John S. McCain – “man of few words”

John S. McCain was a man of few words and a man of principle. The Trump family have displayed quite a few; according to Aaron Sorkin, the “we don’t care if you voted for Trump” line used in Steve Bannon’s inaugural book came from Meghan McCain. But it was the statement John McCain gave on August 21, 2010, after Meghan was invited to join the McCain family as he honoured a Purple Heart recipient who came to the city to present the medal, that really sent the message this senator sought to send to America.

The most famous quote, when asked whether he supported Barack Obama, was: “I hate to say it, but the answer is yes”. But what McCain found even more difficult to stomach was the intolerance of his own party which made it so difficult for McCain to actually serve. So to the Senate majority leader Harry Reid who made another kind of sworn statement in the Senate that “on matters of war and peace, the United States Senate has no greater loyalty than to its party”, a scarcer expression than hell, and to his colleague John Kennedy who said: “Our partisan fidelity dictates we vote no on anything our leader says”—he called you “friends” and “partisans”.

“Brothers and sisters, do not let ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’ substitute for patriotism. Real patriotism is not taking sides. Real patriotism is not believing anything that’s being said. Real patriotism is loving your country so much that you’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her,” said McCain. It is difficult to imagine a better word to describe a man on who friends and partisans alike should instinctively aspire. Despite McCain’s primeval hostility towards those who disagree with him, George, Eric, Cindy, Jack, Sidney, Meghan, Larry, Ryan, Conor, Terence and Bobby to name a few, Tony, Maria, Jack, Conor, Henry, Will, Sidney and Matta lived with him through thick and thin and refused to let partisanship derail or derail their friendship. Their connection to John was so strong that the old man fell into bed with them. And for the next few years they worked together in these increasingly difficult times, coming together in the ultimate sacrifice and unceasing struggle for the values that made the country what it is today.

John S. McCain is widely considered the greatest living senator in the United States Senate. But his ability to cajole, pep talk and empower colleagues had an addressee other than what he would usually be. And this loyalty did not just change the course of the administration of George W. Bush—it found his party and especially Republicans who had run for the White House on a promise of not entering Iraq. In fact, the Republican Party was held hostage to John McCain’s “skin in the game”—that was the name that President Trump was given when he was his vetting team’s chief “Skin in the Game”, but which he largely self-deceitfully refused to hold himself accountable for as he went about erecting his brand.

America’s political landscape has been peppered with its fair share of objectionable and anti-democratic behaviour. Let’s not add John McCain, the last brave man in the Senate to step forward against the toxic gene from which contemporary politics must be overcome, to that coterie.


GOP seeks to distract from looming Trump impeachment debate

The Trump administration on Wednesday organized a flurry of separate events promoting the president’s tax cut and the roaring economy, part of the Republican strategy to undercut the debate over impeaching the president over his sacking of the FBI director.

Responding to growing Democratic opposition to the administration’s policy toward immigrants and to the president’s comments about the midterm elections, lawmakers of both parties pushed back against the idea that Trump could be impeached. But some Republicans also acknowledged that the president’s prospects for averting removal from office were faltering.

“For him to be removed, two-thirds of both chambers would have to vote to remove him,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on a call with reporters on Wednesday. Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said he did not think that would happen.

Nevertheless, Cornyn called for impeachment hearings, so that House Republicans could defend the president’s actions, as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., did Wednesday in a debate on a Senate floor.

Other Republicans went further. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said on the same Senate floor that the time has come to revisit the issue of impeachment. Kennedy, a former federal prosecutor, said he believed the only two violations that would justify removal from office are obstruction of justice and bribery.

But he went on to say that other grounds, including racial discrimination, suggest “the proper remedy” would be to find that the president might be “incapable of discharging the duties of his office.”

The GOP efforts come as growing numbers of Republican lawmakers, still worried about prospects for control of the House, start hearing that one of the top impeachment tools could disappear from their toolbox. The sweeping tax cuts that Congress enacted at the end of 2017 would require that money be set aside each year from the government’s budget surplus to cover a deep reduction in the tax burdens of wealthy people. There has been bipartisan agreement for a decade that the Clinton-era “bailout of the rich” had contributed to the budget deficit. Republicans now favor reverting to the policy of expanding the budget surplus to cover tax cuts for the middle class.

Republicans, who had hoped their tax cuts would do enough to improve public perceptions of the economy to help them win House control in 2018, were unprepared when the tax cuts later led to an outsized budget deficit that threatens to force a showdown between Trump and congressional Democrats. At best, Republicans now acknowledge, it is unlikely that the tax cuts and the increasing budget deficit can be offset by undoing the tax cuts or cutting domestic programs.

Last week, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, laid out a plan with other moderate Republicans to put a stick in the spokes of the impeachment debate, arguing that the rising budget deficit did not justify impeachment.

“It was an extraordinary accomplishment” to pass the tax cuts last year, Collins said in an interview Wednesday. She said that while she supported investigations of the Trump administration’s conduct, and urged Democrats to do the same, “I don’t think it’s going to be productive” to talk about impeachment now.

Collins and her Republican allies offered legislation this week that would exempt most of the federal government’s $12 trillion worth of bonds from the proposed cuts in the budget. While Republicans hope that Republicans in the House would be able to send the legislation to Trump’s desk, it is unclear whether it would win enough Democratic support to advance.

“You know, I could count on one hand,” Cornyn said, if he had the votes to repeal all the tax cuts in the short term, even though this “would increase the deficit by billions of dollars.”

Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, said it was possible that a “couple dozen” Republicans in the House might take that route. But if they did, it might be too late to forestall impeachment. “There’s only a 20 percent chance it would pass the Senate, and a 30 percent chance it would be repealed by presidential veto,” Ornstein said.

Trump has often said that the Senate might decide to remove him, and Republican leaders say privately that they are willing to consider such an unprecedented scenario, if necessary.

But Graham acknowledged Wednesday that more than one Republican or even both parties might have to agree for a president to be removed from office, so a filibuster might be needed.

“All this business about what I call the congressional thugs come down to a reality where there’s two ways it can happen,” Graham said. “One is, if we’re lucky,