John McCain passed away on Aug. 25. If you didn’t see the reports as it happened on Twitter or cable news, you likely saw the eulogies pour in thereafter. You probably heard about, if not saw, the state funeral. The funeral and the media attention that came with it was all undeserved. McCain, both in the real world and outside of his invented “maverick” persona, was a virulent misogynist and racist warmonger who contributed to the reason why we have President Donald Trump in the White House today. He deserves no adulation, least of all from self-professed liberals, with some reports finding them to view McCain more favorably than conservatives.
It goes to show how successful McCain was in image cultivation, that he could say the things he said about many people and still get away with being seen as the everyman maverick. During his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1992, he was documented as calling his wife a sexist slur after she lightly teased him about his baldness. He joked in 2008 that Chelsea Clinton was ugly “because Janet Reno is her father.” He has called his Vietnamese captors blatantly racist slurs and compared the president of Iran to a monkey.
What’s more, he appears to exude more conservative views on political agendas. He opposed a motion to declare Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, and while he reneged on this particular issue in 2008, it is clear that he did not have some sort of “come to Jesus” epiphany on civil rights. He did, after all, support and ultimately vote for Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, whose proposals to arm teachers with guns using public money pose a direct threat to students of color. This is to say nothing of his vociferous opposition to a woman’s right to have an abortion, including advocacy for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
We must also not forget his blatant disregard for life outside of the United States. McCain agitated for the Iraq War not long after the September 11 attacks. In October 2001, he falsely attributed the then-current anthrax attacks to Iraq. The death toll as a result of the Iraq War — of his agitation — is still murky, but it is widely agreed that hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed. During the 2008 election cycle, he advocated for bombing Iran (notably in sing-song fashion — “That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran … Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah …” — as if bombing other countries is so fun, songs must be sung about it).
He was friendly with Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state who secretly bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War, and aided the coup in and transformation of Chile from a democracy under the left-wing Salvador Allende to a dictatorship under the fascist Augusto Pinochet. McCain called protesters at a hearing at which Kissinger was present “lowlife scum.” Strange that Kissinger, a man who sabotaged Vietnam peace talks, which may have prolonged McCain’s internment as a prisoner of war, should receive such favorable treatment from McCain.
This is just a snippet of the real McCain. The real McCain was not a maverick; he was an opportunist, a sexist, an imperialist and a racist. The real McCain “defended” Barack Obama while implying that to be an “Arab” and a “family man” was to be a living contradiction in terms. The real McCain introduced the country to Sarah Palin, who unleashed a wave of right-wing paranoiac extremism through attacks on the media, racist attacks on Muslims and on Obama, as well as other such methods. The real McCain was far from worthy of the praise that he has received. We should, at long last, recognize that.
Jacob Hanna is a junior majoring in economics.