There were two John McCains; one whose memory we should honor, and another that exemplifies all that is wrong with American politics. Disturbingly, the two McCains were apparently the same man.
John S. McCain III naval officer, aviator, and prisoner of war, was an American hero. That John McCain risked his life in Vietnam, faced unspeakable cruelty and daily torture in the Hanoi Hilton, and refused early release.
U.S. Senator John S. McCain (R-Arizona) politician was a national disgrace. During a 30-year Congressional career, McCain accomplished nothing save one piece of questionable campaign reform legislation, the McCain-Feingold Act. Tellingly, the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down much of McCain-Feingold as unconstitutional.
Despite the lack of concrete accomplishments McCain became one of the most visible; but least influential, US Senators. His only clear skill was the ability to appear constantly on almost every Sunday morning talk show every week.
In 2008, McCain bungled his way through a Presidential election. His major accomplishment as a candidate was elevating the corrupt buffoon Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) to national prominence as his running mate.
How McCain put Trump in the White House
McCain was capable of disgusting behavior. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary McCain spread the birther smear against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
McCain claimed it was illegal for Cruz; who is Hispanic, to run for President because Ted was born in Canada. Hypocritically, McCain himself was ineligible to run for President under his own criteria. John McCain was born in Panama where his father was serving in the United States Navy.
McCain helped the corrupt racist Donald J. Trump win the Republican nomination and the Presidency. Pathetically, McCain emerged as a leading “critic” of the man he helped put in the White House–Trump.
McCain and Trump’s eerie similarities
There are eerie similarities between the careers of Donald J. Trump Sr. and John S. McCain III.
Both Trump and McCain were pampered sons who lived in the shadows of successful fathers. Fred Trump was a self-made millionaire real estate developer. Admiral John S. McCain Jr. was a successful submarine commander in World War II; who later served as Commander of the United States Pacific Command.
Like Trump, McCain never replicated his father’s success and retired from the Navy as a Captain. Like McCain, Trump entered politics after failing to follow in his father’s footsteps. Eventually, McCain like Trump used his celebrity to launch a political career.
McCain, like Trump, offered no political program only soundbites and platitudes. He offered no ideology only a meaningless patriotism. Like Trump, McCain’s career was rife with hypocrisy; he mindlessly promoted greater military spending while griping about “government pork.”
McCain was using patriotism to bamboozle voters long before Trump adopted the shtick. The flag waving helped both McCain and Trump disguise their duplicitous natures.
The media portrayed McCain as an internationalist; yet he was a war hawk who mindlessly supported any military action. McCain was an ardent supporter of George W. Bush’s questionable second Iraq War and military action against Syria. He also worked to sabotage President Obama’s peace efforts with Iran.
The parallel with Trump is that the Donald ran for President as an anti-interventionist. Yet he became as great an interventionist as McCain in the Oval Office.
There is another disturbing similarity between McCain and the Donald. Like Trump, McCain was a master at manipulating popular emotions. McCain built his career by playing on popular guilt over the Vietnam War. Trump succeeded by manipulating the anger and frustration of ordinary Americans with politicians like McCain.
McCain squandered the moral authority he gained in the Hanoi Hilton by pandering to the mob and the media. Trump had no moral authority and has never attempted to gain any. Like Trump, McCain manufactured a colorful persona he used to cover up his flaws and dupe the media.
McCain accomplished nothing
The worst aspect of McCain’s career is that at the end of day he accomplished nothing on Capitol Hill.
He started no movement, left behind no significant legislation, and did nothing for his constituents. McCain did not leave behind a stack of meaningful legislation like his friend U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). Nor did he launch a movement that transformed American politics, like the man he replaced; U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona).
Worst of all, as I pointed out earlier, McCain even screwed Arizona’s voters from his deathbed. Instead of resigning after his brain cancer diagnosis, McCain stayed in the Senate after May 30, 2018.
How McCain Screwed Arizona Voters from Beyond the Grave
That means Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey; not voters, will chose his successor. Ducey can fill McCain’s seat with a hack that will vote the party line.
Thanks to McCain Arizona voters will have to wait until 2020 to elect a US Senator, Vox reported. That Senator may not reflect their wishes, Arizona law requires Ducey to fill McCain’s seat with a Republican, even if Arizonans elect a Democrat to the state’s other Senate seat in November.
Disgustingly, the self-styled critic of Donald J. Trump; may have handed the President a friendly Senate on his deathbed. By staying in office until he died, McCain may help Republicans control the U.S. Senate until 2021. The Grand Old Party has a 50 to 49 seat majority in the Senate.
Worst of all, McCain’s refusal to resign violates the spirit if not the law of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 17th Amendment mandates direct popular election of U.S. Senators, so a legal challenge to McCain’s replacement is probable. Therefore, McCain’s “legacy” to the people of Arizona is an expensive legal battle over his successor.
Moreover, the nature of McCain’s succession will generate hard feelings and nasty political battles. Both Democrats and Trump Republicans will feel shut out of the electoral process and have good reason to sign recall petitions.
How John McCain May destroy Arizona’s Republican Party with his death
Things will get nasty if Ducey tries to appoint U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) to fill McCain’s seat in January 2019. Ducey can give Flake two more years by appointing a puppet who will resign in January.
Flake is the Trump critic who bowed out of the Republican primary after polls showed he would lose. Flake’s term will end in January 2019.
That action will trigger a grass roots revolt that will rip the GOP in Arizona apart. By not resigning when he received his brain cancer diagnosis; McCain might have made battles that will tear the Arizona Republican Party apart inevitable.
With that sorry action, McCain showed his contempt for democracy and average Americans. McCain was a hero in the Hanoi Hilton; he was never a hero on Capitol Hill.
Hopefully, John S. McCain’s political career will teach Americans the folly of idolizing and worshipping military men. Unfortunately, the media will manufacture another questionable “hero” to take McCain’s place. Worst of all, McCain’s legacy of real heroism will die with him, while his ugly political legacy will live on.
This commentary first appeared at Market Mad House where I love to write about political insanity of all varieties.