Following yesterday's healthcare vote, McCain pleaded for senators to ratchet down the partisanship. Many of them will long for a return to the days when he stood at the GOP's helmby Adam Aiken / July 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
It took 186 days—or more than six months—after Donald Trump’s inauguration, but it finally happened. And it was well worth the wait. On Tuesday, at long last, we got a speech that was presidential in content and tone. There was gravitas and gentle self-deprecation. The audience was transfixed. There was applause and there were laughs. And, most of all, there was respect.
Just moments later, however, Trump came to the podium and began to make comments that were the polar opposite of what we’d just heard. For that earlier speech hadn’t come from the president but from his party colleague John McCain. His performance served as a stark reminder of the absurdity of Trump’s approach to the presidency. In case you had forgotten: it shouldn’t be this way.
Those on this side of the Atlantic with a passing interest in US politics might know McCain simply as the losing GOP candidate in the 2008 presidential election, when he came second to Barack Obama. But he’s been a giant in Congress for years and, before that, was a distinguished military man. As a fighter pilot, he was shot down in Vietnam and tortured. Because his father was a high-ranking officer, McCain was given the opportunity of release, but famously refused to leave North Vietnamese custody until all those captured before him had also been set free. He is considered by many a bona fide American hero. (Although, during last year’s presidential campaign, Trump charmingly said he preferred to honour those who hadn’t been captured in the first place.)
A few weeks ago, McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer, resulting in messages of support from across the political spectrum. His return to Congress this week, in order to cast a crucial vote on healthcare reform, was met with a standing ovation. And after he cast his vote (a critical one, as it turned out), he gave the speech that has won so many plaudits, and which highlighted brilliantly the dire state of US politics today.
Referring to the naked partisanship that is such an over-riding feature of congressional politics today, he said: “Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline—either by deliberate actions or neglect… I hope…