militarily around the world, faithfully parroted by his little buddy Lindsey Graham. There never seemed to be a potential war that McCain didn’t support. One would think someone so intimately familiar with the horror of war would be less eager to send young American men and women to kill and maim, and be killed and maimed in return.
He was also a part of the Keating Five scandal. Not to mention the rather sordid story of his cheating on his wife, the wife who raised his children while he was a prisoner of war, culminating in divorcing his wife of 14 years and marrying a woman he had been carrying on an affair with, 25 year old Cindy Hensley (McCain was 17 years older, 43 at the time of their marriage). He ran for President twice and was the Republican nominee in 2008 where he proceeded to run an awful campaign that ended with his trouncing at the hands of Barack Obama, an utterly unaccomplished candidate that should have been an easy win for the GOP in 2008. It is not a stretch to say that McCain was one of my least favorite Republican politicians.
Since his death, McCain has been breathlessly eulogized in the media. The same media that scorched McCain publicly when he was running against Obama is now praising him effusively not because they liked his politics or thought he was a great guy. They are lauding him for two big reasons.
First, McCain is benefiting from the media’s collective Trump Derangement Syndrome. McCain and Trump pretty clearly loathed each other and McCain was quick to do whatever he could to undermine Trump. In this political climate, anyone that dislikes Trump and is in turn disliked by Trump is a hero to the media.
The second reason is that in spite of his undeserved reputation as a “maverick” McCain was always a defender of the state. He was part of the Washington establishment and thus for the media was one of their own. Tom Woods puts it well in his essay What the McCain Eulogies Tell Us About the Media and the Regime. Woods writes:
McCain loved the regime and the empire. At no time did he adopt a position that the New York Times or the Washington Post would consider a fundamental attack on the state.
And that is why they love him. He played by their rules.
McCain was a man of the state, in every fiber of his being. That is why they cheer him.
What made McCain a “maverick” was that he sometimes bucked his own party to join Democrats which of course benefited the establishment and the state. So yeah the media was mean to him when he mincingly ran against Obama but once that was over he was back to being one of their favorite Republicans.
McCain also seemed to be a vindictive, petty man. There is credible evidence that McCain was involved in using the IRS to target conservative groups. He was involved in the transmission of the “Steele dossier“. More recently he won praise from liberals and the media for refusing to vote for a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, thus leaving it intact, in what can only be seen as a petty decision done to embarrass President Trump. Senator McCain and President Trump obviously didn’t like one another. In 2015 Trump mocked McCain’s POW time and his subsequent designation as a war hero by saying “He’s not a ‘war hero,’” Trump responded. “He’s a ‘war hero’ because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you.”. Well that was a tasteless thing to say, especially from someone who avoided serving in Vietnam, but it was a slight that colored McCain’s political career in the Trump administration. He never let it go and was willing to screw over the GOP and the country in his anger over a slight against his military service. McCain was also a huge advocate of massive immigration, including a form of amnesty for illegals, so he and Trump obviously were in conflict on that was well. This rivalry didn’t end with his death.
In his farewell letter, Senator McCain took the time to take an obvious shot at President Trump from beyond the grave, emphasis mine: “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.” What kind of petty, vindictive man incorporates a political jab at someone he thinks, with reason, had slighted him in life with his posthumous letter? You are near death but your anger against Trump leads you to poke at him one last time? This is the same John McCain who ran a campaign ad in 2010 to “build the danged fence“. I guess a border “fence” is good, a “wall” is bad.
McCain also took another thinly veiled jab at Trump with this statement: “We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil.” The shot at “blood and soil” nationalism is likewise predictable coming from someone who was part of the “Gang Of Eight“, a group of Senators that pushed amnesty for illegals as well as provisions for more immigration, a cause that McCain never seemed to tire of along with his fellow Gang of Eight Senators like Chuck Schumer.
But perhaps just as grating to me was his obsequiousness in his farewell letter towards Barack Obama:
Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.
Maybe if McCain hadn’t been so starry-eyed about Obama he would have stood a better chance of defeating him, and this could have saved us the spectacle of Senator McCain backstabbing Sarah Palin and blaming her in part for his loss. Just earlier this year McCain bemoaned not choosing Joe Lieberman as his running mate:
While he continues to defend Ms. Palin’s performance, Mr. McCain uses the documentary and the book to unburden himself about not selecting Mr. Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent, as his running mate.
He recalls that his advisers warned him that picking a vice-presidential candidate who caucused with Democrats and supported abortion rights would divide Republicans and doom his chances.
“It was sound advice that I could reason for myself,” he writes. “But my gut told me to ignore it and I wish I had.”
I am no Sarah Palin fan but she was the only interesting thing going on in McCain’s campaign. I recall well watching her convention speech live. It was electrifying. It energized the party in a way McCain had utterly failed to do. As many others have pointed out, it was the convention speech of Palin that finally put McCain ahead of Obama in September of 2008, a lead that quickly evaporated because was such an awful candidate. McCain was like so many other Republicans. They don’t fear a socialist state or the downfall of America. What they fear the most is being called a racist.
So while my sympathies are with the McCain family and I recognize his military service, I maintain that as a public figure John McCain was a disaster and as a human being he was far from being a maverick, and was instead just a particularly vindictive tool of the state. I will not miss him being in the U.S. Senate, thwarting conservative proposals and endlessly rattling his saber on behalf of the Deep State and the military-industrial complex.