Sunday, August 26, 2018 at 2:37 PM

John McCain, War Hero, Political Maverick … Never Trumper, Is Dead

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Remarkably, as I write this, I am watching the breaking news that Neil Simon, the award-winning playwright of such hits as The Odd Couple, just died. He was 91.

But his death makes the following clarification all the more relevant:

A surprising number of readers have inquired why I did not publish commentaries on one or another of the famous people who died recently. … Someone even contacted me today to inquire if I was going to comment on yesterday’s death of ‘Golden Girl’ Rue McClanahan. Yes, forget dying in threes, they’re dying in droves. …

Frankly, the last thing I wanted when I began commenting on the deaths of famous people four years ago was to contribute to our culture’s perverse fascination with celebrities. In fact, I only began commenting on them as a lark to propagate the superstition that the deaths of famous people come in threes.

Therefore, with sincere apologies, I hereby declare that henceforth I shall comment only on the deaths of famous people who have made pioneering or extraordinary contributions to mankind.

(“Post Mortem on Deaths of Famous People Commentaries,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 4, 2010)

Incidentally, the deaths over the past few days of Robin Leach, John McCain, and Neil Simon play into the superstition that famous people die in threes. The problem is that this summer has seen famous people like Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, XXXTentacion, Charles Krauthammer, and Joe Jackson die far more randomly.

That said, media outlets seem intent on providing herd-like, wall-to-wall coverage on the death of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), so much so that it might make Simon’s seem, well, irrelevant. But I readily concede that, based on my own criteria, the death of neither man qualifies for commentary.

Then again, based on objective criteria, McCain’s application to the Naval Academy did not qualify. He had to rely on a legacy admission. To his credit, though, he turned his enrollment there into a launching pad for the wartime heroics that defined his adult life.

No doubt he deserves praise for refusing a legacy offer to jump to the front of the line of POWs the North Vietnamese were releasing from captivity (pursuant to diplomatic negotiations). Perhaps he was making up for accepting that legacy offer to get into the Naval Academy. But there was nothing pioneering about his wartime heroics.

In fact, the heroics McCain displayed as a soldier were commonplace in Vietnam and every other war in US history. More to the point, each war featured countless unsung heroes who not only waited their turn in POW camps while others were released, but died on the battlefield so that others could live.

Meanwhile, the heroics he displayed as a politician pale in comparison to the heroics many white abolitionists and civil rights activists displayed. Enough said?

That is why the exception I am making for this commentary is based solely on my admittedly race-based regard for two defining moments – when McCain not only distinguished himself but showed commendable respect for Barack Obama.

The first happened at a town hall meeting in Minnesota during the 2008 presidential campaign. An old white woman stood to express her aggrieved belief in the right-wing lie about Obama being a closet Muslim:

‘I can’t trust Obama … he’s not uh — he’s an Arab’ – before McCain retook the microphone and replied:

‘No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].’

(Politico, October 10, 2008)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that any other Republican in that situation would have whitewashed that woman’s racist ignorance – either by overlooking what she said or by laughing it off as just one of those things wacky old people say. Of course, we all know Trump would have been all too happy to stoke her racist ignorance.

The second happened during Senate debate just last year on repealing Obamacare, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. It was a moment of reckoning. Every Republican member was being called upon to show party loyalty by voting for a patently flawed bill – the principles of good governance, let alone the welfare of the American people, be damned.

Alas, only three of them had the courage to do the right thing. And McCain did it in the most dramatic and emphatic way possible:

McCain was the third and deciding ‘no’ vote against the Republican repeal and replace effort in the summer, delivering a dramatic thumbs-down on the floor of the Senate just days after returning to Washington after a diagnosis of brain cancer. …

For McCain, the decision is clearly one with his legacy in mind: He wants to do everything he can to restore comity and normalcy to the chamber he has called his work home since 1987.

(CNN, September 22, 2017)

I duly hailed McCain in “Republican ‘War’ to Repeal Obamacare Fails in Spectacular, Humiliating Fashion,” July 29, 2017.

But, as fate would have it, nothing became McCain in public life quite like the way he chose to rebuke President Trump upon leaving it:

People close to Sen. John McCain have told the White House that the ailing Arizona Republican does not want President Donald Trump to attend his funeral. …

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush plan to be eulogists at McCain’s funeral service, which is to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

(NBC News, May 5, 2018)

McCain’s rebuke should make sense to anyone who knows anything about Donald Trump. Indeed, it speaks volumes that the Bush family rebuked him in similar fashion in April when Barbara died. An embarrassed Trump tried to save face back then by tweeting specious blather about his security detail disrupting the funeral if he attended.

Trump seems determined to be the first to alienate his predecessors so much that they all shun him like the plague. Mind you, it would probably suit the congenitally insecure Trump well to complete his entire term without even a phone call, let alone personal contact, with any of them. His tweets certainly make clear that he fears being upstaged by Obama.

(“Trump’s First Year Ends with Government Shutdown,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 20, 2018)

Except that he cannot play the security card in this case. And everyone knows how humiliating it must be for this craven narcissist to have McCain snub him in favor not just of Bush, a fellow Republican, but of Obama, a Democrat.

Of course, the McCains and Bushes are not alone in slighting Trump’s buffoonish pride. After all, Britons find him so odious that hundreds of thousands of them took to the streets last month to protest his visit.

Frankly, they jeered this famous leader of the free world as if he were nothing more than an infamous tin-pot dictator of a banana republic. More to the point, this was the first time in history any ally, let alone America’s closest ally, had so publicly shunned and ridiculed any US president.

And that came on the heels of Prince Harry’s determined intent to snub Trump by not inviting him to his royal wedding last May. The British government prevailed upon Harry to uninvite the Obamas, fearing the unhinged ways a jealous, petty-minded Trump might retaliate. But, ultimately, the shame is on the American people for electing a president who is so odious, he has already been banned from two funerals and a wedding.

In any event, I fear the thin-skinned Trump will either tweet or do something outrageous to ensure that, even on the day of McCain’s state funeral, media focus will still be on him (i.e., Trump).

McCain died yesterday of cancer (the infamous glioblastoma) at his home in Arizona. He was 81.

Farewell, John.

Related commentaries:
post mortem
Obamacare repeal
Trump’s first year
Aretha Franklin

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