Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) showed this week why he is a national treasure. In a stirring, humble and dignified speech he reminded us of what is best in America, the country he described as “big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent.” He appealed to the better angels of our nature, coaxing listeners to live up to the best ideals of a country that is temporarily being led by the worst of presidents. “I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me,” he said. “And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.” McCain spoke of honor, shame and obligations — concepts that are foreign to the current administration. (“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”)
That speech set the stage for President George W. Bush’s marvelous speech later in the week, as well as President Barack Obama’s cheerful campaigning on behalf of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Virginia.
The two ex-presidents and the one former GOP presidential nominee were reminders we can be a better country than we are now.
McCain was not done for the week. At a time when the administration oozes contempt for Congress and the press secretary has the nerve to say it is “inappropriate” to challenge a four-star general (John F. Kelly is a retired general in a civilian role, but that hire may have been a serious mistake), McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reminded us Congress is a coequal branch of government and that we have civilian control of the military.
Asked if was good enough for the military to be undertaking a review of the attack in Niger in which four American servicemen were killed, he responded bluntly, “That’s not how the system works. We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”
The Post then reported that McCain threatened on Thursday to potentially use a subpoena to compel information from the Pentagon and the administration about the Niger attack, complaining that “it was easier under Obama” to be read in on any details of active military operations. By Friday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis marched himself up to the Hill to brief McCain and his committee.
For all that and his ongoing service to the country that owes him so much, we can say well done, Sen. McCain.