Sunday, August 26, 2018


The New York Times reports:
Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday at age 81, will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and receive a full dress funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Mr. McCain ... will also lie in state at the Arizona Capitol before his burial in Annapolis, Md., a Republican official involved in the planning said.

The senator’s office said an official memorial schedule would be announced once funeral arrangements were finalized.

Two Republicans familiar with the planning said that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been asked to offer eulogies at his funeral. Under initial plans for Mr. McCain’s funeral, Vice President Mike Pence was to attend, but not President Trump, who clashed repeatedly with Mr. McCain.
The president has been unusually quiet since John McCain died -- one surprisingly measured tweet, which he clearly didn't write (there are no extraneous capital letters, although Trump probably insisted on adding the exclamation point)...

... as well as this:

But the attention to McCain's death is going to make Trump crazy. Just as the Capitol Rotunda is opened for McCain's mourners, I expect a huge newsmaking tweetstorm from Trump, or some headline-grabbing executive action. (Maybe he'll fire Jeff Sessions. Maybe he'll just pull the security clearances of a few more prominent critics and Obama-era ex-officials.) I don't think he'll be able to tolerate ceding the spotlight to his mortal enemy.


I have mixed feelings about McCain. There was a lot of talk about "character" during the 2008 campaign, and I agreed that McCain's endurance through years of captivity revealed an inner strength. But I've never believed that it was the kind of "character" that would have made him a suitable president. Years ago I read Robert Timberg's book The Nightingale's Song, which helped create the McCain myth. In Timberg's telling, McCain was an immature troublemaker at Annapolis. After that, he was a troublemaker in the Hanoi Hilton -- he was frequently insubordinate with guards, even though he was brutally punished for what he did.

I think that was character -- he survived in large part because he was a wise-ass, because he was inclined to make trouble and willing to take punishment. It's interesting to me that another well-known survivor of brutality in a POW camp -- Louis Zamperini, who endured similar mistreatment at the hands of Japanese captors in World War II, an ordeal recounted in the book and film Unbroken -- was also a youthful troublemaker.

In hellscapes like those, the inclination to be an insubordinate sonofabitch was an inner reserve of strength -- use what you've got, I say, and McCain and Zamperini did.

But I never thought McCain had a presidential temperament -- what was "character" in one context really wouldn't have been in the Oval Office (though he'd have been nothing like Donald Trump, the worst person elected to any office in our lifetimes). It was McCain the troublemaker who picked Sarah Palin as a running mate -- that wasn't presidential. I didn't trust the McCain who sang "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." I'm glad he lost.

(I'm also glad he lost because he was, in most things, a down-the-line Republican, which meant he backed bad policies in a non-mavericky way.)

But I can see that he must have been personally likable in a way Donald Trump will never be, even though Trump labors at it. McCain liked being liked for being a rulebreaker, as troublemakers often do; he seduced the press that way. But he also seemed to like the people whose company he craved a lot more than Trump does. McCain's conviviality was good branding, but it seemed genuine -- and even though I hated the way McCain used that as a smokescreen for bad policies, I can see the appeal of his personality in a political world now dominated by lean and hungry (or not so lean and hungry) haters: Trump, Stephen Miller, Betsy DeVos, Tom Cotton, Ryan Zinke, Kris Kobach....

So I think McCain deserves a lot of the criticism he's received, even in death -- but the space he's left is quite likely to be filled by far worse people.

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