There have been many over the past few days who have offered poignant tributes to Sen. John McCain. Mine is neither more eloquent nor more warranted. After all, anyone who bothers to learn even a little bit about the life of this man knows how tremendous a loss he will be to American leadership, and Americans in general.
While McCain has had his detractors, most of those detractors still carried the utmost respect for the man because he always acted with what he felt were the best interests of America and Americans in his heart. He was a principled man, and his loss is a loss for American leadership here and abroad.
McCain was the first to admit he was not always right, but he had the intestinal fortitude to admit when he was wrong, and then get right back to work.
As a naval aviator, McCain survived having his fighter jet shot down in Vietnam and subsequent imprisonment, beatings and torture in North Vietnam. It is there he admitted he truly fell in love with his country.
He always had a higher vision for America. He saw America as a leader on the world stage and was an advocate for freedom across the globe. He fervently defended America and its young warriors — the men and women who do the fighting.
McCain never backed away from a fight.
Was he always right? No. No one is, and he knew it. It’s something that endeared him with many.
He did, after all, make friends on both sides of the aisle. It also made him an enemy to the partisans.
He was known as the “maverick” of the Senate, and rightfully so. He didn’t always vote with his party. He didn’t always act with political expediency and just in the last year, took to the Senate floor against doctors’ orders and implored members of the Senate to work together, rebuking the partisanship that has gripped the Capitol.
He went against his party on immigration reform, campaign finance and most recently, healthcare. Perhaps seeing how blessed he was to have the best care available while he dealt with brain cancer, he found it difficult to see healthcare taken away from so many without a replacement plan in the wings.
The loss of McCain is a loss for America. There is no one who can fill his role as lawmaker or leader on a global stage. Seeing the tributes from foreign leaders and dignitaries pour in over the weekend are a testament to his standing abroad.
There are few that can speak with the authority and expertise of McCain on matters of national security and military matters. He was a champion for those who actually battled in war. He detested torture and reminded everyone that America is better than that.
McCain, above all, was a proud American. While some used America as a catch phrase for election, McCain served with honor. Given the opportunity to leave imprisonment in Vietnam, he would not accept his captive’s bribes and would not be released before his fellow prisoners of war — honoring a long-standing code among prisoners.
McCain detested politics of personal destruction, as his family was sullied during his first presidential run in 2000. Stories about his adopted daughter began circulating, none of which were true, and McCain lost a key primary state.
In 2008, and his second bid for the White House, McCain took part in a town hall in York during his presidential run against then-candidate Barack Obama. He fielded a concern from a woman who cast doubt on Obama’s citizenship.
McCain shook his head at the woman, and said the following of his opponent:
“He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.
“He is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president. If I didn’t think I’d be one heck of a better president I wouldn’t be running, and that’s the point. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, I will respect him. I want everyone to be respectful, and let’s make sure we are. Because that’s the way politics should be conducted in America.”
Contrast that statement, and the honor with which McCain has approached his privilege to serve the American people, with the rhetoric of leaders in American politics today, and you really understand the significance of McCain’s service, and his importance to American politics.
He will be sorely missed.
Chris Brady is managing editor at The Standard-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.