The lessons of Sen. John McCain

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This edi­to­rial ap­peared in the Wash­ing­ton Post:

To­tally in keep­ing with his char­ac­ter, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., de­clared, one day af­ter it was dis­closed he is suf­fer­ing from a se­ri­ous form of brain can­cer, that “un­for­tu­nately for my spar­ring part­ners in Con­gress, I’ll be back soon, so standby!” The sen­a­tor also is­sued a toughly worded crit­i­cism of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to end sup­port for the Syr­ian rebels fight­ing the regime of Bashar As­sad. Mr. McCain is not go­ing qui­etly into the night.

We wish McCain ev­ery suc­cess as he con­sid­ers his treat­ment op­tions for glioblas­toma, an ag­gres­sive brain tu­mour. It goes al­most with­out say­ing that his de­ter­mi­na­tion and fight­ing spirit are leg­endary.

But we have another wish also: for Wash­ing­ton and the world be­yond to pause for a mo­ment to ab­sorb the ex­am­ple that McCain sets ev­ery day. These are times of toxic, par­ti­san war­fare, where politi­cians will say just about any­thing at all, true or un­true, to gain an ad­van­tage. McCain is in pol­i­tics not just to win but, as far as one man is able, to im­prove our world.

McCain has dis­played a forthright­ness that stands out in the ugly at­mos­phere of dis­in­for­ma­tion, pro­pa­ganda, spin doc­tor­ing and out­right ly­ing that now pre­vails. The sen­a­tor, as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2000 and 2008, en­deared him­self to jour­nal­ists with his open­ness aboard a cam­paign bus called the Straight Talk Ex­press. In 2008, the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign turned nasty in the fi­nal weeks. . On Oct. 10, cam­paign­ing in a sub­urb of Min­neapo­lis, McCain grabbed back the mi­cro­phone from an elderly woman who had be­gun to say that she didn’t like Mr. Obama be­cause he is an Arab. “No, ma’am. No, ma’am,” Mr. McCain said. “He’s a de­cent fam­ily man, a cit­i­zen who I just hap­pen to have se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences with on fun­da­men­tal ques­tions.” He added, “We want to fight, and I want to fight, but we will be re­spect­ful ... That doesn’t mean you have to re­duce your fe­roc­ity. It’s just got to be re­spect­ful.”

That’s an ex­am­ple for to­day. Ba­sic ci­vil­ity and re­spect speak louder than name-call­ing, trolling, sham­ing and pre­var­i­ca­tion. It is not some kind of gauzy nos­tal­gia to wish for a pol­i­tics of forthright­ness and de­cency, so lack­ing to­day and so em­bod­ied by Sen. John McCain.

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