Senator John McCain August 29, 1936 – August 25, 2018
August 25, 2018 6:56 PM   Subscribe

John Sidney McCain III, who served as a Senator for Arizona for over 30 years, died at his home today with his family at his side at the age of 81 after battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Both McCain’s father and grandfather were four-star admirals. He followed their service, graduating from the US Naval Academy in 1958. McCain’s early career as a naval aviator was marked by hazard: with a reputation as a hotheaded partygoer, two of his early missions crashed, and a third collided with power lines. McCain requested a combat assignment during the Vietnam War, and was present during a fire and explosion on board the USS Forrestal in 1967, during which he was injured.

In 1967 McCain was flying a bombing mission over Hanoi when he was shot down. Fracturing both arms and a leg when he ejected, he was pulled half-drowned from a lake by North Vietnamese, who rifle-butted and bayoneted him.

Transported to Hỏa Lò Prison, nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton", McCain’s injuries were left unattended while he was beaten and interrogated. When they learned his identity, McCain was treated in a hospital, but soon returned to the prison, where he would spend the next five and half years, two of them in solitary confinement. McCain was regularly beaten, tortured, and deprived of food, but refused to be repatriated out of order over his fellow prisoners. Under extreme coercion, McCain made a forced “confession” to his captors. Among other things, the treatment he received as a prisoner of war left it impossible for McCain to raise his arms above his head.

As a Republican Senator, McCain’s service was independent, conservative, unorthodox and mixed, which resulted in him being referred to as a RINO in his own party, and as a “maverick” by others. He opposed making Martin Luther King Day a holiday in Arizona, was a part of the Keating Five scandal, voted to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Supreme Court Justice as well as Clarence Thomas but opposed Sonia Sotomayor, wrote and passed the McCain–Feingold Act to clean up politics, and ran for Republican nominee for President in 2000 against George Bush Jr. McCain was a strong advocate for bipartisanship, rules of order in Congress, immigration reform, environmental stewardship and campaign finance reform, while opposing the inclusion of gay men and women in the military and the use of torture by the US after 9/11.

Most notably, McCain ran against Barack Obama in 2008, choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. Perhaps the campaign’s most remarkable moment was McCain correcting a supporter’s claim that Obama “was an Arab.”

In 2016 McCain said that he would not vote for Trump as President, but would instead write in an alternative Republican candidate. On July 28, 2017, he dramatically voted against the Republican’s “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.

Diagnosed with a glioblastoma in July 2017, McCain chose not to retire, and continued to serve as a Senator until he died.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (243 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Survived by, among others, his 106-year old mother.

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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:58 PM on August 25 [37 favorites]


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posted by condour75 at 7:01 PM on August 25


Kasparov's twitt
posted by growabrain at 7:03 PM on August 25 [10 favorites]


McCain’s decision to invite his former rivals George W. Bush and Barack Obama to deliver eulogies at his funeral, while barring the sitting President from attending, is a brilliant act of passive-aggression.

It’s also an encapsulation of John McCain’s political legacy.

Senator McCain was one of the most powerful people in the country. He chose to use that power to express annoyance, disapproval, and of course deep concern, about the rise of radical anti-governance Republicanism, personified by Donald Trump and brought into life by McCain’s own selection of Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat away from the nuclear button. He gained great political power and the opportunity to oppose the forces of corruption and chaos with aggression. He chose passive-aggression.

Donald Trump said that John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he got captured. If anyone knew how dangerously incompetent and fundamentally malevolent Donald Trump would be as President of the United States, it was John McCain. Yet he chose to endorse Trump and, largely, to follow the path of least resistance in quietly voting for his agenda. All this despite the certainty that he would not run for office ever again. He had an opportunity to serve his country. Instead, he expressed concerns, while fueling its descent into fear and darkness.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:06 PM on August 25 [302 favorites]


Schumer has already proposed renaming the Russell Senate Office Building the McCain Building.

Given that Russell was a vicious segregationist and the building's name a stain on the capital city, it is an improvement. Nice move, Chuck.
posted by JackFlash at 7:06 PM on August 25 [44 favorites]


"I hope I don't run this clip for another 50 years. But how do you want the American people to remember you?" [CNN host Jake] Tapper asked.

"He served his country," McCain replied. "And not always right, made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope, could add, honorably."


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posted by redct at 7:07 PM on August 25 [39 favorites]


Diagnosed with a glioblastoma in July 2017, McCain chose not to retire, and continued to serve as a Senator until he died.

He chose not to retire because he knew that if he died in office, his replacement was legally required to be of his party. As ever, and despite years of claims to the contrary, he was a Republican through and through who always prioritized party over country.

For a man who reportedly has said Donald Trump should not speak at his funeral, his last act in politics was to ensure Trump's continued power. Never forget that this is McCain's legacy.
posted by tocts at 7:07 PM on August 25 [218 favorites]


Sometimes, he was not terrible, and that kinda worked in the favor of average Americans. But just as often, he did something like elevate Sarah Palin.

So... rest in peace, occasionally-decent but often awful guy.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:08 PM on August 25 [48 favorites]


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He reminded me of what (I believe) Churchill said about Americans — that they would do the right thing, once all other options were exhausted. McCain was not that much of a maverick. He was often petty and cruel. And he was not so much an enemy of Trumpism as he liked to seem. He was not a great man. But at some times in his life he had greatness thrust upon him, and he bore it — out of stubbornness, if nothing else. Not everyone has done as much.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:08 PM on August 25 [79 favorites]


John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.
Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Cindy and their family.

-- Barack Obama
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:08 PM on August 25 [80 favorites]


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John McCain once took on Hillary Clinton in a drinking contest. It was at a restaurant in Estonia in 2004, during a congressional tour. Both politicians managed four shots of vodka; the rules were unclear, but Hillary -- McCain's one-time political rival -- was declared the winner, according to the restaurant proprietor (though in her own account, Clinton said they "agreed to withdraw in honorable fashion," rather than name a winner).

from cnn, just to be clear.
posted by vrakatar at 7:09 PM on August 25 [54 favorites]


More than any recent celebrity death, McCain's complicated life makes it feel necessary to me to just let all judgements about him sit for a bit and not do anything with them. I do have a hope though that he was able to free himself from recent political cares before the end while he was still lucid.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:09 PM on August 25 [33 favorites]


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posted by riruro at 7:11 PM on August 25


well
posted by slater at 7:12 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Very complicated legacy.

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posted by gwint at 7:14 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]



posted by MovableBookLady at 7:15 PM on August 25


Sympathy for his family and friends.
posted by tzikeh at 7:16 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


Also we live in strange times:

John McCain favorability ratings by party via Fox News poll -->

Democrats:
60% favorable
29% unfavorable

Republicans:
41% favorable
48% unfavorable
posted by gwint at 7:19 PM on August 25 [37 favorites]


He did help prevent the direct murder of Obamacare.

Here is a graphic of percent Americans who have served in the military by age.

Of his generation, almost 50%. Of those 18 to 34, 3.5%. (Overall percent of adults is 7.3).

I've said before I can handle hawk-hawks. Chicken hawks are the menace. John McCain paid his dues for his beliefs and even for his craziness. In his case, I use that term with respect.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:21 PM on August 25 [20 favorites]




Fair winds and following seas!


Basically Senator McCain tried to be a voice of reason. We can’t afford to lose voices of reason at this time in the US.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:22 PM on August 25 [10 favorites]


On July 28, 2017, he dramatically voted against the Republican’s “skinny repeal” of Obamacare yt .

Before we credit him with this one decent thing, he voted for the tax scam bill months later which included repeal of the individual mandate. In the end he did most of the damage of skinny repeal anyway.

Even when he did the right thing when the cameras were focused on him, he turned around and fell in line with the worst Republican policies as soon as the cameras went away.

That’s how I’ll remember John McCain.

That and every time for the rest of my life that Sarah Palin is on TV.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:22 PM on August 25 [99 favorites]


We had George W. from 2001-2009, and in the Senate right now I’m represented by Lamar! and Bob Corker, and this time next year very possibly Marsha Blackburn, and if I could I’d trade any of them for John McCain in a heartbeat.

Nor do I blame the guy for not giving up and accepting the inevitability of his own demise in time for the opposing party to get the tiniest of potential opportunities to grab his seat in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic Senator in 30 years.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:22 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


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posted by cashman at 7:22 PM on August 25


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posted by fremen at 7:24 PM on August 25


A true American hero.

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posted by AugustWest at 7:25 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


A family member is battling this exact brain cancer right now. I feel for his children and grandchildren right now, truly.

Also, from the "what he did right' department:

John McCain was a primary sponsor of the bipartisan Local Community Radio Act, a longtime community radio advocate, and helped make thousands of new community radio voices possible through bipartisan legislation:

“The low-power FM radio service will provide community-based organizations, churches, and other non-profit groups with a new, affordable opportunity to reach out to the public, helping to promote a greater awareness within our communities, about our communities.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that low-power FM is given a fair opportunity to move forward, while existing full-power broadcasters can be certain that their signals will continue to reach their listeners."

Many of the small radio station broadcasters in my area are mourning him tonight. I am, too. Just because I didn't agree with him politically doesn't mean he didn't do some good things during his time as a legislator. This was one of those times.

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posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:25 PM on August 25 [34 favorites]


we do live in strange times indeed - a site i won't link to on the fringe right is indulging in some truly vicious commentary on john mccain, much worse than anything that would be permitted here, on a site where few voted for him
posted by pyramid termite at 7:26 PM on August 25 [12 favorites]


I am about as loyal to the notion of John McCain as an honorable, patriotic, indepedent-minded leader as he was. That is, when it aligns with our personal interests. The best you can really say is, sometimes he did the right thing.

I suppose that's about what we all end up with, though not on as grand a scale.

Still, he made an effort now and then and public service meant something to him, which is more than applies to 95% of his corrupt party. And he endured a lot in his country's service. RIP.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on August 25 [35 favorites]


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posted by Fizz at 7:27 PM on August 25


Mr. McCain is survived by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:27 PM on August 25 [46 favorites]


Also one time I saw McCain buying saltines and yogurt on Super Bowl Sunday. So I’ll also remember him for that, because that was legitimately funny.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:31 PM on August 25 [23 favorites]


Disagreed with McCain on most political issues, and feel that his biggest failure was not taking on Trump’s Vietnam “record,” which could have stopped Trumpism in its tracks.

On the other hand survived treatment that few of us could have endured and would not leave his fellow prisoners behind.

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posted by haiku warrior at 7:33 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


I've been reading a lot recently about the Magnitsky Act and its potential connection to the Trump / Putin relationship, and the fact that it was McCain and Ben Cardin who worked with Bill Browder getting it passed in the US has given me a lot of respect for him regardless of his other political legacies.

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posted by mannequito at 7:34 PM on August 25 [26 favorites]


Pro-Trump websites, in 2017, tried to blame McCain for the Forrestal fire. Snopes.
posted by Brian B. at 7:35 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


Complicated feelings. I disagreed with almost everything the man stood for, and I think he got far more credit for being an independent “maverick” than he ever deserved. His actions counted for a lot more than his words, no matter how nice those words sounded. But unlike most of his party, he had at least moments of decency and honor. I suppose that counts for something.

The best thing I can say is that if his whole party had been like McCain, I could probably consider them a tolerable opposition party.
posted by fencerjimmy at 7:36 PM on August 25 [46 favorites]


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posted by Sphinx at 7:37 PM on August 25


He did help prevent the direct murder of Obamacare.

No, he didn't. That was just typical McCain showboating. Just a few months later he voted for the tax cuts for the rich that included the same skinny repeal provisions. And they became law.

Apparently McCain's only complaint about the skinny repeal was that it didn't have enough tax breaks in it for fabulously wealthy people like McCain. Once they fixed that up, he was fine with it.
posted by JackFlash at 7:37 PM on August 25 [60 favorites]


As to Captain McCain, I say, fair winds and following seas.

As to Senator McCain, I say, he was evil, but he was lawful evil, and there are two or three worse boxes to be in.
posted by Etrigan at 7:39 PM on August 25 [54 favorites]


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posted by anadem at 7:41 PM on August 25




I'm sad for his family, and there is a large part of me that is sad that he did not live long enough to see Donald Trump's punk ass thrown into prison.
posted by Optamystic at 7:47 PM on August 25 [16 favorites]


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posted by zaelic at 7:47 PM on August 25


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posted by bunderful at 7:49 PM on August 25


An awful person, on every level, personal and political. Good riddance.
posted by dilaudid at 7:51 PM on August 25 [29 favorites]


As an Arizonan, I find McCain’s passing both concerning and troubling.
posted by darkstar at 7:51 PM on August 25 [42 favorites]


Perhaps the campaign’s most remarkable moment was McCain correcting a supporter’s claim that Obama “was an Arab.”

I reject the idea that McCain's life must be singularly boiled down to hero or villain. Like everyone, though magnified to a grand scale, there were moments in his life where he displayed extraordinary courage, moments where he did what he thought was best, and moments where his actions did not come close to meeting his stated values.

But this particular clip has been making the rounds constantly now, and honestly, everything about it is awful.

The most obvious issue is that it seems to suggest a distinction between being "Arab" and being "a decent family man, citizen." Even allowing for the difficulty of speaking in the heat of the moment, it's never been a great look.

But beyond that, why is this a moment people keep lauding? We've spent a decade loudly celebrating the time a politician didn't completely give into complete bigotry? Why isn't that the minimum basic expectation for any human being? I know our standards are pretty low right now, but it says more about us that we've somehow determined that fact checking a racist supporter is itself worthy of veneration for the ages.

A few days before that moment, his running mate said Obama was "palling around with terrorists." Read the New York Times report of that moment, and scroll down to the context of what was happening in his campaign at the time:
Crowds in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have repeatedly booed Mr. Obama and yelled “off with his head,” and at a rally in Florida where Ms. Palin appeared without Mr. McCain, The Washington Post reported that a man yelled out “kill him.” At the same rally, a racial insult was hurled at an African-American television cameraman.
A decade of praise for presiding over the conditions in which people are shouting "off with his head" but declining personally to endorse full on racism in that moment. Our standards for leadership, for humanity are way too low.

There are a lot of extraordinary moments in John McCain's rich life to share. This one shouldn't be on the list.
posted by zachlipton at 7:55 PM on August 25 [92 favorites]


McCain, to me, represents the clearest public example we are likely to have in my lifetime of the crucial difference between physical and moral courage, as well as illustrating people's conflation of and confusion of the two, and their willingness to incorrectly credit a person who has displayed the former sort of courage with the latter.

Rarely is anybody ever given so many chances to be the hand on the lever which turns the course of a nation and yet time after time he refrained from making the policy choices which, from his public pronouncements, we knew that he considered to be right.

Even concerning the morality of torture, an atrocity which he had experienced firsthand and carried the scars of for the rest of his life, he still chose to use the moral authority and extraordinary political power he had been granted to accomplish practically nothing except his own self-promotion. His words were wind and I hope that he at least was kind to and loved by his family because everyone ought to have someone to remember them more kindly than I believe history will remember John McCain.

Brain cancer is a terrible way to go and his family and friends have my sympathy for their loss but I dearly wish that in life he had lived up to his potential to be the leader he could have been instead of the man he was.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:57 PM on August 25 [93 favorites]




I have a lot more respect for him than for the current crop of the GOP. But i had much more respect for him back before he selected Palin. That will remain an indelible stain on his memory.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:02 PM on August 25 [17 favorites]


I once read the big sloppy fanboy piece that David Foster Wallace wrote about him in the 2000 campaign, in rising disbelief and horror. For some reason, many people at that time convinced themselves that, despite his long far-right Senate career, McCain had become the Kwisatz Haderach of the fabled Third Way, and had become a non-politician who would act to Heal The Country from a place of unity and pure patriotism. I never bought that fantasy at the time, and maybe that makes it hard for me to understand how people saw this in him. But his return to form as a stalwart supporter of the Bush-Cheney agenda, followed by his cynical 2008 campaign, would make it hard for anyone to believe that this really happened, though.
posted by thelonius at 8:06 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


The last Republican presidential candidate who you even stood a chance of having a beer with has died.
posted by ckape at 8:13 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]




@digby56: Forget that clip of McCain telling the racist woman that Obama isn't an arab. The moment where McCain acted like we used to expect our political leaders to behave was at the Al Smith dinner that year. Go to the 5 minute mark
posted by zachlipton at 8:16 PM on August 25 [17 favorites]


I met Sen. McCain back in early 2000, during the South Carolina primary. The final debate was held across the street from my house, so I put on a shirt and tie and waltzed in. I don't look like the typical Republcan Wonk, so I got a few side-eyes but surprisingly, no one said anything. I had done a little work in SC politics and had a waving aquaintance with Lindsey Graham, so I tagged on to his entourage and wandered around. He introduced his crew to McCain with a broad sweep of his hand that suggested I might have been part of it, so I waited until last and shook McCain's hand and made some comment about the nastiness of the race (This was when Bush Jr pulled the stunt of papering neighborhoods suggesting McCain had an interracial child out of wedlock). McCain sighed, slumped and looked me in the eye and said, "It's a bullshit game, but you gotta have thick skin and a hard head to want to play but the winnings make it worth while and the guy who's swinging this week will still be on your team next week." At the time I was still a true beliver in... something, and this admission that the winning and the party was more important than any morals or truth shocked me, I think he sensed this and quickly responded, "Hey, don't think the mud slinging is all there is, just don't be surprised when the knives come out, be ready. Always know your point of honor and hold to it. The right people will notice and remember."

At the time I was already pretty far from my conservative days and slowly falling further and further left, but that pretty well convinced me that party politics wasn't for me, so I moved on to community and grassroots issues. I always made a point to watch for those who didn't go low on the first punch, and the let them know I noticed and respected it. I made many great friends and allies that way. So I owe the man some props for that.

I saw flashes of the McCain who shook my hand that night, on and off through the years, but sadly more rarely as the years slunk on.

Peace.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:22 PM on August 25 [86 favorites]


I once read the big sloppy fanboy piece that David Foster Wallace wrote about him in the 2000 campaign, in rising disbelief and horror.

Why? Birds of a feather...

Horrible people love horrible people.
posted by dobbs at 8:24 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


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posted by Uncle at 8:31 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


He wasn't a terrorist. However, he did remind me that as a non-christian without children I am a second-class citizen.

I did like him on Battlestar Galactica though.
posted by stet at 8:36 PM on August 25 [34 favorites]


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posted by gusandrews at 8:42 PM on August 25


. for all those who died in the wars he supported

. for all those who died of cancer and spent their remaining time with their family worrying about medical bills
posted by edeezy at 8:43 PM on August 25 [81 favorites]


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posted by jim in austin at 8:45 PM on August 25


I wonder if any of the Keating Five are left.
posted by praemunire at 8:53 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


It is striking and sad to see John McCain's most important legacy alive in all the ways liberals and centrists are paying him respect: he helped kill millions of people, but at least he respected norms.

He helped wage what is effectively a slow motion genocide across the Middle East, but at least he criticized Trump sometimes (even though he still voted for the profoundly amoral and devastating tax cuts).

The level of respect McCain got and continues to get from liberals and centrists just goes to show how deep and insidious white supremacy combined with neoliberalism and neoconservatism is. I don't think he would get this level of bipartisan support if he voted for a war that killed, say, 3 million Canadians.
posted by Ouverture at 9:11 PM on August 25 [98 favorites]


His voting record shows him voting with Trump 83% of the time, including to confirm Gorsuch and DeVos, to oppose Obamacare and net neutrality, etc., etc. And of course he'd have had Sarah Palin in the vice-presidency as a kind of proto-Trump. My sympathies to his family, but if you're gonna remember somebody, remember them accurately.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:14 PM on August 25 [64 favorites]


I uh I uh, you know there are some respectful and celebratory things that one would be expected to say and uh

he wasn't the worst of those motherfuckers?

he was an adoptive father who spoke out in defense of his child when she was made into a racist punching bag, but did nothing with respect to adoptee rights in Arizona?

I mean uh yeah. McCains I am sorry for your loss as I am for anyone's family loss. But uh. Nihil nisi bonum.
posted by mwhybark at 9:22 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


Combining two thoughts from my post above: only 7.3% of adult Americans have served in the military. Some of those are doves. I'll estimate about 35% of Americans are hawks. That makes about four-fifths of hawks are chicken hawks.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:27 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]


Cancer jokes are horrible and distasteful. My mother died of cancer when I was young. With that in mind, I couldn’t think of a better way for the cynical old warmonger to go. May Kissinger come next.
posted by Jimbob at 9:30 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


What can I say but....MAN OF CONTRADICTIONS. Or just second what others here said along the lines of "once in a while he did the right thing."
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:31 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I wonder if any of the Keating Five are left.

Deconcini and Riegle appear to still be alive.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:31 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:40 PM on August 25


i'll say this in his favor: he lost the presidency, and we have that to thank him for
posted by dis_integration at 9:43 PM on August 25 [15 favorites]


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posted by Silverstone at 9:48 PM on August 25


He is mourned by his family, friends and every DC political reporter.
posted by holgate at 9:49 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


But served his country. And I hope, could add, honorably."

MAN OF CONTRADICTIONS. Or just second what others here said along the lines of "once in a while he did the right thing."

Maybe the best that can be said is that he was a man of his times, and these have certainly not been the best of times.

Sad that he couldn't have been the man America needed. As with all lives, his is a mixture of highs and lows. His highs were much more lofty than the majority of us ever reach, but at least most of us will never ever sink as low as he did with some of his public policy. RIP May his family find solace.

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posted by BlueHorse at 9:51 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


I feel like we in the US live in a time right now when people like McCain, all the Bushes and even Reagan are/were "not as bad".
posted by bendy at 9:53 PM on August 25 [12 favorites]


He, like all of us, made some good choices and some bad choices, but at his end, when everyone would have forgiven him for taking his last year to spend it with his family, he chose to, while his brain itself was eating away, fight for the Republic. He is a man who, at his core, has always understood sacrifice. I hope he is buried at Arlington, with friends and fellows alike, and I am glad he is beyond pain now.
posted by corb at 9:54 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]


John McCain, the profile in courage of building his reputation off his service while continuing to belong to the party that smeared the service of his fellow veterans, attacked his family, and insulted his own war trauma
posted by cricketcello at 9:55 PM on August 25 [14 favorites]


He stayed the last year to avoid an election to replace him in 2018. Party over country to the end.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:57 PM on August 25 [30 favorites]


It is an odd media hiccup that we heard yesterday that McCain was terminating treatment, and that he died today. I'm sure the true story is that they knew he was dying, and softened the media announcement ahead of time.

My father (a doctor) had the same disease, glioblastoma, a particularly unforgiving type of brain cancer. I was with him in the summer of '92 when he got the diagnosis, and he took it pretty philosophically. It was not easy to watch him, a psychiatrist, gradually lose brain function. First he couldn't remember the word zoo. It was "the place where they keep wild animals." Soon, we had to finish his sentences for him.

One night I visited him in the late fall of that year. He was apparently dead to the world. But the dying lose their sense of touch and hearing last, so I told him the things that dying dads need to hear, and he died the next morning.

I don't know the guy and don't share his politics, but empathize with his family's grief...although 82 is a pretty good age to reach, and he lived well.
posted by kozad at 10:05 PM on August 25 [24 favorites]


he chose to, while his brain itself was eating away, fight for the Republic.

His very last two votes in the Senate fighting for the "Republic" were to provide tax cuts for the rich while taking healthcare away from the poor, and to confirm Kirstjen Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security who went on to rip hundreds of children from their parents and put them in cages. Not the way I would choose to spend my final days, but to each his own, I guess.
posted by JackFlash at 10:10 PM on August 25 [93 favorites]


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posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:18 PM on August 25


@nycsouthpaw: Nearly everyone who didn't cover him fought with John McCain. The group includes Ds who challenged him to make good on the maverick persona (by coming to their aide) and Rs, incl. his own mismatched VP candidate and GWB, who sought by any means to wrest the party away from him. All found plenty to criticize, but--as David Foster Wallace saw--there was an appeal to his call to service backed up by the credibility of his own unimaginable sacrifice that couldn't be talked away. I imagine we'll all be measured by the character we showed in opposing him.

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posted by Going To Maine at 10:19 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


He, like all of us, made some good choices and some bad choices, but at his end, when everyone would have forgiven him for taking his last year to spend it with his family, he chose to, while his brain itself was eating away, fight for the Republic.

He did that to prevent the possibility of his seat going to a Democrat in a special election.
posted by bookman117 at 10:22 PM on August 25 [30 favorites]


I reject the idea that McCain's life must be singularly boiled down to hero or villain.

Welcome to 2018.
posted by bongo_x at 10:35 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


Democrats:
60% favorable
29% unfavorable


What a bunch of gormless fools. No wonder we have Trump in office.
posted by bookman117 at 10:37 PM on August 25 [36 favorites]


"once in a while he did the right thing."

sounds like ... everybody I've ever known.
posted by philip-random at 10:49 PM on August 25 [10 favorites]


Human beings are weird, fascinating creatures.

I once saw him eating at Luke’s in Phoenix. Closest I’ve ever been to a politician.
posted by gucci mane at 11:01 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Also apt, from @BrianBeutler: When reporters tell you they worship the people they cover, believe them.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:04 PM on August 25 [10 favorites]


I always wonder what it would have been like if he beat George Bush. I really think of that primary campaign as the beginning of the GOPs slide away from civility. Maybe it was a mask that was always going to come off. McCain never was quite the same, but there were some shining moments here and there. Certainly feels like we lost an adult in the room.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:11 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


he was a very handsome young pilot and I have no complaints about that picture of him being plastered on my instagram upon his passing.

That said, he's a dick.

That said, he was less of a dick than our current powers that be, and if I had to choose between Trump/Pence and McCain/Palin I know exactly who I'd vote for, because even though we believe in different things, at least we'd be playing by the same rules (to a point)
posted by Grandysaur at 11:14 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]


Turns out that expressing contempt for McCain has been the last straw that caused my brother to sadly denounce me as so hopelessly politicized and shallow that I hate everyone who doesn't share my party. It is such a fucking relief to have people here who seem to have the ability to not fawn over McCain just for not actually being Donald Trump.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:34 PM on August 25 [26 favorites]


Obama made McCain look like a fool in the 2008 debates; with McCain having some 40+ years of experience at that time I feel those debates demonstrated a lot about McCain's actual modern competency.
posted by Afghan Stan at 11:39 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]




He is a man who, at his core, has always understood sacrifice.

lol sure the sacrifice of others to enrich himself and all the other rich white repubs who benefited from his gross bullshit support of life destroying government policies
posted by poffin boffin at 11:47 PM on August 25 [14 favorites]


The replies to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet are quite online.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:54 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]


Surprised not to find the Rolling Stone summation of his 'valor' and 'maverick' claims.
posted by CheapB at 11:59 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


I agreed with him sometimes, disagreed sometimes. I believe his pick of Sarah Palin doomed him, and helped release the hounds of the alt-right.

And I remember the spit-take I did when I watched the Daily Show's "John McCain: Reformed Maverick"


.
posted by Marky at 12:04 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


McCain's legacy is Trump, oligarchy, and white supremacy. While he may have been a decent guy in person, the party he hitched his wagon to kept sliding further and further into madness, and he enabled it by accepting Palin as his running mate.
posted by benzenedream at 12:43 AM on August 26 [16 favorites]


i'll say this in his favor: he lost the presidency, and we have that to thank him for

It's how he lost the presidency that I find most telling about him. He was up or even with Obama in the polls until the 9/15 stock market crash where he was not only shown as having little clue over what to do, but suspended his campaign temporarily while he tried to figure it out. That mix of indecisiveness from not wanting to make the wrong decision out of some sense of seeming humility and understanding of the stakes involved matched against his own raw desire to gain power and general cluelessness over what to do in new and pressing circumstance needing decisive action showed a man way out of his depth maybe trying to do the right thing but having no idea what that might be.

His selection of Sarah Palin, against his own better judgement so he claimed and I believe, also speaks volumes about who he was. I didn't follow his early career closely, so he may have been a more a real "maverick" of purposeful action back then, but his late career seemed to show his "independent streak" more one of uncertainty of action than of plan.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:19 AM on August 26 [23 favorites]


So farewell then to the incompetent terror bomber, shot down while bombing children in Hanoi, who then spent his political career milking his "war hero" (sic) status to deny other people the health care that kept him alive long enough to die in his bed at 81, surrounded by a loving if awful family.

Had he only been killed when he was shot down he'd been just another statistic in what until he helped usher in the War on Iraq had been America's most heinous and pointless war.

You shouldn't speak ill of the dead but remember they never had to say that about mr Rogers.

Gods, I shudder to think what'll happen once Kissinger pops his clogs.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:45 AM on August 26 [27 favorites]


I didn't know too much about McCain until the 2008 election. That he put forth as his choice for vice president someone he had never met and whose competence and ideas he had not personally evaluated said a great deal to me about the level of care he took in his decisions and the personal responsibility he felt regarding the good governance of the country.
posted by trig at 2:08 AM on August 26 [27 favorites]


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posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:45 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ziggy500 at 2:54 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


When I heard that McCain died today, it was right before I went into the grocery store. The way he died, through brain cancer, was exactly how my own father died-- and Dad was a Vietnam vet too. I cried for a few minutes before I gathered myself together.

.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 3:17 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


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posted by filtergik at 3:19 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


The moment where McCain acted like we used to expect our political leaders to behave was at the Al Smith dinner that year.

That Alfred E. Smith dinner speech in 2008, I think, was John McCain’s finest hour. And I do look forward to listening to Barack Obama’s eulogy at his funeral.
posted by Kwadeng at 4:27 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Saying "There were and are far worse people in politics than John McCain" is as far as I will go. If it sounds halfway between "damning with faint praise" and "more of an indictment of the other ones," it should.

His opposition to and revulsion towards Trump was not as much disagreement on goals as it was insistence that social norms be followed while stepping on the necks of the poor and downtrodden. In that, "at least he tried to be civilized" isn't much of a legacy, but in an age of Freedom Kook-us dingbats and Trumpoids, we take what we can get.
posted by delfin at 4:30 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


John McCain had a 0% rating from NARAL in the last year of his life. In honor of his death on the 25th I'm donating $25 to the National Network of Abortion Funds. I hope you'll join me if you're able.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:32 AM on August 26 [54 favorites]




I always wonder what it would have been like if he beat George Bush. I really think of that primary campaign as the beginning of the GOPs slide away from civility. Maybe it was a mask that was always going to come off.

Thinking about this and seeing that it very clearly would not have been different is what shook me out of a rose-colored retrospective I started to develop in the moment of hearing of his death.

Would a President McCain have refrained from leveraging 9/11 and the AUMF to start something like an Iraq War? It probably would have been a war against Iran instead and more than a quarter-million people would have died.

The thing underneath the mask—a large chunk of the American populace ready to scream in delight or simply unreservedly vote for Trump's plan to round up millions of people and put them in camps or ready to ban Muslims or for the mass murder state piracy of “keep the oil” which he is seriously trying to do with Venezuela—is what McCain spent his entire political career cultivating in common cause with the rest of the right. The fact that he expressed “concern” or was “troubled” when the mask was lifted in no way absolves him.
posted by XMLicious at 5:07 AM on August 26 [13 favorites]


Is there a particular symbol to use to say "ok, he wasn't that bad and I'm sure he loved and was loved family and friends, but he was pretty bad at his job, which which hurt a lot of people, so condolences to family and friends"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:24 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Seeing all the Democrats in office and running, including the more lefty ones, praise McCain based on the media mythology of him should be a signal to anyone hoping that by winning the House, the Democrats are going to be some kind of heroic antidote to the policies of President Trump. They seem to accept as given many of the very ideas with which we here take issue - that the Vietnam war was anything but a horrifying crime, that the current war (which many of them voted for) is also anything but a horrifying crime, that McCain's "service to the Republic" was mostly acting as an agent for the corporatist agenda, that the way we and the media have come to treat politics like a reality show in which politicians get assigned a "role" which acts as a filter through which we view their choices and behavior (McCain was cast as a "maverick") is one of the very reasons we have President Trump, that Trump is a symptom of the decay and corruption of our system and not its cause.
The same Democrats who are posthumously praising McCain now are not going to be able to do what it takes to stop the rise of idiocracy and kelptocracy, make a real difference about climate change, reverse four decades of corporatist intereference in democratic processes, rebuild the unions and/or champion our working and middle classes, combat racism and rising white supremacism and fascism. At best they'll keep some things from getting worse.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:25 AM on August 26 [40 favorites]


.
posted by allandsome at 5:29 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


He was about the best the GOP had.

That is what is truly terrifying.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:32 AM on August 26 [27 favorites]


People keep saying that he chose not to resign to keep his seat in Republican hands. Did he say as much? Perhaps he was hoping beyond hope to beat the cancer. He had the kind of ego where that was possible. Perhaps he has in place a deal where his wife takes over and he wanted her to take the seat.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:58 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


A friend posted this 1999 piece about McCain and poetry. From the Weekly Standard, but thoughtful. I really enjoyed it.
posted by Miko at 6:02 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


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posted by sammyo at 6:09 AM on August 26


I'm going to memorialize McCain by speaking out strongly and in no uncertain terms against those who'd mock his death... then stepping aside and letting them do whatever the hell they want anyway. It's what he would have wanted.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:16 AM on August 26 [36 favorites]


He did help prevent the direct murder of Obamacare.

On the other hand he also was one of those blocking Merrick Garland from the SCOTUS.

...Setting aside the politics - he was a human being who fell ill and died, as we all will do, and who had friends and family who grieve for him, for they knew the private side of the man and loved and were loved by him. I sympathize with those people for that reason, and out of respect for them I will withhold further comments on his public legacy for a brief while.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


John McCain has always seemed to me to be transparently devoted to the idea of “John McCain,” beyond anything else. It is difficult for me to have respect for someone born into so much privilege who seemed to use it in service of his own pride, no matter how he dressed it up to serve circumstances, and no matter how much self-awareness he seemed to lack. Choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate on the basis of his “gut”? That is an adolescent’s idea of a great man. That is the kind of thing you tell stories about, but that no one with any kind of maturity or judgement actually does, and he didn’t appear to know the difference.

And I grow tired of lauding the man for being tortured, but maybe this is because of my own experience with chronic pain, and other people who have suffered it, many (most) way worse than I ever did. There are people all over this country who suffer worse pain than John McCain did every day, but they have to do so without there being a purpose to it, while knowing no one will ever call them heroes, while knowing their pain will never become a part of their identity to be proud of and instead will just go on being the thing that bankrupted them and any loved ones they might have left. While knowing that no one gives a shit about their pain, or even believes that it is real. While knowing that people like John McCain believe they should continue to suffer into poverty without public support.

There’s a lot of pain in this country. The wrong kind gets celebrated. Whatever else John McCain was, as a whole person, he is also somehow an example of how we celebrate all the wrong things, all the time.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:36 AM on August 26 [32 favorites]


While the leading figures in the liberal Resistance™ are whitewashing him because of his criticism of the vile vomit-inducing billionaire-in-chief Donald Trump, McCain was in fact an unrepentant lifelong warmonger who fueled catastrophic, criminal US wars that killed millions of civilians.
McCain also happened to condemn peace activists as “scum.”
No dot from me.
posted by adamvasco at 6:37 AM on August 26 [26 favorites]


I had no idea his mother is alive and 106 years old!
That’s really all I have to say about that guy.
posted by Bacon Bit at 6:37 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


People keep saying that he chose not to resign to keep his seat in Republican hands. Did he say as much?

No, and I think the good faith interpretation is that he fundamentally didn’t trust, in 2018, that his replacement would not be stark raving insane.
posted by corb at 6:38 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


In a time where there are no norms (of decorum) and rules (“we are a nation of laws, not men”) to cling to (that paper over the hideousness, and the paper gets thicker in memory!), someone who did that as “principled opposition" is very, very seductive.

It turns out that even that is a generous assessment of McCain is wrong.

Really read the rolling stone piece if you want an antidote to the false hagiographies flooding the net
posted by lalochezia at 6:50 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


Despite his own experience in Vietnam, he was a warmonger whose first instinct was to engage militarily (i.e. violently). Perhaps his most positive contribution will be barring the Orange Baboon from his funeral, and thereby depriving him of even the thinnest veneer of legitimacy.
posted by stonepharisee at 6:50 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money remembers McCain
Yes, McCain had some issues where he had respectable standards of decency. He consistently opposed torture, but then did absolutely nothing to object to pro-torture politicians outside of this narrow zone. He might vote against a particular nominee who had been directly involved in torture, but then would go on talk show after talk show defending the people who put said person there and the policies that led to the torture and would lead to more. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill was a good one, but again, once that began to be chipped away, McCain did nothing but support the very people responsible for it. After Benghazi, McCain was on the front lines accusing Hillary Clinton of awful things that she was not responsible for, calling it worse than Watergate and ensuring Susan Rice not succeed Hillary as Secretary of State. Of course, McCain was all about intensifying the war in Syria with the massive army of our supposed allies. What could have gone wrong! He would occasionally return to some bipartisan actions, such as his support for comprehensive immigration reform, but in the end, he almost always put the Republican Party over the nation’s needs. When he could have really stood up against Donald Trump, a man who had directly insulted him, he did not. He voted for the judges, voted for Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, voted for almost the entire Trump/Ryan/McConnell policy agenda.

Overall, the man had very few principles that trumped his extreme partisanship.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:57 AM on August 26 [23 favorites]


But in the final analysis he served, he acted and he lead which is more than most of us can say.

Regarding “serving” as an end in itself, as a morally unquestionable action, clouds your assessment of who he was, and is a vital element of an ugly kind of nationalism. Look at actions, rather than blindly elevating those who “serve”.

Those who shot down his plane, those who tortured him - were they not “serving” too? What if his “service” involved bombing civillians? You’re happy to go on record here as respecting that?
posted by Jimbob at 7:10 AM on August 26 [31 favorites]


In early 1980 he came to speak at a college Chowder and Marching Club with which I was very involved. This would have been in between his two marriages. He showed up at the last possible minute in a white two-seater sports car which he parked illegally, later giving the keys to someone to move it when it was pointed out that he was likely to be towed. So a bit of a brat, but also dashing, rakish and charming. I realized today that he was about two weeks older than my mother, but back then I thought he was much, much younger than she because he seemed like a flexible thinker; in the past decade or so he's clearly been her contemporary, stuck in his ways and in the past.

Anyway, at the event he was a captivating person in part because of his honesty about the toll his captivity had taken on his mental health, the despair that engulfed him during his years in solitary confinement, the cost to his personal life including his then current estrangement from various people, the acting out that he did upon return in part because he felt exhilerated and invincible: in short, a lot of good messages for college kids to hear. When asked about next plans, he said he was thinking about running for Congress; he would announce his candidacy a few weeks later. He seemed self-aware, but perhaps only compared to 20-ish me.

So based on his talk, I was shocked at the time that he turned out to be a Republican, having not yet developed any understanding of the politics of Arizona, the military, etc.. Throughout his career I kept wanting to believe the whole maverick schtick, but I later thought that it was partially a cover for the fundamental impulsivity he admitted to so many years ago, e.g., the Sarah Palin pick. The older he got, like all of us, the harder it was to get a free pass and charm his way out of bad decisions. For Navy man Mr. Carmicha, who completely respected McCain;s behavior during his POW experience, the decades long process of becoming first disappointed, then disenchanted with and then ultimately outright furious with McCain was especially painful.

All the same, peace to his family.
posted by carmicha at 7:18 AM on August 26 [22 favorites]


The only thing good I can say about John McCain is that, with his Sarah Palin pick, I was able to convince my incredibly staunch Fox News-addicted grandmother to vote for Obama. But then he spent most of the last year of his life supporting another completely unqualified politician.

He had a real tendency to say ~maverick~ things and then to vote along the party lines.
posted by graventy at 7:30 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


[Couple things removed; you want to discuss the how and why and what of MetaFilter, MetaTalk is the place to do it. You want to do so on a Sunday because people have mixed and in some cases deeply critical feelings about a major figure in US politics, that feels like not really the best use of anyone’s time.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:31 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


🖕
posted by tobascodagama at 7:39 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


I find McCain to be a mostly despicable human being. He was a member of a despicable party and had despicable beliefs and a despicable voting record.

He had every advantage in life and squandered much of it.

His politics sucked. He was as spineless as any when it mattered, and he voted with his party way more often than any "maverick." He also gave us Palin.

I always find it disconcerting that just because someone dies that suddenly we reform his legacy. He wasn't a good man, and shouldn't be seen as one.

I will not denigrate his military record, nor will I suggest his status as a POW isn't something to respect. But I just can't abide by most anything he's done since his return home. He's the perfect example of why we shouldn't have career politicians. 30 years of stalling progress.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:39 AM on August 26 [20 favorites]


I am just going to stick with the tried and true

.

Because cancer, and more so brain cancer, sucks.
posted by Samizdata at 7:42 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


I guess I think of McCain as a tragic figure. He often understood what was the right thing to do, and he often then failed to do it. On the one hand, I have to give him credit for often having the moral clarity to see what was right. Many politicians lack that. On the other hand, I fault him for often lacking the moral courage to act on his convictions.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:43 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


I was talking to a veteran friend of mine this morning and he said that the most bewildering thing about McCain was how a man that went through what he did could become such a damn hawk. My friend was never captured, let alone tortured but he will be the first to tell you that war is HORRIFIC. It's basically the worst thing a human being can engage in (because the other things you're thinking of happen regularly in every war) and yet this survivor of some of what the worst war has to offer built is political career on offering it to even more young men. And he didn't even get all he wanted!

And the only word I can use to describe his emotional state as he said all this is bemusement. And I think that sums up his political life: bemusing.
posted by East14thTaco at 7:45 AM on August 26 [17 favorites]


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posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:09 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


At some point a public figure can end up in a dysfunctional relationship with one's own publicity. "John McCain" was a media creation -- and as some have pointed out, that creation maps more to John Kerry than McCain -- that fit into the dynamics of the 2000 election and the prospect of Bush-Clinton-Bush, the latter two having escaped serving in Vietnam. It's a reminder that we'd like to think of politics in terms of improving people's lives, but it's often more a never-ending argument for its own sake, and McCain had very few concrete achievements over a long political career but had an ongoing role in the argument.
posted by holgate at 8:11 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I don't have a lot of nice things to say about McCain, but he was on the right side of not-being-a-fascist, so

.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:28 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


he was on the right side of not-being-a-fascist, so

But was he though?
posted by East14thTaco at 8:30 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


Jimbob--Service in a much broader context not just military. I was vehemently and actively opposed to the war in Vietnam--But I seldom hold individual military personnel accountable for their participation( I know this is debatable) or acts within the context that it is a war. Not talking about extreme acts outside the conventions of war.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:31 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


He always framed his liberal-leaning sympathies as moral objections to the atrocities being committed by his party. Not disagreements— matters of deep right and wrong. Even after he was far beyond the point of worrying about blowback, he kept identifying the right course of action and then taking the opposite road.

I just think back to the theatricality of his vote to save the ACA and want to be sick. Coming in late to the vote, making the rounds, fielding mysterious phone calls from Trump, then giving the iconic thumbs down— he knew how important this was. He knew that vote was a deeply heroic act that would put him down in history as a hero who held to his principles, who did the right thing, who gave the gladiatorial thumbs down mercy to the families of protesters massed outside Congress. And then, when it was time to pass a tax bill, he threw it all away. He was never going to face another election, there weren’t going to be any consequences, and I can’t stop wondering: what was so important to him that he would throw away his last heroic moment, his redeption and legacy? Good old boy promises to the GOP? More money for Cindy and Meghan? What does it mean for any person to understand the right thing to do, to stage an elaborate piece of political theater to shine the light on themselves making a last ethical stand, only to quietly throw it out once the spotlight goes away? The only answers I can come up with are either pathetic or diabolical. I’ve spent my entire adult life being disappointed in John McCain. In the end, his approval rating mirrored the false self he pushed, the “maverick”— he died with a higher approval rating from rhe Democrats than from his own party, despite backing them every single time. What did he think of that, I wonder? Gratification that the people he’d identified as moral champions thought he was OK after all, high on his own supply? Was he laughing at us for being credulous idiots who were too easy to bait into feeding his ego while he hauled his tax break money to the bank? I don’t think I’ll ever get a satisfactory answer. Sometimes, it’s less heartache to deal with the monsters who don’t hide behind tthe mask.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:32 AM on August 26 [43 favorites]


He was a man with a unique and almost inaccessible amount of power, and rather than use that immense power to help those in need, he most often used that power to shore up the advantages that he and those like him enjoyed that allowed him to reach that power. He enjoyed access to the best of care for his multiple health issues, yet did little aside from grandstanding in order to burnish his legacy to assure the same quality of care to those without.

He had more chances than most of us can ever dream of having to make this world a better place, yet aside from lip service from time to time, or hollow acts meant to burnish his personal brand as a maverick, he most often voted against anything that would have actually helped those that needed it most. I will not mourn his grandstanding bullshit.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:44 AM on August 26 [20 favorites]


Charles Pierce, as usual, did a spot-on job with his take on McCain. I was interested to learn that McCain died exactly nine years after Ted Kennedy and of the same disease.
posted by TedW at 8:45 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


But was he though?

Putin doesn't like him. That's good enough for me.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:45 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


McCain survives as a metaphor (though maverick is a dumb word since the TV show). I would assume there are over ten thousand McCains in China's military. It gives me hope for two reasons. One being that they are mostly lazy or incompetent in their rank, and the other being that they have enough cultivated ego to subvert their leaders whenever they see their chance. McCains are rare in America, because they must marry their money and get elected first (which makes them exceptional McCains). Though the real McCain's conservative colleagues had very similar egos and beliefs, they don't have the lifetime of learning how to offend superiors and get away with it.
posted by Brian B. at 9:03 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


A terribly flawed individual who could have done more but didn't.
posted by tommasz at 9:05 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I think that McCain is an excellent illustration of the sensory-inhibition of privilege, and in the context of US political history he might just rank as thoroughly average.

Peer-pressure aside, I doubt it's very hard in DC to be a "Putin doesn't like him."
posted by rhizome at 9:42 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Just to put into context what an effect he could have had when there were no shits left to give: Joe Lieberman, who as much as it pains me to say it, effected much more (harmful) change as a "Maverick" than McCain ever did.
posted by benzenedream at 9:56 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I think there's something to be said about McCain and masculinity, about the way that the overwhelmingly-male, overwhelmingly-white D.C. press corps was seduced by the idea of McCain as some kind of paragon of American manliness. I think that a lot of his reputation for being a maverick is that as a paragon of American masculinity, he should have been an independent thinker, so he was given credit for that virtue even when he didn't deserve it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:59 AM on August 26 [17 favorites]


"And indeed, for much of his career (and particularly after his 2000 presidential bid), the media played a willing role in helping McCain to craft his reputation as a political “maverick” and honorable statesman. There’s a simple reason for this, apart from his status as a war hero: McCain was always willing to give the media access, the thing it craves above all."
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:13 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Putin doesn't like him. That's good enough for me.

There's damning with faint praise and then there's this.
posted by East14thTaco at 10:27 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


I liked that scene in Game Change where he took back the mic from the racist at the town hall thing. I know it happened in real life, but the cinematography sort captured the chaos he could no longer control. He didn't want to interact with overt racists, at least. I guess that's something nice to say.

Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace both gave that film an endorsement for accuracy, warts and all. As for that racist guy at the town hall, I'd bet money he has at least one MAGA hat these days. John could have done a lot more to put out that fire, but he was happy to keep it to a low dog whistle. Look at it now.

John loved his party and his country in that order.
posted by adept256 at 10:36 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


.
posted by homunculus at 10:45 AM on August 26


what was so important to him that he would throw away his last heroic moment, his redeption and legacy?

Weirdly, this is analogous to the thought I had back when he chose Palin as a running mate. It was such a remarkable trashing of any higher principles he might have been said to stand for in an attempt to wring a few extra drops of popularity from somewhere. Obviously I didn't consider his Republican presidential campaign a "heroic moment," but at the time it certainly looked like the summit of his political career. It was plain then that he'd trade anything for a little more applause, and mistake it for victory.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I remember there was a theory, at the time, that Palin's appt was basically coming from his petulance after the RNC and big donors blocked who he wanted to have (Lieberman?)
posted by thelonius at 11:03 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


It's how he lost the presidency that I find most telling about him. He was up or even with Obama in the polls until the 9/15 stock market crash where he was not only shown as having little clue over what to do, but suspended his campaign temporarily while he tried to figure it out.

At the time it was clear it was a cynical attempt to get Obama to stop campaigning, not some kind of genuine action. McCain was never a good man. He was never on the side of anyone but John McCain.
posted by winna at 11:15 AM on August 26 [16 favorites]


Yeah, John McCain really wanted Joe Lieberman as his running mate. (Now that would have made a great trivia question: which politician was the Vice Presidential nominee for both the Republican and the Democratic campaigns?) Sarah Palin was pushed by his campaign advisors.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:19 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


The thing that squares both his incredible endurance and selflessness as a POW with his support for cruel policies as a GOP standby is loyalty. The difficulty is that he wasn't loyal to some higher ideal of Americanness. He was loyal to American when in Vietnam, and loyal to the GOP when in America. His actions speak loudest.

I always find it disconcerting that just because someone dies that suddenly we reform his legacy.

This is a normal thing to do when someone dies and we're always going to do. Unlike the day before someone dies, we're not reacting to the most recent arc on the news cycle, but stepping back to take stock of their entire impact in this life, as much as we can assess it today. I don't think anyone's reforming it so much as weighing the facts and the various narratives to finally arrive at some sort of perspective on the impact of a life. Normal thing to do.
posted by Miko at 12:04 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Zach Carter:
What McCain did in 2008 was ugly and wrong. In a live debate, he presented a racist conspiracy theory in which Barack Obama and ACORN were conniving to steal the election and defraud American democracy. He did the same thing with TV ads, accusing ACORN of destroying U.S. banks by pressuring them into giving undeserving black families mortgages, and accusing Obama of helping to perpetrate the scam as a community organizer. Putting Sarah Palin on the ticket was an attempt to appeal to the same crowd that was psyched about the ACORN attacks. If all of these nice things people keep saying about John McCain are true, then he didn't believe any of this. But that just makes it worse. He was willing to spread toxic racist lies to win the presidency. This kind of moral lapse is a big deal if the Republican Party is your path to power. Going back at least to Joe McCarthy, the fascist-friendly wing of the GOP consistently linked civil rights to totalitarian communism and plots against America. The wing of the party that supported increased economic investment in our Cold War ally, Apartheid South Africa in the '70s and '80s, is the same wing of the party that destroyed ACORN. And it's the same wing of the party that elected Donald Trump. So the story about John McCain upholding fairness and decency against the tide of partisanship, amid the moral collapse of the GOP -- I just don't see it. I see a straight line from McCarthy to Nixon to McCain-Palin to James O'Keefe and Donald Trump.
David Dayen:
This was not an isolated incident; it's actually more of a defining characteristic for McCain. He repeatedly sublimated his self-conception of honor for the sake of acquiring power. The only thing that makes him different is he acknowledged it after the fact. ... In 2000 McCain called for the confederate battle flag to remain at the South Carolina state house. He said explicitly, "I feared that if I answered honestly (about removing the flag), I could not win the South Carolina primary." In 1983 he voted against Martin Luther King Day becoming a national holiday. He said he was wrong 25 years later. He later defended Arizona's racist governor Evan Mecham, who rescinded the state holiday. Clearly done to appeal to a home-state base. As was the Keating Five corruption, specifically done to please a donor that could elevate his career. Years of apologies for that one. McCain demanded that America "complete the dang fence" in 2010 to stave off an immigration-fueled primary challenge. Then he said he was sorry. For someone being hailed as a man of principle, he would certainly throw them overboard to grab or keep power! And it's notable how people of color are the ever-present foil for these moral slips. Maybe saying I'm sorry after the fact appealed to a media that loves to chronicle human failings and redemption. But how many times can this game be played before it loses its force? Apparently a lot, judging from today's paeans. But I prefer to admire those who don't constantly sell out stated beliefs, at the expense of America's most vulnerable, and then beg for forgiveness.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:11 PM on August 26 [28 favorites]


There's damning with faint praise and then there's this.

Hey, times are tough
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:42 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


It's basically the worst thing a human being can engage in (because the other things you're thinking of happen regularly in every war) and yet this survivor of some of what the worst war has to offer built is political career on offering it to even more young men.

Indeed, this is why I never respected McCain. He fought and suffered through one of the most awful, pointless wars in our country's history, then helped start the other most awful, pointless war in our country's history.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:51 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


This is a normal thing to do when someone dies and we're always going to do.

Yeah, but we don't have to. We could stop with the unending hagiographies of politicians and famous people in general.
posted by graventy at 1:07 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


@jonathanmkatz:
That time when McCain confronted the woman who said she couldn’t trust Obama because he's an “Arab” may be the most tellingly fucked up moment in American politics in the last 20 years.
If you look back, McCain was in a town hall that apparently had a number of racist white people who kept saying that they were scared of Obama taking power. He clearly was struggling to convince them to vote for him by choice, not out of fear of a black president. A lot of people have focused in on the fact that McCain responded to the woman’s statement that Obama was “an Arab” by saying “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen” as evidence of McCain’s racism or Islamophobia. But I think it’s actually both better and worse than that.
What the woman actually said was: “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not? Um. He’s an Arab. He’s not —”
Like most of us when we speak casually, she was speaking disjointedly and relying on implication. She was also imprecise about her racist conspiracy theory. The word she kept skipping over after “he’s not” was probably either “an American” or “a citizen.” The idea is that being a Muslim of color (“Arab,” to her) precludes being an American. This was batshit for two reasons: It’s nativist bullshit. And of course, Obama isn’t Muslim!
The thing that I think is better than some people give it credit for is that McCain answered more what she meant than what she said. Her point was that Obama isn't “one of us” and that he’s bad. And he’s basically just saying, no, that’s not true. Even Vox got this wrong in trying to remember him tonight. They transcribed his quote as saying “he’s not [an Arab].” But he didn't say that. He responded to “he’s not” with “he’s not.” As in, “he’s not whatever bad thing you think he is.”
The thing that was tellingly WORSE than people gave it credit for, I think, is that it revealed how deeply embedded in American thinking that woman's racism was. Even people who disagreed with her —even McCain— knew EXACTLY what she meant.
And this connects directly to the rise of Trump. Our national conversation depends on an agreed upon set of facts and assumptions. And that moment, and the applause it still gets, reveal the extent to which even the nonbigots are still relying on extremely bigoted assumptions. When people who hate Trump, who deplore the Nazis, who care about truth, etc., etc., still tacitly assume with their profiles & arguments that white heartland voters are the “real Americans,” that brown people essentially don’t belong, that black people are essentially dangerous and on and on, they are ultimately ceding the argument to people like the woman in red. And that really is what McCain did in that moment. He said she was wrong on the facts, but didn’t challenge her assumptions. And that's a big part of how we got where we are today.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:08 PM on August 26 [37 favorites]


If all of these nice things people keep saying about John McCain are true, then he didn't believe any of this. But that just makes it worse.
Yes, that's the crux of it for me. Time and again his public statements about what he knew to be right were at odds with the actual actions he took, and time and again he was given credit for the public statements while the actions were dismissed as regrettable necessities or exceptional circumstances.

It's getting harder, in this age of Trump, for me to see the double standard we apply to the rich and powerful as anything but a societal cancer. McCain received the benefit of the doubt again and again and again while others (who were not the privileged son and grandson of admirals, who weren't the rich and white and politically connected) were harshly judged and disqualified for a single misjudgment or often for no valid reason at all.

While we should behave respectfully and compassionately towards the family and friends who are mourning him, maybe the last public service of John McCain's career could be to serve as a focusing point for a national reflection about the vast disparity in the standards by which we judge people. I seriously doubt we're ready to have that conversation but it is already long overdue.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:11 PM on August 26 [15 favorites]




Yeah, but we don't have to. We could stop with the unending hagiographies of politicians and famous people in general.

I don't see any unending hagriographies here. I see weighing. I hear it too, not just here.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


McCain is the last veteran of Vietnam or earlier wars to run for president. You'd think that would have helped him, but strangely, since Vietnam Americans seem to hold that against candidates. Displaced guilt, maybe? It certainly hasn't stopped us from electing hawks.

Every president between Roosevelt and Reagan served in WW2 or WW1. But every veteran nominee since 1970 has been dismissed as a wimp, or crazy from service (McGovern, Kerry, McCain, even Carter and Bush Sr. who got elected).

Instead, voters have consistently voted for candidates who evaded service -- Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama, Trump. Biden (deferments, asthma) would continue the pattern I'm not sure what it means but it's interesting and probably important.
posted by msalt at 1:47 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Instead, voters have consistently voted for candidates who evaded service -- Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama, Trump.

That sneaky Obama:
Conspiring to be born in 1961.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:51 PM on August 26 [53 favorites]


Throughout his career I kept wanting to believe the whole maverick schtick, but I later thought that it was partially a cover for the fundamental impulsivity he admitted to so many years ago, e.g., the Sarah Palin pick.

This is a good call. One little known fact about him is that he was a compulsive gambler, often betting five figures on a single roll of the dice. He favored craps, which draws a big crowd and lets the [sucker] feel like he's a big shot with everybody cheering him on.

Maybe a reaction to his trauma? I could understand if he felt like he was playing on house money from the moment he got released for POW camp.
posted by msalt at 1:51 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


* Obama was 11 when the US ended the draft.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 2:08 PM on August 26 [10 favorites]


As I said elsewhere:
RIP John McCain. He usually didn't say the racist part out loud.
posted by runcibleshaw at 2:27 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


.

Fuck cancer.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:44 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I always find it disconcerting that just because someone dies that suddenly we reform his legacy.

I don't think anyone is reforming anything. Most people have always believed in McCain this way. (Source: reactions to my criticism of him since Trumps election)
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:45 PM on August 26


May we all strive to be more like the person the media pretended John McCain was.
posted by ckape at 2:57 PM on August 26 [24 favorites]


In my life, John McCain did one very good thing. His selection of Palin for VP was what pushed my racist, Bush supporting father to vote for Obama. And while I know my dad was on complex son of a bitch, I can always remember his wry grin when I would remind him that he, too, voted for Obama.

John McCain’s epic political fuckup gave me a memory of my father that I’ll always hold dear. They were both decent men for the most part but right assholes when they wanted to be.

.
posted by teleri025 at 3:09 PM on August 26 [12 favorites]


One of John McCain’s Former Captors Sends Condolences From Vietnam
Col. Trần Trọng Duyệt, the man who was in charge of the North Vietnamese prison where John McCain was held as a POW for six years during the Vietnam War, has offered his condolences upon learning of the “maverick” senator’s passing. [...] “At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance. Later on, when he became a U.S. Senator, he and Senator John Kerry greatly contributed to promote Việtnam-U.S. relations so I was very fond of him,” Duyệt said.
posted by jgirl at 4:07 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


I find McCain to be a mostly despicable human being. He was a member of a despicable party and had despicable beliefs and a despicable voting record.

He had every advantage in life and squandered much of it.

His politics sucked. He was as spineless as any when it mattered,


>

in the interests of being fair and balanced, I thought I'd take a look at what the Breitbart mob had to say about the man ...

>

I doubt if he's at peace. He spent his life in both covert and overt evil. When he was diagnosed with the cancer, he doubled down on harming others.

McCain was a hateful, spiteful man. He did not leave a good legacy behind.

He was the textbook 3rd generation of a dynasty... A spoiled entitled punk that skated by on his connections and arrogance..

"I did not attend his funeral but I did send a nice letter saying I approved of it" Mark Twain.....

Let us all celebrate today the fact that as Senator McCain died a slow and painful death, he was comforted by the knowledge that Donald Trump is still president.


and so on ...
posted by philip-random at 4:13 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


My dad died of the same cancer at age 55. Provincial healthcare wasn't perfect, (waitlist for an MRI and chemo) but he didn't have to worry that it would bankrupt his family.

I can't honor the life on anyone who would work to deprive people of that sort of simple security.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:25 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


A friend of mine died of that last year. Probably had it for a few months, collapse October 3, died on the 27th.

Fuck Cancer.


I didn't like McCain much - I thought his attitude was just a little too self-serving.
posted by mephron at 4:35 PM on August 26


I have such mixed feelings about McCain. Before he selected Palin as his running mate, I actually considered voting for him. I liked and respected him even though I didn't think of myself as a Republican. At the time, I wasn't sold on Obama. It's crazy to think about that now, but that's how I felt back then.

But once he chose Palin, and she was such an obviously horrendous choice for that position, I could never take him seriously again. Every choice he made after that just seemed suspect - he became a captive of his party and was no longer able to act freely, exactly what has happened to every other seemingly moderate member of the Republican party.

Like others, I feel like he was never able to live up to his potential. I'm sorry he went out this way, and I feel for his family. I'm pretty sure whatever Republican is selected to replace him won't be an improvement.
posted by wondermouse at 4:53 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]




From Capt. Renault's link above: The people Palin is referring to likely included Nicolle Wallace, who served as senior advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008 and is now a political commentator for MSNBC. Palin has been jousting with Wallace ever since she was assigned to help transform Palin from small-state governor to vice presidential candidate. Palin has been blaming Wallace for years for her disastrous performance on the campaign trail. Wallace, meanwhile, wrote a novel featuring a mentally ill female vice-presidential candidate that many believed was a thinly veiled dig at Palin.
posted by Brian B. at 5:18 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


in the interests of being fair and balanced, I thought I'd take a look at what the Breitbart mob had to say about the man ...

You know what they say, if both sides hate you, you were probably a real dick.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:20 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


NPR (ugh) ran a line saying John McCain always respected the Vietnamese people.

Google his name and the common racial slur for southeast Asians to see the bounds of that "respect."

And to head off. The "well they tortured him" argument off: sure they did. Torture is horrific and you might want to use slurs to describe the people who did it to you. But a more honest man than John McCain would have owned those hard feelings rather than...whatever he did.
posted by East14thTaco at 9:05 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


This CNN opinion piece by Ana Navarro made me tear up this morning.
posted by bendy at 9:23 PM on August 26


He usually didn't say the racist part out loud.

Yeah, about that...
"I hate the gooks," McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. "I will hate them as long as I live."
[...]
"If Sen. McCain had been captured by Nigerians, could he call those people 'n*****s' and think he wasn't going to offend everyone who is black?" Akoi asked. "We can all feel for what he went through, but if that's his level of sensitivity, I'm very disappointed."
Dude was straight up racist and unapologetically so. White people, please do better than defending this guy. Please.
posted by YoloMortemPeccatoris at 9:38 PM on August 26 [19 favorites]


Also, with no slight intended towards you, bendy, that Ana Navarro piece does not paint a flattering picture at all.
One time, John got livid with me. We were having dinner with his wife, Cindy, and Sen. Lindsey Graham. It was a very busy restaurant in DC. I made a passing comment about Sarah Palin. I can't remember what exactly I said, but I'm sure it was snarky. John screamed at me, got red in the face, punched the table and got up to leave several times.

You see, John McCain was a loyal and chivalrous man. He was grateful to all those who had helped him along the way. He hated for Sarah to be attacked or mocked. He felt responsible for putting her in that position.
It is appalling that this sort of behavior can be framed as "loyalty" or "chivalry" instead of the entitled tantrum it was. Forgiving rich white men is our national sport.
posted by YoloMortemPeccatoris at 9:44 PM on August 26 [21 favorites]


Re: Sarah Palin, I forget to finish my point earlier. He was a problem gambler, and craps was his favorite game. I think the Palin pick makes a lot more sense if you see it as a big roll of the dice, against big odds. He didn't know that much about her. Nobody did. She had some raw charisma and TV training, and the time was right for a female candidate. I honestly think that was all there was to it.

Now of course that's super reckless, but that was him.

As to why reporters and many Democrats (including Bernie Sanders) speak highly of him, he was a character, in original personality, in a town devoid of personality. His competition among Republicans was Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Who wouldn't have a soft spot for McCain in that context?
posted by msalt at 10:03 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Obama was 11 when the US ended the draft.

Solid point. But, it's actually possible to join the military without being drafted. My heavily Democratic grandfather did. Some might even consider military service, in any generation, an important qualification to be the commander in chief.

Tammy Duckworth in 2020!
posted by msalt at 10:06 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


She had some raw charisma and TV training, and the time was right for a female candidate.

All of my women friends were pissed that Hillary didn't get the Democratic nomination and Palin was presented as a sop to them.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:54 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Some might even consider military service, in any generation, an important qualification to be the commander in chief.

Fuck. To. The. No.

It’s a bullet point on the resume, sure. But I draw a fucking line the width of my own personal goddamn ribbon rack through the merest suggestion of a glint of a scintilla of a murmuring that it’s in any way mandatory. Obama didn’t join the Army in 1979 when we weren’t at war with anybody and he didn’t need the money for college? Fine. Great. More power to him.
posted by Etrigan at 11:03 PM on August 26 [46 favorites]


Some might even consider military service, in any generation, an important qualification to be the commander in chief.

Some. Others might note that having cadets parade at high school football games is actually kinda weird, and that the US needs to get the fuck over its creepy militarism and its two-tier Starship Troopers system where a huge welfare state is available and typically protected across the political spectrum as long as you make yourself available to kill people in far-away places. Some might consider that so many American politicians having military experience regardless of their generation means the US fights far too many damn wars.

(The commander-in-chief of the British armed forces is a 92-year-old whose military experience was as a volunteer mechanic on the home front.)
posted by holgate at 11:13 PM on August 26 [33 favorites]


Some might even consider military service, in any generation, an important qualification to be the commander in chief.

Honestly I could see a stronger case for it being a *disqualification*, creepy militarism aside even.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:16 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


I hate the gooks,

Trump's “rain fire and fury” bit from last year drew a direct line between the first-ever battlefield use of nuclear weapons in human history, by the United States against a non-white East Asian civilian populace, and a second-ever use again by the United States, also against a non-white and East Asian civilian populace. How many Asians should die for an American illusion of security that could be had without any further commitment to nonproliferation or reduction in America's own ability to issue nuclear threats? The line says, “Any number necessary, without limit.”

McCain's military and political career kept us firmly on that line. And not inadvertently or instrumentally but in full coordination with his character, beliefs, and career goals.

His experience at the hands of his captors may have indoctrinated him to a racist hatred which can't be construed as fully volitional on his part. But that's one of the reasons why military service should be disqualifying, at least while we explicitly put in the hands of our supreme leaders carte blanche for continuous conventional warfare and an ability to annihilate all life on Earth.

The twentieth century was wall-to-wall warfare and continuous close calls as it was; here in the twenty-first century, beyond any real hope of keeping 1940s technology out of the hands of any state or capable non-state actor that really wants nuclear weapons, and with new and ongoing conflicts the world over destined to be intensified to a greater and greater degree as time passes by the effects of climate change, complete nuclear disarmament is necessary for any of us at all to survive. It might not actually become possible until one of the “limited” nuclear exchanges happens, which Trump and his ilk have spent their whole lives dreaming of having available as a negotiating tactic, but we must be poised to take advantage of the resulting horror and lock in a program to verifiably and durably dismantle weapons systems internationally.
posted by XMLicious at 3:21 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Solid point. But, it's actually possible to join the military without being drafted

You described President Obama as “evading” military service. We both know that’s a specific accusation: i.e., typically that someone avoided the draft in an illegal or unethical way.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 4:40 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


He did apologize for the the racial slur (after doubling down) and has maintained support from the Vietnamese-American community.
posted by peeedro at 4:44 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Wars fought under a civilian commander in chief: World War I, World War II.

Wars fought under commanders in chief with military experience: Spanish-American War, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I (and Gulf War II if you want to be as charitable about W as the media were)
posted by tobascodagama at 5:09 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]




You described President Obama as “evading” military service. We both know that’s a specific accusation: i.e., typically that someone avoided the draft in an illegal or unethical way.

Seriously, describing a person choosing not to do a 100% voluntary thing as evasion is some 1984 doublespeak BS.
posted by solotoro at 5:39 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


John McCain was on the whole a loathsome creature. Remember that time he told a disgusting, misogynistic, trans- and queerphobic joke about a teenage Chelsea Clinton, Hilary Clinton, and Janet Reno?

Too bad so many in the media are invested in writing fatuous hagiographies of him rather than holding him accountable for his actions and words. Yuck.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 7:00 AM on August 27 [21 favorites]


Thanks for the correction, peeedro. I wasn't aware of that.
posted by YoloMortemPeccatoris at 7:09 AM on August 27


The bar over which rich, white men have to vault in order to be considered worthy of fawning obituaries really is a sight to behold, although you really have to crane your head down to see it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:09 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Some might even consider military service, in any generation, an important qualification to be the commander in chief.

Some might even consider civilian control of the military to be a really good thing and be opposed to the militaristic festishization of the presidency.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:14 AM on August 27 [20 favorites]


McCain knew how to do big gestures of human compassion to seemingly overcome his structural ugliness. Trump, McConnell, and the rest could learn a lot from him.
posted by Glibpaxman at 8:00 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I believe this constructed narrative of McCain — that he was an honorable Republican, and even if you disagreed with him politically, his positions came from a place of great loyalty, bravery, and an overly simplistic but strong moral constitution — exists because it’s what we needed as a country. That the warmongering party of rich people and racists exists as a strange unpredicted outgrowth of values that we all love and respect held by our parents and grandparents. Republicans just aren’t as nuanced about the issues that modern times demand. They can’t all just be monsters and we need to believe in something that unifies us a country, hence lovable old Maverick McCain. I don’t buy that this is who McCain actually was. Those characters actually exist and they are named Joe Biden and Max Cleland. But McCain was christened with this narrative by the media, which included both Fox News and Jon Stewart and everyone in between.

There is literally nothing to lose when members of a deliberative legislative body treat each other with courtesy and respect even when one considers some members of the opposition as monsters. We all benefit from such behavior and there are ways to do this while staying true to your values. I have no problem with politicians I admire speaking respectful words of MCain today.

I am not a member of a deliberative legislative body, however. This idea that McCain knew what was the Right Thing To Do but just failed to do it, is utter bullshit. McCain stepped out onto the national political stage in the 1980s when he was outspokenly vocal about not making MLK Day a national holiday. Creating this federal holiday was a non controversial thing to do even in the 80s, supporting this cost very little politically, and many reasonable Republicans did so. His stance on this at the time was jaw dropping and made him the loose cannon outsider looney tune scary politician of the day. He wasn’t required to “win the base” or pay back political favors — these were some of his truest colors. You decide if it was ok for America’s Grampa War Hero to be openly hostile to MLK in 1983.

(Of course he reluctantly admitted he was wrong decades later when he saw he was on the wrong side of history. And his admission, while trying to win the presidency, was reluctant and journalists had to press him on the issue.)

Yeah, he publicly crossed Trump a couple times, whatever. There’s no reason to think that this was moral opposition any more than perhaps the personal insults hurled his way or just disdain for a bumbling five time draft dodger. If McCain hadn’t been at the end of his political career and terminally ill, there’s every reason to think his puckered lips would be permanently stained with Trump’s feces.

In the end, the nicest thing I can say is “He survived torture and lived a full, successful life and showed some Republican voters that admired him that it’s ok to criticize Trump some of the time.”
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:52 AM on August 27 [15 favorites]


YoloMortemPeccatoris:
Also, with no slight intended towards you, bendy, that Ana Navarro piece does not paint a flattering picture at all.
One time, John got livid with me. We were having dinner with his wife, Cindy, and Sen. Lindsey Graham. It was a very busy restaurant in DC. I made a passing comment about Sarah Palin. I can't remember what exactly I said, but I'm sure it was snarky. John screamed at me, got red in the face, punched the table and got up to leave several times.

You see, John McCain was a loyal and chivalrous man. He was grateful to all those who had helped him along the way. He hated for Sarah to be attacked or mocked. He felt responsible for putting her in that position.
It is appalling that this sort of behavior can be framed as "loyalty" or "chivalry" instead of the entitled tantrum it was. Forgiving rich white men is our national sport.
Absolutely. I also think Navarro is misinterpreting his motivation, and in a way that she intends to be high praise, but arguably makes him look worse than the reality. It's obvious (to me, at least) that in that moment, Palin was a sore spot for McCain, not someone whose honor he felt the need to defend. The subtext of his Navarro-pointed tantrum was not "How dare you insult the great Sarah Palin" but rather "How dare you bring up the way that Palin's awfulness is smearing up my honor" (which indeed it did). Also, he probably didn't feel "responsible" for putting her in the limelight, so much as bitter that his advisers foisted her onto him (or angry at himself that he had agreed).
posted by InTheYear2017 at 9:59 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I also think Navarro is misinterpreting his motivation, and in a way that she intends to be high praise, but arguably makes him look worse than the reality.

This has been my reaction to pretty much everyone's "favorite John McCain story" over the past couple of days.
posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


John McCain cheated on then left his first wife after she was disfigured in a car accident while he was in captivity. When I learned in 2008 that McCain had called his second wife a cunt that was the end of any respect I had for him.

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:12 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


Yeah, but we don't have to. We could stop with the unending hagiographies of politicians and famous people in general.

Jeez amen to that. I considered McCain largely a self-aggrandizing empty shirt but didn't bear him any ill will (beyond wishing him out of office). But this endless need to lionize him - across party lines - is pretty hard to take when it's for a man who

left his sickbed
against medical advice
so he could vote to help keep other from getting health care
which he was currently using to try to keep alive.

I make it a personal policy never to celebrate anyone's death and McCain doesn't make it hard to stick to that; that was a shitty way to die and fuck cancer. But there's a lot of perfectly comfortable ground between the Brietbart crowd's grave dancing and this heaping of praise that ignores a lot of awful behavior. You can even praise someone without assigning this sainthood that is going around. Just talk about the ways he was good to you; you don't have to make a liar out of yourself by claiming that this notorious hothead grudge-holder was a kind and gentle man.

I guess it makes the people who already liked him feel better and what do they care if those of us who were already conflicted/negative take them less seriously for it.
posted by phearlez at 1:23 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


from his farewell message, prepared (obviously) before his death:

“We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil.”

I'm paying special attention to that Blood And Soil as it reads to me like an obvious reference to Nazi ideology. More on all that here:

The Occult History of the Third Reich - Part 2: SS Blood and Soil

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad McCain wasn't my neighbor or some relative I had to negotiate at family gatherings, but as final gestures go, I'm going to allow myself to applaud this one.
posted by philip-random at 2:04 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]




This is the most John McCain thing possible. An empty gesture, costing him nothing, that just barely manages to clear the oh so high bar of "Well, he's not precisely a Nazi."
posted by tobascodagama at 2:54 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I mean, he only supported blood-and-soil ideology in spirit, just not in those exact words. How mavericky.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:55 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


John McCain Wasn’t a Hero: "John McCain's greatest achievement was convincing the world through charming banter and occasional opposition to his party's agenda that he was anything other than a reactionary, bloodthirsty war hawk."
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 4:03 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


withhold further comments on his public legacy for a brief while

I know that is the civil and polite thing to do.

The thing is, nobody will be listening in a while. This is the time to reflect, this is the time when his story will be cemented in place. I am glad we have a lot of links and commentary here helping to provide a fuller and truer picture of this self-promoting warmonger bad guy.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:06 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


We're only talking about McCain because he fell somewhere in the middle, mourned across the spectrum. And because America is generally confused by moderates, because of our Puritan origins, which thinks in opposites, and equates nice with good, and then equates being liked with being good, and for those reasons we very much avoid being hated by both sides (which only a maverickist would enjoy). So we love to hate moderates, because they always betray us at least once.
posted by Brian B. at 4:07 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


A ‘Maverick,’ Revisited by Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone in 2008 hasn't aged a day:
This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.

In its broad strokes, McCain’s life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers’ powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives’ evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.
posted by peeedro at 4:08 PM on August 27 [14 favorites]


I'm predictably having torn and complicated and unkind feelings: McCain was an ever-present figure in my household's social networks, growing up, and held up as something of the ideal representative. He represents a lot of my extended family by proxy; I have mentioned a few times here, I think, but my grandfather served with the man and my father's family about worship the ground he walks on. My grandmother collected memorabilia from his Presedential runs for a while, had it displayed well into 2014. It was gone the last time I saw her, but I imagine she still has it around. My father has a photo in his closet of shaking hands with the man, I think courtesy of his mother.

McCain's ideals and his rhetoric, his values, have indirectly shaped the person I grew up to be. Sometimes the decorum has value, even if it's not as good as the actions that should underlie it, I think. I am the person I am now--the patriot, the citizen, the American, for good and for ill--because I absorbed many of the ideas of McCain's wing of the GOP and the ideals he thought he practiced, and I took the honor and the duty and extended it to more people, perhaps, than he did. I have certainly extended the duty to people to more people than my grandparents have.

The first time I ever took part in a political event or march was a 2000 John McCain primary march. His first run was the point at which I became aware of American politics as an active force in my life.

But Metafilter knows how that ended, or at least, suffice it to say, there is a reason I am no longer in touch with my extended family. I found that, when honor conflicted with power, the honor dissipated into airy gossamer nothings--it wasn't the solid gold I thought it was, the sort of solidity you could lean on. And I fell.

I leaned on honor to ask for the decency and the integrity in disagreement that I was raised to expect, to ask for a strong arm in the fight for a national reckoning. I leaned hopefully, trying not to hold back my own strong arm, expecting allies--surely, this!--and I found that the bedrock I'd built my identity on was nothing. Well. From this shoddy costume sword, I will forge something real.

I believe the things I was taught about being an example for others, about listening and doing the right thing no matter what that was! I believe the things I was taught about the importance of political office and the duty of elected officials to represent their constituents! I believe in the importance of governance and the people, the importance of public participation in that governance, and justice that should reach equally to every American! (And I mean every American: pale skin or no, male or female, straight or queer, cis or trans. Justice for all.)

I believe them better, I suppose, than those who taught me; but that only means I can make those beliefs real by allowing them to inform my actions in a way that John McCain, and the people who taught me, have failed to do. The fact that they could not or would not obey their ideals in the face of temptation does not mean that the ideas themselves are not worth picking up and reforging.

My family is grieving. I won't comfort them. I don't trust their honor, and more than that, I don't trust their honesty. But they valued, at least, the pretense.

.
posted by sciatrix at 7:31 PM on August 27 [23 favorites]


We're only talking about McCain because he fell somewhere in the middle, mourned across the spectrum.

Huh? McCain was about as moderate as St. Ronnie "Gipper" Reagan. If a social safety net-destroying trickle-down-boosting defense hawk is getting lionized as a "moderate" I think I can see why my fellow Americans always come across as militaristic raving Christian-fascist lunatics when they start talking politics. Apparently he's a moderate because he occasionally didn't immediately bow to the will of the kleptocrats, but did a little grandstanding first to show he could have bucked if he really wanted to.

I would trade another single from Aretha, Prince, or David Bowie for John McCain's entire sordid career. I guess he wasn't quite as bad as Mitch McConnell? That's all I got.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:00 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Huh? McCain was about as moderate as St. Ronnie "Gipper" Reagan.

Well, he almost switched parties, and was one of the few who consistently advocated bi-partisanship as the only way to get things done. There is always this source to review for details, but note that he ranks third among senators, behind Murkowski and Collins, to vote for Obama's policies during his presidency. It might help to remember that McCain, who constantly told self-deprecating Irish jokes, played politics more like a game, and lost gracefully. He never took the fundamentalist bait to treat it like religion, with whining moral condemnation and scorched earth hatred.

George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

There's some baggage here, implying McCain was lesser or equal to W, which would favorably compare, in terms of hypocrisy, someone who hid from Vietnam because of their connections, alongside someone who arranged for combat duty with their connections. It also bears remembering that McCain lost the SC primary in 2000 to Bush, before 9/11, because of Karl Rove's phone message to voters implying that McCain's adopted daughter from Bangladesh was an "illegitimate black child out of wedlock." Chances were overwhelming he would have won the nomination after winning that primary, and very likely the presidency, and thus our response to 9/11, if it would have happened at all. Judging character might not be easy, but it isn't rocket science.
posted by Brian B. at 8:31 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I'd like to say I'm surprised by the McCain hagiography in this thread, but that's not really that surprising in this place any more.
posted by codacorolla at 9:40 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


This thread actually seems pretty mixed about McCain to me, which says a lot. You gotta really do some bad stuff to have your obit thread not be all dots and sadness. Obits tend not to be I Spit On Your Grave threads.*

* offer does not apply to cheney/trump obits
posted by Justinian at 10:20 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


You described President Obama as “evading” military service. We both know that’s a specific accusation: i.e., typically that someone avoided the draft in an illegal or unethical way.

That's my bad. I never intended to describe Obama as evading military service, that was me reaching to make a grand generalization across 50 years of history. Trump, George W., Clinton and Biden evaded military service and have done better than veterans. Obama, as pointed out, was of a different generation that didn't face that choice.

My point was that voters support war-mongering policies but for some reason punish people who served. I think there's something fucked up about that, and I suspect there's a bit of guilt over the consequences of war, and having avoided them, underlying that. Obama was always clear-sighted about that stuff IMHO, and I supported his foreign policy a lot more than most Mefites at the time.
posted by msalt at 10:22 PM on August 27


I didn't like some of the positions McCain took, but he did a number of things that were principled, patriotic, and occasionally even heroic.
posted by zippy at 10:50 PM on August 27


I'm surprised by the McCain hagiography in this thread, but

assuming this is sarcasm because ... well ...

I would trade another single from Aretha, Prince, or David Bowie for John McCain's entire sordid career.

I'm predictably having torn and complicated and unkind feelings:

a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition:

"John McCain's greatest achievement was convincing the world through charming banter and occasional opposition to his party's agenda that he was anything other than a reactionary, bloodthirsty war hawk."


and that's just from the last few comments. You'd almost think a supervillain had just bought it. But nah, McCain was just a maverick.
posted by philip-random at 11:26 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


John McCain Tried to Save the Republican Party From Itself, and Was Crushed
In February 2000, the fate and identity of the Republican Party seemed to come down to a primary contest between John McCain and George W. Bush. McCain had shocked Bush by recording a resounding victory in New Hampshire, deflating Bush’s healthy lead in the next primary to virtually nothing. If McCain won South Carolina, the entire Bush enterprise, built upon the expectation of inevitability, might have come crashing down. So, too, might have the grip held by the reactionary social and economic vanguard of the conservative movement.

It was a moment in time drenched in the familiar hyperbole of breathless horse-race journalism. But unlike most such moments, the importance of the contest has only grown over time. Today, from the standpoint of the Trump era, all the forces that were brought to bear against McCain in South Carolina are ascendant. And the historical importance of McCain’s doomed rebellion looms larger than ever.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:56 AM on August 28 [7 favorites]


I really admired McCain around 2000. I remember him calling out Bush for Rove's disgusting smears about his daughter in a face-to-face debate.

I lost respect for him after he sold out his admirable qualities in his quest for the presidency. This picture of McCain hugging Bush encapsulates the loss of dignity in his selling out. You can't suck up to a man who slagged your family the way Bush did.

(In that way he reminds me of Bob Dole, another quasi-reasonable Republican who compromised himself in a desperate late-career presidential run.)
posted by kirkaracha at 7:01 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


TPM's Josh Marshall, Why Did We Care About John McCain?
...as the prospect of running for President again came into view he methodologically began re-conforming to conservatives orthodoxies he’d either shunned. When the Bush tax cuts came up again for extension in 2006 he voted for them. In the wake of his death, people have revisited key moments in the 2008 campaign in which he conspicuously refused to tolerate the racist proto-birtherism that would be synonymous with the Republican right during Obama’s presidency. But in a broader sense, McCain’s 2008 effort was a mostly cringe-worthy effort in which he methodologically undid or repudiated virtually every heterodox stand or penchant for “straight talk” he’d built his post-90s reputation on. His statements were often canned. He retreated to consultant-speak to make sense of his change of heart on climate change, taxes and a bunch of other issues. The moral was simple. For political power, McCain would once again turn himself into the garden variety Republican politician he’d been for his first decade in Washington. The fact that after all that he lost only made it a sadder spectacle.
Jon Stewart, Has John McCain's Straight Talk Express been rerouted through Bullshit Town?
posted by kirkaracha at 7:34 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


The way so much of the right has turned on McCain, and specifically by dismissing his war record (in terms much harsher than I've seen from even the farthest leftists), makes me think of an old bit from the Daily Show.

When covering the 2008 Democratic convention, they showed a bunch of people wearing band-aids with hearts drawn on them. Jon Stewart reacted "Wow, what a tasteless mockery of McCain's sacrifices" -- before, of course, revealing that it was actually footage from the 2004 Republican convention, when that was how the GOP derided John Kerry's purple hearts (you know, for mere shrapnel, because red-blooded Americans eat shrapnel as a snack or something).

A corollary of Poe's Law is that any parody of conservatism will eventually be matched and transcended by the real thing.
posted by InTheYear2017 at 9:19 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


The revisionist interpretation of McCain as a moderate senator says a lot more about how far to the right the GOP senate has gone, than anything specific about McCain.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:18 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


A fairly sweet tribute to Captain, if not Senator, McCain from Duffelblog: "John McCain Swiftly Kicked Out of Heaven's Officers Club."
HEAVEN — The soul of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was tossed out of the Heaven Officer’s Club just hours after he entered the bar for angelic military officers, where witnesses say he was sliding shirtless across the bar top while shouting “carrier landings!” or as his fellow naval aviators simply described it, “just being John at happy hour,” Duffel Blog has learned...

“It turns out Heaven is actually pretty boring,” said Adm. Charles Larson, McCain’s Naval Academy classmate and flight school roommate who preceded him in death by four years. “I’ve been waiting for John to get here since 2014. But I should’ve known five minutes after that Restless Wave shows up, he jumps the Pearly Gates and we’re both on restriction.”
posted by corb at 5:23 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Does anyone remember a story, circulated during his presidential run - some guy claiming to have been in the same holiday group with him, I think on a tropical island or something? I remember it was really funny, and even if not true it felt true...
posted by Meatbomb at 5:56 AM on August 30




Joe Biden's eulogy at McCain's service in Arizona today was just beautiful and heartfelt. I teared up when he addressed McCain's children and said "You may not have had your father as long as you would have liked, but you got from him everything you need." My dad passed away last December, and those words really resonated with me.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:00 PM on August 30 [9 favorites]


Oh God, I just sobbed like a baby for 20 minutes. Thank you for posting that.
posted by corb at 4:15 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


Rush transcript, Barack Obama’s eulogy for Sen. John McCain - Emily Stewart, Vox
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:54 AM on September 1


Rush transcript, George W. Bush's eulogy for Sen. John McCain - Vox
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:56 AM on September 1


Rush transcript, Meghan McCain's eulogy for her father - Vox
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:56 AM on September 1


Rush transcript, Meghan McCain's eulogy for her father - Vox

I suppose she's allowed a bit of latitude in a eulogy for her father, but, uh, wow, that eulogy was something. And as the cherry on top, she claims McCain, on dying, touched the face of god. I mean he was a Senator not a Saint.
posted by dis_integration at 12:46 PM on September 1


It’s a quote from the poem High Flight, which is often invoked for the deaths of aviators. Famously, it was used in Reagan’s tribute to the Challenger crew, but the quote dates back to WWII. She’s not claiming sainthood for him; it’s just a fancy way of saying he’s in heaven.
posted by anastasiav at 2:53 PM on September 1 [10 favorites]






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