In the last week, John McCain has made millions of Americans proud, sad, angry and elated. Perhaps more than anything, he has made us feel confused.
But let’s revel in the glory of the moment when McCain the Maverick took to the floor of the U.S. Senate and with one thumb down, he said more than he might have previously said in thirty years in the Senate. For a man who frequently communicates with his middle finger, his emphatic “thumbs down” provided a new kind of digital wave to say to Mitch McConnell what millions of Americans have wanted to say ever since McConnell first took the floor to dis Barack Obama in 2009. Anthony Scaramucci could learn a lot about politeness from John McCain.
Earlier in the week, McCain may have given one of the best recent speeches the Senate has heard in years. It got bonus points for being only fifteen minutes. McCain showed again that he can inspire with a combination of reason, concern and humor.
I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other, to learn how to trust each other again, and by so, doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loud mouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood. Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.
But just before that speech, McCain quixotically and yet predictably voted like a Republican. He supported the measure to permit debate on the Senate floor of Republican proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Unless he knew what he was going to do two days later, he deliberately put at risk the health care of more than twenty million Americans.
Had McCain voted no on the bill, the only way in which the Senate could have considered the proposed health care changes would have been to “return to regular order,” precisely what he urged his colleagues to do in his speech. He single-handedly had a chance to make it happen. But he didn’t.
And yet two days later, he put the final (at least for a few days) nail in the coffin of Republican plans to strip health care coverage from America’s neediest patients. It’s hard to figure out John McCain. Just ask Jon Stewart who tried for years to pull McCain into the liberal tent.
McCain confuses many because he is such a nice guy. Not all Republicans are mean and not all Democrats are nice, but the Democratic Party is a much nicer home for someone with a pleasant disposition salted with a healthy dose of irony.
We’ve seen the movie before. In the 1990s, Colin Powell starred in it. It’s something that is difficult for liberals to figure out. Why isn’t that nice person in our club?
John McCain has always been a mystery, to almost everyone. Now faced with brain cancer, maybe he will pull a Lee Atwater and disown some of the mean things that he did as a Republican. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Let’s just appreciate the moment.