I like John McCainJohn McCainEx-Bush aide Nicolle Wallace to host MSNBC show Meghan McCain: Obama 'a dirty capitalist like the rest of us' Top commander: Don't bet on China reining in North Korea MORE. I have liked him for a long time — even when he got
angry with me one night years ago in the green room at CNN. (In fact,
on that occasion, he taught me an important lesson about civil
disagreement — that it is OK to challenge someone’s judgment or
disagree with his or her positions, but not all right to impugn motives
or attack someone personally. While I didn’t think at the time that I
had done that, I became a lot more careful in the future. And I commend that advice to the extreme voices using hateful words and demonizing opponents on talk radio and many of the TV cable shows on both the right and the left.)
Even where I have thoroughly disagreed with him on issues — such as his 100 percent support for intervention by way of a pre-emptive attack on Iraq or his opposition to President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaSocial media users rip Fox graphic on economy under Trump, Obama Wasserman Schultz: Trump's agenda 'irrational and extreme' Climate March draws huge crowd to DC MORE’s national healthcare bill — I have respected his sincerity and authentic conservative principles.
Most of all, I admired McCain’s willingness (along with that of his equally politically courageous friend, Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTop admiral: North Korea crisis is 'worst I've seen' Comey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record MORE) to take the lead on comprehensive immigration reform. It was McCain who joined with Democrats — and with then-President George W. Bush — to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill, one that would create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11-12 million-plus undocumented “illegal” aliens while enhancing and providing extra funds for border security.
He exposed himself to attacks from the right of his Republican Party base, which accused him of favoring “amnesty” for illegal aliens — a charge by definition false, since “amnesty” is defined as complete forgiveness, whereas McCain’s and Bush’s proposal (supported by many Democrats) would require illegal aliens to pay fines and meet other requirements before, over time, being granted citizenship.
During his run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, McCain downplayed the “pathway to citizenship” aspects of his position and emphasized his border-security stance — and I understood. Politics is politics — and McCain deserves more of a cushion, given his record of authenticity, courage and bipartisanship.
But then came the last several days. The state of Arizona passed an abominable, literally indefensible and obviously unconstitutional law that would allow police officers to stop anyone they “reasonably suspect” of being undocumented. Anyone who can add two and two would have to concede that this will lead to — no, will require — racial profiling by police officers. How else will a police officer “reasonably suspect” someone of being undocumented unless his or her were dark or he/she spoke with an Hispanic accent? To ask the question is to answer the question.
Worse, the bill would require the arrest of anyone who couldn’t produce “papers” proving their documented status. Is there anyone who doesn’t think of Nazi Germany or the movie “Casablanca,” when the German SS walked through Rick’s Casino demanding all show their “papers”? One shudders at the memory of this type of fascist-state culture — until you realize that is exactly what the Legislature of Arizona and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer just signed into law.
And what did McCain say? He supported the law because people are “frustrated” at the absence of border security. He is also running in a primary against conservative talk show host and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who praised Brewer and the law.
Even Florida Tea Party Senate candidate Marco RubioMarco RubioOvernight Defense: Commander calls North Korea crisis 'worst' he's seen | Trump signs VA order | Dems push Trump to fill national security posts What’s with Trump’s spelling mistakes? Boeing must be stopped from doing business with Iran MORE opposed the bill as “government overreaching” — and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush warned that the bill would lead to racial discrimination. Sen. Graham, while decrying the lack of border security and pointing up the fear of citizens who live along the borders, still called the Arizona bill unconstitutional.
So is a Senate seat really worth it, Sen. McCain, to go against everything you have stood for through the years as a voice of integrity and courage in the U.S. Senate? Can you really look into the mirror and say the words, “Show me your papers”?
Your fans, including many Democrats like me, want to believe it really ain’t so that you support this bill, even if you won’t say it ain’t so.
Davis, a Washington lawyer and former special counsel to President Clinton from 1996-98, served as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2005-06. He is the author of Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics is Destroying America.