Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain, RIP

I have been away a long long time, but I will drop by once more to mark the passing of John McCain. He was overrated,as a person and a politician, but that is as much a feature of the modern Republican party as it is of himself. He was a conservative, and a war monger, but straightforward about it, and he respected the system, respected his opponents (most of the time - he wasn't above a cheap shot now and then), they usually ended up respecting him. If he was what the Republican party was, in this benighted age, the party, and the country, would be far far better for it. I could live with John McCain as president, even if I didn't like it.

That makes him a bit like George HW Bush. If Bush had won his nomination in 1980, if McCain had won in 2000, they would very likely have been elected president - they would have headed off 2 of the worst presidencies of the modern era; they would have run their policies out and won or lost on what happened next. McCain in the white house in 2001 might have cared more about stopping Bin Laden before he struck inside the United States. Who can say. Then, of course, both Bush and McCain did win the nomination 8 years later - Bush had traded every ounce of integrity by then, and ran a disgusting, racist campaign; McCain - well, he was dead in the water day one, last man standing in his party with the world collapsing all around them - he wasn't going to win, but he picked Sarah Palin as VP and helped legitimize the know nothing Republicans, the racists, fascists and fools. So - whatever respect he might have deserved he gave away.

And so it goes. He served his country bravely, suffered immensely for it, seems to have learned some lessons from his own abuse, being one of the few Republicans to do anything to criticize our own slide into POW torture. (He didn't seem to learn anything from the way he was treated when he was shot down - he was always willing and eager to bomb foreigners indiscriminately.) He was always a prima donna - he knew here the cameras were pointing and made sure he was standing there - he was mildly corrupt (back when corruption mattered, at least a little), he was always a willing to sternly condemn terrible things he'd vote for a week later.... All that, though, just made him a politician. Just a politician, then, but the only Republican in the last 30 years to not act like he was wearing a sheet under his suit, just waiting for a chance to let his true colors (white) fly - and that's worth something. Got him on TV enough, but it also made him seem like a Road Not Taken - a much better road than we have been on.

(You can read Lawyers, Guns and Money for a good run down of his sins; you can read almost everything else for a good run down of his virtues - real as well as imaginary.)