McCain spoke truth to power until the very end
I had the honor of covering Sen. John McCain and frankly, it was one hell of a ride. He along with Sen. Jack Kemp (R-NY), Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del) all were leaders that knew the best way to run the country was to do it in a bi-partisan manner.
McCain had his flaws and there were times when covering him was far from pleasant. But for the most part, he was someone with a great sense of humor who enjoyed dealing with the press most of the times on his terms, but that was fine with me.
His quotes always memorable and often profound.
For some unexplained reason, President Donald Trump never attempted to seek the council of the late Sen. McCain. He went out of his way attack McCain and to berate him first on the campaign trail and then once in office he continued to pick fights with a man who if he really got to know and understand him could have taught President Trump a great deal about both Washington as well as how government really works.
For Trump, it was what he perceived as a betrayal that happened on fate full night in July of 2017. It was high drama on Capitol Hill as I and other members of the media were there for a historic health care debate and the final attempt to repeal Obamacare.
The night wore on and at around 1 a.m. McCain cast the deciding vote halting the president’s long effort to repeal Barack Obama’s signature health care law. I watched as the 80-year-old McCain, who had just weeks before been diagnosed with brain cancer, his face still scarred from surgery, striding with a purpose toward the well of the Senate and giving a thumbs down to the vote.
Prior to casting his vote, he stopped for a moment to chat with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for a brief chat as Vice President Mile Pence was attempting a last minute attempt to lobby him. Collins would later recount that McCain told them that this is a sham bill and I will be voting with you two against this bill. Pence turned and walked away knowing that he had no chance of changing McCain’s vote.
Trump went nuts but he should have paid attention to what was said earlier in the week as McCain took to the Senate floor for was one of his last great moments of debate. He was his fiery self as he attempted to be the voice of reason.
McCain gave an impassioned speech that emplored his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to return to regular order, where it takes 60 votes for a bill to pass. He talked about the need for the White House to understand that the Senate was not a clearinghouse for their policies but an equal branch of government who was responsible to craft laws that were in the best interest of the country, not that favored either the Democrats or the Republicans.
He pleaded for both sides to work together in a bi-partisan basis and do the work of the people of the United States, not to continue to play partisan games.
The “Skinny Repeal,” bill that he voted against was exactly the kind of partisan bill that had no substance to it and was simply being offered to kill a law that there was no meaningful replacement for. McCain was not a fan of Obamacare but he also not a fan of meaningless legislation.
Ever “The Maverick,” McCain felt that the partisan bill was not good for the country. Trump’s health care bill was dead but McCain’s lifelong reputation as free thinker, never to be intimidated, was very much alive.
McCain might be the last of the members of the Senate willing to speak “truth to power.” He never feared President Trump or any one person in the United States government.
Yes, Trump was elected President and Sen. McCain never reached his goal of serving his country in the White House but he was an amazing man. President Trump will never live to see the day that he is so universally respected as McCain.
He faced down his captors in a Vietnamese prison of war camp and later turned his trademark defiance into an asset. He could have returned from the war and become a very rich man in business but he instead chose to serve his country another way.
McCain won election to the House from Arizona twice and the Senate six times. Recently, he was asked how he wanted to be remembered, McCain said simply: “That I made a major contribution to the defense of the nation.”
We can only hope that one day we get people in the Senate like McCain, Kemp, Kennedy, and others who understood that bipartisan legislation is tough but it is the best thing for the country in the end.
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