Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Quote of the Day (John McCain, on ‘Half-Baked, Spurious Nationalism’)

“To fear the world we have organized and led the three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”—John McCain (1936-2018), U.S. Senator (R-AZ), Presidential nominee, and Vietnam veteran and POW—and American hero, speech accepting the Liberty Medal, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Oct. 16, 2017

If someone were to update John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage today, John McCain would be among the half-dozen U.S. Senators selected for this new pantheon. He was not perfect, any more than the figures JFK picked to honor in his Pulitzer Prize-winner were. But like them, he also found a point beyond which he could not be pushed.

In the last three years, that has come in his relationship with Donald Trump. It had to bother the President that the senior Senator from Arizona could not be bullied. Trump may have scoffed at McCain’s captivity in Vietnam, but that period of anguish and torture left him singularly unmoved by any sarcasm or threats Trump could hurl. 

I am not surprised that one of McCain’s favorite books was Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. There were so many quotes about freedom, the preciousness of life, and the brotherhood of men in arms that must have appealed to him. 

But I think that another quote from that novel must have struck him with full force as he witnessed the threat that Donald Trump posed to the cooperative style of legislating and the international security arrangements to which McCain dedicated his adult life: “There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”

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