John McCain, Martyr

Martyr. Yes, that’s what I said. John McCain was a martyr. Often defined as “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs,” John McCain was a martyr. McCain died for America, representing nearly all Americans, and inviting us all to be Americans. As Jake Tapper said today, “Washington needs McCain more than ever.” Indeed, McCain (August 29, 1936 – August 25, 2018) is what America needs at this point in time.

In death, we are often absolved of our sins. Was John McCain perfect, no. Certainly not. And neither am I. McCain’s own epitaph about himself was: “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, could add, honorably.”

McCain, well-known as a prisoner-of-war during the Vietnam Conflict, dated while married to another woman. Later, McCain became embroiled in the Keating Five scandal. I mention this not as a mark against his integrity, but as an acknowledgment of his humanity. What good is a perfect man in this world of imperfection? The world needs real role models, not characters of fantastical storyland.

McCain resurrected himself as “The Maverick” of the Straight Talk Express in the 2000 Election. Losing to George W. Bush in the Republican primary for President of the United States, McCain returned to the U.S. Senate as an elder statesman of the party, and of the Senate. In 2008, the loyal party member tried again for the presidency.

McCain was magnanimous. He was the definition of magnanimous. Yes, as Carla Herreria pointed out, the campaign offered mixed signals and, ultimately, that is the responsibility of the top-of-the-ticket. But, in light of the partisan maelstrom since 1988, McCain’s campaign stands out as different. On October 10, 2008, McCain defended, not Barrack Obama, but America. Herreria correctly points out McCain could have done more, but he did more than any other candidate did. We can all do more. Always.

My own John McCain story is that he almost knocked me over in a narrow hallway beneath the capital. It was 1994, and I was an intern for Jack Reed in the House of Representatives. I was taking a shortcut by going down into the deep basements with no tourists to then get to the other side of the capital and up the staircase to the Senate. There was a filing cabinet in the hallway as maintenance was cleaning out one of the small offices. Senator McCain and I were the same distance from the gap and walking about at the same pace. Neither one of us slowed down so we hit the gap at the same time and then banged shoulders without saying a word to each other.

I’m pretty sure that I could have done more. I’m pretty sure I could have stepped out of the way of a Vietnam war veteran, former Prisoner-of-War, and Member of Congress.

There is a reason that U.S. Senator John Sidney McCain (R-AZ) has asked U.S. President George W. Bush and U.S. President Barrack H. Obama to eulogize him. McCain gracefully lost elections to both men, yet served loyally despite his personal defeat. McCain put country over politics.

When Max Boot, Jake Tapper, and others across the political spectrum too eulogize McCain, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that McCain is remembered in the vacuum of history. No, we all know that McCain is being remembered within the context of Donald J. Trump. Lloyd Benson may have been speaking to Dan Quayle, but the words are just as applicable to President Trump: “I knew John McCain. John McCain was my friend. Mr. President, you’re no John McCain.”

Few of us will ever be a John McCain.

As diehard supporters of Donald Trump have echoed about McCain, McCain was just a P.O.W.; Trump likes “people who weren’t captured” (July 18, 2015). On Obamacare, McCain will always be remembered, derisively or heroically, as the vote that saved the Affordable Care Act. The Maverick had struck again.

But he wasn’t finished. In his autobiography, McCain lamented choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain was always better than the low-brow, crowd-pleasing photogenic Governor of Alaska. The Maverick had struck again.

And, none of that matters.

What matters is that Cindy McCain has lost a husband. Douglas McCain, Andrew McCain, Sidney McCain, Meghan McCain, John Sidney McCain IV, James McCain, and Bridget McCain have lost a father. That’s what matters. Our country lost a leader, a rare independent voice these days, but who are we to steal a parent from his children.

McCain matters. He will be missed as Max Boot, and so many others have mentioned. But when we remember McCain, I think it is more a rejection of Trumpism, than an embracement of the senior U.S. Senator from Arizona.

Country first.

Rest in Peace, Senator McCain.


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