Whatever one thinks of President Trump’s recent tweets about the late Senator John McCain, he is not gratuitously reaching into the past to sully the Senator’s reputation. He is responding to the most recent reports that it was a McCain aide – almost certainly with McCain’s permission or directive – that distributed the largely discredited Steele dossier all over Washington following the election.
Note: It was not during the campaign in order to defeat Trump’s election. That would still have been a despicable act against the Republican standard bearer, but more of a betrayal of party loyalty of the kind found in a number of so-called moderate GOP leaders. In doing it during the transition period, McCain was joining the #NeverTrump Resistance Movement to undermine and bring down a duly elected president of the United States.
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Although we may have just learned the extent to which McCain and his aide went in trying to weaponize the phone dossier, we need to keep in mind that it was McCain who first leaked the dossier to the anti-Trump press. It was the act of a reprobate, not a national hero.
Having followed the career of John McCain rather closely over the years – and having had some personal interactions with him – I had long ago concluded that he was a very venal, vengeful and mean—spirited individual.
That was not my first impression. In fact, I was initially an admirer of the Arizona Senator, and he was my early choice to be a future President as early as 1992 and 1996 – as the GOP standard bearer. It did not happen then – and by the time he was the Republican candidate I worried about his fitness for office.
McCain’s anger management issues and his egocentric vindictiveness were already the topic of discussions in Arizona. In many ways, he was like the little girl in the Henry Wadsworth rhyme. “When (he) was good,) (he) was very good indeed, but when (he) was bad, he was horrid.”
To say that takes nothing away from his heroic service to the nation as a military man. While even that is controversial in some quarters, the fact that he fought and suffered what he did should be sufficient to deserve praise and appreciation. And … just maybe it was those years of confinement and torture that left the psychological scars that later manifested themselves.
Even disagreeing with McCain on issues – such as campaign finance reform and Obamacare – are not enough to disparage his reputation as a person. Conversely, his military service and his policy positions do not exempt judgment on his character. By all measure, he was not a very nice person.
The beatification of McCain’s image and reputation by the Fourth Estate was largely due to the fact that his visceral hatred for Trump suited the partisan narrative of the east coast elitist press. They were not always so kind to him. As I had noted in a 2017 commentary:
“His [McCain’s] occasional and inexplicable lapse of rationality has been observed and criticized throughout his political career. McCain’s opponent in the 2016 election, medical Doctor Kelli Ward, alluded to his history of mental issues when she drew attention to the fact that the senior senator is ‘… already known as an angry man.’
This history was also noted in a 2008 article in U.S. News and World Report, which said, “While questions of age and health have shadowed McCain, they have largely remained under the radar.”
Ezra Klein wrote in The American Prospect in 2008, “John McCain has an anger problem. But not one that many political observers presumed he’d have. He has not lost his temper at a questioner, blown up at a reporter, or exploded during debate. Rather than a swift detonation, he has settled into a slow burn. He seethes.”
In that same campaign, a Slate article addressed McCain’s history of mental issues in a much more colorful way. Christopher Hitchens wrote:
“What a good time to shift the subject to the temperament (or temper) of Sen. John McCain and to hint, as did Michael Leahy in a major piece in the April Washington Post, that we should wonder whether the Republican nominee [McCain] has his tray table in the fully locked and upright position, whether he lives happily or unhappily in his own Zip code, whether there are kittens in his granary or bats in his belfry, and whether his elevator goes all the way to the top.”
The reporting of his mental stability is so abundant from his earliest political career – often attested to in private by friends –that it is difficult to imagine these reservations are merely the product of political enmity.”
All this, and more, from the same left-leaning press that would rather canonize McCain for no other apparent reason than he emerged as one of the most outspoken Trump haters.
McCain could not even depart this earth without exposing his seething meanness. He left behind a request that Trump not be allowed to attend his funeral even though the President gave orders to afford McCain all the benefits of a state funeral, the national flags at half-staff for a longer than traditional official mourning period and the use of Air Force One – courtesies afforded to very few senators.
In response to Trump’s response to the latest news report, the Senator’s daughter, Meghan, has been invited on the #NeverTrump news shows to reprise the family tradition of Trump-bashing.
Make no mistake. Trump does not like the McCains, and he has no reason to do so. McCain did not like Trump and lost no opportunity to show it –now through his surrogate daughter. The only good thing that can be said about Trump-McCain feud is that it is all rather meaningless in the big picture. It is a political version of a barroom fight in which neither side looks good no matter how hard they try to make the other side look bad.
So. There ‘tis.