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September 03, 2018

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Thanks for this corrective to the past week’s hagiography.

Stand by for Meghan !

Nice birthday present - thanks, Jon.

I remember how effortless McCain's Arizona career had been, how each election campaign was another reprise of archival footage of him moving haltingly and then saluting a superior with visible difficulty. Or lying Christ-like on the ground in his Hanoi cage. He was also lucky in his opponents like Richard Kimball and Claire Sargent who appeared completely out of their depth next to him.

He could be gratuitously cruel like the time he asked Governor Rose Mofford technical questions about the CAP in a Senate hearing. He himself would have been hard-pressed to answer those questions but he was delighted to see her flustered. This points out what an all-too loyal partisan he was in the years before he reinvented himself under the Country First banner.

I predicted McCain would memorialize his death in the manner of a Nordic god ascending to Valhalla, or perhaps by lying on a bier in a toga with a laurel wreath around his head under the Capitol dome. If anything, I underestimated the show he did put on. He knew the power of imagery and myth. He knew he was blessed in a way few politicians have ever been with a great biography and curated legend. Last week he delivered the long-promised goods, and not a moment too soon.

McCain was frustrating, vain, mercurial, and necessary. His death arrived at an opportune moment to contrast his tweaked nobility to that of the crude lowlife who stumbled into the presidency with the help of a Russian dictator and a citizenry that would make Mencken gag. His highly choreographed funeral was as articulate a rebuke to Trump's vileness as could be hoped for given the constraints of etiquette.

We don't have the luxury of picking our friends in war or utter necessity. McCain may perform in death a role he never quite attained in his colorful life. He can be our hero because America is, for the most part, worthy of Donald Trump. McCain didn't need to be consistent or fair to warrant our teary-eyed admiration. We are grateful there is someone who could contrast his sterner values to those of a toxic egomaniac.

I want to suggest to everyone on the left that we not neglect this extraordinary gift that McCain left us. It's possible patriotism can be defined not as noisy rituals of anthem-singing and flag-waving but as something far deeper and rewarding, such as involvement in your communities, or commitment to human rights, or simply service to others. In other words, there are worthy ideals we can aspire to and standards we can impress upon our political class.

America is struggling and exhausted. We require a transfiguring ethos that is national in scope and embodied by a vivid personality. McCain's code of honor was real despite his all-too human failings. Like a propped-up El Cid leading his troops into battle, McCain can be that mythic figure who inspires America to unify around an idea of national greatness. I wouldn't want it to be bellicose or imperialistic, and I believe the majority of Americans wouldn't want that either. But if we can pull out of this tailspin, the Orwellian formulations, the right-wing insanity, and the crushing sense that nothing works anymore, we would need either a great leader or an even greater inspiration. I wish McCain had been better than he was. But what he is today, sainted and lionized, may be even more valuable.

Thank you for reminding everyone that John McCain did little for the State of Arizona, the city of Phoenix or for veterans and we closely watched or were active in politics. We lived in Arizona for 35 years and never hesitate telling people our thoughts about Senator McCain. They are usually shocked to hear what I have to say. But, your column reinforces the fact that he was far from perfect. May he rest in peace.

Now that he’s gone, the question is who Ducey will appoint to fill his seat??? That he has that power, in these times, is frightening!

McCain’s greatest legacy may be behind the curtain of constituent services. Bob Stump was very proud of saying he had the smallest congressional staff on the Hill. McCain’s Phoenix staff told me they felt they were carrying an unfair proportion of the constituent casework because citizens were not getting effective help from other members of the AZ delegation.

I think the one consistent positive legacy of McCain was something that Churchill well understood. In order for evil to triumph, all it takes is for good people to do nothing and so McCain was not someone to ignore serious foreign policy problems. Sometimes this led him down the wrong path, but ultimately I think his input on foreign and defense policy was a positive consistent legacy and the opposite of the current administration. On domestic matters, I simply do not believe it was ever his focus. Overall, I would say the positive outweighs the negative for McCain, which is more than I can say for most politicians

Megahn! Also he is ALL we had.

Fair assessment.

"It is a collective primal scream against the traitorous, criminal enterprise in the Oval Office." That rang true all Labor Day weekend.

Jon, I didn't encounter one bit of false equivalence in your entire analysis. How refreshing.

If he had passed at any other time, he would only be remembered as a veteran, USN minor nobility, and a political hack. Now we’re stuck with Kyl again who is much better at enriching himself and his cronies.

Thank you for your article-although you didn't mention his nasty treatment of his first wife, bomb bomb bomb Iran, his famous Chelsea Clinton "joke," or his many airplane crashes, you did expose most of his foibles. As an Arizonan born in the 50's I've been following his career with dismay. I guess people needed a hero but McCain was the wrong guy.

Thank you. A fair article and very informative.

IMHO, Rogue's post and Soleri's response are, as always, "Spot On".
John McCain was just John McCain. We all have our "warts and foibles".
it is important that we know all sides of our elected representatives, in order to understand their actions and positions.

I believe the column and responses to be fair and balanced.

I do not believe it will cause the lost of any "friends", it will certainly not affect what ever friendship I have with Jon.

Although Jon and I have very different views of the Indian School land exchange, for the most part I agree with this critique. Much of it, though, comes down to disagreeing with McCain's views. I usually did. But I don't take such disagreements personally.

McCain was a very flawed man. He genuinely loved his country, however, and he served it well according to his lights. That's a lot. Most recently, he spoke out against Trump when most Republicans found it expedient to stay silent. We shouldn't canonize him but he deserves respect and appreciation.

Thanks, Jon. That was terrific writing, and in a fairer universe the Republic should have you back. Your audience on this blog is far too small, though they DO tend to be people willing to THINK.

I don't know exactly what to make of John Sidney McCain III. I acknowledge and appreciate his suffering (and despise Trump for calling it something of no account), but I wonder why he couldn't have been better than himself, why he didn't translate his ostensible belief in a propositional republic rather than a tribal one into more substantial legislation.

Must read in the morning Times on this topic: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/opinion/mccain-biography-arizona-republicans.html

A rational review of McCain's service to Arizona and our Country as a whole (ignoring the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) snippets that proliferate many columns and most comments here).

If McCain did, indeed plan his own funeral - 5 days is the sign of a narcissist (IMO).

The media provided wall-to-wall coverage (the only segment of the trip they didn't cover was Air Force 2 flying from AZ to DC) was because he was a "never-Trumper".

Though his military service and sacrifice is admirable, ask yourself what are McCain's most significant achievements - chances are you'll have to search wiki.

America has had more noble heroes.
America has had more virtuous civil servants.
America has had public citizens with more humility.

As for time running short for the American Republic - not a big deal! Climate change / global warming - whatever the term du jour is) will end the world before the Republic falls! Onward Leftist comrades! We must continue to move forward with our ideology of doomsday prophecies!

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