Scoot: Hate for McCain following his death tells us a lot about America

August 27, 2018 - 11:00 am

Reaction to the passing of Senator John McCain confirmed the depth of America’s great political divide.  Death has a way to bringing people together by inviting a reflection of the good side of a person.  In death, there is often the tendency to think more about the good a person contributed than the bad, but that has not been the case in the wake of Senator John McCain’s death over the weekend.

Facebook posts to the news that Senator McCain had passed away following his 18 month battle with brain cancer seemed more fitting for a war criminal than a war hero. Shot down over Vietnam, John McCain was captured by the enemy and was tortured as a P.O.W. for nearly 6 years.  When the North Vietnamese military learned that McCain’s father was an admiral in the Pacific, as a propaganda move they offered to release McCain.  McCain refused to be released unless all of the men he was captured with were also released.  As a result, McCain endured years of torture.

John McCain’s heroic military history was not as important as his position as a moderate Republican, one who had the courage to stand up and disagree with his own party.  That attitude earned John McCain the nickname, “Maverick.”  McCain also earned the derogatory nickname, “RINO” (Republican in name only).

Accentuating the hate that now guides our political debates is the reality that, for many, John McCain was seen more as a political traitor than a war hero.  This proves that strict adherence to political ideology trumps any other judgment of a person and that explains why we are so divided.

There is a very powerful message that could rise from the passing of Senator McCain.  During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, John McCain was actually booed at a town hall meeting when he corrected a female McCain supporter who tried to say that McCain’s opponent, Barack Obama, could not be trusted and that “he’s an Arab.”  She tried to continue to say about Obama, “He’s not…” and that’s when McCain interrupted her and said, “No, ma’am. He (Obama) is a decent family man and a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about.  He’s no [an Arab>.”  

Many in the audience booed McCain. 

At that point, the McCain campaign was concerned that McCain’s defense of Barack Obama as a “decent family man and citizen” did not satisfy the blood-thirsty people who wanted to bash a candidate beyond the boundaries of politics.  I admired John McCain for that, but many did not and McCain lost the election.  But it would be wrong to say that McCain lost the election because of his tendencies to be fair; there were many factors that led to Obama’s victory in 2008.

In defeat, John McCain was both a “Maverick” and a “RINO.”  Here is part of McCain’s concession speech to the country:

Sen. Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was highly critical of Senator McCain.  During an interview when McCain’s name came up, Trump dismissed McCain’s war record by saying that he more respected those soldiers who did not get captured.  Trump, of course, would never have been captured himself because he had numerous excuses to get out of being drafted.

As president, Trump continued his harsh attitude toward McCain because McCain refused to be a GOP lap dog.  The tweet from President Trump following McCain’s passing was a strong gesture to the Trump base:

The tweet only expressed interest in McCain’s family, and there was an obvious void of mentioning anything about McCain himself.

Before he died, John McCain asked that President Trump not be invited to his funeral and that Democrats former President Obama and VP Biden, along with former President George W. Bush, deliver the eulogies at McCain’s funeral.

My hope is that the focus on the type of person John McCain was in his service to this country - both as a soldier and a politician - will bring to light a different approach to political discourse.

The two nicknames John McCain earned, “Maverick” and “RINO,” should not be nicknames distinguishing a politician that goes against the partisan trend - those nicknames should represent the norm in politics rather than the acceptation.

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