An American Moment

There were moments when John McCain was sure he’d die a young, tortured man in captivity. Instead, he died with his wife and children at his side 60 years of service later. It was an amazing journey; and a classic and inspiring American life. Yes, you may have had major policy differences with McCain, and yes those policies have real life outcomes. But calling out those differences at this moment risks missing the point of his legacy. You can disagree with John McCain and still respect him. McCain invited his two main political rivals to eulogize him. That’s the point of this moment. In many ways, that’s the point of America.

+ “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment, and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.” McCain’s farewell letter to America.

+ “They are threatening to weaken the Geneva Conventions. I can’t let them do that. I’ll fight them to the end—even if it costs me everything.” John McCain experienced torture and worked towards ensuring others didn’t.

+ “The moment seems to presage the rise of the birther movement, the era of alternative facts and the presidency of Donald Trump less than a decade later.” WaPo’s Greg Jaffe nails it: One moment from McCain’s 2008 run made clear his character and foretold Trump’s rise.

+ “But there’s something underneath politics in the way you have to hear McCain, something riveting and unSpinnable and true. It has to do with McCain’s military background and Vietnam combat and the five-plus years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison, mostly in solitary, in a box, getting tortured and starved. And the unbelievable honor and balls he showed there. It’s very easy to gloss over the POW thing, partly because we’ve all heard so much about it and partly because it’s so off-the – charts dramatic, like something in a movie instead of a man’s life. But it’s worth considering for a minute, because it’s what makes McCain’s ’causes greater than self-interest’ line easier to hear.” David Foster Wallace on John McCain.

+ President Trump, always the norm-buster, managed to break new ground once again by losing a personal feud even though the other party died in the middle of it. First, Trump nixed a White House statement following McCain’s death. Second, the White House flag generally remains at half-staff until sitting senators who die in office are buried. Until today. (Thankfully, someone at the White House grew tired of the embarrassment and lowered the flag back down.) On the plus side, all those Americans who love flag controversies finally got a real one…

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