The Democratic nostalgia for John McCain

A foreign policy against American ideals.

A few days ago (Sunday, May 30, 2021). John McCain was trending on Twitter.

Apparently, some Republican in Congress didn't show up for an important vote, and that was compared to when a cancer-ridden John McCain showed up for a vote that saved Obamacare.  (At least, I think that was why McCain was trending; if you're ever on Twitter, you know that it's usually unclear why things trend.)

Democrats and progressives praised the late Senator for reaching across the aisle, for being unlike today's Republicans. In any case, progressives were heaping praise on the late Senator for all sorts of reasons. 

Including McCain's hatred of diplomacy.

For example, this:

Patrick Nova

@PatrickNova6

FUN FACT: John McCain was the last Republican to publicly condemn Vladimir Putin.

I'm no fan of the Republican Party, but excuse me, why should politicians condemn foreign leaders? Any of them? Even if they’re from Russia? Or China? Or Iran or North Korea?

Does condemnation help negotiation?

Is antagonism the path to peace?

I had disagreements with McCain on domestic policy, but it was his war-first foreign policy, his hatred of diplomacy, that enraged me. 

  • In 1999, McCain advocated "boots on the ground" on the side of Kosovar rebels against Serbian forces, in a patently unconstitutional war that transformed NATO from a defensive alliance to an aggressive force.

  • McCain was President Bush's chief Senatorial cheerleader for invading Iraq, a country already contained and crippled by inhumane sanctions. Even on amoral Machiavellian grounds, that war made no strategic sense.

  • In a 2007 Presidential campaign appearance, McCain parodied the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" by singing "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."  It was clear to me that McCain had no interest in diplomacy and this was the most irresponsible thing ever said by a Presidential candidate in my memory. (To those claiming it was no big deal because it was in jest; imagine a foreign leader making a similar statement about attacking America; you know as well as I the American media wouldn’t ever live it down.)

  • McCain gave aid and comfort to Al Qaeda and other forces in Syria that became ISIS.

Such a career in public life is best discredited and then forgotten. Instead, admiration for McCain seems to grow.

And here's what I don't understand about progressive admiration for John McCain, or for foreign interventionists in general. There's something very close to bigotry going on with them. While the struggle for equal rights goes on in America, the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment behaves as if people overseas have no rights at all. 

  • We shed tears for our neighbors who can't afford life-saving drugs, then support economic sanctions that deny medicines to people overseas for the crime of living under a ruler that the President doesn't like.

  • We fear the rise of religious extremism on our shores, yet continuously try to overthrow secular leaders in foreign countries (Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi, now Assad) who protected religious minorities from extremists in their countries.  

  • We oppose, or at least have grave concerns about, the death penalty for fear of wrongful convictions and executions, but have no such qualms when drone strikes supposedly targeting "terrorists" kill the innocent.

As Americans are confronting our racist past, which includes re-examining historical figures we once called heroes, it's time to reconsider U.S. foreign policy as well. A nation that doesn't even respect the right to life of people overseas will never live up to the ideas of the Declaration of Independence.

John McCain may have said and done things that sometimes pleased Democrats. But it's time they and all the nation moved off from him and his ilk. As long as he's admired, ambitious politicians will try to be like him. And that will only delay justice at home and peace in the world.

James Leroy Wilson writes from Nebraska. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. If you find value in his articles, subscribe. Your support through Paypal helps keep him going. You may contact him for your writing, editing, and research needs: jamesleroywilson-at-gmail.com.

Permission to reprint is granted with attribution.