They say artists become famous only after they’re dead. Politicians, it seems, become canonized. In the tradition that scoured for the good in Richard Nixon after his death, Hawai‘i’s U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono have lined up to praise the late Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) following his death on Sunday Aug. 25 from brain cancer.
“We mourn the passing of a great American and human being, John McCain.” Hirono said in a statement. “He fought many battles, met many extraordinary challenges, and faced the end with the courage he exemplified throughout his life. And yet, the end came too soon.
“Much will be said and written about John McCain over the days and months ahead, all paying tribute to this grand patriot. All of us who had the privilege of serving with Senator McCain have our personal stories and memories. He was my chairman and I will miss him.”
Schatz made a shorter statement that hinted at the divisiveness plaguing America, saying, “We lost a hero at a time when we need them. We lost a statesman when there are so few around. His was a life of service and a life well lived. May his memory be a blessing.”
Senator Schatz followed with another tribute days later, in support of a resolution to rename the Russell Senate Office Building in honor of McCain.
“With the death of Senator McCain, the Senate has lost a giant. He may have represented the people of Arizona, but in doing so, he changed the course of the world,” said Senator Schatz. “He was the true north of the United State [sic] Senate. He cared deeply about relationships between members of both parties, about legislating, and about finding a way to govern. And while he may be gone, we do not need to forget the lessons and lectures of Senator McCain. He is an example for us to follow. And that is as true today as it was any day of his 32 years of service to the Senate.”
The true north of the United States Senate? I’d throw away any compass that leads to Sarah Palin. This guy was a war-hawk who’d land missiles and destabilize governments wherever there was an excuse, then fund it with a tax bill that cut social services enough to make sure his rich kids get perks. After his dramatic return to the senate after surgery to give a thumbs down to the GOP’s proposed Obamacare repeal, McCain earned cred as a “maverick” but he later voted to repeal the individual mandate as part of the Republican tax bill. The loss of the individual mandate was projected to leave millions uninsured – supposedly the same reason McCain opposed the original GOP plan to scrap the Affordable Care Act. Maverick indeed.
But in reality I’m about as interested in debating McCain’s entire career as I am in discussing the ethics of Kurt Cobain’s heroin use. It doesn’t seem most politicians are interested in re-living McCain’s decisions either. In retrospect we don’t want to talk ill of the dead. We search for the admirable pieces of their character, and want to replay the hits that have lasting influence.
So, here’s a hit from McCain that still deserves some play. In response to President Trump’s July press conference with Putin, Senator McCain issued a statement:
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” he said. “Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”
Sounds like a classic as long as we’re kept waiting. Unfortunately, that’s probably going to be a while.
Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore