I am in tears as I write this.
After a long career in the Senate working hard for bipartisanship, John McCain’s last floor speech implored Congress to put aside the tribal politics that have this country so divided and to return to “regular order” by working with our political opponents for compromise.
“Let’s trust each other,” he begged. “Stop listening to the bombastic loud mouths on radio and television and the internet. TO HELL WITH THEM.”
“What have we to lose by trying to work together?” he implored. “We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.”
Because his words apparently went unheard, in superhero fashion and with a down-turned thumb right in Mitch Mcconnell’s uber-partisan face, he killed a far too partisan effort at health care legislation. Why did he do it? Because he wanted it done the right way; through honest efforts at bipartisan compromise.
Stone cold! Stone cold!
His refusal to let anyone demonize his 2008 presidential opponent (even to the point of pulling the microphone away from a woman at one of his town hall meetings), was also one of the finest moments in our recent political history. It was true leadership by example. It is unimaginable that our current president would ever do this at one of his rallies:
All of this, and his gracious concession speech that acknowledged the truly historic moment in our nations’ history when we elected our first black president, are in my mind his finest moments, even above his illustrious military career and survival of POW torture. The concession speech harkened to history and how far we’ve come (like me, one of his biggest heroes was Theodore Roosevelt), and was an eloquent call for political civility and the unity of all Americans.
But I will always remember him most for those last moments in his life when he begged us to unite, working to end our partisan divide.
“We are here to vote,” he once yelled at his fellow senators, “not to block things.”
“The times when I was involved, even in a modest way, with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem . . . are the proudest moments of my career,” he said in his last floor speech, “and by far the most satisfying.”
I pray that any hope for compromise between Americans and America’s politicians didn’t just die with this great man.
If we truly want to honor him, let’s stop listening to “the bombastic loud mouths,” and start listening to each other. To hell with those that seek to divide us. Let’s find what unites us.
Godspeed, John McCain. May we heed your advice before it’s too late.