Senator had respect Trump is missing

Admiration for McCain

This week is completely about Sen. John McCain. Agree with his politics or not, it is undisputable that this man lived and died with service to his country being his most important goal as he traveled his path on earth.

He was the first to admit his imperfections and often used them as targets of his wise-guy, disarming sense of humor. When asked if he ever had a fleeting moment, watching George W. Bush, of thinking “what if that were me,” he responded “All the time!” with a grin. What if?

What if he had beaten Bush in the 2000 primary? He may have been elected, or Al Gore may have been elected. He would have been faced with 9/11. He probably would have reacted similarly to Bush.

Gore may not have invaded Iraq. McCain’s effect on our history may not have been that different had he won. The economic crisis in 2008 had its roots in the low interest rate set by Alan Greenspan at the beginning of the decade, which would not have changed under another Republican administration. But, under either McCain or Gore, regulations may have been passed sooner and the economy stablized before a crisis occurred.

McCain would have worked with the Democrats. It took a Democratic administration to pass Dodd Frank and pull the economy back off the cliff. We know the environment would have benefitted under Gore, and probably also to an extent under McCain. He would not have been a slave to big business interests.

Would eight years of McCain have led to an Obama presidency? We don’t know who would have run against Obama in 2008, maybe Mitt Romney? Romney lost against him in 2012. But would Hillary Clinton have won the primary in 2008? A McCain presidency would possibly have led to a more status-quo Democratic candidate selection.

Back to the actual 2008 campaign. Bush has served his two terms. McCain has won his party’s nomination.

Since the presidential party pendulum seems to swing back and forth, odds were against another Republican win to begin with. But, had McCain gone with his instinct, his unconventional idea of choosing Joe Lieberman as his running mate, would he have won? This would have reinforced his intent to work together across partisan lines and helped to quell the rise of the alt right tea party influences.

Instead, he let himself be convinced that Sarah Palin was a fresh voice who would inspire the party and its voters. Unfortunately, she proved to be an embarrassment and encouraged the Tea Party fringe. A McCain-Lieberman administration wouldn’t have led to the extremes we are seeing now.

President Obama was a good president and a good man. But, the extreme right political climate made it terribly difficult for him. Had there been a McCain presidency in between, we could still have a serving President Obama right now. There would have been no chance for a Donald Trump. What a nice alternative reality that would be. McCain, you would have the last laugh on Trump.

But now, these ruminations are all mute points. One thing is certain: McCain would have been a president whose motives and goals would have been diametrically opposite to those of our current executive, evident in his sense of decency, dignity, devotion to a higher cause of country before party and self, principles, and courage. The contrast, which Trump has himself helped to prove this past week, has served to highten his stature even more.

McCain’s devotion to his country would have begun during his military service, particularly during his 5 years as a POW in Vietnam. Going through something like that has to make or break a person.

McCain had the strength of character to incorporate that experience into his life’s work, serving as a “maverick” in the Senate; always being frank, determined, and willing to work with anyone who shared his aim to do what was best for our country. He admonished his fellow senators in a speech on the floor right after his surgery and cancer diagnosis — a time when most would be self-concerned and rightly so — saying, “We’re getting nothing done, my friends, we’re getting nothing done.”

His military service would have taught him leadership, and the necessity for teamwork, trust, and truthfulness. Former President Jimmy Carter just said in an interview that as a fellow Annapolis graduate he was instilled, as was Senator McCain, with the importance of being truthful. Being caught in a lie would have meant instant dismissal.

In contrast, the more than 3,000 documented lies that Trump has been publicly responsible for show the absence of that discipline in his background. His college-prep military boarding school doesn’t quite measure up to Annapolis.

For every year John McCain spent in the Hanoi Hilton, Trump got a deferment and probably partied in a New York City Hilton. Five for five. McCain passed up an early release, offered due to the status of his admiral father; instead abiding by the code of first captured, first released. Trump took advantage and exploited every benefit his real estate mogel father provided.

Almost everyone interviewed this past week has admitted that they had their differences with McCain. He was forceful in his convictions, but all professed respect. Except Trump. It is fitting that it took veteran’s organizations to shame him into lowering the White House flag and acknowledging McCain’s exemplary service to the United States of America.

A letter from the American Legion, as well as pressure from the VFW and AmVets pushed him to do the right thing. Trump’s petty use of the flag to show disrespect to a revered veteran, POW, and lifelong statesman shows how his flag respect argument in reference to NFL kneeling rings hollow. He has no clue what our flag represents. He has no clue how to represent our country. He has helped to divide our country in a way not seen since the Civil War.

One of McCain’s regrets, while expressing his overall gratitude, was having to leave the country in its current state. He had hope, though, saying in his final letter to us “… we argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challanging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do. … believe in the promise and greatness of America. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”

Wish that we could all emulate this. Many of us don’t even care enough to vote.

McCain was a dying breed. His fellow Republicans in congress do not hold the same values as he did. He would not advocate a blue wave, he would hold out hope and faith in his fellow senators and representatives to do their job providing true representation to their constituents and checks and balances on the executive branch. This is becoming less and less a reasonable hope.

Winning a Democratic majority in Congress this November may be the only way we can save our democracy from a president who wants total control. We need to do our part. We need to do what is right for our country. We need to vote. That being said….

A fond farewell to you, Sen. John McCain. You weren’t dealt an easy life, but you made it a noble life and the United States of America is better that you were here.

You now belong to its history. Thank you for your service.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident.