Last weekend’s passing of Senator John McCain was surprising but anticipated. I expected his demise would occur within the next several weeks or months. I didn’t think it would transpire less than a week after ending his cancer treatments.
Senator McCain epitomized the motto of the U.S. Naval Academy’s (McCain’s Alma Mater) rival, West Point — Duty, Honor, Country. The late Senator incorporated those words into his ethos militarily and politically. He was not above pragmatism or bipartisanship. He voted against President Trump’s efforts at curtailing the Affordable Care Act. The Senator befriended various Democrats on key issues. He co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold Bill addressing campaign financing. McCain also worked with the late Senator Edward Kennedy on various immigration matters (McCain died eight-years to the day that the late Massachusetts Senator succumbed to the same type of brain cancer, ironically). A key attribute of McCain’s was his willingness to speak his mind regardless of consequences — an attribute not uncommon to Arizona’s senatorial delegation as witnessed by the late Barry Goldwater; McCain fine-tuned the approach.
A key unknown about the Senator is what a McCain Administration would have looked like. I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Senator’s first Presidential campaign when I lived in Arizona during the 2000 election. I was residing in Flagstaff, driving to Phoenix one day, volunteering, driving to a rest stop half way between the Northern Arizona community and the capitol city, sleeping in my car for a night, returning the next day, and driving back to Flagstaff after finishing a second day of volunteering. I repeated the pattern on a weekly basis until the Senator won the New Hampshire primary. McCain brought in the professional staff to take over the campaign’s day-to-day affairs, and understandably at that point. The Senator lost the nomination to George W. Bush beginning with an ugly fight in South Carolina. Serving on his campaign was an experience I will not forget. It was a privilege and honor.
A key question in my mind has always been where would the country be now if McCain had won in 2000? There’s little doubt in my mind it would be a different place. The Iraq War probably would not have occurred. 9/11 was a likely inevitability for whoever occupied the White House. I suspect a McCain Administration would have focused on Afghanistan with an intensity the Second Bush Administration lacked. My sense is much of the Middle East’s current problems would also have been significantly muted. Would we have avoided the August 2008 economic calamity? It’s difficult to ascertain. A McCain presidency would have shaped the country’s socio-political-economic climate in a manner we cannot fathom — nor ever will.
What is certain is McCain leaves behind a legacy of honor, selflessness, and country first that will endure for years and decades to come.
*Matthew Kennedy, MSc – Politics of China, School of Oriental and African Studies – University of London, Dillon, Colorado – USA