Like all heroes, the Arizona senator and ex-POW had his flaws. But the GOP ‘maverick’ served as a beacon in a troubling time: Our view
John McCain, the senator from Arizona who died Saturday of brain cancer, spent a lifetime making his country proud. As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he endured ongoing torture and confinement rather than accept an offer to be released before his fellow prisoners. As a member of Congress, he unflinchingly stood for a strong military and an America engaged in world affairs.
McCain was principled and dignified. He could fight hard for what he believed in, something that often meant robust troop levels in the world’s hot spots. But he could also form alliances across party lines and forgive old enemies. He was one of the first lawmakers to advocate normalized relations with the same Vietnamese government that had held him captive for more than five years — and for years he worked closely with Democratic Sen. John Kerry, a fellow Vietnam veteran who opposed the war, to achieve the thaw.
More recently, McCain made a name for himself with a new generation of Americans by casting the deciding vote against a cruel and ill-conceived plan to strip tens of millions of Americans of their health coverage. He said at the time that the hasty, partisan process showed his beloved Senate had lost its way. In his last book, he made clear that under President Trump, America, too, has lost its way.
Like all heroes, McCain had his flaws. He could be temperamental. He reacted erratically to the 2008 financial crisis. His petulant decision to name the utterly unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate in that year’s presidential race was, he admitted in his book, a mistake. And his 2010 Senate re-election campaign was a demeaning exercise in renouncing previous positions to fend off a primary challenge from the right.
But as both a Navy aviator and lawmaker, he was a survivor and an embodiment of many of the ideals that make America great.
Sadly, his death serves as an almost perfect metaphor for the death of the old Republican Party, the one personified in the past 100-plus years by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. It was a party that believed, like McCain, that the United States should stand for the advance of freedom abroad and the rule of law at home. It was confident that American commerce could compete with anyone, and that immigration was essential to a growing nation.
In remarkably short order, that party has been turned into a Donald Trump cheering section. It has adopted Trump’s previously un-Republican positions on trade, immigration and authoritarianism, while enabling his childish outbursts and ethical outrages.
In short, today’s GOP is woefully lacking in character and pragmatism, the very McCain hallmarks that made him such an invaluable senator and statesman. To say he will be missed hardly conveys the void his passing leaves. He had the gravity to serve as a beacon in a troubling time, to remind his country and his party of genuine American greatness.
We need more leaders to show us true north. McCain left us a shining example worth following.
If you can’t see this reader poll, please refresh your page.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2BKrhmn