McCain’s dra­matic re­turn to Se­nate this week en­cap­su­lates his ca­reer

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

When Sen. John McCain re­turned to the Se­nate on Tues­day, and voted to re­open the health-care de­bate, he was cheered by Repub­li­cans. His re­turn sig­naled to the GOP that they may have the votes needed to pass their health­care bill. But by the wee hours of the morn­ing on Fri­day, when McCain voted against the GOP’s “skinny re­peal” plan, the Repub­li­cans were no longer cheer­ing. In­stead, McCain was be­ing em­braced by Democrats and her­alded as a hero on the left for bring­ing the GOP’s seven-year-long bat­tle to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare to a dra­matic end.

This one short week, in which no one seemed to know whose side McCain was on, dra­ma­tized many ma­jor themes from his lengthy po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. He has been nick­named “the Mav­er­ick,” while oth­ers see him as a staunch con­ser­va­tive. To many he is a hero, a true Amer­i­can pa­triot. He’s known for show­ing po­lit­i­cal courage and de­cency, but he has a fa­mous tem­per. McCain’s long ten­ure in the po­lit­i­cal spot­light means the pub­lic has had am­ple op­por­tu­nity to form those var­ied opin­ions.

McCain’s of­fice said in a state­ment Fri­day af­ter­noon that he was re­turn­ing to Ari­zona to un­dergo treat­ment for brain can­cer. But the days be­fore he left Wash­ing­ton were a re­minder of why McCain is one of the more com­plex and in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

McCain rose from his hos­pi­tal bed af­ter hav­ing a blood clot re­moved from be­hind his eye to re­turn to the Se­nate. Just days af­ter re­ceiv­ing a brain tu­mor di­ag­no­sis, he de­cided to de­lay treat­ment, be­cause work beck­oned. He walked into the Se­nate cham­ber on Tues­day, stitches still vis­i­ble above his eye, and de­liv­ered an im­pas­sioned speech, call­ing on Repub­li­cans and Democrats not to re­peat the mis­takes of the past by pass­ing a rushed health-care bill.

The week be­fore his re­turn, when news broke of his can­cer di­ag­no­sis, many on the left and right took to Twit­ter to show sup­port for the se­na­tor. For­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama ex­pressed his sup­port in a tweet, call­ing McCain an Amer­i­can hero.

Many on the left lamented McCain’s re­turn, as­sum­ing that McCain would de­liver the fi­nal vote needed to se­cure a win for the GOP. Protesters gath­ered on the steps of the Capi­tol last week, joined by Demo­cratic sen­a­tors such as Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer.

And in the end, McCain sur­prised both the left and the right. Af­ter sev­eral days of un­cer­tainty, Twit­ter at­tacks and threats, the po­lit­i­cal process ended with McCain show­ing the in­de­pen­dent streak he has prided him­self on through­out his ca­reer, and back­ing up what he said in his speech Tues­day.

“In­cre­men­tal progress, com­pro­mises that each side crit­i­cize but also ac­cept, just plain mud­dling through to chip away at prob­lems and keep our en­e­mies from do­ing their worst, isn’t glam­orous or ex­cit­ing. It doesn’t feel like a po­lit­i­cal tri­umph. But it’s usu­ally the most we can ex­pect from our sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, op­er­at­ing in a coun­try as di­verse and quar­rel­some and free as ours. Con­sid­er­ing the in­jus­tice and cru­el­ties in­flicted by au­to­cratic gov­ern­ments and how cor­rupt­ible hu­man na­ture can be, the prob­lem solv­ing our sys­tem pro­duced and the lib­erty and jus­tice it pre­serves is a mag­nif­i­cent achieve­ment.”

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