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By Jim Kempton
Sen. John McCain was one of my favorite contemporary politicians. I didn’t always agree with him. (I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with every decision any politician has made). But I respected him like almost no other senator in my lifetime. Principled, courageous, kind but unyielding, McCain led by example and sacrifice.
When I was still a student wondering if I would be sent to combat in the jungles of Southeast Asia, McCain did what I consider to be the ultimate heroic deed. Shot down on his 27th mission, he was offered to be released from his captors but declined and endured years of torture in a Hanoi prison. He demanded his whole crew could also be freed as well, and when his demand was refused, he spent two more years in prison—beside his crew.
How does one who served in the military feel when a President ridicules this selfless former war hero? This was a man whose arms were broken so badly while serving his country that he couldn’t raise them above his shoulders.
President Donald Trump allegedly faked bone spurs. McCain put his crew first, truly bled for his beliefs, and later rejected the idea of America’s use of torture on terrorists, saying “the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies—our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.”
That is the guy I want to lead my country. I regarded him as a role model for my children.
You see, for me, it isn’t about the policies or position this President takes. It’s about the complete lack of moral fiber and essential character that I thought our nation was based on—and the values that we use to teach our children how to live good lives.
How do teachers tell children they can’t bully other children when the President openly mocks a reporter with disabilities in front of thousands of supporters? What do you tell your children about honesty when the leader of the nation seemingly lies daily about various subjects? How do we tell our kids about the importance of our First Amendment, when the leader of the free world calls all media he doesn’t like “the enemy of the people”?
How do we respect the rule of law when Trump tweets officially that the FBI Special Counsel members who are investigating the known Russian interference and possible conspiracy of the Trump Administration “should be put in jail”? What do you tell your daughters when the president brags that he can grab women by the (using words that even today cannot be printed in any respectable publication) and that “when you are a star, you can do anything” to women?
Trump may have committed tax fraud, conspired with the Russians, cheated thousands of contractors out of payments, ruined thousands of investors in multiple real estate scams, burned hundreds of creditors in dozens of bankruptcies and defrauded citizens out of millions of tax payments. He may have run his business like a Mafia don, assaulted unknown numbers of women, mocked the members of a Gold Star family whose relative died for his country. He may have called marchers who were chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” carrying Nazi flags and wearing KKK hoods “very fine people.”
But, really, none of that matters at this point. He lost me at John McCain.
Jim Kempton is an unrepentant lover of his country who believes one of the greatest contributions we can provide a free and just society is to speak out when its values are being degraded.