What was it about John McCain that made him stick in our hearts and minds? That’s a tough question to answer. Here’s an attempt. Character.
Let’s first get the war hero thing out of the way. Yes, he was a war hero, even though ‘Nam technically was not a war. But he wasn’t a war hero because he was taken prisoner and tortured. Unimaginably unbearable as that suffering might have been, he is a war hero for an entirely different reason.
As an officer, he would not accept an offer of early freedom while his men remained behind. That’s what a POW officer is supposed to do. And that’s what he did. He wasn’t the only officer to follow that path, just the best-known. And because he did as he should, he truly IS a hero.
He was kind of a loose cannon at Annapolis and that left him near the bottom of his graduating class and kept him as a captain when his father and grandfather each were admirals. (A Navy captain is equivalent to colonel in the other branches of the service.)
But he knew how to launch a Skyhawk from an aircraft carrier. And he knew what to do when the North Vietnamese shot it down.
Then there’s the “maverick” thing. He was no maverick, he was just an ordinary Republican. He favored small government and low taxes. But he also favored social programs that worked, rejected those that didn’t and was willing to work with those both more conservative and those who were Democrats. He understood “nation of laws not nation of men.”
At the time he started in politics, that was a normal Republican. It no longer is.
While he clung to life as a POW, he had a political death wish. It took the form of Sarah Palin, a political nothing with a cartoon brain, cartoon values and no possibility of getting elected.
McCain/Palin didn’t stand a chance against Obama/Biden. Probably no one did.
As a Republican candidate for president, in an era when the Republican Party had already begun its march into the cesspool, McCain found himself defending his opponent. Can you imagine that happening today?
Two well known examples: One where he deflected someone who dissed Obama. McCain stood up for his opponent’s … character.
The other was when some ditzy old bat got up at a town hall meeting in Nowhere, Minnesota, and said she couldn’t trust Obama because “...he is an Arab.”
Now, in death, they’re all hitching their wagons to McCain’s star as they did with Ted Kennedy who died of the same kind of cancer nine years ago.
Everyone loved Teddy at the end. Everyone loves McCain today. Even those who would hide their watches when either man asked for the time.
At the end of his career in the Senate, McCain took on trump and the trumpets. He remained mostly civil in his criticism in public. But he didn’t want trump to attend his funeral. Here’s hoping that wish comes true. It’s not much to ask. But he certainly earned it.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday: A birthday bash for Leonard Bernstein. A bash. Really.
© WJR 2018