I’m going to say two nice things about John McCain right now. (Consider this a content warning. No, I didn’t vote for him.)
1) The thing the Senate voted on a couple of days ago — you know, that thing McCain voted “yea” on — was, essentially, a vote on whether or not the Senate should debate healthcare. It’s the thing you vote on so you can vote on the thing you want to vote on. (Yes, it’s wanky, but that’s constitutional democracy for you.)
Now, I wouldn’t personally have voted to advance the GOP’s (intentionally bad) bill to debate, because that would mean giving it the time of day. However, as you’ve probably seen on your Tweeters and your Faceborks, people are essentially responding as if McCain gave a speech saying he hated Trumpcare, but voted for it anyway, and now nobody has healthcare anymore, the end.
And… that’s not really what happened. McCain did vote to advance the bill to debate, but he also very explicitly said that he wouldn’t vote for the bill as it stood. He also said “stop listening to the loudmouths on TV and radio and the internet, and let’s do our damn job like adults, for f**ks sake.” (More or less. I’m paraphrasing a tad.)
It’s likely he’s holding out hope that the debate will result in a better bill (“yeah, buddy, good luck with that,” I hear you saying, and you are *totally* right, but bear with me here.) There’s also a theory I’ve seen floating around that McCain — having stated in the official congressional record that it’s a crummy bill that was crafted behind closed doors and that more or less everyone involved is a goddamn moron (again, paraphrasing) — *knows* that quite a few of his colleagues in the GOP won’t vote for the thing to become law. He knows his time is short — both in the Senate, and possibly on the planet. And if the old soldier’s going down, he’s taking everyone with him, especially that orange sonofabitch who thinks he’s President. And if he wants to do that good and proper, he needs to set the Trumpies up for an *epic* fail.
It’s a nice theory. I personally like it, because it tickles all the right parts of my brain. I love twist endings. I love “the bad guy’s little stooge was working for the good guys all along” as a plot point. And there’s a teensy tiny kernel of evidence that this might possibly be the case: his exasperated description of how the Senate was asked to vote on this bill because “it’s better than nothing,” is a possible clue, considering that this is an old school guy who remembers when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan used to sing Irish drinking songs together and bills got passed through compromise and quid pro quo dealings over cigars and whiskey at the golf course, and you didn’t vote for a bill just because it was *there,* you voted for it because you thought it was the right thing to do; or, failing that, because the lobbyist stuffing wads of cash in your back pocket thought it was the right thing to do.
And you can’t even say that about Trumpcare. Getting rid of the individual mandate means fewer customers for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Governor Baker of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts happens to be a Republican, and he *hates* this bill, primarily because our state’s economy is like 95% healthcare and biotech and 5% knock-off David Ortiz merch, and David Ortiz retired last year to spend more time making his chips and salsa. (David Ortiz literally makes every batch of Big Papi salsa himself. That’s what I choose to believe and I would prefer it if you didn’t prove me wrong.) Take away the individual mandate and Big Papi and literally all we have left is, like, Salem on Halloween and some dead revolutionary war dudes.
Right. So. McCain. It’s a nice theory, him wanting to force the rest of his party to implode while he laughs from beyond the grave. I’m thinking, though, that a more likely scenario is that this is a desperate, last ditch attempt to force the Senate back into a functional entity once more. As in, we’re gonna vote on this thing, and we’re gonna listen to each other, and we’re not gonna pass this piece of crap bill without fixing it, so help me God. I don’t think he’s going to be at all successful (Mitch McConnell is still Senate Majority Leader, after all, and he’s about as compassionate and ethical as H.H. Holmes) but — like — let’s get our facts straight here, folks. McCain got out of surgery, which had been paid for by the American people, and voted to advance a horrible bill (that could potentially deny similar coverage to millions) to the stage where it could be voted on. Does it look bad? Yes. Does it display a certain lack of tact and compassion for, you know, all those kids in wheelchairs out in the lobby whose parents are absolutely terrified right now? Arguably. I don’t think he should’ve done it either. But let’s be clear on what we’re actually angry about here.
2) Right — the other thing. President Cool Ranch Mussolini just tweeted some bullshit about banning trans people from the military, which I’m sure he thinks is probably law now. The dude clearly doesn’t understand how our government works, so he probably thinks his latest brain dump is a royal decree. To be fair, he probably did send it from the “royal throne,” by which I mean “his golden toilet.” (You’re welcome for that image.)
It’s been said by others (who are way more qualified to speak on this than I am) that — even if this never becomes law, which it probably won’t — it still does irreparable violence to the thousands of trans people in military service, and — frankly — every other trans person, too. And it does. Yes, it’s “red meat” for his base, but it’s the kind of red meat that can really get the jackals riled up, if you catch my meaning. He’s not directly inciting violence against a particular group of people, except he kind of is, because his supporters are easily frightened creatures with more guns than brain cells and a deep-seated mistrust of fancy big city folks tellin’ ’em what pronouns to use and whatnot.
And nothing gets the jackals more angry than the idea that, after billions of their hard-earned tax dollars were spent blowing the smithereens out of some village in Whereverstan where there may or may not have been a terrorist, followed by a decade-plus long occupation, followed by another invasion of the country next door… nothing gets ’em gnashing their sharp little teeth and rolling their little beady eyes more than the idea that a small portion of their hard-earned tax dollars might be going towards an operation that might help one or two of those brave soldiers — who we all support, of course, never forget — begin to live their truth. (Trump supporters are, of course, reasonable folks who we should reach out to with compassion, because we’re *clearly* living in the same universe as them and all we need to do is sit down and have a nice conversation with them and listen to where they’re coming from and that will make everything better, because they have such a great track record when it comes to critical thinking and understanding nuanced arguments. But that’s for another day.)
However… then there’s John McCain, who — and you might not know this — has some passing experience with the actual military. And here’s his official statement. It’s worth reading.
The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.
I’m not saying I love the guy. I certainly don’t agree with him most of the time, though I agree with what he says here. I think people look at him with respect, and with good reason — it’s not just his service or his time as a POW. It’s because he’s a reminder of a time when “reasonable opposition” was a statement you could say without air quotes.