“I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.”
Those were the words of Senator John McCain as he prepared his farewell speech to the American people. Born on August 29, 1936 and died on August 25, 2018, John McCain was regarded as a hero and patriot, a leader and an independent thinker who, right or wrong, stood tall for the principles in which he believed. McCain was regarded as a strong Republican for the most part, but knew, as a politician, how to “reach across the aisle” and work toward compromise wherever possible for, in his words:
THE GOOD OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
The son and grandson of U.S. Navy Admirals, John McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958, then served in the Navy as a ground-attack pilot. In 1967 during the Vietnam War, McCain was nearly killed in a severe accidental fire aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, then on active duty in the Gulf of Tomkin. Later, in 1967, McCain’s plane was shot down over Hanoi, Vietnam and he was badly injured. He was captured by the North Vietnamese and he endured extreme torture and years of solitary confinement. He was finally released in 1973, returned home to a hero’s welcome and received numerous service awards including the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit.
In 1982, McCain was elected to the House of Representatives. After serving two terms, he successfully ran for a seat in the United States Senate in 1986, where in his words, as a purported conservative and strong Republican, he became a:
“Foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution.”
Nonetheless, McCain constantly clashed with the Republican Party’s so-called RIGHT-WING on a wide range of issues. John McCain earned a reputation for being direct, even blunt and almost always transparent.
In the year 2000, McCain ran for the Republican Presidential nomination competing against Texas Governor George W. Bush. He lost and returned to the Senate. In 2007, McCain announced that he would once again seek the Republican Presidential nomination. After a long and bruising campaign, McCain secured the Republican nomination and chose Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska as his Vice Presidential running mate. He and she were soundly defeated by Barack Hussein Obama in the 2008 election.
John Sidney McCain III served the United States of America in the Senate from 1986 to 2018, some 32 years. Perhaps his lasting achievement was his steadfast commitment to the Senate as the locusts, the powerful Senate oversight, criticism and advice for the Executive Branch. McCain believed so very strongly in the check and balance authority and power of the Senate which, when properly exercised, would prevent the runaway actions and usurpation of power by the President. McCain expressed grave concerns about the use and over abuse of Presidential power through Executive Orders by Barack Hussein Obama and the very same for Donald John Trump. As a strong Constitutional senator, McCain constantly lectured the Senate regarding their power and their duty:
“We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. WE ARE HIS EQUAL!”
McCain believed and urged his fellow senators to do the same, that the Senate played a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, the cabinet of secretaries, and especially in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. It was, McCain passionately preached, unconstitutional to believe or act otherwise.
McCain eschewed “hyper partisanship,” which often led too many Senators to place party above country and when the President himself was “of their own party,” far too many senators viewed themselves as members of the President’s team and practiced a certain abdication of their duty to champion a “separate and co-equal branch of government (the Senate).” We the Senate, said McCain, can not cede unconstitutional power to the Presidency!
McCain’s voice was perhaps the strongest in passionately condemning “congressional gridlock.” Said he:
“We have been spinning our wheels on too many issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”
Then he emphatically stated about the Senate:
“We are getting nothing done!”
We need to do something, we need to act, we need to protect the interests of the American people “even if we must give a little to get a little.”
But in so many ways, this sagacious advice fell on deaf ears. For no matter the need, and given the radical partisanship, so little was done in so many critical areas.
McCain was a man of principle, his very own principles as he would define them believing strongly that those core principles could not be compromised by either party, although never really clearly defining what those core policies were. Rather, Senator McCain believed in a large “middle ground” where there could be negotiation, give-and-take and ultimately justifiable compromise as the Senate moved to right legislation good for the American people. He saw clearly the deterioration of America’s political dialogue. No serious problem or issue was ever solved unless:
AMERICANS WORKED TOGETHER
But sadly, civility, compromise and respect for the political center are being replaced with vicious language, pernicious partisanship and crippling polarization. Our once firm center, believed McCain, had given way to a destructive hyper-partisanship. The American people were the losers. Rather than find a way to work together in the center, Republicans seem to be moving further to the right and Democrats moving further to the left. The center, and we the people lose.
And the further the parties diverge, said McCain, the more TRIBAL society becomes. There is a constant splintering of ideas, political priorities and special interest demands on the political system. It becomes almost impossible to reach any kind of political commonality which would benefit at least the majority of the American people. Gridlock reigns and hyper-partisanship rules the day. Social media, fought McCain, turns national debate into an angry brawl and divides Americans into “howling rabbles.” Objective journalism is increasingly hard to come by especially in this era of post-truth.
McCain fairly begged the politicians and the people to “take time to listen to one another.” Brokering solutions requires measured collaboration, not torrents of outrage. The common thread, the core of our country and its greatness the fact that, in his words:
“We all love our country.”
But even that hypothesis is soundly challenged in this day and age for there are millions who do not in fact love America. In fact, by the millions, there are those who HATE America and what it has been and what it stands for. Nothing grieved the heart of John McCain more than that.
In July 2017, following surgery to remove a blood clot over McCain’s left eye, it was announced he was suffering from Glioblastoma, an extremely malignant brain tumor, the very same that Senator Ted Kennedy had. He died, this LION OF THE SENATE did, on August 25, 2018. As he addressed the American people for the final time, he said:
“Thank you (my fellow Americans) for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. To be connected to America’s causes-liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people, brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures.”
And one final time, McCain reminded all of us, all Americans that we the proud Americans:
“Have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.”
But sadly, those words of wisdom continue to fall on deaf ears and we the people once indivisible are now divided farther apart than ever. McCain, as he well stated about himself, was far from perfect. He was in many ways a voice crying in the wilderness, but the voice of the lion was heard loud and clear to the day he died. We need more senators like McCain who are proud to be Americans, love this country and will do whatever it takes to protect, preserve and defend all that we are and the freedoms we enjoy. We need politicians at every level who believe that and live by that mantra. And we need them to believe as McCain did, loving this great country that:
AMERICANS NEVER QUIT!
We never surrender, said McCain. We never hide from history. WE MAKE HISTORY!
And so he said farewell, McCain did and his final words should echo in our ears now and forevermore. Said he:
“GOD BLESS YOU, AND GOD BLESS AMERICA.”