Freedom of Speech, John McCain Style
Editor's Note: Man, I hated writing this article.
John McCain is an American War Hero, there's no two ways about it. McCain served our country in the Armed Services for over 20 years during the Vietnam War era and, most notably, spent 5 years in the Hanoi Hilton.
It is not a story to gloss over, so if you're not familiar with the history of McCain's captivity please click the Hanoi Hilton link. But the story, I believe, is common knowledge, it's not a secret. So as long as everyone's on the same page to begin with, let's start our article in 1981, when McCain retired from the military....
John McCain, age 45, had left his wife and taken up with a mistress. We are not attempting to be salacious here, it is an important part of the story. McCain got a well-paying job through his new in-laws and through his new job he was able to make political contacts that would set him up for his second act in life. McCain was elected to the United States Congress in 1982 and quickly made himself a reputation of hard work through public service. By 1984 he was easily re-elected to a second term in office and was a rising star in the Republican Party.
Within his first 2 terms, he already had his eye on a bigger prize. Conservative Lion Barry Goldwater was retiring in 1986 and he was vacating a seat that a young Republican with fresh ideas should have had an easy time stepping into. That Young Republican was John McCain. Throughout his years in the Senate, he was known as a Maverick, while some derided him as a Rhino. Five years in the Senate turned to ten years and ten years turned to 15. About 15 years into his Senate terms, he decided to run for President of the United States. He lost to George W in the 2000 primaries and flirted with running as Vice-President in 2004, depending on your sourcing.
2008 was supposed to be John McCain's year. After sweating it out in the early part of the Republican Primaries, he easily outdistanced to rest of the field to gain the privilege of running against relative newcomer Barack Obama. Obama, 47 at the time of the election, picked political veteran Joe Biden as his running mate while John McCain chose Sarah Palin.
It is here where we start to seriously question John McCain. McCain brought Palin onboard to move the ticket to the right. The man occupying Barry Goldwater's seat needed a nudge to the right? After getting buried in the 2008 election, McCain dutifully served out his Senate Term, then ran for re-election. At this junction, McCain could have retired knowing that he served his country well.
During his multiple Senate terms, McCain was also a prolific writer:
(1999) Faith of My Fathers
(2002) Worth Fighting For
(2004) Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life
(2005) Character is Destiny
(2007) Hard Call
(2014) Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War
....and last week he released (2018) The Restless Wave.
By now, you're probably thinking: What is your point?
During McCain's latest book release promotion, this excerpt has been lighting up the internet:
I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry. I don’t think I’m free to disregard my constituents’ wishes, far from it. I don’t feel excused from keeping pledges I made. Nor do I wish to harm my party’s prospects. But I do feel a pressing responsibility to give Americans my best judgment.
I read the quote, then I re-read the quote again. And it made me angry.
It shouldn't make me angry, few men in Modern American history have the resume or the intestinal fortitude of McCain. As an 80-something year old man with terminal cancer, maybe I should just let it slide. It's only one paragraph, maybe it was taken out of context. But I can't. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, McCain is touting his newfound Freedom of Speech without the consequences of the voters.
Which makes me ask: How much has he held back because of his constituents? I would think that after 35 years in politics and a half a dozen books, he would have said what he needed to say by now.
And what, pray tell, has McCain tied up in knots? Paraphrasing here, but basically America needs to know that Donald Trump is horrible.
Yeah, I know. 52.9% of the country knows. (May 1, 2018) During the Republican Primaries, John McCain famously declared he couldn't vote for Trump or Clinton. Despite knowing how horrible Trump was, McCain chose his party over patriotic duty and refused to tell Americans to vote third party. He wasn't the only one.
Now that McCain is worried about his legacy, he speaks of bridge-building and civil discourse, which, in a vacuum, is very noble. Warning people about Trump now that the Trump Supporters can't vote him out. That's not very noble, that's called self-preservation. We aren't talking about a young John McCain, that example was in 2016 when 80 year old John McCain was fending off Trump Supporters in the primaries.
As a matter of fact, not just John McCain, any politician shows a certain loyalty to the party that gets them elected. It's just a necessary evil. But all Free Speech has consequences, that's the double edged nature of the Speech Sword. Fearing your own constituants is not a reason to recoil from free speech. But let me ask you a couple of questions:
Do you have free speech at work? I betchya you don't.
Do you have free speech at school? As long as your speech fits the narrative of the school's speech.
And, finally, do you have free speech as a Senator? Apparently not. You have to say what you need to say to get yourself elected. And re-elected. And re-re-elected.
I like John McCain. I voted for him in the Republican Primary in 2008. (Voted for Nader in the General Election.) I wish him well on his next journey. But I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to read about McCain's bravery after it's too late.
Again, I don't disagree with Trump being horrible. I just don't want a lecture on Trump's moral failings from McCain. Without McCain's moral failings, he wouldn't have had a political career.
And I definitely don't want to hear about how horrible Trump is in the book that you're trying to sell. I wanted to hear about it in the Spring of 2016 and what the plan was to stop him. Not McCain's shoulder shrug.
McCain is right about one thing, politics is getting nastier. You can argue amongst yourselves over the cause, but I believe the Democrat and Republican parties have turned into 2 giant corporations. Politics today is all about playing "the Game," not moving your vision.
I just hope, deep down, that McCain's view on Trump isn't 'I did everything right and lost and he did everything wrong and won.' I hope that there's more to his views than simple jealously.'