In his last few months alive, John McCain cemented his legacy as a petty, ego-driven creature of the swamp by banning the sitting President from his funeral. If you think Donald Trump is small-minded, imagine asking Meghan to leave the room while you instruct your chief of staff to wait until you’re dead and then tell Trump, “Sorry, no funeral for you!” But the man being celebrated by liberal journalists as a free-spirited iconoclast took time out of his last days with his family to deliver what he imagined to be an indignity. Try as I might, I can’t imagine the same from a deathbed Donald.
Not that Trump much cared about the social slight, obviously. I expect he was relieved. And I think the President was right to resist the release of what I’m sure was a long, gushing tribute to McCain that White House staff were proposing. After all, why should Donald Trump pay homage to a man who torpedoed the repeal of Obamacare out of what history will conclude was little more than sour grapes? In July of last year, the just-diagnosed McCain cast a vote that ended the Republican dream of repealing Obamacare, which would have been a significant legislative achievement for Trump.
McCain evidently enjoyed the theater of his betrayal, pausing before voting, lapping up the shock and consternation from both sides of the aisle. It’s tough to read into this gleeful public sabotage anything but revenge for Trump’s outrageous jokes about his wartime imprisonment — and, of course, bitterness about the fact that an impossibly gauche and eternally grinning New Yorker had won a presidential election when the bad-tempered, perpetually scheming kingpin of the Republican Establishment could not.
Although McCain went from thorn in the Republican leadership’s side to Establishment darling, his attention-seeking treachery last July was not out of character for any phase of his political life. He was widely known to be a fan of ritual public humiliation and he behaved gratuitously awfully to his staff in public. And he was always happier, it seemed, hatching plots with Democrats than working with his own side, right up until the end.
You might wonder why you’re hearing so many nice things about such an unpleasant man. It’s simple. The reason journalists liked McCain so much was that he gave access to almost anyone who asked, which not only fortified his power but satisfied his galactic ego. That, and the fact that he wasn’t really a conservative at all, and we all know how much the media likes squishy Republicans, whom they allow to exist because they aren’t fundamentally very dangerous. Always wishy-washy, and driven as much by mood as ideology, by the end of his life McCain had become an outright enemy of conservatism.
And yet none of this is enough to justify the celebration of what must have been a very painful death. Most people recoil in moral discomfort at any hint of satisfaction when someone dies, no matter who it is. When I discovered that Mollie Tibbetts had been retweeting anti-Trump memes before her death, I couldn’t help but gloat slightly at the irony of her being killed by an illegal. Progressive responses to the death of prominent conservatives are hideous to see, and where death is concerned, apparently even trolls on the front lines and in comment sections occasionally lose their senses of humor. Even on my Instagram, which is shitlord central, a lot of readers reacted badly to the joke.
14k Likes, 1,556 Comments – MILO (@milo.yiannopoulos) on Instagram: “change of plan, enjoy hell mollie”
Celebrating anyone’s death is an offense to a reflexive conservative sense of decency, which is strong even in Trump voters, who have a high degree of tolerance for irreverent and disrespectful behavior. I can’t promise I will never rejoice in uncomplicated fashion at a future death. If I’d been alive in 1945, I don’t think I’d have been held back by Christian generosity from celebrating that bunker suicide. And although the “Babe Ruth” death clock on the front page of this website is intended as a satire on the ugly grave-dancing of progressives, I can’t honestly say I won’t be glad when Bader Ginsberg is sent down to Old Nick for her part in keeping the murder of the innocent unborn legal in America.
But I think that this is one expression of etiquette we should cling to if we possibly can. Although I am pleased that McCain’s malign influence will no longer be present in Washington, D.C., as a Christian, I was sad to see him die in sin. The best reason to arrest any sense of personal satisfaction in death is that it precludes repentance, and John McCain had a fuck of a lot to repent. Meghan McCain’s existence alone demands a couple of hundred thousand Hail Marys. Besides, I would rather see my enemies live, to be beaten or persuaded, than die before I can change their minds.
It isn’t a coincidence that the two major antagonists of McCain’s political life were the two people who beat him publicly: the first in an election, the second by doing what McCain had failed to do — make it to the Oval Office. McCain hated Obama for beating him so comprehensively, and did everything possible to fight him in the Senate, right up until someone came along whom he hated even more. Journalists, including neocons like Bill Kristol and his Weekly Standard, are showering McCain with fake praise, largely because they hate Trump even more than he did and because, unlike them, he was in a position to do something about it.
That’s quite an about-face from the sort of things they were writing about him in 1998. It occurs to me that this is somewhat less than honorable, though perhaps not quite as bad as outright celebrating his death. But everything gets distorted around the need to be seen hating Donald Trump. Thanks to his loathing of the President, John McCain is now frozen in time for National Review and Commentary opinion writers as a tragic paragon of nobility, fortitude and muh conservative principles. Except, of course, like them, he didn’t really have many enduring examples of the latter, besides his lifelong commitment to sheer spite.
I am — perhaps only just — a good enough person to stop myself from being happy he is dead. But I’m not above wishing he had lived to be further humiliated by the destruction of the corrupt, self-serving Establishment of which he became the patron saint. So, no. I’m not happy John McCain is dead. It doesn’t bring me any joy. But perhaps it brings a kind of relief. John McCain’s legacy boils down to that Obamacare vote, a triumph of resentment and bitterness over loyalty to conservative principles and fealty to country. I’m sure that Senate grandstanding felt good at the time, but what a petty comedown for a former presidential contender.
McCain’s decline into vindictive old bastard began with his heartless treatment of Sarah Palin, whom he thrust into a level of scrutiny for which she was comically under-prepared, before tossing her to the wolves when her folksy authenticity became an embarrassment in Washington. McCain had no hope of victory against Obama until Palin came along; with her, the outlook was still bleak, but at least his campaign had energy. We can at least thank the old git for softening up the electorate with Palin, who in hindsight was a sort of fluffer for Daddy.
McCain’s treatment of Palin was another reason I felt moved to write a truly vicious obituary. He was emblematic of an out-of-touch Republican Party that deserves to die. But that is not what I am publishing today, because it is better to honor the dead by honestly assessing what they leave behind… such as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform,” a con job McCain foisted on the American people with the backing of George Soros that entrenched the power of big money and special interests and weakened authentic grassroots activism, as the Wall Street Journal put it in 2005. Mirabile dictu, ten years later Trump won anyway.
The bleak spectacle of John McCain, who defaced his own history of service and commitment to buttoned-up propriety because he couldn’t resist Donald Trump’s taunting and was wheeled through the Senate a few months before his light went out, looking dessicated, bitter and sporting a rictus grin that belied the desperate sadness of his many political failures, is a better eulogy for the GOP than anything I could write about an old man’s death.
Milo Yiannopoulos is an award-winning investigative reporter and the New York Times-bestselling author of DANGEROUS.