This country cannot afford to lose John McCain

File photo from an interview with McCain in The State's editorial board room in 2007.

File photo from an interview with McCain in The State’s editorial board room in 2007.

I don’t just mean in terms of whether he lives or dies — although I hope and pray he recovers. We can’t even afford to have him on the injured list.

The Washington Post had a good piece this morning that got into why John McCain matter so much to this country, particularly at this dicey moment in our history. Some excerpts:

McCain’s significance inside Congress is hard to overstate — and his absence, however long, will reverberate across the Capitol.

The Arizonan’s illness leaves Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — and by proxy President Trump, who has openly mocked the Arizona senator — with 51 votes, the barest of majorities at a time when Republicans are divided on such issues as health care, taxes and defense spending.

McCain’s absence would also deprive the Senate of its moral conscience on many key issues, particularly in the ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign’s potential involvement in Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign….

McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam and a two-time presidential candidate, is known for his unfiltered opinions and willingness to buck Republican Party orthodoxy. Along with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), perhaps his closest friend in the Senate, McCain has become one of Trump’s leading Republican critics, particularly on issues of foreign policy and national security….

McCain has staunchly defended Trump’s national security team — he has particular respect for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. But McCain has criticized the president for campaigning on a promise to fortify the country’s defenses without, in his view, devoting enough money to the task.

McCain has also criticized Trump’s apparent affinity for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, warning that Russia is an enemy that should not be trusted and becoming one of the earliest Republicans to lend his support to a congressional investigation of Russia’s ties to the election….

We need this guy. We really need him…

48 thoughts on “This country cannot afford to lose John McCain

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I like what Carter Eskew had to say about McCain in the Post this morning:

    Every now and then in Washington, something happens that temporarily shakes the body politic out of its cynical torpor: the death of a president; a terrorist attack; the mass shooting of children. And now the terrible news that McCain has the same form of aggressive brain cancer that felled Ted Kennedy may have a similar impact. It may awaken our leaders to a new sense of what’s important, what’s possible, what’s required of them.

    McCain’s potential death sentence may have given him new life to write a final chapter in his life. Already beloved by many of his colleagues, revered by the press and respected by the public, McCain’s voice can ring louder and clearer than ever. He can summon Congress to work together to pass a bipartisan health-care bill and to engage in job-creating tax reform. He could even consider resuming his leadership on immigration reform and global warming that waned in recent years. He would be the center of attention and affection, and he has a rare opportunity to make what could be his last days count….

  2. bud

    John McCain is, without question a national hero. He acquitted himself with a tremendous amount of dignity in his 2008 campaign for POTUS by rebutting comments about Obama’s birthplace and religion. He’s earned our respect and I wish him well in his current health battle.

    Having said that I must disagree with Brad’s contention that we need this man in the senate. No we don’t. It is a good thing for the senate to be down a Republican vote, especially one with a neocon bent. I wish McCain a recovery, just as a private citizen.

  3. Rose

    My uncle had a glioblastoma like McCain. Treatment buys you time with your family. Radiation shrank my uncle’s tumor, but the doctor warned us glios can grow back at a faster rate after treatment stops. That’s exactly what happened. My heartfelt prayers and best wishes to the McCain family.

  4. Karen Pearson

    If his seat becomes vacant there’s no telling who will be elected. I fear it will be someone who is as arrogantly unbending as some who have been elected in recent years. For example, do we really need a Cruz clone in the Senate?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah. There’s no telling. It could be bad. We could go from a guy who actually cares about the country and will stand up for doing right and is known for working across the aisle to a guy like Cruz. Or Trump…

      1. Doug Ross

        “a guy who actually cares about the country”

        You left off “in a way that I like to see the country run”. Please don’t suggest that McCain has a monopoly on caring about the country. His policies are not consistent with at least half the country’s voters’ views. He’s a military man first and foremost and sees everything through that lens.

        Bernie Sanders cares about the country as much as John McCain does.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          John McCain has done more in his life than any other member of Congress to demonstrate that he cares about the country.

          Others may care as much, but have never had the opportunity to demonstrate it the way he has. But them’s the breaks. Not everyone gets such opportunities. But when he did, he rose to the occasion.


          1. Richard

            As I mentioned before, “Keating Five” (and still waiting approval). How many Congressmen and Senators become millionaires or millionaires become multi-millionaires while in office?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              The Keating case and McCain’s affluence (largely a result of having married money, I believe) have nothing to do with each other.

              Your implication is that this honorable man got wealthy because of something shady. He did not.

              Two of the senators I have admired most in my lifetime were among the Keating Five — McCain and John Glenn. Both were cleared of wrongdoing but chided for bad judgment. I think McCain would agree with that assessment. In any case, having his honor questioned that way was the most painful moment of McCain’s political career, and it is grossly inappropriate to bring it up at a moment such as this…

              1. Richard

                “McCain and John Glenn. Both were cleared of wrongdoing but chided for bad judgment.”

                I believe the guilty parties prefer to use the phrase “made a mistake”.

                Appropriate or not, him having cancer doesn’t dismiss his involvement. You don’t get a sympathy pardon. This is like people talking about how wonderful this man (I’m not talking about McCain here) was at his funeral when any other time they’d be talking about what a scumbag he was.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  You’re not following what I’m saying here.

                  “him having cancer doesn’t dismiss his involvement”

                  That’s right. The fact that he was cleared of all charges is what dismisses his involvement. There’s nothing to pardon…

              2. Richard

                Has McCain’s net worth increased since he’s been in office? At a higher rate than others his age?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Don’t know; don’t care.

                  And I doubt that he would care, either. He married an heiress before he went into politics. (Probably the biggest thing he and Kerry, whom Doug mentioned earlier, have in common.)

                  And even if he hadn’t, he was a retired U.S. Navy captain, with service-related disabilities. He wasn’t ever going to go hungry. He might pull down six figures just from that.

                  If that were me, I would never give a second thought to money. And McCain doesn’t seem like he thinks about it much, either…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    The people you have to watch in that regard are the ones who were money-grubbers before they were elected. It’s in their blood.

                    He comes from a different universe, one in which you serve your country, and your country takes care of you. Frees you up to think about more important things, more worthy things…

          2. Doug Ross

            So John Kerry would fall into that category, right? And Bill Clinton and Obama care less than McCain?

            McCain was born and raised to serve in the military. That probably had a tremendous impact on his views.

            1. Richard

              John McCain had the luxury of having an Admiral as a father, had he not and made it through pilot training he would have been grounded after crashing the first plane. He wouldn’t have been put in one after the other after the other after the other. especially when more than one were deemed to be pilot error. I doubt there’s ever been a Navy pilot to lose more planes and jets than John McCain did during his Navy career.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yep, that’s an old story I’ve heard all my life. Used to be, “JFK would have been court-martialed and punished for losing his PT boat if his Dad hadn’t been a big-shot ambassador…”

                There are always people who want to tear down other people because they’re prominent or have connections. Way of the world.

                Actually, McCain’s father AND grandfather were four-star admirals, which sort of makes him the black sheep of the family. They, too, were heroes. His grandfather was one of the leaders who won the war in the Pacific. He stood up front at the ceremony when the Japanese surrendered. Then he went straight home, and dropped dead in the middle of the party his wife threw to welcome him back. He had put everything he had into winning the war.

                These men’s distinctions weren’t something someone handed them because they were members of a privileged class. They earned them…

  5. Doug Ross

    As I said the other day, I hope he and his family make a decision on resigning sooner rather than later. He should focus on his treatment and his time with his family in the coming months. I saw one published estimate that after age 55, the survival rate for his form of cancer is under 5%. It would take quite a big ego to think that attempting to serve in the Senate while faced with the treatment and prognosis would be more important than spending that time with his family. You should stop suggesting that he should stay in office. His power has been diminishing since 2008. Do you really want to see him take on Trump that badly?

    1. Doug Ross

      Or maybe you’re willing to allow McCain to use whatever energy he has left to beg for some sort of pity vote on beating Trump?

  6. Phillip

    Somebody on Twitter reposted, in light of McCain’s illness, one of his finer moments, when he shook off that crazy lady in the debate who thought Obama was an “Arab,” etc., and said no, Obama was a decent family man with whom he (McCain) just happened to have fundamental policy disagreements with, etc.

    And I watched that video with sadness, realizing that the crazy lady and her attitude and ignorance (rather than the grace shown by McCain on that occasion) have won the day in American politics. Can you imagine if that had been Trump on that occasion. He would have goaded the lady on and doubled down on whatever she was saying.

    McCain’s presence in the Senate would not be enough to change what is happening to the country. I think Carter Eskew is dreaming if he thinks this will “awaken our leaders to a new sense of what’s important, what’s possible, what’s required of them.” What leaders? What’s required of them is to hold the President to account for illegal conflicts of interest, to require full financial disclosure in the manner of all his predecessors, but they have no interest in that, and the sad reality of Sen. McCain’s illness will have no effect on their party’s rapaciousness and general intoxication with power for its own sake.

    1. Richard

      In other words, spend the last few months of his life doing nothing for his state… Strom Thurmond – Part II.

      Dying from brain cancer is more life-changing than say lung or prostate cancer. You can wake up one day and not be able to talk, not be able to move a limb, etc… I’ve seen one family member die of it and it a lot harder than other cancers, dramatic changes happen almost immediately. It’s one of those diagnosis that justify assisted suicide.

    2. Doug Ross

      This may be the most bizarre statement I’ve read by someone who I normally consider quite sane.

      If he survives for 14 months (median average) but is physically and mentally unable to meet the demands of the office, he somehow has earned that privilege? Based on what? Tenure? Is there supposed to be some national deathwatch?

      1. Mark Stewart

        And when he passes, the governor of AZ ought to appoint Gabby Giffords to fulfill his unexpired term.

        Leadership comes before politics. That’s just the way I am wired; sane or not.

        1. Doug Ross

          He can’t lead from a hospital bed. You want a symbol when we need action. It’s sort of ghoulish to hope for McCain to wither away and die in office. His cancer doesn’t make him a different person than he was a month ago.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Strom Thurmond withered away for decades in office; long past when he had any sentiant thoughts of his own to add to the public discourse.

            Why is it ghoulish to think McCain has earned the right to die in office – in service to his nation? We are only talking a matter of months here. And he has earned the honor.

            McCain can lead from anywhere. What the US Senate needs in this hour is his moral authority.

            The nation needs John McCain to muster one more speech such as his concession to Obama. The GOP needs to be reminded that politics is a calling – it is not all the moral debasement of Trump, Ryan and McConnell. That is something McCain still can do with grace, honor and integrity.

            1. Richard

              Yeah, and Strom Thurmond spent about 20 years too long in office, but in SC tradition the voters kept him in office. If allowed he’d still be receiving votes.

              Why would anyone want to die in office? If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness would you want to keep working just so you can drop dead at your desk?

              Politics starts out as a calling, then it turns into greed and an obsession with power. How many would be there if there were term limits and half the current salary?

        2. Richard

          A Republican Governor, replacing a Republican Senator with a Democrat Congresswoman isn’t going to happen.

          Maybe he could appoint Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

            1. Richard

              I got through a C in English my whole four years of high school and likely in any Composition course in college. One of those courses I had little interest in and just gave enough effort to pass.

          1. Mark Stewart

            We think very differently.

            Joe Arpaio? Appointed by anyone to any position? Only low information voters would make that mistake.

            Maybe you forgot, she is the Congressional Representative shot in the head while serving our nation – and Arizona. It would be the kind of gesture that places civics over partisanship. I get that this is an incomprehensible concept to you.

            1. Doug Ross

              Or maybe she could run for McCains seat and actually win it? Rather than be a token placed in the position solely for her tragic event?

              When did this become youth soccer?

              1. Mark Stewart

                Doug, your outlook did not sit well with me; but I wasn’t sure why – until I read reports of Trump’s politicized speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree.

                Service to others. Loyalty as a thing given, not something demanded of another. These are some of the many ideals that arise in considering both situations.

                Gabby Gifford’s was shot in the head while serving as an elected US Representative – speaking with her constituents. She has limited capacity to speak now, but possesses her full mental capacities – or so it appears. She isn’t ever going to campaign again. But what would it say of our country (and of AZ) if she were given the honor of representing her state to fill out an unexpired senate term? I don’t call that youth soccer. I call that respect and honor. And reverence to those who have bravely served.

                1. Doug Ross

                  The best person to select McCain’s replacement is McCain himself. He was elected by the people of Arizona to be their representative. If he chooses to resign, he should be able to name his replacement. It will not be a Democrat.

                2. Mark Stewart

                  I didn’t say a “Democrat,” I said Gabby Giffords, ex-US Rep from the State of Arizona. It isn’t a binary world …

                3. Doug Ross

                  It is a binary world. Break anything down and it’s all a series of 1’s and 0’s.

                  The color grey is: 1101 0011 1101 0011 1101 0011

                  Any opinion is a collection of binary yes/no decisions combined with AND, OR, and NOT. Compromise is a fantasy.

                4. Mark Stewart

                  Doug, you confuse the language you chose to use to describe life, with life itself. Binary coding is a replication of life – like photography. It isn’t the thing itself. To be blind to that distinction is to have shackled yourself to an artificial construct.

                  Everything about life is compromise. Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking would agree with that, I think.

                5. Doug Ross

                  Any attempt at compromise involves giving up something you want less for something you want more. A binary choice. A > B

                  Or do you compromise with the goal of letting the other side take advantage of you? If so, I hope you don’t buy the cars in your family.

                6. Doug Ross

                  And there is a difference between compromise and charity. Charity is when you give up something with no expectation of return. Your Giffords idea is about charity, not compromise. Unless you truly, deeply believe that a symbolic act like that would cause Democrats to respond in kind.

                7. Doug Ross

                  You still want McCain to come back if he does as expected by rushing back to DC to potentially be the tie breaking vote to repeal Obamacare?

                8. Claus2

                  How does Mark think that a Republican held seat is going to be handed over to the Democrats? Did Ted Kennedy turn his seat over to a Republican when he left office? Why not?

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