R.I.P. John McCain

The passing of Senator John McCain has united the nation’s political and media voices in praise of his heroism, sacrifice, and dedication to service of the nation. His family deserves our sympathy and consideration in this most difficult moment. Remarkably, he is survived by his 106 year-old mother, Roberta McCain, whose own life has reflected the devotion to service of the entire family. Although daughter Meghan is in the public eye as a pundit, there are six other children who have lost their father.

Official portrait of Senator John McCain (1936 - 2018)

Even those who disagreed with his policies or resisted his political choices, or ran against him for president, must agree that his sacrifice as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam was extraordinary, refusing the release he was offered for propaganda purposes, as the son of one of the Navy’s top admirals. Who among us can point to anything remotely comparable to this decision?

As the son and grandson of 4-star admirals, McCain’s upbringing was itself a matter of national service, with his family rarely staying long in any one place. McCain’s childhood featured a series of postings in the US and overseas. He was even born in the Panama Canal Zone (US territory at the time), emblematic of the devotion to the Navy his family expressed in every aspect of their lives. Although he formally joined the Navy when he attended the USNA,  Annapolis, he was born into the Navy and faithfully followed that path until he was no longer physically able to serve, following his release by the North Vietnamese.

The level of media coverage of his passing is intense, not merely on Fox News where military heroes are always honored, but throughout the media. The contentious relationship between Senator McCain and President Trump may well account for some of the fulsome praise of even those who vigorously opposed his candidacy for president. A friend wrote me that he believes that had Hillary Clinton won the election, the tenor and volume of media coverage of his death would far less hagiographic and 20% as voluminous. There is no way to know, but maybe there is some degree of truth to this.  But if so, it would be one of life’s ironies if President Trump deserves credit for the extraordinary domination of the news by coverage of John McCain’s death.

There will be ample time for an assessment of his political legacy, but today we honor a man whose undoubted sacrifice and devotion to our country cannot be equalled by many among us.

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