I am stepping away from what is supposed to be a short vacation to offer this one observation about the passing of Senator McCain and the encomiums that are being widely offered in memory of his military and political career.
I had many political disagreements with Senator McCain over the years, often about vitally important issues. There will be time enough to explore those. I also sometimes took issue with the narrative that surrounded his political career. But there are precious few politicians who do not curate their image and story, and there was a lot of substance behind Senator McCain’s image.
I do not care right now whether Senator McCain sometimes, or even often, fell short of the ideals that people are now invoking to celebrate his memory. Let us remember him at his best, as we all hope to be remembered. What I do care about is whether the people invoking those ideals actually believe in them.
John McCain was a patriot. He loved the United States. And I believe he always sought to defend this country as best he could, even if sometimes imperfectly. Let us talk now about patriotism — true patriotism. Let us talk now about deep commitment to the ideals of democracy, decency, and public service that people are now invoking in praise of the Senator. Let us ask who among us — and particularly, who among those singing his praises the loudest — is failing to defend those same vital principles.
The United States is under attack by a hostile foreign power. Our democracy was assaulted in 2016 and is being assaulted still. And the Oval Office is occupied by a man who has contempt for the idea of public service, who has no love of country and no commitment to others, who has surrounded himself with thugs and mobsters, and who cares nothing for anyone or anything but himself. The current occupant of the presidency is the antithesis of everything that Senator McCain is celebrated for. Whether Senator McCain deserves every piece of praise is not the issue — let us remember him generously. The issue is the members of that chorus of praise who are actively working to undermine those very principles by supporting and apologizing for and giving cover to the systematic attacks on the rule of law, the national interest, and basic human decency that are the daily fare of this appalling administration.
Make space for the celebrations of Senator McCain. There will be time enough to debate the details of his long record of public service. But now, right now, hold to account the people who are participating in that celebration. Do not let them invoke the narrative of Senator McCain without demanding that they be held to the standard they are trumpeting and held responsible if they have flagrantly violated that standard, as so many have.
Now is a time for decency. Remembering Senator John McCain in the best possible light is simple decency. But now is also a time for taking values and principles seriously. Do not let the enablers of this national crisis of democracy go unchallenged when they try to wrap themselves in Senator McCain’s memory.
Top of Form