John McCain: No longer a profile in courage
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John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal MORE, the Republican senator from Arizona is an American icon. When reading about his life story, it’s easy to see why he has earned the right to be called an American hero. John McCain was captured in Hanoi during the Vietnam War after a harrowing escape from his downed fighter plane. He sustained injuries from his ejection and was tortured and beaten by Vietnamese who pulled him from the water. McCain became a prisoner of war (POW) for five years, experienced further torture, emotional abuse and endured years of solitary confinement. Since his triumphant return to the United States, McCain has earned Silver stars for valor, Bronze stars for heroic achievement and a Purple Heart for his efforts in the line of duty. 

As a man who comes from a family of military men of high distinction and a family name that could be traced back to participation in America’s early wars, it is unsurprising that John McCain chose politics to carve out space as a public servant in a country that he’s given his blood, sweat and tears for much of his adult life. McCain has been in Congress since 1982 and a senator since 1986. During his first few terms in office, McCain elevated his stature as a conservative with moderate tendencies. He gained a reputation for working across the aisle with Democrats to pass legislation and earned the nickname “Maverick.” At times, McCain wasn’t trusted by the more conservative members of his caucus on policy, but his integrity was rarely questioned. 

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Colleagues, in the midst of policy disagreement would often preface their comments by referencing McCain as a war hero first. McCain’s love of country and patriotism was never questioned. He’s written five books on the subject. In McCain’s most famous book “Faith of my Fathers” he said this: “In prison, I fell in love with my country. I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn't until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her.

"I loved what I missed most from my life at home: my family and friends; the sights and sounds of my own country; the hustle and purposefulness of Americans; their fervid independence; sports; music; information--all the attractive qualities of American life. But though I longed for the things at home I cherished the most, I still shared the ideals of America. And since those ideals were all that I possessed of my country, they became all the more important to me.”

Lamentably, due to McCain’s actions over the last eight years, questions surrounding his contemporary interpretation of love of country must be asked. As the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, McCain chose one of the most unprepared politicians in Sarah Palin as his running mate. It was a cynical move toward appeasing the Republican base while putting America at risk by having a potential vice president who showcased ignorance as an entrée for America to consume.

John McCain has become a reliable senator in Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE’s strategy of obstruction and governmental paralysis. McCain has chosen to support someone for president who has run a campaign based on bigotry — Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE.

McCain’s core identity as a military man of distinction given his captive past as a prisoner of war was lampooned by the draft dodging Donald Trump. Astonishingly, McCain’s response was not a robust repudiation of a man who never sacrificed anything in his life. Instead he responded meekly and briefly surrendered his dignity for the sake of political expediency.

McCain has served on the Armed Services Committee for much of his Senate career and national security is an area of well documented passion. However, McCain remains a supporter of the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, even though GOP security experts said this about Trump in a scathing letter regarding his readiness: “Donald Trump is not qualified to be president and Commander-In-Chief. We are convinced that in the oval office, he would be the most reckless president in American history." In a column written by the Guardian, world leaders expressed fear of a Trump presidency and McCain refuses to say if he trusts Donald Trump with nuclear codes that could end human civilization as we know it.

John McCain is fighting for his political life as he seeks a sixth term as U.S senator from Arizona. As part of his strategy, he’s decided it’s not in his best interest to publicly disavow Donald Trump. He must live with that. The McCain of yesteryear deserved our respect and admiration. But the present day John McCain is no longer a profile in courage. 

Robert Covington Jr. is a freelance writer. You can follow him on twitter: @robcovingtonjr


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.