Since news of his death quieted the country Saturday, America has been mourning and paying tribute to U.S. Sen. John McCain — war hero, two-time presidential candidate and statesman of the highest order.
As his daughter, Meghan McCain, wrote shortly after his courageous battle with brain cancer came to an end, he was a “hero of the Republic” in ways seldom seen in this age or any other.
We hope our readers have been enjoying the many tributes to a man whose lifetime of service was unparalleled: first as a midshipman at the Naval Academy and fighter pilot in the Vietnam War, then as a prisoner of war for over five unimaginable years, followed by two terms in the U.S. House representing Arizona’s First District and six terms in the Senate, where he served as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
In a Republican Congress, McCain fought tirelessly — sometimes winning, as with campaign-finance reform, sometimes losing, as with comprehensive immigration reform — for his constituents and his country. But whether the issue was climate change or Obamacare, he was never afraid to reach across the aisle and find common cause with Democratic colleagues, many of whom he sincerely called friends.
It’s little wonder, then, that a man often called a “maverick” has been universally praised by our former presidents, two of whom won presidential races against the scrappy Arizona senator. President George W. Bush called him a “man of deep conviction,” and President Barack Obama said he showed us all what it means to “put the greater good above our own.”
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump, in perhaps one of his lowest and most regrettable campaign outbursts, said in 2015 that McCain was “not a war hero” because he was captured by the enemy.
Perhaps that apology will come now. But we’re not holding our breath. Trump never served his country, either in the military or political office, until the day he was inaugurated. But as commander in chief he should understand that those captured — and tortured, as McCain was in Vietnam — are our nation’s greatest heroes, alongside those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
At this time of mourning, we prefer to share with our readers the words of another fighter pilot and war hero from what many call America’s “Greatest Generation.” President George H.W. Bush, like McCain 23 years later, was shot down by enemy fire in the Pacific but rescued before he could be captured.
The elder Bush had this to say over the weekend: “John McCain was a patriot of the highest order, a public servant of the rarest courage. Few sacrificed more for, or contributed more to, the welfare of his fellow citizens — and indeed freedom-loving peoples around the world.”
With his death, it is John McCain’s — and indeed this Republic’s — commitment to “freedom-loving peoples around the world” that must and will live on. During his many years in public service, McCain understood, and never failed to reiterate, his belief that America is the leader of the Free World, and that our adversaries — whether they be Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Bashar Assad’s Syria, or the Communist leaders of the People’s Republic of China — must be put on notice that those who love liberty will always have a friend and ally in America.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS