“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” – then U.S presidential candidate and five-times draft evader Donald Trump in 2015, speaking of decorated military veteran and U.S. Senator John McCain
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted August 27th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Whether we favoured the politics and policies he championed or not, many of us may agree that a towering figure of a person on this continent passed on this Saturday, August 25th with the death of U.S. Senator John McCain.
John McCain, who died at age 81 from the same kind of brain cancer that took the life, a decade ago, of one of his friends and colleagues, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, was an elder statesman and standard bearer for what was left of the once proud Republic Party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
Unfortunately, in his final years, McCain witnessed the Republican Party he devoted so much of his adult life to morph into the stinking, steaming cauldron of hate-filled white supremacists, neo-Nazis and assorted other crypto-fascists, sociopaths and psychos that it is today.
It is a party that demeans and lashes out at women, at gays, at recent immigrants, at people of colour, at the news media, and even at members of its country’s own justice and intelligence agencies who are deemed, for whatever bogus reason, to be a threat to its selfish interests.
It is also a party that has given comfort to and even ginned up the worst elements of human nature, making large numbers of what Steve Bannon – a card-carrying wrecking ball and nihilist who helped manage Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign – now repeatedly calls “deplorables” feel safe coming out from behind their white sheets or whatever rock they have been hiding under.
You can watch them at Trump rallies and marches, yelling the “n” word at African Americans, or anti-Semitic chants at members of the Jewish American community, or equally vile language at any other individual or group they choose to blame (with more than a little direction and encouragement from Trump himself) for the loss of a job and any other deficits in their lives.
And in recent times, with Trump leading a charge of willing enablers, it has heaped insults and scorn on John McCain, himself.
The party’s war against McCain captured big headlines three years ago, with Trump, who managed to clinch five draft deferments during the War in Vietnam (probably with the help of his rich daddy), insisting that McCain is “not a war hero” for spending five years in a Vietnamese prison for having his fighter plane shot down during a bombing mission.
It meant not a whit to Trump and his deplorables that McCain endured torture during his imprisonment and refused opportunities to be released for “merciful” reasons (his father was a military commandeering during the Vietnam War and the then North Vietnamese government was looking to use McCain as a propaganda tool) until other Americans being held in the same prison were released with him.
Then as recently as this August, while McCain was close to death and just days before his family’s announcement that he was being taken off treatment, Trump chose to not even mention McCain’s name during a visit to Fort Drum, a military site in upstate New york to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. He even managed to leave his name out during a mention of the bill’s title.
Yet in the wake of these insults and so many others in between, none of the leaders of the Republican Party, including Congressional leader Paul Ryan, Senatorial leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President, showed one moment of the courage and decency McCain has shown through most of his life to stand up for him.
The words of condolence and tribute they have offered since McCain’s death this August 25th seem cheap, hollow and hypocritical now, and are certainly too late to do this last of the party’s fallen lions much good.
And what ‘crimes’ did John McCain commit that made him such an enemy of Trump and the party?
Among them was his brief return to the Senate floor last year from his home in Arkansas, where he was receiving treatment for his tumour, to deliver – with a gesture of thumbs down watched around the world – a deciding vote that prevented Trump and company from completely killing the Affordable Care Act or ‘Obamacare’, as opponents of affordable health care for all (publicly paid for or not) in the United States spittingly call it.
There was also a statement McCain released from his sick bed this summer, slamming Trump for failing to even mention Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections during a summit he held with this Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Failure to raise the election meddling was a “tragic mistake,” stated McCain, constituting what he went on to conclude was “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Without question, Trump’s base of deplorables, who have already proven that they will goose step through the gates of hell with him if that’s what it takes to get their tax cuts and anti-abortion judges on the Supreme Court, and build that damn wall, believe McCain’s refusal to grovel at the orange-haired monster’s feet justify the sliming he received, even as he lay dying.
To the rest of the world, I would hope, it makes Trump and his army of enablers, stooges and sycophants, all the more bankrupt in the decency department, and small.
Stephen Schmidt, who worked for McCain as a strategist during his 2008 presidential campaign and quit the Republican Party this June when none of its leaders showed the courage to condemn Trump’s policy of ripping young children away from their parents seeking refugee status at the Mexican border, declared that its current leaders had fallen to “the party of Trump – corrupt, indecent and immoral.”
“Every one of these complicit leaders will carry this shame through history,’ Schmidt said. “There legacies will be ones of well-earned ignominy. They have disgraced their country and brought dishonour to the party of Lincoln.”
Schmidt is so right in his remarks that there is only this left to say today about the Republican Party in the United States.
When John McCain died this past August 25th, any and all remnants of the Republic Party that could once rightfully be proud of having Abraham Lincoln as a leader, died with him.
Here is one of the more decent moments in politics on this continent in the last decade or so when, during a town hall John McCain held during his 2008 presidential campaign, he answered a woman who called his opponent Barack Obama “an Arab”, in a derogatory way, and claimed he wasn’t born in the United States. To listen and hear it, click on the following screen –
When John McCain received his country’s Liberal Medal from the U.S. National Constitution Centre last year, he spoke about populists and demagogues and their politics of scapegoating without mentioning Trump by name. His words ring ever more true today. Listen and watch it by clicking on –
To read a detailed obituary on John McCain from The Boston Globe, click on – https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2018/08/25/senator-john-mccain-dies/WGaVio8lkcjSmVpUl0T1dJ/story.html?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter .
To watch Trump respond to reporters’ questions in the White House this August 27th about the death of John McCain, click on –
.NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .