Standing with John McCain against Donald Trump

Standing with John McCain against Donald Trump
© Getty Images

Ever the maverick, John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families McCain, Coons: Trump should withdraw controversial refugee nominee MORE is a rare politician who votes his conscience and is guided by principle. A fearless servant-warrior, a naval aviator shot down during the Vietnam War, he was born of privilege but is willing to die under the humblest of circumstances. This patriot believes in the idea of America and doesn’t back down, no matter the adversary. Now fighting brain cancer, the Republican senator from Arizona remains concerned about the state of his country and will carry his principles beyond this life: He has asked former rivals Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAnother chance to seek the return of fiscal sanity to the halls of Congress Colombia’s new leader has a tough road ahead, and Obama holdovers aren't helping An alternative to Trump's family separation policy MORE and George W. Bush to deliver eulogies at his funeral, and doesn’t want President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE to attend.

While I have sometimes questioned McCain’s politics and decisions, I have never questioned his courage; only a fool would. He refused to leave the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” until POWs who had been housed in captivity longer were released first. During his five years of captivity, he spent two years in solitary confinement (a form of torture still practiced in American prisons), locked in a sweltering room with no windows.

Donald Trump is exactly the type of person to question McCain, and ostensibly the bravery of all POW-MIA servicemen and women. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said in 2015, shocking and surprising many — but not me. A lesson I learned from my parents at a young age was that no one truly understands honor until they have served their community or their country.


There are many ways to serve one’s country. My mother was an award-winning Army reservist and later volunteered in the school system. My father would leave work after long days and act as a mentor to young men in our community.

President Trump doesn’t appear to understand the concept of service or sacrifice; his life has been devoted to profit and competition, and avoiding responsibility whenever possible. Let’s not forget the small business contractors, servers, painters and even dishwashers who allege that the president hasn’t paid them for services rendered. Rather than settle his debts, the president went on to spend $400 million to acquire new properties. Trump claims he has worked “very, very hard” and he touts job creation, but job creation means little when you don’t pay people for the work they do. It’s well documented that the president avoided military service, receiving five deferments. He still feels entitled to criticize the performance of men and and women in uniform.  

In the twilight of his life, Sen. McCain is planning his funeral and wants presidents with a history of honor in service to their country — Bush (Air National Guard) and Obama (community organizer in the streets of Chicago) to speak about his life. He wants Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard Pence'Queer Eye' star recounts his visit to White House Pence knocks Sherrod Brown in Ohio, boosts Renacci Key conservative presses for shield law after seizure of NYT reporter’s records MORE to represent the White House, rather than Trump. Excluding the president from the list of invited guests and speakers is not a petty vendetta; it is about principle, from a principled man. Trump exhibited pettiness by skipping the recent funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush, reportedly because of disagreements has has had with the Bush family. He said he sent first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpPoll: Melania Trump approval drops An alternative to Trump's family separation policy Trump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy MORE instead “out of respect” to the family so his presence would not cause a logistical nightmare.

In John McCain, I see an example of what can fundamentally bind Americans: the love of God and country that motivates him. When he passes on, his ghost could haunt Trump in the form of Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardPavlich: The left’s defense of evil Pavlich: Media gives Hamas exactly what they want Overnight Defense: House panel passes 6B defense bill | What's in the bill and what didn't make the cut | Pentagon details 'failures' in Niger operation | Trump, Kim meeting set MORE (D-Hawaii), another maverick who has served her country in combat. As her native Hawaii continues to suffer blows from torrential rain, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Gabbard has been on the ground, tirelessly supporting first responders and community volunteers. She does so in sharp contrast to Trump, who shot rolls of paper towels like basketballs at desperate Puerto Ricans who survived Hurricane Maria during his short visit to the island.

After a recent visit to McCain’s ranch, former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenElizabeth Warren can unify Democrats and take back the White House Giuliani doubles down on Biden comments: 'I meant that he’s dumb' Meghan McCain shreds Giuliani for calling Biden a 'mentally deficient idiot' MORE carried the senator’s message to the public — that we should all “stand up and speak out” for what's right and, as McCain said on the Senate floor last year, put aside polarized politics in favor of true service to our country.

Jason Nichols is a full-time lecturer in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow him on Twitter @RealDocSoos.