John McCain and Western po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

The West still has hope for the fu­ture as long as politi­cians such as John McCain con­tinue to re­main ac­tive in po­lit­i­cal life. I say this de­spite the fact that I was happy Barack Obama beat him in the 2008 United States pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. I felt that way be­cause I agreed much more with his po­si­tions than I did with the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee’s. But I be­lieve ev­ery politi­cian – re­gard­less of where they’re from or what po­si­tion they were elected to – should care­fully watch a video of the mo­ment dur­ing the 2008 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion when McCain re­sponded to a woman at one of his cam­paign ral­lies who be­gan curs­ing Obama. McCain re­sponded by po­litely re­buff­ing her state- ments and said of his Demo­cratic op­po­nent that he “is a de­cent man and a pa­triot.” McCain lost the elec­tion, but he as­sured him­self of post­hu­mous recog­ni­tion – that in­tan­gi­ble and ex­tremely durable good that proves to be valu­able for a politi­cian after a de­feat or after his death. John McCain sym­bol­izes an en­light­ened es­tab­lish­ment that played a sig­nif­i­cant role in help­ing the US achieve and then main­tain hege­mony after World War II. When Don­ald Trump started to ques­tion the main pil­lars of Western power, the first one to re­spond to him in de­fense of those pil­lars was the Repub­li­can sen­a­tor. It took a lot of guts to go up against the pres­i­dent of his own party. But McCain is not the kind of politi­cian who minces his words, and he proved that yet again when he stood up to the newly elected leader of the United States in de­fense of his ques­tion­ing of the pil­lars of Western power. Hav­ing en­dured six years of tor­ture as a pris­oner of war in Vietnam, such po­lit­i­cal squab­bles must seem like an ephemeral and pain­less game to Sen­a­tor McCain. What is quite re­mark­able and sur­pris­ing though, is that de­spite what he had been put through, he was one of the first politi­cians to call for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the US and Vietnam, and he worked very hard to achieve that. A few months ago I had a chance to see Sen­a­tor McCain at a pub­lic dis­cus­sion in Brus­sels. His an­swers were sharp yet grounded, with plenty of mod­esty and no cheap mock­ery. His re­marks at the talk bore lit­tle re­sem­blance to the hol­low words passed back and forth these days be­tween our politi­cians. To­day the West lacks lead­er­ship, as in­di­cated in the United King­dom with Brexit. We face many chal­lenges and lack strong lead­ers in the face of Vladimir Putin, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and oth­ers. It makes you won­der if the foundry that pro­duced lead­ers like John McCain has closed down, and it makes you won­der what that means for the fu­ture of the Western world.

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