Flagrant lack of public apology from the White House over aide Kelly Sadler’s offensive comments mocking Senator John McCain’s medical condition has no doubt resulted in an outpouring of bipartisan support for the Congressman. But this is more than just an opportunity for Democrats to take another shot at the morally lacking Trump administration, it’s a testament to the integrity of the relationships Senator McCain developed over his career and the importance of an integrity that transcends party lines.
McCain has been criticized by conservatives for his dissent, which has ranged from refusing to vote for Trump to blocking the Obamacare repeal, dubbed as a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only), but his refusal to blindly adhere to partisan rhetoric far outdates Donald Trump. He sponsored a bipartisan bill in 2002 meant to address the problems in campaign finance laws and loopholes, an issue that all voters should be more concerned about and while it was later undermined, it was a step in the right direction. In 2008, during his bid for the presidency in opposition to President Obama, John McCain admirably defended Obama when a voter thoughtlessly claimed he was an Arab during a town hall. He went on to say:
“First of all, I want to be president of the United States and obviously I do not want President Obama to be. But I have to tell you, I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as the President of the United States. [Crowd boos] No, no, I want everyone to be respectful. And let’s be sure we are. Because that is how politics should be conducted in America.”
In an op-ed he wrote after Heather Heyer’s death in August 2017, McCain unequivocally denounced the “un-American blood and soil ideology” and encouraged that when Congress returned to session, to remember that governing “requires pragmatic problem-solving from even the most passionate partisans” and “compromise between opposing sides to protect the interests we share,” continuing on to say that “we can fight like hell for our ideas to prevail, but we have to respect each other or at least respect the fact that we need each other.”
Senator McCain’s respect for an institution that goes deeper than the lines drawn by his political party, echoed by counterparts like Olympia Snowe, who resigned from the Senate in 2012 after 17 years of service due to what she described as a deeply polarized and dysfunctional Congress, and resumed her efforts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, demonstrate how crucial it is to remain thoughtful of one’s own standards and convictions and vigilant of the mindless groupthink our divided country so often enables.
In a society where news travels in 280 characters or less, leaving hardly any room for the nuance, context or complexity, a well-informed and substantial opinion would require, McCain serves as a reminder for us, all of us, even Democrats, to recognize that this is a time when we have to remain meticulous and steadfast in our facts but abundant in our empathy and realize that while disagreement is a fundamental pillar of any democracy, in rampant, thoughtless amounts, it can easily aid in its destruction.
Photo: Gage Skidmore