I didn’t much like John McCain’s politics. He never saw a bad military intervention he didn’t like. He was bi-partisan in the wrong ways. He was a hothead, well-suited to hawkish Republican Washington, but not to 21st century America. His admirers elevated his heroics as a war veteran to distract from his failings as a statesman.
But McCain, who has just died after a long battle with brain cancer, had honour and grace. He spoke against torture despite his instinctive ruthlessness in the war on terror. He could also be insightful and funny.
Perhaps his greatest moment, for me, was his concession speech after losing to Barack Obama in 2008. His audience booed when he said Obama’s name, but he pleaded with them not to. ‘We fought as hard as we could,’ he said. ‘And, though we fell short, the failure is mine not yours.’
This was eloquence and American style at its best. It seems a bit obvious to say you can’t imagine the current president speaking with equanimity, especially since Trump has tweeted quite graciously about the passing of a man who clearly abhorred him. But, well, Donald J. Trump would probably doesn’t believe in the idea of a good loser, and that’s not a good thing. Anyway, it’s worth watching in full.
RIP, John McCain.