Favorite

McCain's legacy 

Contemplating the heroic life of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), it was easy to think of him as the last true Republican — a politician who thought it his duty to elevate country over party. Elsewhere, hyper-partisanship and cowardice have become the norm in today's GOP, scared to death of Fox News bluster and President Trump's Twitter feed.

As Hillary Clinton recently explained to Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press," McCain sought personal alliances with Democrats because he wanted the U.S. Senate to function as the Constitution intended. "He knew that the Senate couldn't work if we didn't work together," Clinton said. "I think it was heartbreaking to him that — as he said in the speech he gave right before he voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act — that we need to cooperate. ... He was so typically John in those remarks because he said, 'Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on radio and TV and the internet. To the hell with them, they don't want anything done for the public good.' He really understood in the marrow of his bones what it meant to be an American and how important it was for us to, yes, disagree and differ. But at the end of the day to come together, to work together, to trust each other to get things done."

Indeed, a farewell message from McCain to his Arizona constituents emphasized exactly that: "We are citizens of the world's greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. ... 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."

Meanwhile, the wall-builder sulked in his tent like a counterfeit Achilles, the Wall Street Journal reported, because he thought the national outpouring of grief over McCain's death was "over-the-top and more befitting a president." It took the cajolery of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the protests of the VFW and American Legion to persuade Trump to put aside his jealousy of a dead man and lower the White House flag to half-mast for an American hero.

Has there ever been a more Trumpian moment?

I certainly never voted for McCain, nor ever would. Except in retrospect — Vietnam, Iraq — the man seemed never to see a war he didn't like. Maybe he was half-joking when went around singing "Bomb, bomb, Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann." But only half.

McCain could also be something of a showman. His dramatic vote to save Obamacare rescued health insurance coverage for millions, and he milked the moment for everything that was in it.

Most of the time, however, he was a reliably partisan Republican, voting enthusiastically for the very Supreme Court justices whose Citizens United verdict dismantled McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms and handed the U.S. government over to the highest bidder.

McCain was a real piece of work: passionate, morally and physically brave. He laughed, and made others laugh, more than anybody in Washington. Some of his jokes could be pointed. In a 2008 presidential debate with Barack Obama, he made a sly reference to President George W. Bush's naive remark about seeing Vladimir Putin's soul: "I looked in Mr. Putin's eyes and I saw three letters — a K, a G and B."

His pointed rebuke of attempts to race-bait Obama or to participate in the shameful "Birther" smear that Trump subsequently embraced may have cost him his shot at the presidency. McCain preferred to keep his honor.

For all of that, sometimes the nation needs a warrior, and McCain was definitely that. The Washington Post's conservative columnist Max Boot got it exactly right: "Trump hated McCain and insulted him at every turn because McCain was everything Trump is not — and everything that we need in our politics today but tragically lack." Even so, if you keep your eyes open, you can see that American ideals of duty and honor haven't succumbed to partisan rancor everywhere. Consider Paula Duncan, an outspoken Trump supporter and juror in the Paul Manafort trial who explained to Fox News that despite her suspicion of special counsel Robert Mueller's motives, the evidence against Donald Trump's former campaign manager was "overwhelming."

"Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me. ... I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn't," she explained. Duncan wants people to understand that it wasn't even a close call. But for one flaky juror, Manafort would have been convicted on all 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud.

Duncan did her civic duty proudly, driving to the courthouse every day in her "Make American Great Again" ball cap, although she now wishes Trump would change the slogan to "Make America Kind Again."

Fat chance of that.

Even so, Paula Duncan is a great American.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • The mob

    To hear some people tell it, America stands at the edge of a dangerous precipice. No less an authority than Donald J. Trump, the nation's leading exponent of racial grievance theory, fears for the safety of the republic.
    • Oct 18, 2018
  • Outrage politics

    For somebody like me, the Major League Baseball playoffs serve as a splendid diversion from the squalor of partisan politics. For serious fans, the drama of an October Red Sox-Yankees series provides the kind of emotional release others derive from a night at the symphony or a hike through a national park.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Starr legacy

    Pity the poor white man. He can't catch a break in this country. The nation's capital in particular is filled with persecuted Republican dudes crying woe. No less an authority on male victimization than Donald Trump Jr. complains that he fears for his young sons. In Washington, see, all it takes is a mouthy porn star, a talkative Playmate or an open microphone to ruin a man's reputation.
    • Oct 4, 2018
  • More »

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • The mob

    To hear some people tell it, America stands at the edge of a dangerous precipice. No less an authority than Donald J. Trump, the nation's leading exponent of racial grievance theory, fears for the safety of the republic.
    • Oct 18, 2018
  • Outrage politics

    For somebody like me, the Major League Baseball playoffs serve as a splendid diversion from the squalor of partisan politics. For serious fans, the drama of an October Red Sox-Yankees series provides the kind of emotional release others derive from a night at the symphony or a hike through a national park.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Starr legacy

    Pity the poor white man. He can't catch a break in this country. The nation's capital in particular is filled with persecuted Republican dudes crying woe. No less an authority on male victimization than Donald Trump Jr. complains that he fears for his young sons. In Washington, see, all it takes is a mouthy porn star, a talkative Playmate or an open microphone to ruin a man's reputation.
    • Oct 4, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • In the news. Or not.

    Some recent news, not all fit for immediate print in the state's largest newspaper.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The mob

    • Steven: A fish rots from the head down: https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/arch… That's your leader urging violence. Not…

    • on October 19, 2018
  • Re: In the news. Or not.

    • Thanks AT.

    • on October 19, 2018
  • Re: The mob

    • MY dearest, delusional Kate, I didn't say Trump wasn't a liar, or was honest, but…

    • on October 18, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation