While the death of Senator John McCain on Aug. 25 begets a period of mourning, it should not immediately absolve him of his actions and statements. It’s easy to brush McCain off as a harmless “American hero” who hated Trump, but to do that would be to brush off the policy choices McCain have made against women and racial minorities.
McCain’s legacy is now in the process of being wiped clean by mass media all over America, proclaiming him as a conservative martyr who stood for what he believed was good. And in their race to cover his death, newsletters have painted him as an American hero. Yet, what “American hero” would vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1990, legislation that would allow for minorities and women to have easier access to the workforce?
Senator McCain had voted against the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983, arguing that cost and lack of recognition for existing presidents served as the basis for his dissention. In that same decade, he became reportedly connected to a service group that supplied weapons and aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, a right-wing terrorist organization responsible for multiple humans rights violations.
He’s used the ignorant term “g**ks” when referencing to his Asian captors, compared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former Iranian president, to a monkey, and referred to Roe v. Wade, the historic case legalizing abortion, as a “flawed decision.”
Considering this, why have major newsletters such as CNN failed to acknowledge these shortcomings when reporting on the Senator’s death? According to the New York Times on Aug. 25, after a woman said she had no faith in President Obama due to the fact that she considered him an “Arab,” McCain, in one of the most lauded moments of his campaign, replied: ‘No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man.’”
While this may seem as if he was defending Obama, there is something inherently wrong in that he chose to deny that Obama was an “Arab” by calling him a “decent family man,” by extent, creating a false contrast. CNN lauded him on August 26 as a “throwback to an earlier era when political leaders, without betraying their own ideology, were willing on occasion to cross partisan lines,” even though McCain had voted for the very Republican health care vote he had just chastised Republican senators for considering.
This is not to say that McCain was a terrible human being, just that he was a complex one. In his most recent years, he’s become one of the loudest critics of President Donald Trump, engaging in online Twitter blows after the President insulted McCain, claiming that he was not a war hero.
He led the conservative charge against Trump’s Muslim ban, calling it an ‘ideology of hatred’ (rather ironically, seeing as how he refused to take back his racist comments comparing Ahmadinejad to a monkey). After his death, a family released a final statement that the Senator had outright banned Trump from his funeral, requesting for Obama and Bush to both deliver eulogies instead.
McCain was certainly not a political hero of his time, but he wasn’t a villain either. He was simply a conservative force that pushed for what he believed was the correct Republican thing to do, even if it involved opposing substantial civil rights or going against the majority of his own party. And although he was surrounded with controversies among both political viewpoints, he ultimately died believing in a cause, even if the cause was not perfect.