John McCain’s Not-So-Friendly Presidential Fire

Republican Cold Warriors like John McCain are again fighting the enemy within. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

Look, I’m not saying that Donald Trump isn’t an existential threat to the values we hold dear. We need to #resist and fight ’till our last breaths. But it’s not just liberals who have donned their battle armor. Republican Cold Warriors like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are again fighting the enemy within.

Not all Republicans have cravenly jumped on the Trump train. Indeed, some have been fighting The Donald since the Republican primaries. John McCain especially has become increasingly vocal in his opposition, bitingly countering reckless policies they consider dangerous, counterproductive, and even un-American.

For once, it's a good thing that cold warriors like John McCain are still fighting the old wars.
Screenshot via YouTube.

I know. I know. It’s hard for liberals to stomach the idea of making common cause with conservative hawks still stuck in the Cold War. Get over it, you want to tell them.

In the 60s, a popular TV trope involved a Japanese soldier, stranded in a remote island jungle, who never got the memo that the war had ended. We need the equivalent Cold Warriors, still checking under the bed for commies.

The world has shifted on its Western Axis; the magnetic poles have suddenly reversed. Liberals are the new anti-Rooskies.

The Trump administration appears to be that guy who jumps into the grizzly exhibit and is surprised by the bear hug he receives.

We have a president who believes there’s a moral equivalency between a Russian leader who routinely orders the murder of journalists and political rivals and US foreign policy. Considering Trump’s tweet that the media is the enemy of the American people, perhaps it’s jealousy on his part.

John McCain’s response on Meet the Press (or as Trump might put it, Meet the Enemy of the People):

When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.

Um, yeah, that’s kind of what you’re hinting at, John.

Help us, Obi-wan McCain…you’re our only hope. I’ve lost a lot of respect for John McCain over the years, but he’s beginning to win it back. I think deep inside of him, there is was always a reasonable person waiting to break out.

He is, after all, the man who told prejudiced supporters that Barack Obama is a decent person despite being greeted with rounds of boos. Contrast that with the man currently holding the office he was running for in 2000 and 2008.

John McCain: Growing Back His Spine

McCain is a man of great ambition…with osteoporosis of the spine. But like me, perhaps he’s taking Fosamax to stiffen his weakened backbone.* Indeed, his vertebrae appear to be slowly regenerating.

The Arizona senator once upon a time had a reputation as a maverick — a phrase he beat into the ground in 2008 until it begged for mercy. In point of fact, John McCain had long before decided to drink the Republican orthodoxy Kool-Aid to further his ambitions. Oh yeah — trickle down economics is GOOD!

Yet for the increasingly rabid base exemplified by his Tea Party-girl running mate, McCain would never be an acceptable standard bearer.

McCain swallowed his pride when the draft-avoiding Trump slammed him for getting caught by the Viet Cong. To keep from angering Trump’s rabid supporters during his re-election campaign, he refused to join the #NeverTrump brigades (though he announced that he wouldn’t be voting for the sexually assaultive presidential nominee after the Access Hollywood tape came out).

But now that the 80-year-old senator won re-election — in what at his age could well be his last term — McCain has felt emboldened to fight what he believes are policies that are harmful to the country he fought for and loves.

He didn’t spend five years in a North Vietnamese prison being tortured for Republican Party loyalty. Or a president who has vowed to bring back illegal torture.

McCain is at heart a patriot. In effect, he’s still fighting the forces threatening our nation, even if that threat is heading the country. I know this will strike some — perhaps many — as naive. But this is what John McCain said about the Russian hacking of the 2016 election in a recent New York Magazine interview.

The severity of this issue, the gravity of it, is so consequential because if you succeed in corrupting an election, then you’ve destroyed the foundation of democracy. So I view it with the utmost seriousness. I view it more seriously than a physical attack. I view it more seriously than Orlando, or San Bernardino. As tragic as that was, the far-reaching consequences of an election hack are certainly far in excess of a single terrorist attack.

That’s exactly it. The issue isn’t that Hillary Clinton lost the election, but the head of a hostile government interfered with our electoral process.

This was an attack on our very system of government.

During the Cold War, we only fought proxy wars with the Soviet Union. This was the equivalent of the Kremlin bombing Alaska — a direct attack on America.

So far, Mitch McConnell has brushed back McCain’s calls for convening a select committee to investigate the Russian issues, undoubtedly also delving into allegations of direct contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials beyond Michael Flynn’s improper, backchannel talks with the Russian ambassador.

John McCain: Lone Soldier, but for How Long?

Right now, for McCain’s congressional colleagues, “It’s not a chapter of Profiles in Courage,” as he put it in the NY Mag article.

But as Trump’s approval numbers continue to plummet to unprecedented levels, more and more congresspeople will start scarfing down the Fosamax. Trump may tweet until he’s orange in the face about fake news polls — okay too late — but other Republicans will begin to notice the ropes being strung from the scaffolds.

They’re already cancelling town halls right and left.

Don’t get me wrong, we have to keep in mind that McCain is a wily politician who isn’t above putting his finger to the wind. As Gabriel Sherman states in the piece:

What makes him inspiring — and infuriating — to people on both sides of the aisle is that, more than most politicians, his political acts span a particularly wide distance between courage and expediency. He is capable of true heroism and conspicuous political cowardice.

Yet his current oppositional stance seems to stem from heartfelt conviction. No, McCain isn’t an ally to liberals. Still, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It’s important to remember that not every Republican is in thrall to the President Who Must Not Be Named.

If we are to ride out Typhoon Trump, we’re going to need the John McCains, Lindsey Grahams, Chris Wallaces, and anyone else with spine enough to stand up to the destructive gales.

More and more Republicans will begin to regrow their spines like John McCain.

*I have severe osteoporosis due to the prednisone I was taking to control my dermatomyositis. Thanks, prednisone. The coma wasn’t enough for you?


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