Streetwise Professor

September 1, 2018

I Honor the Veteran, Not the Senator

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 6:33 pm

Do you remember the commemoration of the passing of Leo Thorsness?  George Day? James Stockdale?

Perhaps you are not familiar with the names.  They were all Vietnam War POWs.  Day shared a cell with John McCain, and McCain made a sling for Day after his arm was horribly injured by torture.  Their records prior to capture were far more distinguished than McCain’s: Thorsness won the Medal of Honor for his acts in air combat in an F-105.

Although it is perhaps unfair to compare or judge the conduct of those who endured the hell of North Vietnamese prison camps, it is worth noting that Day’s and Stockdale’s actions as POWs were deemed so exceptional even by comparison with other POWs that they were awarded Medals of Honor.

McCain shared this hell with them, and he is as deserving of as much recognition for his courage, perseverance, and suffering  as a POW that they received.  But he has received far, far more.  Flags are at half-mast.  He will lay in state in the Capitol.  The media praise has been fulsome, and almost non-stop since his death.

The difference in honors paid to McCain on the one hand, and Thorsness, Day, and Stockdale on the other, therefore cannot relate to his military service and captivity: instead, it is a tribute to his political career.

This is an inversion of priorities. I can think of few politicians who deserve such veneration.  Very few.  And John McCain is not one of them.

Formally, John McCain was a Republican.  But he reveled in tweaking his party, often to aggrandize himself and to attract praise from the “elite” media and the DC establishment.

The fact is that McCain was a member of the party of government.  On every major issue, especially during the period of his greatest power and fame, McCain supported expansion of the scope and power of government.  Sometimes he talked the limited government talk, but he very, very seldom walked the walk.

One of the refrains in the encomiums is that McCain was a strong believer in an practitioner in bipartisanship.  This is hardly an endorsement.  Bipartisanship is the religion of the party of government. And in DC, it is pretty much a one-way street.

In practical terms, “bipartisanship” usually entails a conspiracy of the two parties to stitch up the rest of us.  When someone praises bipartisanship, I grab my wallet and watch my back.

McCain’s signature issue–campaign finance “reform”–is a case in point.  From the first it was designed to protect incumbents and the institutional parties from competition and accountability.  I prefer gridlock and conflict: if they are fighting one another, they are less likely to shaft me and mine.

Further, today’s funeral featured speech after speech lauding McCain’s bipartisanship–and blasting Trump.

If you are mystified as to how paeans to bipartisanship mix (at a funeral no less) with relentless partisan attacks, let me explain.  Bipartisan in Washington-ese means the shared interest of the institutional parties and incumbents in protecting their sinecures and power.  Trump threatens both.  So rank partisanship–again, at a funeral!–is perfectly compatible with the DC meaning of “bipartisan” because Trump and his supporters are not part of the “bi”, and indeed threaten its parasitic existence.  This is one tribe–the establishment tribe–attacking The Other.

In recent years, moreover, McCain has wanted to involve the US in yet more wars, especially in the Middle East.  His advocacy of intervention in Syria in particular speaks very poorly of his judgment, especially in light of American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And let’s be real here.  If McCain had died when Obama was president, or had Hillary been president, he would not be receiving nearly the amount of praise and attention as he is receiving in the Age of Trump.  McCain was a vocal critic of Trump, and praising McCain to the heavens is just another way of damning Trump.

It is particularly nauseating to see many of those who savaged him during his hapless presidential campaign celebrating him today.  As if further proof was necessary of the situational nature of political “ethics” in the US.

For his part, Trump has been less than gracious in his response to McCain’s death.  “Don’t speak ill of the dead” seems to be his operative principle.

At least he’s not a hypocrite on this matter, which is another thing that sets him apart in DC.

Further, let’s not delude ourselves into believing that McCain was some latter-day “happy warrior” to be contrasted with a vicious Trump.  He in fact had a mean, vindictive, and petty side–as demonstrated by his disinviting Sarah Palin from his funeral.  Methinks that much of McCain’s criticism of Trump’s behavior was projection.

And let’s not forget that in addition to being a vicious vocal critic of Trump (and I think “vicious” is a fair characterization), McCain played a low and dishonorable role in injecting the Steele dossier into the body politic.  It is sickly ironic that a man who believed that Russia is a mortal enemy of the United States has done far more to advance Putin’s objective of destabilizing American politics and society than anything Putin has done, or even could do, himself.

So I am quite willing to acknowledge and honor McCain’s service and sacrifice in the years ending in 1973, just as I did (and do) honor that of Leo Thorsness, George Day, James Stockdale and other Americans who served with honor and distinction in Vietnam.  But his political career, and the ongoing celebration thereof, are a testament to the dysfunctions of American government and politics, so I will not be joining in the hosannas for Senator John McCain.

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  1. Right On!

    Comment by t c phillips — September 1, 2018 @ 6:49 pm

  2. Many great soldiers suffered terribly, and are still suffering, including my brother. I think McCain came out of that war in not to bad a shape.

    Comment by Peter — September 1, 2018 @ 7:34 pm

  3. He’s done so much to put a bad taste in my mouth the last several years, that it has spoiled my thoughts about him upon his death. It seemed that being called Maverick was that he was willing to screw over Republicans more than anybody else. The fact that he didn’t resign when he became sick was another sighn for me that it was about him and not the institution he cared about. (side point: I don’t like people dying in office) So yes, seeing all the flags at half-mast has left me with muddled feelings.

    Comment by Howard Roark — September 2, 2018 @ 7:01 am

  4. Honor the soldier and his service – yes.

    Glorifying politicians – no.

    The remembrance services seemed more like a bash Trump get-together than a funeral remembrance service.

    And it vividly pointed out that the establishment was in attendance – and that there should be term limits for Congress, just as there are for presidents.

    Interesting how the media idiots bashed McCain as a “racist” and worse a few years ago. It’s all there.

    Now they’re blathering about “decency” on the coattails of the guy they bashed viciously – the indecent media idiots, fomenting all sorts of lunacy, blathering about decency.

    Priceless – and thoroughly sickening

    Comment by elmer — September 2, 2018 @ 10:52 am

  5. Very well said, Sir. You captured all my thoughts in one place. The hypocrisy is manifest and almost surprising in its depth – but ultimately not so because of the animus of those spouting it, and their utter lack of perspective or honor. As a nation and a people, we should be better about separating the military service and political careers of those who do both. Great military service can, and maybe should, be a help in achieving that first political office. After that, it has expired until the pol leaves office.

    Comment by Big Al — September 2, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

  6. Keating 5

    Comment by Julius — September 2, 2018 @ 9:17 pm

  7. First, this is an excellently well written article about the phenomenon surrounding the history of McCain and the events related to his death. Thank you, Streetwise Professor.

    If one gets nothing out of the article except, “Bipartisanship is the religion of the party of government,” then one has profited.

    And McCain, RIP, is the self-serving hypocrite RINO who promoted bipartisanship, or “reaching across the aisle” to fellow swamp creatures such as Teddy “Hand me the bottle of Jack Daniels, Mary Jo” Kennedy, RIP, who the lib/lefty/”progressive”/moral relativist/progressive/Democrat fools/RINO fools call the “Lion of the Senate.” That is the “Lion of the Senate” who, along with another filthy human, Chris Dodd, invented the “waitress sandwich.” Lot’s of fun after hours Senate activities. McCain must have missed this fun.

    So, our conclusion is simply, “Good riddance, and don’t come back.”

    Cry, Meghan, cry, but not just about your father’s death, but about his hypocrisy.

    Comment by Luis — September 3, 2018 @ 12:21 am

  8. While a POW, John McCain did things that were truly heroic. That being said, he used those acts to promote himself to high elected office. He was not a nice person. He cheated on, and left his first wife for a younger and much, much wealthier woman. He was a hero, but a very flawed man. May he rest in peace.

    Comment by Romey — September 3, 2018 @ 2:16 am

  9. Is the sad story of his first wife true? If yes, that’s an awful stain on his character.
    What kind of guy was he really?

    Comment by laurence haughton — September 3, 2018 @ 4:22 am

  10. This is the first objective McCain obituary I’ve read. Many, many thanks for the clarity and honesty.

    Comment by Michael Garland — September 3, 2018 @ 5:06 am

  11. Spot on!

    Comment by Cornhead — September 3, 2018 @ 6:26 am

  12. I think he will “lie in state,” not “lay in state.”

    Comment by Robert Cosgrove — September 3, 2018 @ 6:53 am

  13. Captures exactly my feelings about this whole charade! Thanks for putting in words what I could not.

    Comment by Nick — September 3, 2018 @ 7:10 am

  14. My problem with McCain is that he risked his life during wartime to defend the same things he was willing to surrender while in Congress, namely our sovereignty, to illegal aliens and their advocates. I just don’t understand it.

    Comment by Dave Gorak — September 3, 2018 @ 10:54 am

  15. Senator McCain has never been on my feel sorry for you list. He used both sides of the fence to enlarge his bank account. To use his last two years on the government payroll did it for me. He knew his days were numbered, yet sucked more money out of the government. This McCain event the past week was done for one reason and one reason only. Get back at TRUMP. Political BS at it’s finest.

    Comment by Sam Black — September 4, 2018 @ 8:20 am

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