Monday, August 27, 2018

So long, Mackie

Watching all the accolades roll in following his death makes me wonder what is going on here?  Did I miss something in him, or are people projecting in him the noble leader they so much yearn for?  Whatever the case, John McCain was all too human and hardly deserves all this outpouring of grief.

He's even being hailed in Lithuania for his steadfast resistance to Russian aggression.  He had a chance to visit the country for the first time in December, 2016, giving his best wishes to the renegade state that had defied the Soviet Union in 1990.

The Senator for Life ran again for office in 2016, despite probably knowing he had cancer.  Glioblastoma is not something that happens overnight.  According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, it is a brain tumor that usually forms in men between the ages of 45 and 70.  When it spreads, it spreads quickly and is almost impossible to contain.  It could be he ignored the symptoms until the headaches became so severe he had a brain scan, announcing he had cancer in July, 2017.  More likely Mackie couldn't imagine a life outside the Senate, and was going to serve as long as he humanly could.

That would have been fine if he truly had something to offer, but as we found out in December, 2017, he was just as much a politician as anyone else on the Hill.  He made a dramatic show of saving The Affordable Care Act from the "skinny repeal" his good friend, Lindsey Graham, had proposed in July, only to turn right around and approve a Senate tax cut bill that had the very same health care cuts he previously voted against.  Either he didn't bother to read the fine print or just didn't care at that point.  This is quite telling for a man who was getting the best cancer treatment in the world thanks to his Congressional health care plan.

Time and again, Mackie sold out his principles.  Back in 2008, he refused to sign onto a torture ban despite publicly admonishing the Bush administration for using torture.  This from a man who had been tortured in Vietnam while detained for five-and-a-half years in a Hanoi POW camp.  You really have to wonder what he was thinking, especially running for President that year.

He struck me as someone constantly torn by his convictions and the political expediency that characterizes Washington, hence his often pained expression.  He could be strong and resolute in his beliefs one minute, and cowering and subservient to political interests the next.  It was really hard to know where he stood on key issues because he rarely expressed the same view twice.  But, somehow he was seen as better than the rest, largely because of his POW experience that he never let anyone forget.

I suppose this is what rankled Donald Trump about McCain, leading him to make that infamous remark that he liked heroes that don't get captured.  Trump wasn't the first to question McCain's "hero" status.  Back in 2008, General Wesley Clark similarly called McCain's war record into question only to be quickly dismissed by Presidential candidate Obama.  Barry didn't want to go there.

Many felt that McCain exploited his Vietnam experience for political gain, but few publicly said it.  Trump not only said it, but stood by it, which as it turned out was the sentiment of many rank and file Republicans who supported Trump.  This includes Kelli Ward, who the day before Mackie's death suggested that his announcement of going off chemo was designed to deflect attention away from her campaign.   I guess we can excuse her for not knowing he would die so quickly.

At heart, I think McCain was a good man and had noble intentions, but just wasn't able to achieve them.  He certainly didn't deserve the wrath of Donald Trump or the petty suggestions of Kelli Ward, but he does deserve criticism.  Despite all his protestations, he stood behind Trump 83% of the time on Congressional legislation, according to 538.  That's less than the average Republican, but still a pretty good indication he wasn't the "maverick" many believed him to be.

John McCain loved the Senate life.  He took over Barry Goldwater's seat in 1987 and remained there until December, 2017, the last time he voted in the chamber.  It gave him a great feeling of importance, especially when it came to foreign policy issues, which he regarded as his strong suit.  He missed out on the final version of the tax cut bill, but no matter it carried 51-48.  His vote wouldn't have made a difference.

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