Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has died at the age of 81. He succumbed to brain cancer today, August 25, 2018 after being diagnosed with glioblastoma.
McCain’s story is well known: a naval aviator in the Vietnam war, he was shot down and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, experiencing unspeakable horrors. Eventually, upon his return, McCain entered politics, where he served Arizona first in the House and then in the Senate.
McCain, throughout most of his early political career, was a moderate, often bucking his own party as they moved further to the right, and earning the reputation as a “maverick”. The nickname (which was that of Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun”) was a nod both to his career as a naval aviator and his independent streak in Congress.
However, as his presidential aspirations grew, he chose to appeal to the growing conservative base and shifted to a more right-wing platform to curry favor with the voters. While it was ultimately successful in securing the Republican nomination in 2008, it was enough (along with his disastrous choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate) to lose the support of those in the middle necessary to win the general election.
McCain’s place in the party shifted over the subsequent years, but he returned to the spotlight with his refusal to support Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election as well as his defiance of the party with his refusal to support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, he regained the respect of many who had felt he had abandoned those moderate views for good. However, he was one of Trump’s first targets early in his campaign, when he declared that “[McCain’s] not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” The fact that this alone wasn’t enough to derail Trump’s campaign, should have been a clue as to the direction the party was taking.
For much of the past two years, John McCain was subjected to enormous disrespect by Donald Trump and his staff. Most notably when White House staffer Kelly Sadler joked about his impending death and the White House refused to apologize. Recently, Trump refused (like a spoiled child) to even mention the Senator’s name while signing the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. While Trump sent a respectful tweet shortly after news of McCain’s death (which was clearly written by someone else), his disgraceful behavior towards the Senator should not be forgotten or forgiven. While most liberals have not agreed with much of McCain’s politics over the past decade, we can respect the man that he was, and his obvious love of America. Rest in Peace, Maverick.
Wendy Luxenburg writes for Palmer Report