The lessons of Sen. John McCain
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.