Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain: The last ‘good’ Republican

US Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
We all knew that US Senator John McCain was nearing the end of his life, but it’s still sad that it has now arrived, and he has died. As a (very) Liberal Democrat in US politics (and Centre-Left in general), I often disagreed with Senator McCain, so I never considered voting for him in 2008. However, I never—ever—had any reason to doubt his patriotism, or question his commitment to the security of the US, or his devotion to the rule of law and bipartisan politics. His integrity was clear to see, even when I deeply disagreed with him.

Because of that, John McCain was what I call “the last good Republican,” a politician I could disagree with passionately and still respect, and also know him to be a good man, even when he frustrated me. There are few in the US Congress about whom anything remotely similar could be said.

There were times I was harshly critical of him, such as during the 2008 campaign and many times afterward when he did or said something I strongly objected to, especially his opposition to repeal of the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban of LGBT people serving in the US military. In recent years I was particularly frustrated by him, and frequently wondered aloud where the old McCain had gone.

But there were also times I praised him, like for his concession speech in 2008, which was gracious. I also noted that if that John McCain had been the candidate, things might have been different. The most recent time was just last month when he condemned the performance and Putin-worship the current occupant of the White House displayed in Helsinki.

I think the biggest single mistake he made was in selecting “Caribou Barbie”, the former half-term governor of Alaska, as his running mate in 2008. That unleashed the Republican Party’s growing Idiocracy onto the nation, something that’s only gotten worse in the decade since then.

What all this means is that John McCain was no saint, but no politician is. I disagreed with him far more than I ever agreed with him, but I did agree a few times. Maybe he would have been better and done better if not for his disease.

The Left and the Right both criticised him for their own ideological reasons, and I’m well aware of what they said over the years. I agreed with one side or the other a few times over the years, at least in part, and put aside their politically motivated over-simplifications.

So, I’m no fan of McCain, but neither was I an intractable enemy. He was unlike any other Republican currently serving in the US Congress because of his devotion to the rule of law, the US Constitution, and to bipartisanship, all of which modern Republican politicians reject. Above all, whether I agreed with him or not, I believe he did try to put the country first, not his party, and not his own financial interests. If only Republican politicians could be at least a little bit like that.

In September last year, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him how he’d like to be remembered. He said: “He served his country. And not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And, I hope, we could add, honorably.” That’s the perfect eulogy. I just wish more US politicians of both parties could be seen the same way.

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