I spent a fair amount of this past weekend thinking of something to write about John McCain that would adequately explain why my long-time (and continuing) irritation with the late Arizona Republican Senator goes considerably deeper than my opposition to his stances on specific issues like trade, immigration, and foreign policy – and in particular why it was never offset much by any admiration for his instances of political independence, his efforts at bipartisanship, or even his military service.
Not that I don’t admire these widely noted traits and that portion of his bio. But here’s what truly rankles – and should bother you – especially amid the torrent of praise about how McCain supposedly kept the tone of American politics elevated while so many around him (notably President Trump) worked so hard (and successfully) to degrade it: When it came to the issues listed above, he rarely, if ever, resisted the temptation to to portray anyone opposed to what today are called globalist positions in the worst possible light – as selfish protectionists, as xenophobes, and as head-in-the-sand isolationists.
If you’re skeptical, check out statements like
>”Americans don’t run from the challenge of a global economy. We are the world’s leaders, and leaders don’t fear change, hide from challenges, pine for the past and dread the future.
“That’s why I reject the false virtues of economic isolationism.” (Here’s the source.)
>“To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.” (Here’s the source.)
>”We have to fight isolationism, protectionism, and nativism. We have to defeat those who would worsen our divisions. We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on earth by tearing down walls, not building them.” (Here’s the source.)
Beliefs and accusations like these have become so commonplace – largely because they are so enthusiastically promoted by the Mainstream Media – that it’s far too easy to overlook their destructive effects. For these issues, which obviously were so important to McCain, and which not so coincidentally were central to the success of his bitter rival, President Trump, present Americans with powerful and complex questions.
Of course, there’s a compelling case that can still be made for what nowadays are called the globalist views championed so vigorously by McCain. But after the kinds of disasters and blunders represented by the Vietnam and second Iraq Wars, by a terrifying worldwide financial crisis and the worst economic downturn in decades, and by enabling the rise of China, clearly there’s also a compelling case to made for pushing back against the grandiose assumptions about U.S. interests and the nation’s place in the world that underlie them.
In fact, had the bipartisan globalist establishment encouraged, or even allowed, thoroughgoing debate over the assumptions when their vulnerabilities started emerging decades ago, some of the most recent debacles might have been avoided. Instead, the powers-that-be focused on preventing or limiting those debates, and in particular on marginalizing dissenters by casting exactly the kind of intellectual and moral aspersions peddled by McCain. And don’t doubt for a minute that this intolerance accounted for much of McCain’s adoration by a Mainstream Media whose zeal for globalism has been equally extreme, and whose determination to depict the nation’s only choices on trade, immigration, and foreign policy, as black or white has been just as strong.
In other words, the late Arizona Senator denied to his opponents on trade, immigration, and foreign policy issues the credit for good intentions – and the very aura of legitimacy itself – that he famously and laudably extended to his 2008 presidential rival, then-Senator Barack Obama, when he firmly rebuked a voter for portraying the Democratic nominee as an anti-American “Arab.”
Was McCain the worst globalist politician on this score? I’m sure I could find examples of peers who took even lower roads. But on these crucial subjects, he wasn’t notably better. For that reason alone, the election of Donald Trump, and the marked America First turn of the Republican party it has revealed, was a defeat that the McCain and globalists in general richly deserved.