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The maverick’s last roar

July 29, 2017

Last month when I heard that John McCain had completely lost the plot during his questioning of former FBI director James Comey, my first thought was: “No! He can’t go gaga. I’m relying on him to be the sane one who points out the emperor’s lack of clothing.” (Was it really only last month? Trump time is some really crazy shit.)

Then came the news that he’d been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Which explained a lot.

Back in 2008, when it looked as if it was going to be McCain versus Hillary Clinton, I frankly thought it was six of one, half a dozen of the other. Yes, if I was a US citizen, I would have voted for Hillary because I am physiologically programmed to never vote Republican, but I thought McCain would be a perfectly okay president of the United States. After all, for many, many years he’d been a reach-across-the-aisle senator, a politician willing to work with the opposition to get things done. Could be worse.

Then things changed. Obama got the Democratic nomination and McCain picked his running mate. I knew as soon as Obama won the nomination that McCain would go with a female VP nomination, but no one saw the shit storm that was Sarah Palin coming. (A number of factors contributed to Obama’s eventual win, but one was definitely the alarming prospect of the Alaskan whack job being a heart attack away from the nuclear codes.)

McCain took his defeat badly, no doubt knowing that this had been his last shot at the big prize. He became unrecognisably bitter, twisted and partisan. It was clear he absolutely hated the new president. It was not a pretty sight.

It took eight years, but the prospect of Trump, an even bigger whack job, winning the prize he’d been denied finally got McCain’s synapses snapping again. (I’m sure being called a “loser” by Trump for spending five years as a POW helped.)

Yes, it’s been a slow burn. After voicing his horror at the prospect of a President Trump during the campaign (suspect he might have voted for Hillary), he voted the party line on the confirmation of Trump’s travesty of a cabinet. His criticisms have not been particularly loud.

But this week he did it. No doubt commanded to do so by Mitch McConnell, he flew back to Washington pretty much from his Arizona hospital bed. In the Senate he chastised his Republican colleagues for doing exactly the same thing they’d vociferously criticised the Democrats for: crafting a health care bill behind closed doors with no input from across the aisle.


And yesterday he used his thumb down to give the finger to Trump and the Republican leadership when he voted against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The return of the maverick. It was a sight to behold.

Make no mistake. McCain’s vote may have been the final nail in the coffin of disastrous health care reform, but he is not the true hero of this saga. As the Washington Post was quick to point out, long before McCain got off the fence, two feisty female Republicans had.

Back in February Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska refused to drink the Kool Aid, voting against the appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, forcing Mike Pence to break the tie in Betsy’s favour. They have been steadfast in their opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a plan that would deny millions of Americans health care whilst lining the pockets of the rich. More than once they’ve forced Pence back into the Senate to break a tie. They’ve been threatened by Trump and his minions and haven’t flinched, proving once again that if you want to get something done you should ask a woman.

Then, of course, there are the millions of Americans who’ve jeered their Republican representatives at town halls across the country for months, the disability activists who’ve invaded the Capital Building in wheelchairs, everyone who took action to defend their access to health care.

These are the real heroes.

John McCain will be eighty-one years old next month. It is unlikely he will run again. He didn’t really have anything to lose in the early hours of yesterday morning. Still, it was a joy to watch the maverick’s last roar. I knew it would be him.

From → Columns

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