Dana Milbank couldn’t wait for John McCain to die. He had to start publishing slobbering obituaries of the man beforehand. It’s as bad as you can possibly imagine.
— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) May 12, 2018
McCain is still with us, and this is no obituary. But as Trump loyalists besmirch this good man, I thought I would put in writing what I have often thought over the years: John McCain is the single greatest political leader of our time. He is, in a way, not of our time, for his creed — country before self — is unfamiliar to many who serve in office and utterly foreign to the man in charge.
Only once during the nearly quarter of a century I’ve been covering politics did I think I could work for a politician, and that politician was McCain. I first got to know him in early 1999, when there were just a few of us driving around New Hampshire with him in an SUV, before the “Straight Talk Express” rolled. Had he beaten George W. Bush (he surely would have defeated Al Gore), and had he been president on Sept. 11, 2001, I know he would have done great things with the national unity Bush ultimately squandered.
I’ve had a closer relationship with McCain than with other politicians. I remember flying with him and Cindy McCain to Phoenix during the 2000 campaign, talking about sports, music, a war buddy — and the issue that defined him: removing the corrupting influence of money from politics. That’s why so many liked him even if they disagreed on the issues: With McCain, everything was going to be on the level.
I believed, perhaps naively, that in the free marketplace of ideas, uncorrupted by special interests, we would usually arrive at a sensible consensus. A generation after Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) inspired his “Clean for Gene ” followers, McCain inspired me.
On my Bush-Gore election ballot, I wrote in McCain. When I saw him later in the Senate, I’d greet him as “Mr. President.” He’d reply by calling me “Mr. Pulitzer.” I took pride in 2009, when McCain read aloud a column of mine on the Senate floor and called me “one of my favorite columnists.” He regretted that a few months later, when I took him to task for momentarily shedding his “maverick” ways, and he tried to disavow me.
Excuse me while I take a shower.
This is my favorite part.
There have been many such moments of disagreement and disappointment: when he put Sarah Palin on his ticket in 2008; when he took a hard-right turn in 2010 to fight off a primary challenge; and when another tough primary in 2016 led him to go easy on Trump.
I am going to write one sentence on this and then go back to praising Mr. Mavericktude himself, my political hero, St. John McCain!
In Phoenix for a wedding last weekend, I made a pilgrimage north, past the turnoff for Prescott and on to McCain’s beloved Sedona. Driving and walking among its red-rock hills, I reflected for hours on the man who had so often spoken of that beautiful place, and who so often had been my antidote to cynicism. As I write this, there are tears on my cheeks.
Godspeed, John McCain. You were not to be president, but you are my hero.
That’s some hard-hitting journalism right there. It’s a real wonder people hate the Beltway media.
I mean, come on. How many politicians have been more self-serving than John McCain? How many have more masterfully played the media while being a bog-standard hack? How many have turned nonexistent policy differences with the right-wing of his party into media fawning over his independent maverickocity?
It’s not that I hate John McCain. Asshole he may be, but that did help lead him to saving the ACA. Hypocritical as he so often was, his stance on torture had value. He’s a more respectable person than Jesse Helms or James Inhofe. This is a very low bar.
John McCain ran a nasty, hateful, disgusting 2008 presidential campaign. He brought Sarah Palin into the national spotlight and took us far down the road of Trumpism. I don’t care if he regrets choosing Palin instead of Holy Joe Lieberman, which would not really have been better, it’s on him. He was an anti-abortion extremist throughout his career. He loved bombing brown people. He wanted more bloodshed in Iraq. I love how Milbank’s hero John McCain’s role in the Keating Five isn’t even mentioned. He traveled to Chile early in his congressional career to meet with Augusto Pinochet and was all-in on funding the Contras. Of course, there was absolutely no difference between McCain and right-wingers on any economic issue; McCain was as pro-corporate hack as one could want. In 2016, he changed his mind that presidents should be able to choose who they want to put on the Supreme Court and announced that a Hillary presidency would result in the Scalia seat remaining unfilled until Republicans took power.
I could go on. The issue here is not that McCain is the worst person in American history–although he is certainly not a good one. The issue is how the media has fawned over him for the last 25 years. Milbank’s grotsequery is just the beginning. And very little of this will come from the conservative media that largely didn’t trust McCain. It’s going to come from liberals, centrists, and Beltway hacks. And it is going to be very, very gross.
I realize by criticizing John McCain, I am going to turn the millions and millions of moderate Republicans in this country into believing that Mike Pence is too much of a Maoist to replace Donald Trump. It’s always the fault of the shrill liberal.