In recent years, John McCain has become an unreasonable counter-protesting voice touting a modern-day McCarthyism and anti-Trump sentiment that have blemished an otherwise outstanding and patriotic public service record.
It may have been fated that McCain would serve in the military. After all, he was born a Navy brat to Admiral John S. McCain Sr. and rose to the rank of captain after serving in the Vietnam War. His military service legacy may be part fact and part legend. He was captured and tortured during the conflict and reports indicate he declined P.O.W. release after suffering debilitating injuries so others could return home in his stead. That level of patriotism earned him honors and accolades that include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross among others.
In terms of public service, McCain’s military credentials and education at the U.S. Naval Academy made him an easy choice for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1983, after retiring from the Navy in 1981. A popular Arizona politician, he won a Senate seat in 2000. But a presidential bid as the GOP nominee in 2008 shined a national spotlight on a sometimes volatile personality that voters widely rejected. The campaign appeared disorganized and out of touch with voters. His vice presidential choice, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, faced acrimonious assaults by the mainstream media and Team McCain appeared to abandon her after she came under fire. McCain would suffer and overwhelming 365-173 electoral college defeat to upstart candidate Barack Obama. His Commander in Chief aspirations went down in flames.
McCain and Trump Feud
Although holding sway over prominent senate committees such as Armed Services, McCain has become a caricature of himself in recent years. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump called out McCain claiming he was no war hero. Then candidate Trump lambasted the influential GOP senator as a failed soldier whose claim to fame was getting captured, not winning in combat. Incensed, McCain and Trump publicly traded barbs in perhaps the most vitriol presidential muckraking reality show in American presidential history. That race to the bottom has tarnished Sen. McCain in some circles and his ongoing railings against Pres. Trump appear petty, self-serving and beneath his legacy.
Joining forces with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the pair have engaged in rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War Russian scare tactics. In what appears to be a campaign for a personal vendetta, McCain has characterized Pres. Trump as a political novice playing into the hands of Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin. He’s pushed for furthering Pres. Obama’s failed Middle East approach to defeating ISIS and continued arming of Syrian rebels, many of whom have ties to radical Islam. McCain has also called for more telegraphing of American military strategy while Pres. Trump has authorized U.S. generals to take fluid battlefield action and keep long-term strategies secret. At the core, the Trump feud has become so personal that McCain seems to put his ego, self-interest and disdain for Pres. Trump first and foremost. Recent history plays like a Shakespearean tragedy in which the hero falls from grace.
But McCain has shown his grit in the face of a recent brain cancer diagnosis. His bravado and American toughness have been roundly put on display with him saying he’s faced bigger challenges. In truth, the brutally tortured POW came out of Vietnam as a shining example of American swagger. At 80 years old, his fight with cancer may take him out of public service but McCain will certainly go out swinging.