Before I start, let’s acknowledge that yes, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski showed courage in their early and continuing opposition to the Republican health bill. I don’t contest that, nor do I minimize their efforts to prevent a bill that would be destructive to the well-being of millions of Americans.
But John McCain…
After John McCain returned from Arizona, after his diagnosis of brain cancer, he has been excoriated by more than one person on my Facebook. (Not my friends, but friends of friends.) They sneered at his courage. They ignored his achievements because they saw him as betraying the country by voting for the Trumpcare bill to come to the floor of the Senate.
They accused him of hypocrisy when he called for the Senate to return to “proper order,” and to engage in real bipartisanship.
They were wrong. By helping the bill come up for a vote by the entire Senate, and then voting to kill it, he makes it very difficult for Republicans to come out with yet another bill, at least until the end of the fiscal year. His first vote, a vote for proper process, became in its own way a vote against Trumpcare: had the Republican leadership not thought that they had the votes for it to pass they never would have let it get to the Senate floor. (I knew the bill was in trouble when in the moments before the vote McCain crossed over to the other side of the aisle and hugged Dianne Feinstein.) It is also a move that neither Collins nor Murkowski was in a position to do, given their early and ongoing opposition.
The truth about John McCain is that he is more moderate than many progressives admit. According to Progressive Punch, he is the 52d most progressive senator (i.e., the 48th most conservative senator). Meanwhile, the ultra-conservative Conservative Review gives McCain an F, with a 33% “Liberty® Score.” (I didn’t know the word Liberty could be trademark protected.)
So McCain isn’t Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, or Al Franken. Neither is he Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Jeff Sessions.
John McCain is an undisputed war hero. Whatever you think of the US involvement in Vietnam, being captured and tortured because you are fighting in a war your country sent you to marks you as a hero, at least in my book. He still carries damage from that war.
Have we gotten that partisan that we cannot recognize and honor a man who deserves to be so honored?
During the 2008 presidential campaign, a woman in the audience at one of his campaign stops began a diatribe about Obama being a devious Muslim. McCain stopped her. He said that Obama was a good Christian and a good man. He said that there were differences of opinion about how the country should be run, but that Obama was a decent human being. Can you imagine Donald Trump doing that? The devil would be skating to work.
McCain is not perfect; no one is. He supported Trump in the 2016 campaign and continues to support the Republican agenda. I disagree with a most of his positions and take exception to a lot of his votes. He was implicated in the Keating Five scandal in 1989, but the Senate Ethics Committee cleared him of everything but “poor judgment.” None of that changes my view of him as an essentially honest man.
On the left, we have to be careful. We have a responsibility to look at facts, not to engage in knee-jerk derision based simply on party affiliation. While we often yell about conservatives’ refusal to engage in constructive dialogue, at the same time we retreat into our ideological corner. I don’t agree with the Republicans’ insistence that all the movement towards bipartisanship come from us. At the same time, however, we shouldn’t make the situation any worse than it is. The country needs unity. We have to speak up for our values, but not at the expense of common decency.
John McCain’s vote against Trumpcare doesn’t make him a hero, but it does not and cannot negate the heroism he has already shown in his life.