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.