“De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” said the Ancients. [Never speak ill of the dead.]
And, boy, is the political and media class taking this aphorism to extraordinary extremes in the case of the late Sen. John McCain!
To hear all the plaudits being lavished on this apparent paragon, you’d imagine that he was the greatest president America never had.
And it’s as bad on this side of the pond as it in the U.S.
One virtue-signaling politician, a British conservative MP called Tom Tugendhat, has actually petitioned for the NATO headquarters to be renamed after McCain.
According to Tugendhat, “There can be no more fitting tribute to his career and the values that Sen. McCain espoused — but also no better message for NATO to send at this time of global tension — than to name its new headquarters building after the American statesman.”
Really? Do Tugendhat or any of the other commentators queuing up to praise McCain actually know anything about the man, beyond his carefully cultivated propaganda myth as the heroic flier and POW who wouldn’t buckle?
All I knew was that he was shot down in Vietnam (where he was apparently very stoical and brave) and that after that he became a failed presidential candidate, ending his career as a thorn in the side of Donald Trump. A modestly notable career, maybe. But hardly enough to justify all these “we shall never see his like again” eulogies.
But then, I caught sight of this fascinating Rolling Stone profile written by Tim Dickinson in 2008 at the time when McCain was supposedly the Republican Party’s great white hope against Obama.
OK, so it comes from a publication with a known leftist bias. But it gives the impression of being pretty thoroughly researched and sourced – and if it’s even halfway accurate, then all those virtue-signalers currently pontificating about how marvelous McCain was ought to blush furiously over their ignorance and their misplaced praise.
McCain comes across like a pretty unpleasant piece of work. A spoiled brat with a huge sense of entitlement, hated by his schoolmates at college, an average flier, and not nearly the hero he has made himself out to be. Nor was his political career any more distinguished. Here was a man without any ideological principles, who blew relentlessly with the wind: one minute so left he almost became a Democrat, the next an ardent neocon, finally ending up defining himself by his opposition to the most popular and effective Republican president in decades…
Look, I’m not judging. I never did military service. I haven’t a clue how I would have borne up if shot down and tortured by the North Vietnamese.
But then, I’m not a soldier or a navy flier; I’m just a journalist whose stock in trade is facts. If I offer an opinion on something, I try to do a bit of research.
Read the profile yourself if you’re in any doubt. It’s a long read but utterly gripping.
Here’s a taste – an encounter between McCain and a fellow Vietnam war ex-POW called John Dramesi:
Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a “confession” to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn’t survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service’s highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as “one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met.”
On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.
“I’m going to the Middle East,” Dramesi says. “Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran.”
“Why are you going to the Middle East?” McCain asks, dismissively.
“It’s a place we’re probably going to have some problems,” Dramesi says.
“Why? Where are you going to, John?”
“Oh, I’m going to Rio.”
“What the hell are you going to Rio for?”
McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.
“I got a better chance of getting laid.”
Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. “McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man,” Dramesi says today. “But he’s still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in.”
Yet, now, according to his eulogists, we’re supposed to airbrush all these awkward details out of history and concentrate on the most important lesson to be learned from the life of John McCain: that Donald Trump is the worst president ever and should be impeached.
No really. I don’t know why these people bother even pretending that they gave a damn about McCain or whether or not the flag was flown at half-staff outside the White House or any of the other sanctimonious drivel they’ve been foisting on us these last two days.
You can tell just by looking at the people saying this stuff: they’re all either on the left or they are Never Trumpers.
It’s code: the more extravagant your praise for John McCain, the more strongly you are signaling how much you loathe Donald Trump.
I wonder if this is how John McCain would have liked to be remembered: not so much for anything he did; more for being the person he was not.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Trump goes on being one of the best U.S. presidents ever…