Campaign buttons for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are for sale at a hotel gift shop in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2008. [Jae C. Hong/AP]
The unprecedented spectacle of Donald Trump supporters intimidating political opponents, the incumbent president’s slurs and mockery against his rival Joe Biden and other Democrat politicians, and his threat that he may not accept the election results strike a sad comparison with a very different Republican candidate, the late John McCain.
The late senator from Arizona, for more than three decades, was also a Vietnam War hero. After his plane was shot down, he was captured and tortured for more than five years.
Those of us who for decades observed McCain’s contributions on the American political stage often admired his political courage and independence.
McCain would always speak his opinion. And in doing so he would show respect for different views. He also had the courage to agree with political opponents when he thought that was the right thing to do, and stray from his party’s official line whenever he disagreed with it.
It is worth mentioning an incident which is timely as it took place at the close of the 2008 presidential race in which McCain faced Barack Obama, who eventually won the election and became president.
It was during a town hall event in Lakeville, Minnesota, when a constituent told McCain he was “scared” at the prospect of an Obama presidency. McCain shook his head in disapproval and said the senator was a “decent person” and one who “you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.” A little later during the same event, an elderly woman from the audience said that she could “not trust Obama” because “he’s an Arab,” and that she too was scared of him.
In a fresh demonstration of his political ethos, McCain grabbed the wireless microphone from her, cutting her off. “No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that just, I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about.”
A true leader has the power to inspire. Far from churning out fake news, he will lay down the hammer on fabrications – even when he knows that doing so could cost him votes. The absence of that kind of political ethos that cuts across parties and ideologies is today felt more than ever.