Like most Republicans, I have had a complicated relationship with Sen. John McCain.
Make no mistake, I have nothing but love, honor, respect and gratitude for his service, suffering and sacrifice in the Vietnam War. He is a true American hero and any suggestion otherwise is a slander not just against him but against every other American who wears a uniform of the United States military.
John McCain, as they say, is a great American.
The complication arises when one contemplates John McCain the Republican and, more specifically, John McCain the Senator.
His devotion to the D.C. media elites and the smart-set in Manhattan has been stronger than his desire to deliver on his campaign promises to the people of Arizona who continued to send him to Washington for the past several decades, and last night’s betrayal on the fundamental issue of our times, government-run health insurance, was the last straw.
Let’s not forget that in the midst of one of his myriad reelection campaigns, he told his voters that he’d be the last line of defense against the Affordable Care Act:
In the above radio ads McCain promises to “lead the charge” against big government intrusions in the lives of Arizonans including “ridiculously un-affordable ideas like government run health care.” Make no mistake, this was during his re-election in 2010 after Obamacare had been enacted.
He says in the ad, “If I get a bruise or two knocking some sense into Washington, so be it. ” And yet, there he was last night, ironically with a bruise over his left eye after a recent medical procedure to combat a cancerous brain tumor, siding with Democrats to keep Obamacare intact.
The radio ad describes McCain as “Arizona’s last line of defense.,” and finishes with the tag line: “Character matters. ”
Yes, it sure does.
In that same 2010 re-election campaign McCain ran this TV ad to engender support from his fellow Arizonans:
“Drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder,” McCain laments while walking the US/Mexican border with a local sheriff. Sounds a little like “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” doesn’t it? He even says “complete the danged fence,” in the ad after calling for “troops” to defend the border.
But after Arizonans voted for the 2010 McCain who promised to get tough on the border he championed the amnesty plan of 2013.
McCain also championed the unconstitutional “Campaign Finance Reform” law which gave Democrats unilateral fund-raising dominance over Republicans thanks to exemptions from the “reforms” handed to labor unions. This resulted in the 2006 Democrat victory in the House and Senate which eventually led to Obamacare. The horrible law wasn’t reversed until Citizens United made its way to the Supreme Court, a decision lambasted by McCain and every other Democrat in Washington.
So like most Republicans, I’m used to McCain’s betrayals.
But, last night’s “no” vote on what was referred to as “Skinny Repeal” stings that much more. Let’s be clear, the essence of what McCain rejected last night was merely a reversal of the individual mandate, the employer mandate and the federal tax on medical devices. These are fundamental issues any Republican should be able to reject without a second thought.
So, why would McCain reject the fundamental principals of his party and the voters of his state? I suspect it may have had something to do with this article in The New Yorker. Mark Singer’s column was constructed for an audience of one: Sen. McCain. Singer even made sure the piece rose to the top of McCain’s “Google Name Alerts” by putting his name in the headline: Will John McCain Save Obamacare—and Himself?
A sample of the kind of writing that appeals to the Arizona senator’s vanity:
Throughout his political life, John McCain has for many reasons enjoyed bipartisan respect and even reverence: his independence of mind (usually), his candor (usually), his decency, his love of country, and especially his incalculable-to-most-of-us loyalty to his fellow-prisoners of war when, following his capture by the North Vietnamese, in 1967, he—the son and grandson of four-star U.S. Navy admirals—refused an offer to be freed. McCain remained a prisoner until 1973, during which he was permanently disabled by the torture his captors inflicted. His was a patriotism that transcended all of our clichéd flag-waving (and Bible-thumping) associations with that word. But those same reverent admirers, especially orthodox conservatives, recognize—and they hope John McCain recognizes, too—the fiscal profligacy, never mind the inhumanity, of a Republican scheme that abandons classic conservative principle. McCain seemed to be addressing a diverse audience: “I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now.”Yesterday afternoon, McCain joined the majority on a procedural vote to open debate on an Obamacare repeal, and last night he voted for an Obamacare-replacement plan also backed by McConnell. Opponents of the Republican repeal effort criticized him, some fiercely, but his spokeswoman insisted this morning that both votes were procedural, that McCain “would not vote for the health-care bill in its current form,” and that he had filed three amendments meant to address concerns from Arizona officials regarding Medicaid cuts. This afternoon, McCain voted against a McConnell-backed partial repeal. More votes are expected. The intense attention focused on McCain reflects the lingering uncertainty surrounding what he will do should a repeal bill come to a final vote.One wonders how and why voting against McConnell’s process and proposal is a difficult call for McCain. It should be the simplest of choices, a capstone to the life of a good but at times contradictory man who, presented with an ultimate dilemma, simply draws upon his enormous reserves of courage.
This is tailor-made for McCain and he took the bait. It makes sense, I suppose. We really shouldn’t be surprised. McCain once referred to the D.C. media as his “base,” and he’s right. McCain will be celebrated as a courageous hero for this vote, by the same people who would have called him a “baby killer” when he returned from Hanoi in the 1970s. It’s sad that the 80-year-old still feels the need for validation from the people who consistently try to tear down the country that McCain nearly gave his life to defend.