If John McCain were able to show up and vote today, he’d be voting for a policy that would kill 26,000 Americans every year:
Whatever his past heroism may have been, he is bad for America now. When you express sympathy for him, you insult his victims. It’s common for politicians engaging in this ritual to claim it’s about putting the person over ideology. But if that were true, they’d have no time to engage in politics because they’d be posting individual sympathy messages for all of the 2.6 million Americans who die every year (or at least the thousands of mostly forgotten war heroes, if that’s what makes McCain special). But they don’t. They accord McCain special respect because he’s a US Senator. Not because he’s a dying person. Not because he’s a dying war hero. Because he’s a dying US Senator. Since that’s what sets him apart from the thousands of other war heroes who die anonymously every year, it’s his Senate record that he should be judged by before we decide whether to praise him.
“Placing the person over politics” is an ideology, even if you have absorbed it so fully you can’t see it. It’s the ideology of bipartisanship uber alles. The ideology that playing nice with your fellow politicians is more important than the welfare of the American people.
Credit where credit is due. Yes, McCain is a brave man, and yes, I’m sure he means well with most of his votes. It’s just that his moral universe is too constricted, and he’s only able to consider the needs of people a lot like himself. But you know what other brave Americans meant well while advocating a murderous cause?
Confederate soldiers. So when I see a politician praise McCain in the coming days, I will view it the way I would view a display of the Confederate flag. Perhaps appropriate in a history museum or if you’re a relative or close friend of Senator McCain, but in any other circumstance it’s a slap in the face to millions of Americans, no matter what his intentions may have been.