The lessons of Mr. McCain

While he faces treat­ment for brain cancer, let us re­flect on his com­mit­ment to prin­ci­ple and de­cency.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - ED­I­TO­RI­ALS

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 stand-by!” The se­na­tor also is­sued a toughly worded crit­i­cism of Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to end sup­port for the Syr­ian rebels fight­ing the regime of Bashar al-As­sad. Mr. McCain is not go­ing qui­etly into the night.

We wish Mr. McCain ev­ery suc­cess as he con­sid­ers his treat­ment options for glioblas­toma, an ag­gres­sive brain tu­mor. 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 Mr. 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. By con­trast, Mr. McCain has been, for the most part, and more than just about any other prac­tic­ing politi­cian, true to his con­vic­tions. He is in pol­i­tics not just to win but, as far as one man is able, to im­prove our world.

And all over this world, Mr. McCain is as­so­ci­ated with free­dom and democ­racy. He has cham­pi­oned hu­man rights with verve and tire­less­ness — speak­ing out against re­pres­sion and au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, and invit­ing — no, ca­jol­ing — his col­leagues, both Repub­li­cans and Democrats, to bear wit­ness with him on trips abroad. He has fre­quently wel­comed vic­tims of re­pres­sion to the cor­ri­dors of the capital, too, giv­ing them suc­cor and en­cour­age­ment in the fight against tyranny.

Mr. 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. It was re­fresh­ing and gen­uine.

In 2008, the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign turned nasty in the fi­nal weeks. Crowds were shout­ing ep­i­thets and pump­ing fists in anger upon hear­ing the name of Sen. Barack Obama, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee. On Oct. 10, cam­paign­ing in a sub­urb of Minneapolis, Mr. 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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.