By Dan Calabrese
John McCain exhibited character, courage and strength when he endured seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam under excruciating conditions. No one can or should ever take that away from him, and I have no interest in doing so here.
But John McCain was not a good United States senator, and the overall impact on the nation from his time in Washington was not a net positive. McCain championed the arcane rules of the Senate that make it harder to pass free-market, pro-growth economic measures. McCain was one of the leading organizers of bipartisan “gangs” that the media loved but that often resulted in mediocre appointments or legislation that kicked problems down the road instead of solving them.
McCain promised during his last campaign to repeal and replace ObamaCare, saying it over and over at his campaign rallies, only to cast the deciding vote against repeal with great fanfare and with the reward of the thing he loved the most – fawning praise from his media friends. McCain opposed the harsh interrogation measures that got valuable information out of terrorists like Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, mainly because it brought back bad memories of what was done to him in Vietnam. This made it harder for the Bush and Trump Administrations to fight the war on terror. The Obama Administration didn’t really want to fight this war so McCain’s statements were fine with them. But it didn’t make the country safer.
McCain was petty. He took criticism personally and held grudges. And McCain believed his own press. He thought that because of what he endured in Vietnam, no one had the standing to say anything negative about him, and he would not forgive anyone if they did – even if the criticism was not personal and really didn’t require forgiveness.
Yet during many days’ worth of Beltway tributes, McCain was portrayed as a man who put country first, and who stood steadfastly for what was right and just and true. He was presented to us as just the kind of man we should want in public service, who gives it to us straight and doesn’t concern himself with his own interests, and breaks through the political and partisan nonsense to stand for what is right for America no matter what it costs him.
John McCain did this in Vietnam, but he did not do it afterwards. The one exception would be his steadfast support for the military, but on most other matters McCain was all over the place philosophically and impossible to trust when there was an opportunity to do something the country really needed.
Yet it struck me as I observed all these tributes to McCain that the qualities they ascribe to him really do describe another man – a man the Beltway crowd hates with a passion, and has convinced the nation is an evil monster.
That man is former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney understood – as chief of staff under Gerald Ford, as a member of Congress during the Reagan years, as Secretary of Defense under Bush 41 and as vice president under Bush 43 – the real threats facing the nation and the realities of what must be done about them. Cheney endured many harsh, dishonest and unfair criticisms for his efforts to make sure America was safe. One of those who lodged these dishonest and unfair criticisms was John McCain.
Cheney has never taken these criticisms personally, but neither has he wavered. He has always understood that those who have to make difficult but necessary decisions will take heat for it. He accepted it as part of the job when you enter public service.
For this, Cheney was savaged in popular culture as a villain. He became the target of a ruthless special prosecutor who tried to get Cheney’s staff members to lie about him. He was mercilessly attacked by the media. He was called greedy, evil and dishonest. He is none of these things.
Dick Cheney is one of the finest men ever to serve this country.
I bring this up because it occurred to me that, during the McCain funeral proceedings, America’s political class basically took a man with some virtues – but many obvious and serious flaws – and turned him into an icon for good public service precisely because he acted in the interests of the political class, and they want the country to see a man like this as the ideal politician. They want you to look past McCain’s pettiness, his philosophical instability and his attention-mongering tendencies to see the perfect public official.
And as I watched all this, I was struck by the realization that some day – not soon, I hope – Dick Cheney will no longer be with us. When that day comes, we will not hear a week’s worth of praise and salutations. We will hear the same attacks and slanders he has endured throughout his life. And that’s because, in his public life, Dick Cheney has done what was best for the country even when it was not best for the political class or for himself.
That makes him the opposite of John McCain. And most people will never understand the truth about the one, or the other, which is a real shame – and a good example of why this country is so sick today.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!