Home Andy Schmookler: John McCain has combined cowardice, folly

Andy Schmookler: John McCain has combined cowardice, folly


john mccainMany of us who have followed politics for a generation or more have found things to admire in John McCain’s role upon the political stage—particularly in his “straight-talking” stage in the 2000 race for the Republican nomination.

He has been a frequent disappointment since then, and there’s something pathetically dispiriting about how he has comported himself in his current bid for re-election as his Party has become the Party of Trump.

It has been widely recognized that McCain has been uncomfortable with the position that Trump’s becoming the Republican standard-bearer has put him in.

On the one hand, he’s felt compelled to criticize some of the more egregious statements made by his party’s standard-bearer. (And on a personal level, McCain doubtless does not forget how Trump belittled McCain’s wartime sacrifices.) On the other hand, as he runs to be re-elected to his seat in the Senate, facing a right-wing challenger in the Republican primary, he has not wanted to alienate Trump’s supporters.

(Trump handily won the Arizona presidential primary back in March with nearly half the vote in a field of half a dozen candidates.)

One might have hoped that a man who showed courage under duress as a POW in the hands of the North Vietnamese, who has endured a serious bout with cancer, and who is about to turn 80 years old after well over three decades in the Congress, would put principle ahead of political calculation in responding to a grotesque nominee like Donald Trump.

Surely, McCain knows full well how utterly unqualified Trump is to become the American commander-in-chief and “leader of the free world.”

One might have hoped he would, as his campaign slogan said in 2008, but “Country First” and let the political chips fall where they may.

But any such hopes have been disappointed. Afraid to lose his seat, John McCain instead has displayed a profile in cowardice. Afraid to lose his seat, he has continued to endorse Donald Trump.

And now, it appears that McCain’s sale of his soul to extend his tenure in the Senate well into his 80s was foolish as well as cowardly. In this Tuesday’s primary in Arizona, McCain has won again his party’s nomination for that Senate seat. He not only won, he won by a double-digit margin.

Doesn’t that comfortable margin of victory mean that he misjudged how great a threat his challenger was?

The Bible asks (Mark 8:36), “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” To which it might be added, in McCain’s case, what does it say about a man if he could have gained the world without losing his soul?

Column by Andy Schmookler



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