Remembering John McCain as his moment comes

This won't be a popular column, because John McCain is not popular with conservatives.  However, I invite my fellow conservatives to rise above their deeply ingrained dislike of McCain to consider him as a man, making a courageous decision at the end of his life.

Two caveats.  First, my father died a few years ago from a similar kind of brain cancer.  He did not discontinue treatments until it became clear they weren't going to work, and in many ways, the physical cost of the treatments to him – as shown in the last photo taken of that once vibrant, imposingly physical man – was devastating.  Next, my mother recently died, peacefully and without being ravaged by chemotherapy or radiation therapy, from a different kind of cancer.  At 92 and ready to move on to the next world, she refused treatment, and – after a long and productive life – she passed quietly.

I mention this because I'm not unbiased when it comes to cancer, the ravages of treatment, and the courage to face what's coming.

I've never liked John McCain, but I've never doubted the man's courage.  He was a third-generation naval officer, and like his father and grandfather, he faced combat with the enemy with the kind of courage that the Naval Academy seems to breed.  By all accounts, he also faced years of incredibly painful captivity in the Hanoi Hilton, his broken bones – thanks to the effects of a rocket-boosted ejection seat that saved his life over North Vietnam, but at a price – never properly treated.  These unhealed injuries only made the torture he received even more horrific.

His suffering shaped the man he became.  That man had very different political positions from what I hold, and we seldom even randomly agreed on anything.  I would have been thrilled if Arizonans had selected someone else to represent them in the Senate, someone more akin to another combat veteran Arizonan, Senator (and USAF general) Barry Goldwater.  But Arizonans made their choice, and for several decades, the Republican Party, the Senate, and America were saddled with John McCain. 

Yet for all my political opposition to the man, I am sorry for his suffering and for his imminent passing.  His loss will be felt most deeply by his family, and his passing will be (quietly, in most cases) celebrated by those seeking a more truly conservative senator from Arizona to fortify the narrow plurality held by real conservatives.  Still, I ask all those who – like me – have opposed John McCain the politician to consider and honor John McCain the man and to share the grief his family must be feeling, even as they feel proud that McCain has chosen the tougher road moving forward in his last days.

Ned Barnett has been active in politics since he was a (very) Young Republican supporting the Goldwater campaign.  He has been head of media and strategy at the state level in three presidential campaigns, beginning when he worked with the late, great Lee Atwater on the Ford campaign in South Carolina.  He is writing a book on how to win political campaigns that should come out next year, and he serves candidate and issue campaigns as CEO of Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This won't be a popular column, because John McCain is not popular with conservatives.  However, I invite my fellow conservatives to rise above their deeply ingrained dislike of McCain to consider him as a man, making a courageous decision at the end of his life.

Two caveats.  First, my father died a few years ago from a similar kind of brain cancer.  He did not discontinue treatments until it became clear they weren't going to work, and in many ways, the physical cost of the treatments to him – as shown in the last photo taken of that once vibrant, imposingly physical man – was devastating.  Next, my mother recently died, peacefully and without being ravaged by chemotherapy or radiation therapy, from a different kind of cancer.  At 92 and ready to move on to the next world, she refused treatment, and – after a long and productive life – she passed quietly.

I mention this because I'm not unbiased when it comes to cancer, the ravages of treatment, and the courage to face what's coming.

I've never liked John McCain, but I've never doubted the man's courage.  He was a third-generation naval officer, and like his father and grandfather, he faced combat with the enemy with the kind of courage that the Naval Academy seems to breed.  By all accounts, he also faced years of incredibly painful captivity in the Hanoi Hilton, his broken bones – thanks to the effects of a rocket-boosted ejection seat that saved his life over North Vietnam, but at a price – never properly treated.  These unhealed injuries only made the torture he received even more horrific.

His suffering shaped the man he became.  That man had very different political positions from what I hold, and we seldom even randomly agreed on anything.  I would have been thrilled if Arizonans had selected someone else to represent them in the Senate, someone more akin to another combat veteran Arizonan, Senator (and USAF general) Barry Goldwater.  But Arizonans made their choice, and for several decades, the Republican Party, the Senate, and America were saddled with John McCain. 

Yet for all my political opposition to the man, I am sorry for his suffering and for his imminent passing.  His loss will be felt most deeply by his family, and his passing will be (quietly, in most cases) celebrated by those seeking a more truly conservative senator from Arizona to fortify the narrow plurality held by real conservatives.  Still, I ask all those who – like me – have opposed John McCain the politician to consider and honor John McCain the man and to share the grief his family must be feeling, even as they feel proud that McCain has chosen the tougher road moving forward in his last days.

Ned Barnett has been active in politics since he was a (very) Young Republican supporting the Goldwater campaign.  He has been head of media and strategy at the state level in three presidential campaigns, beginning when he worked with the late, great Lee Atwater on the Ford campaign in South Carolina.  He is writing a book on how to win political campaigns that should come out next year, and he serves candidate and issue campaigns as CEO of Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas, Nevada.