Because poison packaged as populism is a guilty pleasure, I tuned in to the local affiliate of Corporate GOP Radio this morning to learn why the late Sen. John McCain should not be honored as a war hero, statesman and patriot.
It didn’t take long.
An especially vexed caller — like most McCain critics — acknowledged the man’s service as a Navy pilot and POW, but found a way to paint McCain as a traitor for refusing to recognize President Trump as King of America. When McCain was faced with his greatest moral challenge, the caller said, he gave an historic thumbs-down to the GOP repeal of Obamacare.
Never mind that Republicans — with a six-year head start — had devised no alternative to the Affordable Care Act. McCain should have voted in lockstep with his party, despite its irresponsible plunge into the unknown and indefensible, the caller said.
To the surprise of no one paying attention, McCain voted his conscience. Tweaking Trump was a welcome bonus. He did what was Right for America, not his poll numbers. McCain wasn’t always as independent as the current tempest of testimonials make him out to be, but when given the option of comfort or pain, McCain chose the latter, most often to the benefit of others who had no choice in the matter.
McCain’s greatest moral challenge came during his years as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton. He was the son and grandson of four-star Navy admirals. His royal lineage led the Vietnamese to offer him early release. McCain refused to leave until his fellow prisoners were sent home. He had a pass, but chose to suffer with his countrymen rather than sell out the ideals he volunteered to defend.
He did so at his immense self-expense. Despite his blue blood, John McCain never forgot that we all bleed red. He did many things in his political career that I can’t forgive (Keating Five, Iraq War, Sarah Palin), but none of these lapses can eclipse his selflessness when choosing prolonged agony over immediate relief.
John McCain sacrificed himself in service to others. Many Americans aspire to such unfettered altruism. Few of us ever come close to meeting that standard. Some of us don’t even try, ridiculing those who do who sacrifice for others as losers who don’t understand what Makes America Great.
The caller who damned McCain for his Obamacare vote said Trump is “the greatest president since George Washington.” Better than Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. That’s the kind of nonsense we sane folks are up against these dark days.
In the end, John McCain was a flawed servant to a greater cause, just like any virtuous human being committed to making a difference. I’ll take that over a selfish, lying coward who used his father’s money to buy five deferments to avoid service in Vietnam and seed an empire built at the expense of others.